30 Most Beautiful Libraries Around the World
Getting lost in a book is one thing. Getting lost in a library is another. For bibliophiles, the smell of books, a cozy chair and a volume of books that can't possibly be read in a year is heaven.
But spread out across the world are beautiful libraries that are works of art in and of themselves. These are spaces created by book lovers for book lovers. Some are small, but most are large. Some are centuries old, while others are modern. All, however, are heavenly — just see for yourself.
Baroque Library of Metten Abbey, Germany
The Bavarian Forest of Germany has often appeared as the setting for fairytales, with its thick forests and fantastical castles.
The library within St. Michael's Abbey at Metten adds to that Bavarian mystique. From the outside, the Benedectine abbey may not reveal its spoils, but inside, you'll be charmed by bookshelves lining the walls beneath stunning Baroque frescoes.
Rijksmuseum, The Netherlands
It's only fitting that the Netherland's most extensive art museum also houses the most extensive library dedicated to art history, as is the case at Rijksmuseum's Research Library.
The academic collection features more than 27,000 books, including early printed books and antiquities.
Stiftsbibliothek Admont, Austria
The largest monastery library in the world is also considered to be one of the Eighth Wonders of the World. There are 70,000 books within this massive library — and some have been painted white to give the impression of an even larger space.
Inspired by the royal palace in Vienna, the ceiling features seven frescoes.
Macquarie University, Australia
Sydney's striking opera house and bridge on Sydney Harbour get all the fanfare for architectural love, but often overlooked is the nearby library found at Macquarie University.
Built primarily with sustainable features, the roof of this library is landscaped with grass and plants, collects water from rain that is used for interior plumbing and garden irrigation. The striped "shade blades" may look like wood panels blocking out the world, but they provide sunlight and shade as the sun passes overhead.
Strahov Monastery and Library, Czechia
Established in the late 1600s, the Theological Hall features Baroque stylings and frescoes painted by Siard Nosecky and Anton Maulbertsch, who were members of Premonstratensians, which occupied the monastery.
The valuable collection within these walls reaches nearly 200,000 volumes.
Trinity College Library, Ireland
Not just a university library, the Library of Trinity College is the keeper of the ninth-century gospel Book of Kells, where two of four are on display to the public. Within the library's Long Room are 200,000 volumes of books, including one of the last copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
The Brian Boru harp found here also holds significance. It dates back to the 1400s and is the oldest of its kind.
Biblioteca do Convento de Mafra, Portugal
King Joao V's Royal Convent and Palace contains 1,200 rooms, but the largest of them all is the library, which is built into the shape of a cross. Within the marble and limestone setting are 36,000 volumes of books, making it one of the most "Enlightenment Libraries in Europe."
So complete are the contents that Pope Benedictus XV announced in 1745 the permission to keep prohibited books without any ex-communication.
Library of Sejong City, South Korea
This library will bring a smile to your face. The first and main branch of the national library has a roof that swoops with its glass front facade creating what looks like a smile.
Actually, the design is meant to resemble a page being turned. Either way, it's pretty cool.
Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, Brazil
Location: Rio de Janeiro
The 19th-century Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura brought about a stunning space for the world's largest collection of Portuguese books outside of Portugal.
More than 350,000 volumes, including rare finds, sit on the Gothic-Renaissance bookshelves of wood and gold as sunlight and a giant wrought-iron chandelier provide lighting.
Bishan Public Library, Singapore
It may be small but it's sure an eye-catching space in a city known for its glass skyscrapers.
This modern-day "treehouse" features nooks that jut outside of the main frame, providing readers with private, windowed spaces in which to read.
Halmstad City Library, Sweden
Location: Halmstad City
Remember that Sweden is the birthplace of IKEA, so is it any wonder a Swedish library would be so striking as a contemporary work of art?
Nestled beside the Nissan River, the library bridges together the town's historic district with its new development that had been separated by the river for centuries.
Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve, France
You'll find this Bibliotheque at the Pantheon. The library is named for the abbey from the Middle Ages that once stood here, and it's outfitted with items from that time period, including the remains of its bell tower.
Engravings of the names of 810 authors are found beneath the windows of this library that is home to 2 million books.
Boston Public Library, Massachusetts
Built in 1848, Boston's Public Library is the third-largest in the United States and serves at the Library for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Inside the hallowed halls of the Back Bay library are more than 23 million books, microfilm, visual materials, prints, manuscripts, maps, CDs and DVDs.
Monastery of San Francisco, Peru
You cannot access any of the 25,000 books found in the San Francisco Monastery library, but you can take a peek inside.
It may look small, but unlike other old libraries that have received facelifts and restoration, this library has been preserved since the 1700s.
Melk Library, Austria
The Melk Abbey's central location between Vienna and Salzburg made it a popular stomping ground for royal travelers, which meant the property needed to be fit for a king. That included its library.
