Travel the World: A few of the most beautiful libraries

Endless rows of bookshelves with kilos if not tons of books. Libraries are an ode to lifelong learning; they are temples of education. On a city trip, libraries are ideal places to spend some quiet time. The amazing atmosphere, one experiences when surrounded by books amplified by stunning architecture is an exquisite experience. Follow me around the world. If you are a curious traveller, a bookworm and a fan of architecture, you are going to want to visit all these magnificent libraries. The architecture of these libraries truly represents how highly humans value knowledge.

Travel the World. A few of the most beautiful libraries - The Touristin

A few most beautiful libraries from around the world

Books are like friends. I find non-readers highly suspicious. Why would one want to miss out on all these stories? Check out these beautiful libraries in Germany, Latvia, Estonia, the US, Finland and Australia.

Bavarian State Library in Germany

The opening hours of the main reading room are simply fantastic, you can read till you drop, in other words, you can read each day of the week till midnight. Founded in 1558, the Bavarian State Library is the central state library of the Free State of Bavaria. You find over 33 million media units at this library, amongst them precious manuscripts, rare books and special collections, and also more than 2,5 million digitized works from thousands of years of cultural heritage.
A vaulted hall with a grand staircase with stone pillars on its side that leads to a yellow framed door.

Bavarian State Library (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek), Ludwigstr. 16, 80539 Munich. Hours: Main reading room 8am to 12am, please check here for more detailed information. Tickets: Free.

Berlin State Library in Germany

The State Library designed by the architect Hans Scharoun opened its doors to the public in 1978. One can well imagine how futuristic this structure must have appeared at the time. It is still impressive while at the same time it has the charm of a 70s-disco. The library has the Midas touch, the facade is golden. The building is wide and airy with terrace-like gallery floors to be reached over large open staircases.

The State Library is the largest academic universal library in Germany and holds more than 25 million different media. The collection includes books, manuscripts, maps, prints, picture albums, newspapers, and electronic resources. The library holds Beethoven's 9th symphony which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
Tables and rows of bookshelves under a ceiling with white round lights.

A white spiral staircase in a library with rows of bookshelves under a ceiling with white round lights.

Berlin State Library, Potsdamer Straße 33, 10785 Berlin. Hours: Friday to Saturday 8am to 10pm. Tickets: Free. Register at reception on arrival.

Library of the Monastery in Fuessen in Germany

The town in the ‘Ostallgaeu’ region is the highest city in Bavaria and only 130 kilometres from Munich, which means it is easy to reach by train in two hours. This is the library in the former Benedictine monastery of St. Mang (today a museum).

The world of the Bavarian Baroque is one full of lavish decoration, one that zings with a passion for pastel colours. The baroque rooms of the monastery are richly decorated with the most beautiful frescoes and stucco elements. The baroque monastery, which still exists today, was built from 1701 to 1717. Today, the former monastery church of St. Mang serves as a Catholic Parish Church whereas the city administration and the Füssen Museum with its library are housed in the next-door monastery.

The library of the Benedictine monastery of St. Mang is a prime example of Baroque-architecture. It has that kind of style that wouldn't seem out of place in a good old fairy-tale. The monastery's maisonette style library sits above the monk's canteen. The hole in the ceiling (or floor, depending on from where you look at it) was closed in winter so that it wouldn't get too cold in here.

A round room with wooden floorboards and white bookshelves on all walls under a pastel-coloured ornate ceiling.

Information. Museum der Stadt Füssen, Lechhalde 3, Füssen, Germany. April to October: Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. November to March: Friday to Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm. From April 1st to November 3rd inclusive from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Tickets adults EUR 4.

Municipal Library Stuttgart in Germany

Stuttgart is a town in the German state of Baden Wuerttemberg and this is its library. Critics describe this cube design by South Korean architect Eun Young Yi as dismissive, and a big part of the public refers to it as books jail. I’ve never been to jail, apart from Robben Island and Alcatraz; so I'm obviously not really in a position to comment on that.

This building has this calming effect. You walk inside and enter this happy space, it is cocoon-like, transcendent, and you feel much removed from the outside world. I perceived the off-white colour and open spaces as protective and felt literally embraced as I entered. If there is one thing to do in Germany, it is to visit this library. 

Five floors of bookshelves and blue sofas, white staircases in a library.

Information. Municipal Library Stuttgart, Mailänder Platz 1, 70173 Stuttgart, Germany. It is open every day from 9am-9pm, closed on Sundays (this is Germany for you). Tickets: Free.

