23 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World

Reading Room in New York Central Library at Bryant Park in NYC

Calling all book lovers, these are the most beautiful libraries in the world! (plus a few bookshops too) From stunning private collections to public libraries and University libraries, these are the coolest libraries in the world to add to your travels and bucket list. 

Some of these best libraries of the world are known for their beauty or historic treasures inside like the Trinity College Library in Dublin or the Royal Portuguese Reading Room in Rio de Janeiro. 

Some of the beautiful libraries in the world are known for their modern, cutting edge, and contemporary design and architecture like Starfield Library in Seoul, Halifax Central Library in Nova Scotia, and Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart in Germany.

And some of the world’s most beautiful libraries are a combination of everything or famous filming locations and popular photography spots like the New York Public Library Main Branch in NYC. 

The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries

Morgan Library & Museum

Inside-the-Morgan-Library-Museum-in-NYC

New York City

One of the prettiest libraries in the world can be found in New York City. The Morgan Library isn’t your average library either, most libraries are open to the public, but this library was founded in 1906 as a private library to the banker J.P. Morgan, hence the name.

The private library included collections of manuscripts, artwork, and printed books — some of which are extremely rare and date back to 4000 BC and even one of the original 23 copies of the Declaration of Independence. It wasn’t until 1924 that the library became a public institution when J.P. Morgan’s son opened it to the public.

What makes this one of the prettiest libraries in the world is the Italian Renaissance-style palazzo style of the library and building it is housed in. In all honesty, you don’t find many examples of this or gorgeous historic libraries in the US, which is one of the reasons why this spot attracts so many visitors.

The star attraction is the enchanting East Room, the three-story original library filled floor to ceiling with walnut bookshelves and a painted ceiling with staircases and balconies. Here you can also find the 16th-century tapestry depicting the seven deadly sins.

Be sure to also visit the rest of the museum which has been added on over the years that offer rotating exhibits, research materials, and even a performance venue.

While this library is open to the public, you will need to pay for admission and purchase a ticket in advance to plan your visit.

Piccolomini Library

Piccolomini-Library-in Sienna Italy©Jürgen-Reichenpfader

Siena, Italy 

One of the most beautiful libraries in the world is located in Siena, Tuscany: the breathtakingly beautiful Piccolomini Library. This imposing attraction is located directly in the famous Siena Cathedral, but only a few people even know this! A pity really, because this old library is both an artistic and an architectural jewel of not only Tuscany, but all of Italy.

The library was built back in the Middle Ages by the then Pope Pius III in memory of his uncle and to preserve the rich collection of manuscripts he was so lovingly collected.

The real highlights, which are still admired today, are the extremely valuable paintings by Pinturicchio and his circle of workers – which included the young Raffaello Sanzio. And of course the beautiful sculpture of the ‘Three Graces’, which is a Roman copy of an ancient Hellenistic work.

Admission to the library is included in the ticket price for the cathedral. However, to cut down on long waits, you should book it online in advance!

Contributed by Jürgen & Martina of PlacesofJuma

Halifax Central Library

the staircase inside Halifax Central Library

Nova Scotia, Canada

One of the more modern and coolest libraries in the world can be found in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax Central Library is recognized worldwide and critically acclaimed for its architectural features and design. The modern exterior design of the library resembles a stack of books while the interior is made up of beautiful minimal clean lines and staircases. 

The exterior of the library is eye-catching, but really it’s the interior that starts dropping jaws. You have to explore around once you’re inside and head toward to top of the stairs so you can look down and see the patterns and lines the stairs and pathways create in the center of the library.

Besides being home to a huge collection of books and being one of the coolest hangout spots to get work done the library also houses a rooftop terrace with a gorgeous view of the city, two cafes, and artwork on display.

It’s no wonder why Halifax Central Library was named one of the most beautiful libraries in the world and one of the best things to do in Halifax.