Founded in the 12th century, the abbey is one of the oldest Benedictine monasteries, and its library contains works that date back to the ninth century.
Biblioteca Statale Oratoriana dei Girolamini, Italy
The 16th-century library on the grounds of a church is Italy's second-oldest. It also once contained works by Galileo and Thomas Moore — that is, until the former director of the library was discovered to have been looting and ransacking the collection in 2013.
As books are slowly being returned and recovered, the building itself still remains an awe-inspiring space for bibliophiles.
Bodleian Library, United Kingdom
Oxford University's library inspired Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and was even used as a setting in the film. Known as "The Bod," the library first opened in 1602 and holds a copy of the Gutenberg Bible from 1455.
The restricted library Harry Potter visits in the films is actually The Bod's Duke Humfrey's Library, which isn't restricted at all.
Kanazawa Umimirai Library, Japan
When architects designed this contemporary library in 2011, they created an inviting space to encourage readers to stay longer.
Using a "punching wall" shell with nearly 6,000 round openings of various sizes, natural light can softly enter the interior to create warmth, while also escaping from the interior at night to highlight the boxed structure.
Biblioteca Joanina, Portugal
A library central to the University of Coimbra and its General Library, this 18th-century library is a national monument in Portugal and one of the university's oldest buildings.
Three floors house 200,000 bodies of work that span from the 16th to 18th centuries. The books are well preserved, as the library was constructed to hold out the elements and create a book vault — mission accomplished!
Library of Parliament, Canada
The Parliamentarian library of Canada began in the late 18th century but didn't find this circular home until a century later.
The library features flying buttresses holding a ceiling that features carvings of masks, flowers and mythical beasts. Queen Victoria stands in the middle, and the coast of arms for all seven Canadian provinces that existed in 1876 are featured.
Sarasvathi Mahal Library, India
Location: Tamil Nadu
Part of the Thanjavur Palace, this library began as a library to the kings. Although small, it is filled with color in its ceiling, floor and columns.
The library's collection is so ancient it includes palm leaf manuscripts.
Vasconcelos Library, Mexico
Location: Mexico City
The 409,000-square-foot Biblioteca Vasconcelos is the largest in the country. It's easy to see why it is referred to as a "megalibrary" with its transparent walls and bookshelves that make up the structure.
Getting lost in this library is easy to do with more than 575,000 books to peruse — think you can read them all?
Stiftsbibliothek Sankt Gallen, Switzerland
Location: St. Gallen
Inside the World Heritage Site, the Abbey of St. Gall, is a library that is older than the main building. When a fire raged through the monastery in 937, the library remained.
Its hall, however, was built in the mid-1700s in a Rocco style. Although the building is not the oldest, the collection of books is the oldest in Switzerland.
Handelingenkamer, The Netherlands
Its name means "Old Library" in Dutch. Built in the 1800s, the lack of light (and electricity) required creatively harnessing the sun.
Architects did just that when they designed this four-story library by adding a glass dome on the roof to help bring in light.
Kansas City Library, Missouri
Location: Kansas City
K.C. wanted to make a statement and lure people into its library doors by creating a facade designed to resemble a bookshelf of classics. Residents of the city were even able to vote on which books would be featured.
Alas, it's not the actual library. This is the library's parking lot, but it's close enough and too cool not to include on this list.
Wiblinglen Abbey Library, Germany
Here's another opulent library found in Germany — it seems the Benedictine abbeys really value their books.
Although the columns and statues appear to be marble, they are actually carved of wood and painted to resemble stone. The statues represent the virtues and disciplines of Christianity, and the 15,000 books in the collection are segmented by those categories.
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology Library, Ireland
When you have a school dedicated to the advancement of the future, a stuffy old library won't do. With Galway's Atlantic Ocean coast as inspiration, the library features three copper sculptures at its front that represent sails of a ship.
But these aren't just for looks. They also act as light reflectors and air dispensers. From the windows, you can see Galway Bay as well.
Hachioji Library, Japan
Tama Art University's newest library, designed by one of Japan's leading architects, Ito Toyo, is another of the contemporary glass buildings that lend to the modern library style of letting in lots of light for readers.
With its glass walls and arches, the open space is inviting and houses nearly 125,000 volumes, of which 77,000 are Japanese works.
Stiftsbibliothek Kremsmunster, Austria
Another Benedictine abbey is where you will find collections of work that date back to the abbey's founding in 777.
Although the Nazis took over the building during World War II, it managed to recover most of its pieces.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt
The Library of Alexandria first began in 323 CE and was famously burned in 275 AD. Throughout the centuries, the library may have changed in look and contents, but the current edition received its style in 2001.
Designed to blend the modern building with its past, the Norwegian architects who created the building developed a tilted wedge overlooking the harbor. Part of the wedge dips below the waterline, and windows on the roof bring in light for the readers.