21 World's Most Beautiful Libraries

By M. W. BYRNE

Sep 26, 2021

BEGGING TO BE BROWSED

Boston Public Library

Carrying a modest 23 million items, Boston’s public library is the 2nd largest in the US. The architecture is inspired by Italian works, with frescos at every turn and arches for ages.

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

An archival offshoot of the Yale University Library, this is the largest building dedicated to the preservation of unusual books and rare materials.

Central Library in Seattle

Finished in 2004, the progressive city of Seattle wanted this to be a reimagination of the standard library.

Trinity College Dublin Library

The biggest collection of books in Ireland, this library was originally designed with a flat roof but was later raised to accommodate more books.

Sainte-Geneviève Library in Paris

Architect Henri Labrouste finished the Sainte-Geneviève in the middle of the 19th century, but its iron arches have proved to be timeless.

Clementinum

Gold accents and spiral pillars add a sense of opulence to this den of information in one of the best-preserved cities in the western world, Prague.

George Peabody Library

Johns Hopkins is known for scientific achievements and advances in medicine much more than artistry or mechanics, but looking at the Peabody you’d never know it.

New York Public Library

The Rose Reading Room alone stretches two city blocks in a town where every square inch of real estate is worth hundreds of dollars.

Stuttgart City Library

Opened in 2011, the minimalism of Stuttgart is proof that ornamentalism isn’t required for beauty to be attained.

Royal Portuguese Reading Room

A Neo-Manueline interior combines swooping balustrades with a multi-colored skylight for a play of shadow that dances on as the day wears away.

Austrian National Library

Once the lair of rulers, the former Hofburg Palace is now home to 7.4 million literary works.

Iowa State Capitol Law Library

Completed in the late 1800’s, the Capitol Law Library of Des Moines is a Renaissance transplant filled with five stories of legal precedent.

Abbey Library of Saint Gall

Easily the greatest Baroque work done anywhere in Switzerland, this Carolingian monastery has items that date back to the 8th century.

Philological Library, Free University of Berlin

Known colloquially as “The Berlin Brain” due to its bulbous, undulating layout.

Vasconcelos Library

Part of the current work to gentrify and modernize Mexico, the Vasconcelos took a swatch of dead land and turned it into a hall of learning.

Handelingenkamer

Though reminiscent of Renaissance styles, much of the inspiration for the creation of the Handelingenkamer came from China, so says architect C.H. Peters.

State Library of New South Wales

Daunting skylights dapple the sandstone reading room with light, showing off the volumes as well as the immense collection of Australiana relics donated.

Codrington Library

Oxford’s Codrington Library has been gutted and redesigned again and again, each time attempting to update and enhance the interior without disturbing the innate beauty.

The Library of El Escorial

A gift to Spain from Phillip II, it’s a wonder merely to walk its chambers.

Wiblingen Monastery Library

Colorful, bright, and bursting with vivacity, it’s difficult to imagine this is a monastic library since the Rococo style revels in playfulness.

Library of Congress

Neoclassical in style, this is not only the largest library in the world both by the sheer number of volumes and shelf space, but one of the most striking. Started largely by Thomas Jefferson ...