Artes University Library

Artes-University-Library-in-Leuven-Belgium--Emma's-Roadmap

Leuven, Belgium

The Artes University Library in Leuven is definitely considered one of the prettiest libraries in the world to visit located in Belgium. After the ancient library of Belgium’s oldest university was burned to the ground during WWI, several public institutions and universities, particularly American universities, donated money to have a new library built.

This is the library that today forms the center of attention at the Ladeuze square in Leuven. 

The beauty of the library is directly visible from the outside architecture and ornamentation of the structure, all symbols referring to the victory of the Allies over Germany in both World Wars.

For a small price, anyone can visit the inside with explanations given by an audio guide. This tour will take you about an hour and will give you all the information about the history and design of the library.

With such a ticket you will have access to the main hall, completely designed in wood, with wonderful ornaments and books that are over 200 years old! If you follow the impuissant marble staircase all the way up, you can also gain access to the tower of the library that gives you an incredible view of the city. The bells of this tower still ring every quarter of an hour and on specific days at 7 p.m. the whole city is able to enjoy a concert, as songs are played on these bells by the carillonneur.

Contributed by Emma of Emma’s Road Map

New York Public Library

Reading Room inside the New York Public Library

New York City, USA

One of the most amazing places to visit in New York City whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned regular to the city is the New York Public Library located on the end of Bryant Park. There are technically over 92 locations for the New York Public Library system, but we are solely talking about the main branch at 4th Avenue and 42nd Street.

The main branch is not only one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, but it’s one of the largest public libraries in the US and the 4th largest library in the world in terms of cataloged items.

The library is massive and an attraction on its own. When visiting you want to plan some time to really explore and some not to be missed points of interest or check out their schedule to join one of their free tours they offer.

Some not to be missed stops include the majestic white marble arches in Astor Hall when you first enter the library, the Rose Reading Room which is the most photographed and arguably the most beautiful room in the library, the Children’s Center houses the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals and friends that inspired the beloved classic children stories, the Map Division is fun to explore, and the Rare Book Division is where you can find some of the library’s most valuable items like first edition works from Shakespeare himself! (this room requires you to arrange a special visit with or as a researcher though!)

Last but not least, you need to visit the iconic lions on the exterior of the library. Perhaps you recognize them from movies like Ghostbusters!

Royal Portuguese Reading Room

royal-portuguese-library-rio-de-janeiro-brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Recognized as one of the prettiest libraries in the world by Time, the Royal Portuguese Reading Room in Rio de Janeiro is a hidden treasure one can’t miss while in the city.

Built in the 17th century by Portuguese immigrants, the library is gorgeous not only from the inside but also outside. The neo-Manueline building is a constant reminder of the city’s imperial past right in Rio de Janeiro Downtown.

Once you walk in, the wooden galleries and stained-glass dome greet you to the most extensive collection of Portuguese literature outside of the motherland. Namely, over 350,000 books, both national and Portuguese, are showcased here, many of which are rare editions, such as the Princeps edition of Os Lusíadas by Camões (1572).

While this is an excellent opportunity to take in centuries-old works of art, ask a librarian before touching any books as they’re unique and fragile.

Contributed by Bruna of I Heart Brazil

Municipal Library of Prague

Idiom book art installation in the municipal library of Prague

Prague, Czech Republic

So many of the best libraries in the world can be found in Europe and the Czech Republic and the city of Prague are no different. One of the coolest libraries in the world that can be found in Prague is the city’s Municipal Library located in Prague 1 in the heart of all the historic and famous tourist attractions and where you can find some of the best things to do in Prague.

This is a great restroom break if you’re exploring around the area and a great opportunity to experience the largest library in Prague which houses rare books and collections including a bible from 1488.

But one of the features that makes this one of the coolest libraries in the world is the book art installation by artist Matej Kren known as “Idiom.” This installation is a cylindrical tower of hundreds of books with mirrors placed inside so its like an optical illusion and feels like a never-ending spiral of books!

