Among the most beautiful places to visit in the world, we have libraries. Libraries have always had an apeal to them, an attractiveness that you can’t explain. How we house knowledge has taken on many architectural forms from picturesque exteriors, to charming interior designs and thousands of books spectacularly arranged. If you are a book lover or an architecture enthusiast, these beautiful libraries deserve a spot in your literary bucket list.
1. Seattle Central Library, Washington
Seattle Central Library is without a doubt one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Officially opened in May 2004, this 11-story glass and steel structure located on a hill is an architectural masterpiece. The reading room on the 10th floor allows you to catch a glimpse of Elliot Bay and downtown Seattle. The Book Spiral, a winding bookshelf found in the middle of the library is one of its most impressive features. This stunning library not only provides a million plus books but it also gives access to various forms of media.
2. Vennesla Library, Norway
A lovely blend of wood and glass, Vennesla Library and Culture House was completed in 2011 and has unsurprisingly won a few architecture awards since its opening. It uses the concept of a whale skeleton to intricately design the 27 ribs that support the roof. The ribs are created to grow smaller as you move from the large main entrance creating a folding illusion toward the main street. Apart from being a house of knowledge, it has open meeting spaces, a coffee shop and a cinema.
3. State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Founded in 1854 and located in Melbourne, State Library Victoria is one of the first free libraries in the world and Australia’s oldest public library. At the center of the library, there’s a magnificent octagonal structure known as the LaTrobe Reading Room that houses thousands of books. The library plays a big part in detailing the history and culture of Victoria through books, pictures, newspapers, manuscripts and maps.
4. National Library of China, Beijing
Established in 1909, its one of the largest libraries in the world and homes the largest collection of Chinese literature and historical documents in the world. This enormous structure, as of 2020 had over 41 million items found in the North Complex, South Complex, the Ancient Book Hall, and the Children’s Hall. The North complex is divided into the upper level that holds the digital library representing the future and evolving technology. The lower level houses the geometric reading room and reference library signifying the old.
5. Starfield Library in Seoul, South Korea
A spectacular futuristic library found inside the world’s largest underground shopping mall, Coex mall. It occupies 2 well-lit floors of the mall with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that hold almost 50,000 magazines and books of all genres. The library is a public space and people are free to come in and sit, look around or take a book and read. For those who prefer e-books, there are ipads available for you.
6. Stuttgart City Library, Germany
If you think libraries are dark and stuffy this pristine white cube-like structure with bright lighting will prove you wrong. Drawing inspiration from the Pantheon in Rome, the library employs a minimalistic design for its architecture and the only splashes of color come from the books. Its immaculate 5-story reading room shaped like an upside-down pyramid is so fascinating. Stuttgart is really a sight to behold and definitely one of the world’s most amazing libraries.
7. Admont Abbey Library, Austria
Noted by its gorgeous baroque-style architecture, Admont Abbey Library is one of the largest and oldest monasteries in the world. Adorned by gold and white hues it’s awe-inspiring halls hold an astonishing 70,000 volume collection and its ceiling is decorated with 7 cupolas that highlight the progression of human knowledge. Additionally, it has 48 windows that provide natural light.
8. Biblioteca Vasconcelos, Mexico
Fittingly named after Mexican writer Jose Vasconcelos, this outstanding library was designed by Alberto Kalach. This glass and concrete structure with transparent walls and mismatched floors lies within a botanical garden. If that wasn’t impressive enough, it’s captivating open scaffold-like shelving with a gigantic whale skeleton hanging in the middle is truly a rare sight. Aside from its astounding 470,000+ books, the fact that this work of art was created from a barren landscape is jaw-dropping.
9. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
The National Library of France has to be on the list of the most beautiful libraries around the world. It’s one of the largest libraries in the world covering 4 locations in Paris. This stunner houses a copy of every publication printed in France. The library holds a grand 180,000 manuscripts, a vast collection of prints, and collections of maps, drawings and paintings.
10. The Tianjin Binhai Library, China
The architecture of this library is one of the most stunning features of the library. The other is its large collection of books, holding about 1.2 million books. The 5 leveled library is also known as ‘The Eye’ because its sphere has the shape of an eye. It’s 1 of 5 cultural buildings in the Tianjin Binhai Municipality and all of them are connected by a public corridor underneath a glass canopy.
11. Library of Parliament in Ottawa, Canada
Opened in 1876 and located in Parliament of Canada, the Library of Parliament is the main information storage and research center for Canada’s government. Inspired by the British Museum Reading Room, its interior incorporates walls supported by 16 flying buttresses, white pine paneling with lovely detailed carvings of flowers, and mythical creatures and a vaulted ceiling in the main reading room. This gem also has the privilege of appearing in the Canadian ten dollar bill.
12. The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, Brazil
The Royal Portuguese Reading Room employs the charming Neo-Manueline architectural style and was opened in 1887 in the center of Rio de Janeiro. Its limestone exterior was inspired by the famous Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, where it was built before being shipped to Rio de Janeiro. This Brazilian gem holds the largest and most valuable collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal with nearly 400,000 rare manuscripts, singular works, and unique proofs decorating the shelves. It’s the ideal destination for anyone who loves to be surrounded by beautiful books.