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Top 10 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World

We all know 14 February is Valentine’s Day, but did you also know it is Library Lover’s Day? That’s right, there’s a day dedicated to the love of these places of knowledge, history, and of course books! This International Day of Celebration began in Australia at the Stat Library of New South Wales in 2006 and became an official National Day of Celebration in 2007, before spreading to the rest of the world. So, while this day is usually used to celebrate romantic love between two people – I love that we also use it to celebrate love of all kinds – and a love of books and reading is very high on my list. It is also International Book Giving Day – so maybe give your Valentine a book this year?

 

While the word library comes from a Latin word that literally means ‘a place that stores books’, libraries have gone so far beyond that – to community hubs, and places of inclusion and acceptance. Some maintain a more utilitarian style; however, some are so beautiful or incredibly designed that they look like they have come straight from a fairytale or even a sci-fi movie. Below, I’ve laid out my top 10 most beautiful or interesting libraries around the world. This is by no means an exhaustive list (there’s over 230,000 public libraries in developing countries around the world, plus private libraries and more!) these places are well worth a Google!



 

1. Admont Abbey Library

If you’re looking for one of the most fairytale-esque and romantic libraries, look no further than the Admont Abbey Library. Located within the grounds of the Admont Abbey in Austria, this incredible library was completed in 1776 and is now the largest monastic library in the world and looks like it is straight out of the Beast’s Castle in Beauty and the Beast! It is full of priceless treasures and art, including incredible frescos and sculptures, and rare editions of the Bible. The library hall houses about 70,000 volumes. The Abbey's entire collection of books consists of about 200,000 volumes. The most valuable treasures are the more than 1,400 manuscripts (from the 8th century) and the 530 incunabula (early prints up to the year 1500). Entrance to the museum and library is only available as part of a tour, so you’ll need to book that in advance. You can view more information on their website.



2. The Library of Trinity College Dublin

The Old Library and Long Room at Trinity College Dublin are possibly one of the most recognisable libraries in the world. You’ll have seen it in many photos, and maybe even some movies or shows – it was recently used in the AppleTV show, Foundation, for a reading room in the imperial capital of Trantor. The Long Room is 65m long and was built between 1712 and 1732. It now houses 200,000 of the library’s oldest books, including the Book of Kells, a 9th-century gospel manuscript. The Old Library is currently housing a multi-media exhibition that showcases the Book of Kells and other related manuscripts. You can visit the Old Library and the Long Room as part of a Trinity College Campus tour – the College organises a range of guided and self-guided tours for a variety of lengths of stays. Fun fact: If you visit during the summer while the College is on Summer Break, you can even stay on campus! For more information on tours, visit the Visit Trinity website. For more information on the library, visit their website.



3. Bibliotheca Alexandrina

As a bibliophile, the loss of the Library of Alexandria is still a sore point. The loss of that much knowledge is horrible to think about. In the 1970s, the project to bring back the font of knowledge that was the Library of Alexandria started to come to fruition. Bibliotheca Alexandrina opened in 2002 and is now an architectural monument with its own UNESCO commission, and houses a 20,000sqm reading room, with shelf space for 8 million books over 11 levels – including books in Classical Arabic, English, and French, specialised libraries, permanent and temporary exhibitions, and four museums! It is also home to a manuscript restoration laboratory. The external walls are made of Aswan granite, and they are carved with characters from 120 scripts. The main reading room stands beneath a 32m high glass-panelled roof, tilted out toward the sea like a sundial, and measuring some 160m in diameter. For more information on this incredible library, visit their website.



4. Abbey Library of St Gall

This Swiss library is part of the Abbey of St. Gall in Gallen, Switzerland. After a fire in 937, the abbey itself was destroyed, but the library survived. The main Library Hall that stands today was constructed between 1758 and 1767. The library’s collection is the oldest in Switzerland and one of the earliest and most important monastic libraries in the world. It holds almost 160,000 volumes, including 1650 books printed before 1500 (called incunabula), and over 2000 manuscripts dating back to between the 8th and 15th centuries – all housed in glass cases with cherubs that match the theme of the manuscript. You can view the library as part of a tour that will take you through the library, vaulted cellar, and the exhibition hall. For more information, visit their website.  



5. Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is truly an institution that needs to be visited. The main branch of the library, now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (from 2008), was opened in 1911 and has since welcomed billions of visitors and has been used in multiple movies, TV shows, and in literature and poetry. It is home to millions of books, manuscripts, and maps. The library is decorated with beautiful moulding, cornices, sconces, and beautiful Carrara marble. You can view the beautiful building, including the famous Rose Main Reading Room, McGraw Rotunda, and Astor Hall on the free 60-minute tour led by one of the knowledgeable docents of the library. For more information, check out their website.



6. Piccolomini Library

Located in the Duomo of Siena, in Siena, Italy is the Piccolomini Library. It was built in the 1400s by the nephew of Pope Pius II, who later became Pope Pius III himself, in memory of his uncle and to conserve the manuscripts the man loved and took care of. The library holds hundreds of manuscripts and books, and is incredibly decorated with statues, and a plethora of colourful and intricate frescos that must be seen to be admired. The Piccolomini Library can be visited and toured as part of a city tour or a guided tour of the cathedral. For more information, visit their website. (website seems to be having a little trouble at the moment, but hopefully it’ll be back up soon)



7. Strahov Library

This fairytale library is located in the Strahov Monastery, in Prague, Czech Republic and was completed in 1679. The library is home to over 200,000 volumes, including over 3,000 manuscripts and 1,500 first prints stored in a special depository, ancient globes, sculptures, and incredible frescos. You can see the library as part of a guided tour, though the historical halls are only viewable from the door as the books need a special microclimate to protect them. For more information, visit their website.



8. Bodleian Library

The current incarnation of the Bodleian Library has a history dating back to 1602, though the full history dates back further to the 1400s. It is the main research library of Oxford University and is one of the oldest libraries in Europe and is home to over 13 million printed items – it is the second-largest library in Britain. This library has been seen in multiple films, including the Harry Potter movies, where the Divinity School doubles as the Hogwarts hospital wing, and the Duke Humfrey’s Library became the Hogwarts Library. For more information, visit their website.  



9. Wiblingen Monastery

The Monastery and Library are located in Ulm, Germany, first established in 1093. It is home to thousands of books and manuscripts. The library hall is beautifully decorated with statues, and decorative moulding, frescos, gilding, and colourful trims and bookshelves. It is a feast for the eyes. The library can be visited as part of an abbey tour and as part of various tours of the regions. For more information, please visit their website.



10. The Clementinum Baroque Library

This beautiful baroque library was completed in 1727 and is touted as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. The collection contains over 27,000 volumes of mostly foreign-language theological literature and the library hall is home to large, historically valuable globes and beautiful fresco decorations – unique for its original form and has not been damaged, altered or rebuilt in any way! Unfortunately, entry to the actual library is forbidden, you will get a view of the library and an explanation by a guide as part of the Clementinum Astronomical Tower and Baroque Library sightseeing route. For more information, visit their website.



Which one is your favourite? Or do you have another library you think should have made the list?




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