Gladstone’s Library 

Gladstones Library in Wales UK

Wales, UK

Have you ever wanted to have a sleepover in one of the best libraries in the world? Well, you can do just that at Gladstone’s Library in Wales. This beautiful Victorian library was created by William Gladstone. He was a long-time Member of Parliament and Prime Minister of the UK during the mid to late 1800s. He was also a voracious reader and book collector. 

His library is the UK’s only Prime Ministerial library and one of the world’s very few residential libraries. The graceful building houses Gladstone’s collection and over 250,000 other works.

The library offers a writer-in-resident program, convening facilities, and a book fair. The books are housed in the west wing. In the east wing, visiting dignitaries, scholars, and normal book nerds like you can take up residence and experience a literary retreat. 

The space is covered in dark wood detailing and the quiet atmosphere is a perfect respite from the rat race.

“Books are delightful society. If you go into the room filled with books, even without taking them down from their shelve, they seem to speak, to welcome you” —-William Gladstone

Contributed by Carol of California Crossings

Seattle Central Library

Seattle Public Library interior

Washington, USA

Any of the world’s most beautiful libraries that are modern have one thing in common, really incredible architecture and design. Seattle Central Library is no different. The exterior of this massive library stands out on its own on the street as its an 11-story glass and steel building in downtown Seattle made up of tons of windows.

Inside this massive library, you get whisked away by the large open space surrounded by what feels like a giant net of windows plus what feels like floating platforms of levels where you can browse titles and look up books. Be sure to explore as there are other details and installations around the library like the Red Room that feel like you’re in some sci-fi reality.

Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart

prettiest-libraries-world-sometimes-home

Stuttgart, Germany

One of the prettiest libraries in the world is in Stuttgart, Germany. The Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart is essentially an architectural box with strategically placed windows and cutouts outside, in almost rhythmic repetition. The word “library” is written on its four exterior walls in different languages: German, English, Arabic, and Korean.

Inside, it’s a white canvas with shelves and staircases that are both intriguing and regular, and somehow exciting in their starkness. The design is so clean, angular, and methodical it feels Scandinavian. The library, which opened in 2011, was designed by Yi Architects.

While you may stumble upon this library in Stuttgart, especially if you venture to its neighboring shopping mall, Milaneo, the library itself is worth a trip for any library or architectural enthusiasts. 

The real attraction of the library isn’t really its exterior cube as much as its inside. Visitors pass through an all-white and mostly sterile “heart” before they venture into the top floors where books are located. You’ll feel as if you stepped inside a JK Rowling set, meets futuristic land in Sweden. But in Stuttgart. 

If you’re visiting Germany, schedule a few days in Stuttgart to specifically witness the splendor of this modern library, within the industrial city of Stuttgart, firsthand.

For example, if you’re visiting for a Christmas Markets River Cruise it’s the perfect place to go before or after because it won’t be on a Danube River itinerary but it does have its own great Christmas markets. 

Fly to Stuttgart or take the train from nearby Munich. You can easily get to the destination via public transportation from within Stuttgart; four major subway lines and two buses stop at “Stadbibliothek” station. Or simply drive there and park at the mall to access it.

Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart is open to the public and free to visit. Operating hours are Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. It is closed on Sundays. 

Contributed by Mikkel of Sometimes Sailing

Ervin Szabo Library 

ervin szabo library in budapest hungary

Budapest, Hungary

We know Budapest as Paris of the East, it ranks on many of Europe’s “lists of bests,” and albeit laidback, it’s a perfect city to explore whatever the season may be as there are so many incredible things to do in Budapest.

Budapest has that old-world charm combined with a modern era atmosphere that you would want to get lost in. The city is known for a number of World Heritage sites and they are all equally charming which brings us to one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

The Szabo Ervin Library, a municipal library housed at the beautiful 19th-century neo-baroque Wenckheim Palace. The library holds Budapest’s largest public book collection.

