Literary Travel / Travel

Picture Perfect: Libraries for Your Bucket List


World's Most Beautiful Libraries

As we near the end of Libraries Week – seven days in which we celebrate the importance of libraries – I realised it’s been a while since I last visited one. As someone with a tendency towards buying and stock-piling books, while I spent many a weekend perusing the shelves of my local library as a child, it’s not a habit I took into adulthood.

However, given that I love few things as much as fusing two of my biggest passions – literature and travel – I have a great many libraries on my bucket list that I hope to visit before I die. “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” said Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, and I couldn’t agree with him more. From London’s exclusive writers’ haunt to one of New York’s most famous literary landmarks, here are six of the world’s most beautiful libraries.

State Library Victoria, Melbourne

The only library on this list that I’ve actually already visited, Melbourne’s State Library Victoria is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful libraries. A Melbourne landmark and cultural icon, the State Library is a magnificent 19th-century building with some of the city’s most beautiful heritage interiors. With its majestic domed ceiling, the La Trobe Reading Room is a library highlight.

The London Library

A literary institution for both book lovers and intellects in London, The London Library has been around for almost two decades. Founded in 1841, this literary gem boasts the likes of Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker and Rudyard Kipling as former members, and holds one million books, spanning over 17 miles.  Unobtrusively tucked in a corner of the regal St. James Square, The London Library is the Roll’s Royce of libraries, with an exclusive annual membership for frequent visitors. A haunt of writers, literary glitterati and book lovers alike, the beautiful building has all the mystique that you would expect of a great literary landmark, enriched through occasional appearances in the works of authors whom its shelves have nourished.

RELATED:  Five of the world's most unusual book towns

World's Most Beautiful Libraries

The Old Library, Trinity College Dublin

Constructed in the 18th century, Trinity College’s Old Library is a must-visit for any bookworms visiting Dublin. Located in the heart of the cobbled walkways of Dublin City, the building is an imposing one, rich in history and character. Home to stunning display of old religious texts with intricate art work, as well as The Long Room and The Book of Kells, the oak features, high ceilings and stunning architectural features indisputably make it one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.

World's Most Beautiful Libraries

Austrian National Library, Vienna

Stately and ornate with an exceptionally beautiful main hall, many cite the Austrian National Library as the closest thing to the one depicted in Beauty and the Beast. Built in the 18th century, with intricate paintings adorning the library’s ceilings, this is the biggest Baroque library in Europe, with one of the most picturesque library halls in the world. The largest library in Austria, home to an impressive 7.4 million items, it’s about as romantic a library as it gets.

Marciana Library, Venice

The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana – or National Library of St Mark’s – is a library and Renaissance building in Venice, northern Italy that holds one of the greatest classical texts collections in the world. Stepped in history, this architectural masterpiece is one of the most important libraries the Western world because it contains numerous medieval manuscripts, especially Greek manuscripts brought West from Constantinople. While not a traditional library where guests can peruse shelves and borrow books, the architecture alone makes it well worth a visit.

RELATED:  Writing by the Lake with Joyce Maynard

World's Most Beautiful Libraries

New York Public Library

As Carrie Bradshaw, speaking of the New York Public Library, once said, it’s “the classic New York landmark that housed all the great love stories”. Located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street the library is flanked by its famous marble Lions, Fortitude and Patience, who have guarded the entrance ever since its opening in 1911. The Beaux-Arts marble structure, spans two full blocks of New York City land and contains 88 miles of shelves, holding over seven million books. The New York Public Library, which was named a National Historic Monument in 1965, is a truly amazing piece of architecture and, being that it is symbolic of the two great loves of Carrie Bradshaw’s life – New York City and writing – it is easy to see why producers chose it as the site of her ill-fated wedding, and why many consider it as one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.

Love this post? Click here to subscribe.

18 comments on “Picture Perfect: Libraries for Your Bucket List”

  1. Such an interesting read! I love libraries. Check out Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice as well, it’s very photogenic.

  2. The old trinity college library is on my bucket list from very long. When I went to Vienna, I wasn’t much aware about the national library so missed it and now I regret 🙁 But hope to get back there 🙂

  3. I love visiting libraries when I’m traveling – often the buildings are old and beautiful or modern and cool! And… free bathrooms 🙂 Recently we visited a great one in Adelaide, Australia. And the one in Amsterdam by the river is super cool. In Warsaw, there’s also an amazing free rooftop garden on top of the University of Warsaw Library.

    1. Wow, the one in Warsaw sounds amazing, and I’ve not yet been to Adelaide but as and when I make it there I’ll have to visit the library there too! xo

  4. Aaah fabulous! I love libraries and have a whole pinterest board where I save stunning ones! Not thought to create a wishlist for travelling though, like it!

  5. I love libraries! Unfortunately, I have never been in any of these. I tend to do almost all my reading on electronic devices these days but a library has that special ambience and smell that I love.

    1. The smell of libraries is the best – if only someone could bottle it they’d make a pretty penny! xo

  6. As an English literature graduate I completely feel you on your love for libraries! These are just beautiful. If you ever get to Bucharest, check out the famous bookshop there, it’s gorgeous.

    1. Oh thanks for the heads-up – have just googled it and it looks amazing. Definitely one for the bucket list! xo

  7. *sigh* now all they need is to create little sleepy holes and then I’m moving into one of these libraries.

    1. There’s a library in Wales that you actually can sleep in called Gladstone Library – sounds like my idea of heaven! xo

  8. Ugh, LOVE bookstores and libraries! Actually heading to Melbourne next weekend, so glad I got to see this beforehand! Thank you 🙂

    Instagram featured beautiful libraries around the world one day a couple of years ago — I screenshotted all of them and have slowly been trying to find them! Just so captivating aren’t they?

    1. You and me both! Melbourne has got some fab bookshops too – I did a post on my favourites a while ago. And yes they truly are so captivating! xo

  9. Shared on my Facebook page. Wish I had seen it before leaving Vienna and Venice during the last month!

    1. Thanks Tasmin – you’ll have to add them to your to-do lists in case you visit Vienna or Venice again! xo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.