Whether you’re searching for a good read or just want some peace and quiet, libraries offer a cozy retreat from the outside world. Rows of literature from floor to ceiling are always nice to look at, but these beautiful libraries will have you traveling across the world, basking in their culture and history.
Admont Abbey Library (Admont, Austria)
Completed in 1776, Admont Abbey Library is the world’s largest monastery library. Tour the library to see its seven cupola frescoes reflecting the period of enlightenment. Transport yourself back in time among this awe-inspiring collection of art. Entry is free and open to the public.
George Peabody Library (Baltimore, USA)
A feature of Johns Hopkins University, the George Peabody Library was designed by Edmund G. Lind in 1878. It is known as Baltimore’s “Cathedral of Books,” as a massive skylight soars over six tiers of cast-iron balconies to house a collection containing over 300,000 volumes dating from the Renaissance through the 19th Century. This stunning space is free and open for public use.
Maison de la Littérature Library (Québec, Canada)
Built in a former church, Maison de la Littérature mixes sleek design with the original neo-gothic layout. It houses both a public library and a permanent exhibition of Québec literature. It provides writing and art workshops to the public.
Klementinum National Library (Prague, Czech Republic)
Located in the center of Prague, Klementinum National Library is part of a historic complex of buildings. One of the most beautiful libraries in Europe, it opened in 1722 and holds a vast collection of books dating back centuries. Ceiling frescoes give it the feel of an art museum and the Baroque architecture is something to marvel at for hours, making it one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day and conducts educational tours every 30 min.
Domaine de Chantilly Reading Room (Chantilly, France)
Created by the Duke of Aumale, a known bibliophile, this intricate Reading Room was designed as a part of the Chateau de Chantilly. Printed work from practically every century are on display in this library that features two levels and a gallery. A space for reading and working, it holds what is thought to be the most beautiful manuscript in the world, the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.
Stuttgart City Library (Stuttgart, Germany)
The Stuttgart City Library, or Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart, was designed by Yi architects and opened in 2011. The public city library is known for its clean and modern design. The interior is bright and white, allowing the books and visitors to provide the color. Many refer to it as cubes within a giant cube. It has 9 floors and the top floor features a cafe and a view of the entire city.
Mafra National Palace Library (Mafra, Portugal)
Within the walls of the Mafra National Palace is the Palace Library. Due to its off-the-radar location, this beautiful library is less known by tourists. Built in the form of a cross and paved with multicolored limestone floor and Rocaille shelves, its Rococo-style architecture makes it one of the most cherished buildings in Portugal.
To prevent pests from eating the historical books, bats roam free in the library after hours and sleep behind the bookshelves during the day. Visits to the Palace Library are restricted to certain scholars and researchers, so a prior appointment is recommended.
Rijksmuseum Research Library (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
The Rijksmuseum Research Library is the largest library of its kind in The Netherlands. It was built in 1885, but transformed into a classical reading room in 2004. One of the world’s most renowned art libraries, the Rijksmuseum Research Library has catalogues of art sales and exhibitions, trade and collection catalogues, as well as books, periodicals and annual reports relating to the museum collections have been collected without interruption since 1885. The catalog of the library is also available online.
Library of Congress (Washington DC, USA)
The de facto national library of the United States, the Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the country. Take a tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building and learn about architectural symbolism of the Gilded Age. Touch materials and tools used to create the building that has become the heart of the Library of Congress.
Old Library (Dublin, Ireland)
The Old Library stands in the heart of Dublin as a part of Trinity College. Its 18th century architecture extends into the “long room,” lined with busts of prominent literature figures. Endless rows of tall bookshelves are filled with the school’s oldest books. Home to the Book of Kells, a famous 9th century manuscript, the Old Library is one of the most beautiful libraries on a college campus.