The Central library is one that is the most photographed. With dark wood walls,  spiral staircases, chandeliers adorning intricate ceilings, reading a favorite book in this area might inspire you to write your own book.  

But the other rooms are each unique, pretty, and very photogenic too, it’s like opening a new door to a different world as you explore each nook and cranny of this 19th-century beauty.

Visiting this library does require a small fee but the bookworm in you would surely be in bliss!

Contributed by Marie of Our City Travels

Strahov Library

Theological-Hall-at-Strahov-Libray

Prague, Czech Republic

Strahov Library is one of Prague’s most exquisite hidden gems and possibly one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It is tucked away behind the white walls of the XII century Strahov Monastery in the heart of Prague.

The library’s collection of about 200,000 volumes is split between two equally stunning halls: the Baroque Theological Hall built in 1674 and the Classicist Philosophical Hall that was added 100 years later. Both rooms are filled with rows upon rows of antique books and decorated with such beautiful frescoed ceilings that Michelangelo would’ve been proud of such work.

First, you encounter the Theological Hall with its dark mahogany bookcases lining the walls, ancient geographical and astronomic globes decorating the room, and that exquisite ceiling arching above with murals telling the story of valuing and sharing knowledge. This room is such an unexpected sight that at first, it takes your breath away.

The Philosophical Hall next door is all about grandeur. It is 32 meters long, 22 meters wide, with an incredible 14-meter-high ceiling. And it is the striking ceiling again that immediately draws your eyes. Here the painted murals represent the story of the Intellectual Progress of Mankind.  

That same intellectual curiosity of mankind is embodied in the Cabinet of Curiosities located between the two library halls. Among the curiosities are the remnants of an extinct Dodo bird, a stuffed creature that could be an Australian platypus, as well as various sea creatures and some antique scientific devices.

And as an unexpected perk, the Strahov library doesn’t appear on many tourist itineraries so you can explore it without the usual Prague crowds. 

Contributed by Margarita of The Wildlife Diaries

Boston Central Library

Boston Public Library in Copley Square

Massachusetts, USA

Another one of the prettiest libraries in the world that can be found in the United States is located at Copley Square in Boston. Boston Central Library is the second largest library in the United States behind the Library of Congress in Washington DC!

Besides housing an incredibly large collection of books and media, this library also houses rare artifacts, materials, and artwork including first edition works by William Shakespeare, original musical scores by Mozart, and artwork by Rembrandt!

Boston has long-standing historical ties to the birth of the early nation around the Revolutionary War times and the library is no different, Boston’s library houses the personal library for the second United States President, John Adams.

The Renaissance Revival architecture of the building also makes it one of the prettiest libraries in the world and is great for anyone who is a fan of art and architecture as there are gorgeous murals painted all throughout the interior of the library.

You won’t want to miss the Bates Reading Room which is one of the not to be missed areas of this gorgeous library that takes up most of the second floor with its ornate barrel vaulted ceiling, bookshelves, and tables filling the room with green reading lamps.

Don’t miss the third floor where you can find the intricate Italian Renaissance frescos and murals by John Singer Sargent, which are the most important works of his career. And if you’re a fan of the fine art aspect of this beautiful library, be sure to also check out the Abbey Room.

Salle Labrouste BNF

Salle-Labrouste-BNF-Paris prettiest libraries of the world

Paris, France

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), France’s national library, is divided into different sites in Paris. One of the best and most beautiful libraries in the world is the Salle Labrouste, located in Paris 2 (58 rue de Richelieu), not far from Palais Royal or the elegant covered passages.

The Salle Labrouste was designed by the architect Henry Labrouste in the second half of the 19th century. This brilliant architect was entrusted with this significant project after his brilliant work at Sainte Geneviève Library, in Paris 5.

With the banning of candles, source of fires, Labrouste designed a ceiling made of different domes supported by slim iron pillars. Each dome has a circular window to make the most of the natural light. Labrouste also installed a system of underfloor heating to keep the students warm while reading,  a real technological and aesthetic tour de force of the time.

