Brains and beauty come together at these stunning libraries around the world!
For many book lovers, there’s nothing more satisfying than spending hours browsing through shelves of books, discovering new titles and enjoying the quiet atmosphere of a library. Although libraries might seem like relics from a time before the internet, they’re still vital spaces for visitors to read, relax and enjoy all the information they have to offer.
But some libraries are more than just places to read and borrow books. They are also architectural wonders, cultural landmarks and historical treasures. So, we’ve searched high and low to find the most beautiful libraries in the world — from architecture that’s stood the test of time to structures that have made a splash in recent years. So read through our list of the most spectacular libraries in the world that are sure to wow over any book lover!
The World’s Most Beautiful Modern Libraries:
Musashino Art University Museum and Library
Described by architect Sou Fujimoto as the ‘library most library-like’, Musashino Art University Museum and Library combines a museum, library and gallery into a one-of-a-kind cultural institution. Musashino is a celebration of books: its clean design is composed of a spiral bookshelf that wraps around the entire structure, creating an impressive facade and cosy interior. The bookshelf acts as a wall, a window, a staircase, and a seat, creating different spaces and atmospheres for reading and browsing. Housing a diverse collection of books, artworks, and rare materials, this is a must-see for any bookworms with a passion for art and architecture.
Phillips Exeter Academy Library
One of the most renowned libraries in the world, the Phillips Exeter Academy Library is a stunning masterpiece of modern architecture. Harmonising brick, concrete and wood, this award-winning library features a distinctive structure of three concentric rings: the outer ring of brick walls and study carrels, the middle ring of concrete book stacks, and the inner ring of a soaring atrium with circular openings. The library offers a spacious and comfortable environment for reading and learning, with natural light filtering through the skylights and windows. With a rich collection of books, artwork and historical materials, Phillips Exeter Academy Library combines brains and beauty.
Stuttgart City Library
If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, Germany’s Stuttgart City Library is a stunning example of modern architecture and shows that sometimes you can judge by the cover. The ingenious exterior resembles a white cube that stands out from the otherwise urban landscape of Stuttgart. Yet, come nightfall, this 40-metre-tall building and its glass brick facade transforms into a glowing blue cube. That beauty continues inside the library’s nine floors, with a skyline and plenty of windows creating a spacious, bright, and serene atmosphere. The centrepiece is the central atrium, a nine-storey gallery hall with white walls and shelves brimming with books.
Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum
When prominent novelist Shiba Ryotaro passed away in 1996, his personal collection of over 20,000 books was placed in the Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum. Dedicated to the Japanese novelist and historian, this beautifully constructed library in Osaka was designed to emulate the writing and ideology of Ryotaro. The museum consists of two buildings: Ryotaro’s original house, and a library designed by the renowned architect Ando Tadao. Once inside, stand in awe at the towering collection of texts that stands three-stories high. This beautiful library is a must-see for anyone interested in Japanese history, literature, and architecture.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Part of Yale University Library in Connecticut, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection is the home of some of the most incredible manuscripts and books ever printed. One of the original Gutenberg Bibles, original works by Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemmingway are just some of many historical and precious documents inside this incredible library. It is fitting then, that this priceless collection is housed in such a stunning piece of architecture. The brutalist exterior features a translucent marble facade, leading to a lighting scheme of browns and yellows for a warm and inviting atmosphere. Once inside, you’ll find six stories of wall-to-wall bookshelves perfect for moments of intimacy and reflection.
The World’s Most Beautiful Traditional Libraries:
Austrian National Library
Vienna is renowned as the birthplace of several classical composers, so it’s natural that some of the elegance of the culture seeps into its architecture. Founded in 1368, inside the renowned Hofburg Palace in Vienna, the Austrian National Library is a masterpiece of baroque architecture. The library’s ornate interior featuring frescoes, sculptures, and chandeliers truly make this one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe. Pairing this baroque architecture with a collection of over 12 million items across its many buildings will make any visitor feel like royalty. It’s no wonder why it’s one of the world’s most beautiful libraries!
As the main research library of one of the world’s best universities, Oxford University, the Bodleian Library is a stately sight. Founded in 1602, this historic and prestigious library is the second largest in Britain, with over 13 million printed items shelved in tis antique wooden bookshelves. The most recognisable of its buildings is the dome-topped Radcliffe Camera, oft photographed as one of the main symbols of the university. A couple of other buildings have achieved similar popularity — the Divinity School was used as the Hogwarts hospital wing in the first two Harry Potter films, while Duke Humfrey’s Library was used for filming the Hogwarts Library. Take a trip through history with Bodleian Library!
Library of Congress
One of the most recognisable and well-known libraries in the world, The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. is a true spectacle. Founded in 1800 and one of the oldest institutions in the United States, the enormous library is the second-largest in the world, with a collection of over 173 million items, including books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, photographs, sound recordings, and digital resources. The most important literary treasures include the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s papers, as well as housing Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection. Each of the rooms are resplendent in rich detailing and dizzyingly beautiful ceilings reminiscent of a neoclassical style.
The Library of Trinity College
Trinity College’s Library inside the University of Dublin is frequently extolled as an outstanding piece of 16th century architecture. Founded in 1592, the many buildings that make up this ancient academic institution feature dark wood and strategically placed busts of philosophers and writers that make you feel as though you’re stepping back in time. The largest library in Ireland, The Library of Trinity College has amassed a collection of over six million books, including famous Irish literary treasures including the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow, and the Brian Boru Harp.
Royal Portuguese Reading Room
While a library may not be the first visit in Rio de Janeiro, the Royal Portuguese Reading Room is Gothic architecture at its finest, with ornate wall decorations and a gorgeous chandelier. It’s home to the largest collection of Portuguese texts outside of Portugal and welcomes around 6,000 new titles every year. Founded in the heart of Rio De Janeiro all the way back in 1837, the facade is decorated with statues of prominent Portuguese figures, such as Pedro Álvares Cabral and Infante D. Henrique. The interior is dominated by a spectacular atrium with a glass dome and a chandelier that illuminates the bookshelves that cover the walls.
State Library of Victoria
One of the most beautiful libraries in Australia, the State Library of Victoria is the treasured home to much of Australia’s literary history. Set up in the heart of Melbourne in 1854 as the oldest in Australia and one of the first free libraries in the world, the State Library has become the crown jewel of the city. The highlight is the awe-inspiring La Trobe Reading Room, a four-storey reading space with a remarkable domed skylight that lights this tranquil centre of the library. With a rich collection of books, manuscripts and even art collection, the State Library is a stunning space inside and out.
Once you’ve visited these famous libraries in the world, read your newfound favourite book on one of these the 12 Most Beautiful and Scenic Train Rides in the World. Or, if you’re looking for a bookstore close to home, check out our list of Australia’s 10 Best Bookstore Cafes to Read at In 2023.