Beautiful libraries around the world

Keepers of Cool

You don’t have to be a bibliophile to want to visit one of these stunning libraries.

George Peabody Library, Baltimore, USA
The collection at this five-storey library dates to 1857 and contains 300,000 items, many of them from the 19th century. Designed in the Greek Revival-style, the library’s atrium-style stack room has five tiers of cast-iron balconies, with decorative embellishments, and a latticed skylight that soars 61 feet above the ground.
Photograph: georgepeabodylibrary / Instagram

Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
With its rich Neo-Manueline interior, this library is truly fit for royalty, and holds the biggest collection of Portuguese literature outside Portugal. There are more than 350,000 volumes in the collection, including rare books. Finished in 1887, the library has colourful stained glass windows, intricate balustrades, and a multi-coloured skylight. The library also houses a beautiful monument made of ivory, marble, and silver that celebrates the Portuguese discoveries of the 1400s and 1500s.
Photograph: megustaleermex / Instagram

Old Library Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
The largest library in Ireland, the Old Library at Trinity College is home to more than seven million volumes, the most well known among them being the beautifully embellished The Book of Kells, a Gospel volume dating to the early 9th century, and The Book of Durrow, another illustrated medieval gospel. The library’s main chamber is the 213-foot-long Long Room, which houses 200,000 of the oldest books in the library’s collection. The room has a barrel-like ceiling, oak bookcases, and dark wooden interiors with marble busts of philosophers and writers lining the room.
Photograph: Diliff / Wikimedia Commons

Bodleian Library, Oxford, UK
The structure of this famous library follows the English Palladian style and is the oldest example of a circular library in England. The Bodleian is home to more than 13 million printed items, which include a Gutenberg Bible and Shakespeare’s first folio. With its roots in the 14th century the Bodleian is one of the oldest libraries in Europe.
Photograph: Diliff / Wikimedia Commons

Abbey Library of Saint Gall, St Gallen, Switzerland
The library and the rest of this medieval Carolingian abbey were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, highlighting its importance as a significant monastic library. The library’s 160,000-plus collection covers a wide range of topics, with some manuscripts dating to the 8th century, and is oldest in Switzerland. The interiors feature a magnificent Rococo hall, an opulent example of the Baroque style, beautifully carved wood, stucco and paint.
Photograph: Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen / Wikipedia Commons

Strahov Monastery Library, Prague, Czech Republic
The library at this 12th century monastery was completed in 1679 and houses thousands of editions of the Bible in the magnificent Theological Hall. The interiors have a distinctly Baroque feel with splendid ornate stuccowork featuring several Biblical frescoes, and gilded carved wooded decorations.
Photograph: Malenka / Pixabay.com

Stuttgart City Library, Stuttgart, Germany
This public library isn’t as opulent or grand as most of the others on this list, but its modern innovative design is inspiring in its minimalism. Bright, clean, linear, and minimal architecture are the highlight of this library with its gleaming white surfaces and airy spaces. The reading room or gallery hall is shaped like an inverted pyramid, stretching from the fourth floor to the top and features wide terraces and lightning-shaped staircases that make it one of the most popular destinations for taking photographs in the city.
Photograph: O Palsson / Flickr

Handelingenkamer, The Hague, The Netherlands
Built at the end of the 19th century, this four-storey library belongs to the Dutch Parliaments. It has a distinctly Renaissance design, heavily influenced by Chinese aesthetics. This is seen in the Chinese motifs, like dragon heads, seen in the cast-iron balustrades and staircases, as well as the red, green and gold colour scheme. The roof is a leaded glass dome that washes the interiors with natural light that filters all the way down the four stories to the ground floor.
Photograph: rijksoverheid, Arenda Oomen / Wikimedia Commons

Admont Abbey Library, Admont, Austria
The majestic library at this Benedectine abbey was built in 1776 and is the largest monastery library in the world thanks to the dazzling library hall, which is 70 meters long. Design in the Baroque style, the gold and white interiors have seven cupolas showcasing beautiful frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte and noteworthy sculptures by Joseph Stammel, two famous Baroque artists.
Photograph: roll robots / Wikimedia Commons

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, New Haven, USA
This Yale University library is one of the largest libraries in the world dedicated to rare books and manuscripts. Completed in 1963, the building is starkly modern and houses the collection in a six-story glassed-in book stacks. These towers have ‘windows’ made of thick Vermont marble panels encased within a steel frame clad in granite. These panels protect the works from direct sunlight, while also bringing some of the exterior light to the interiors, giving the space a warm light.
Photograph: Gunnar Klack / Flickr