Today, the Salle Labrouste is reserved for students and researchers with an admission card. Still, it is possible to get a glimpse of this stunning place (and some beautiful pictures) from the main door, and nobody will complain about it. The BNF organizes from time to time guided visits for only 3 euros, and reservations are via their website.

Contributed by Elisa of World in Paris

Trinity College Library 

Trinity College Old Library Dublin Ireland

Ireland

No guide to the most beautiful and best libraries in the world would be complete without a mention of Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland. This insanely beautiful library is alos a historic one dating back to 1592 when it was established by Queen Elizabeth I.

The star attraction and what makes this one of the most popular things to do in Dublin is that this gorgeous library houses the Book of Kells, one of the most famous manuscripts and Gospel books that has intricate details dating back to 800 AD and is considered a national treasure to Ireland as well as a tourist attraction of its own.

There are four volumes, but typically two of them are on display and rotated frequently. So even if you’ve visited before you could come back and have an entirely different experience on a return visit.

Another spot not to be missed in Trinity College Library is The Long Room, which also happens to be the largest single chamber library in the world dating back to the 18th century and is where you can find 200,000 of some of the oldest books in the library. This room is the most popular spot for photography in the library as it looks like something out of a fairytale.

This library does have an admission fee, standard admission is 16 Euro.

Admont Abbey Library 

Admont Abbey Library interior in Austria

Admont, Austria

One of the most beautiful libraries in the world can be found in a small town called Admont in Austria. What’s even more special about this library is that despite its beauty, not many people know about it so if you visit on weekdays, chances are that you can have the whole library to yourself.

Admont Abbey Library is known as the world’s largest abbey library and it’s easy to see why: the library registers 70 meters in length and 13 meters in height!

Entering the huge hall truly feels like stepping into a real-life fairytale thanks to the breathtaking frescoes and sculptures. You can find around 70,000 different books inside the library, including manuscripts and incunabula.

You do have to pay admission to view one of the prettiest libraries in the world though. The cost is around 13 Euro and include a 40-minute guide through the library (starting at 11 am and 2 pm every day).

It’s possible to visit the library on your own as well and you’re welcome to take pictures inside – which is rare with libraries like this.

Admont is located a 2.5-hour drive from Vienna or a 2-hour drive from Salzburg, making it a great day trip opportunity from both cities. It also fits nicely into a longer Austria road trip itinerary, especially on the way from Vienna to Hallstatt.

Contributed by Krisztina of She Wanders Abroad

Starfield Library

Starfield Library in South Korea - The Diary of a Nomad

Seoul, South Korea

Starfield Library is situated inside COEX Mall in the dream destination of Seoul, South Korea. As soon as you enter, you’d understand why it’s considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

The library’s main attraction is a gigantic 13-meter tall bookshelf with more than 50,000 books inside it. Its unique facade is incredibly colorful and eye-catching; it’s a photo waiting to be taken.

Be sure to go up the escalator next to this bookshelf to see it from up close. Once you reach the top floor, there’s a cafe and a seating area for you to relax in. 

There’s a large selection of books inside this library, with genres ranging from history to economics. There are also tons of foreign books there as well as iPads to access e-books. Moreover, you can find around 600 domestic and foreign magazines near the seating area on the first floor. 

Starfield Library is more than just a library; it’s also a social gathering spot that has hosted lots of events in the past, from poetry reading to book concerts.

Contributed by Jiayi of Diary of a Nomad

Cărturești Carusel

Cărturești-Carusel-bookshop-in-Bucharest-Romania

Bucharest, Romania

Cărturești Carusel, meaning Carousel of Light, is a beautiful bookshop in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. While this is technically a bookstore, it’s so beautiful that it stands out with some of the prettiest libraries of the world.

Three floors of ornate white shelves are ladened with books. Thousands fill the room! Although you can’t borrow them, you can purchase books to take home with you. 