National Library of Riga in Latvia

National Library of Latvia – The Castle of Light

This is book heaven. The National Library of Latvia collection holds four million pieces. Visitors find everything from social science to rare books, manuscripts, the Latvian- and Baltic Central Library collections, maps, sheet music, sound recordings, graphic publications, ephemera and periodicals.

The National Library of Latvia was founded in 1919 and eventually found its new home in the purpose-built structure on the banks of the River Daugava in 2014. The building that looks from afar like a glass mountain was designed by Latvian born architect Gunnar Birkerts. Reading rooms in the structure using the natural light give the library the name "Castle of Light."

Foor floors with bookshelves and silver staircases in a library.

Information. National Library of Riga. Mūkusalas iela 3, Zemgales priekšpilsēta, Rīga, LV-1423, Latvia. All the library's levels are accessible for persons with disabilities. Hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm. Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm. Tickets: Free. Register at reception.

National Library Tallinn in Estonia

Tallinn is the capital of Estonia. You find the National Library only moments from the medieval old. Approaching the building, you might feel like entering a fortress of books. The eight-story building holds twenty reading rooms. A must-see for fans of brutalist architecture and monumental structures.

Grand entrance hall and staircase of a library.

Information. National Library of Estonia, Tõnismägi 2, 10122 Tallinn, Estonia. Hours Monday to Friday 10am to 8pm, Saturday 12 to 7pm, Sunday Closed. Tickets: Free. 

Further reading: Travel Estonia. Fotografiska - The Power of Photography.

New York City Library in USA

The New York Public library was founded in 1895 and is the second-largest library in the world (there is an even larger one in Washington DC). There are over 90 branches that hold (apparently) 53 million books. At the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, make your way to the third floor to find room 315, also known as the Rose Reading Room. Imagine, it stretches over two city blocks.

Grand reading room with visitors sitting at rows of tables under an ornate painted ceiling

New York Public Library. Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. 476 Fifth Avenue (42nd St and Fifth Ave), New York, NY, 10018. Hours Sunday 1pm to 4.45pm, Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10am to 5.45pm, Tuesday and Wednesday 10am to 7.45pm. Tickets: Free. 

Further reading: 13 inspiring books to read for your trip to New York City.

Rovaniemi City Library in Finland

Rovaniemi is a town on the Arctic Circle. The library was constructed in 1965 and it looks as if nothing ever changed since. Architect Alvar Aalto designed this library as a clear, no-frills place. From a mezzanine level, one can look down into a lower level with large reading bays. The furniture, the lamps the atmosphere, it is a design- and book lovers heaven.

Design chair and tables in front of rows of bookshelves.

Wooden tables, black chairs and rows of bookshelves in a reading bay.

Info. Rovaniemi city library, Jorma Eton tie 6, 96100 Rovaniemi. Main door at Hallituskatu 9. Hours: Rovaniemi City Library (and reading rooms). Monday to Thursday 9am to 8pm. Friday 9am to 6pm. Saturday 11am to 4pm. Tickets: Free.

State Library of Victoria in Australia

You can visit several exhibition rooms at the State Library. The octagonal six-storey high La Trobe Reading Room is what you want to see most. The domed reading room in Edwardian-style has got it all, 32,000 books, green glass lights and oak chairs. It is a true Melbourne icon beloved by all. 

Library visitors at wooden tables in a six-storey high octagonal reading room under a white glas dome.

Library visitors at wooden tables with green lamps in a grand octagonal reading room

Info. State Library of Victoria in Australia. 328 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia. Hours: Monday to Thursday 10am to 9pm, Friday to Sunday 10am to 6pm. Tickets: Free.

Cuypers Library in Amsterdam in the Netherlands

The Rijksmuseum Research Library, also known as Cuypers Library named after the museum's Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, is the largest public art library in the Netherlands and one of the main art libraries in the world. The collection started in 1885, holds catalogues of auctions and exhibitions, trade and collection catalogues, as well as books, periodicals and reports relating to the museum collections. Make your way to the main building of the Rijksmuseum to find the magnificent reading room. Sit down and read and experience the remarkable atmosphere of the library. Plan a full day to visit the Rijksmuseum.

Four floors of bookshelves connected by a red-brown wrought-iron spiral staircase.

Large vaulted glass ceiling over several floors of bookshelves connected by a red wrought-iron spiral staircase.

Info. Cuypers Library. Rijksmuseum Research Library. Museumstraat 1, 1071 CN Amsterdam, Netherlands. Hours: Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm. Sunday closed. Visitors need to enter through the Rijksmuseum. Tickets Rijksmuseum:Adults EUR 19; free entry to the museum up to 18 years of age. Please book tickets online before you visit.

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