This attractive library and bookstore was built by a Greek family in 1903 and, like many private businesses, was seized by the Communist government in the 1950s. Following 24 years of legal battles, the grandson of the owners eventually reclaimed the building which by this point had fallen almost to rubble.

Luckily, in 2007, he was able to restore the building and turn it back into the elegant, well-loved place it once was.

A few years ago, it was a real Bucharest hidden gem but now the bookshop has now become quite popular. You’ll find tourists and locals alike browsing for reading material, snapping photos, and enjoying coffee in the cafe. And who could blame them?

Contributed by Rose of Where Goes Rose

John Rylands Library

john-rylands-library-in manchester uk by helen on her holiday

Manchester, UK

The John Rylands Library in Manchester is one of the most stunning and beautiful libraries in the world – but from the street you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a grand cathedral.

John Rylands was a businessman and Manchester’s first multi-millionaire; he married three times, the final time to Havana-born Enriqueta Augustina. When John Rylands died in 1888, Enriqueta inherited a large part of his fortune and set in motion plans for a library in his memory.

The library opened in 1899, on John and Enriqueta’s wedding anniversary. Visitors were greeted by the majestic entrance hall, with tall columns holding up a vaulted roof. Up the wide stone staircase that wouldn’t be out of place in a castle, you’ll find the reading room.

This huge room is reminiscent of the great hall at Hogwarts; a long room with a soaring ceiling and stained glass windows. The walls are lined with reading nooks, an ideal place to write your novel or thesis (the library is now part of the University of Manchester).

The John Rylands Library is also home to one of the world’s most important and diverse collections of books, manuscripts, and other items.

The special collection includes a Gutenberg Bible and papyrus fragments believed to be the oldest surviving New Testament text, alongside letters from famous Mancunians like Elizabeth Gaskell and a large political collection.

The John Rylands Library is on Deansgate in Manchester city center and is open to the public. Guided tours are available. 

Contributed by Helen of Helen on Her Holidays

Biblioteca Joanina

Biblioteca Joanina in Portugal one of the coolest libraries in the world

Coimbra, Portugal

Hidden within the campus of the University of Coimbra is the elegant Biblioteca Joanina, one of the prettiest libraries in the world located in Portugal.

Housed in a building that was originally part of the Royal Palace of Coimbra, you can believe that this beautiful library is steeped with history started in 1717 by King João, the library’s namesake.

Designed in the Baroque style, the Biblioteca Joanina consists of three grand interconnecting rooms, lined with lacquered oak shelves on two levels. Above the packed bookshelves are frescoed ceilings surrounded by intricate ornamental golden gilt coving.

The arched openings between rooms are decorated with University coats of arms in striking colors and beckon you onwards to explore.

Filling the library’s detailed shelves are over 250,000 reference books dating from the 15th to 19th centuries and covering every subject imaginable. These precious books are maintained at constant temperatures of 18 to 20°c, behind a heavily carved teak door and within walls over 2 meters thick, which all work together to stop any decay of the priceless books.

Apparently, there is also a colony of bats living in the library walls which devour any paper-eating insects!

Contributed by Izzy from The Gap Decaders

Stockholm Public Library

Book Hall Stockholm Library

Stockholm, Sweden

The Stadsbiblioteket, the main branch of the Stockholm Public Library system, is one of the most famous landmarks in the Swedish capital and one of the most stunning and coolest libraries in the world.

Located right next to a park in Vasastaden, the Stockholm Public Library is easy to access via Stockholm’s subway system. Spending some time in this beautiful building should definitely be on your Stockholm trip or itinerary.

This library was designed by Gunnar Asplund, one of Sweden’s most famous architects. Construction of the building started in 1924 and the library opened to the public in 1928. The building is designed as a cylinder atop a rectangle, and its striking orange facade makes for a stunning photo op. 

The book hall inside the cylinder, with the 360-degree wall of books, is the most stunning feature of the library. This was the first library in Sweden that allowed for direct access to books instead of having to seek help from library staff, a concept Asplund brought back from his visit to the USA. 

The Stadsbiblioteket holds more than 2 million books and a similar quantity of audiotapes. It is a wonderful place to visit, not only to admire the architecture and snap photos but also to enjoy the serene ambiance.

Contributed by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles

Klementinum Baroque Library

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Prague, Czech Republic

One of the most ornate and beautiful libraries in the world can be found in the enchanting city of Prague located in the Czech Republic. The Klementinum Baroque Library dates back to 1722 and holds approximately 20,000 volumes of theological literature.

In addition to the many books housed in the library, there is a collection of historically rare globes which for any travel lover are a stunning sight. 

The interior of the library has been well preserved for over 300 years. Some of the details that make this one of the prettiest libraries in the world include the beautiful frescos by artist Jan Hiebl adorn the ceilings and the large and rare globes that are arranged in the middle of the library.

Although visitors can’t access the library directly there are guided tours of the Klementinum available. During the tour as well as viewing the library visitors are taken to the astronomical tower and astronomical room which provide stunning views over the rooftops of Prague. 

The Klementinum is open daily with varying hours. Tours must be booked in advance as group sizes are limited. The tour lasts approximately 50 minutes. Wear comfortable shoes as there are many staircases (including narrow wooden stairs up to the tower) to navigate.

Contributed By Tracy of Tracy’s Travels in Time

State Library of South Australia

Mortlock Wing in the State Library of South Australia

Adelaide, Australia

Libraries have always been important in South Australia – the first one was created with books brought over on the ship with the first European settlers. The library was built, and has grown over the years with many additional buildings and wings and is now one of the coolest libraries in the world.

The State Library of South Australia is most renowned for the Mortlock Wing, a building opened in 1884. This building has barely changed since it was opened, remaining a great example of mid-Victorian era libraries.

The Mortlock Wing is a traditional wood panelled style, often being likened to the library depicted in the Harry Potter movies. The top two levels hold many historical books, including a full “gentleman’s library” donated by Sir Josiah Symon in 1935. Usually there are students from the nearby universities tucked in amongst the shelves using the space for study.

The lower floor is a small museum, holding lots of South Australian memorabilia, ranging from historical events to sporting personalities, local inventions and prominent people. You can also find some of those books from that first voyage to Australia here on display too.

The State Library is located prominently amongst the museums and universities on Adelaide’s main cultural boulevard. Visits to the library and the Mortlock Wing are free. 

Contributed by Josie of Exploring South Australia

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

El-Ateno-Grand-Splendid-bookstore-in-Buenos-Aires-Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Technically not a library but worth mentioning in this round-up of incredible and beautiful libraries of the world is El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

If you are walking through Avenida Santa Fe, in Recoleta, Buenos Aires, you might pass El Ateneo Grand Splendid, known as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world (Leading the second and first position of the lists of The Guardian and National Geographic).

From the outside, one might not seem so impressed, but once inside, the first glance of this former theatre is just breathtaking, and the first reaction might be sighing in awe. 

Housed in an antique theater, constructed between 1917 and 1919. The building was not only a cinema and theater but also housed the radio station Splendid and the record label Odeon, where famous Argentine tango singer Carlos Gardel made his first recordings. The Grand Splendid worked then as a lighthouse for the effervescent cultural life of Buenos Aires. 

With around 2000 square meters, the venue was converted into a bookstore in the year 2000, with more than 120,000 books, preserving the splendor and elegance of the former theatre. It still conserves its balconies, velvet curtains, the stage (where you can find a café today), and the dome with its frescoes. The paintings date from 1919 and its beauty is an allegory of peace, referring to the end of the first world war. While looking at the nymphs of the ceiling and being surrounded by thousands of books, one might perfectly think I’m in heaven.

Contributed by Deborah of Passport the World


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