Books may be the last standing bastion of the non-digital world we have left in our increasingly digitalized society. Sure, we now have various e-readers, tablets, phones and other gadgets that can serve as reading devices, but there is still nothing that can replace the unique feel of a paperback in your hands. The turning of the pages, the physical feeling of holding a book, seeing your progress and carrying the weight of all those letters, words and sentences that contain something magical. Libraries remain standing tall as meccas of culture, education and kingdoms where bibliophiles thrive. Some of the world’s most amazing libraries can be glorified as architectural wonders, celebrated as unique buildings with historical value, soul, beauty and integrity, welcoming thousands upon thousands of book-lovers. These are some of the most fascinating and beautiful libraries in the world, and no matter how fast our technology develops, these beacons of history aren’t going anywhere.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Salle Labrouste, Paris
The National Library of France held the record for being the largest book depository in the world by 1896, however, the title was taken from it since. Still, this stunning library is home to over 14 million books and printed materials, it went through several expansions and improvements over the last decades, but it still retains its classic glory and feel.
Trinity College Library, Dublin
Located at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, this wooden structure may seem older, but it was actually built in 1952. The two story dark wooden arches give it an amazing interior, and a lot of space filled with some of the most important books of Ireland, such as the famous Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript created by Celtic monks around the year 800.
The Library of El Escorial, Spain
It is no wonder the Library of El Escorial in Spain became a World Heritage Site, just one glance inside of the building will stun you with its awe. The high vaulted ceilings are painted with wonderfully intricate frescoes, each of them representing one of the seven liberal arts: music, grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, astronomy and geometry.
The George Peabody Library, Baltimore
This popular spot for reading in Baltimore, US, is deemed as one of the most beautiful libraries in America. Among reading and research, the research library of Johns Hopkins University is actually often used for weddings as well. A majestic interior such as this one surely makes an unforgettable ceremony.
Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra
Adorned with Baroque décor, this intricate library was built in the 18th century under the reign of the Portuguese king John V, and it is now part of the University of Coimbra General Library. Aside from housing some of the most important tomes dating to even before 1800, this National Monument is one of the main tourist attractions of Portugal and has a priceless historical value.
You won’t find any ornaments, frescoes or intricate woodwork in Stuttgart’s Municipal Library, no, this place is a modern work of art. The purity of color, form and light are exuding simplicity. This minimalistic approach can be as stunning as Baroque, although the walls, floors and stairs may seem sterile with its whiteness, it is the books galore that gives this place a soul.
Abbey Library of St. Gallen, Switzerland
The UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Abbey Library of Saint Gall in Switzerland is considered as one of the most important monastic libraries in the world. This, almost ancient, structure is one of the oldest surviving libraries in Europe with manuscripts dating back to the 8th century. The Rococo-styled interior is a sight to behold, you could easily spend a day simply marveling at its beauty before you even get to the books.
John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, England
The dark corridors, hidden nooks and secluded reading areas of John Rylands Library will truly give you that sensation of being in a magical place. Designed in a neo-Gothic style, the place has that church vibe and gives off a holy atmosphere all around.
Yangzhou Zhangshuge Bookstore in Zhen Yuan, China
Ok, it may be more of a bookstore than a library, but Yangzhou Zhangshuge is literally a whirlwind of books that deserves to be on any list covering books. The architects intentionally designed the building to evoke a feeling of flowing water, and the sensation of being inside a river of books. The dark-mirrored floor reflects the curving shelves above, creating a tunnel effect. Once you get used to it, this place can quickly become one of your favorite spots.
The Clementinum Library, Prague, Czech Republic
One of the finest examples of Baroque architecture, the Clementium library in Prague is simply breathtaking. First opened in 1722, the building was part of the Jesuit University, and now it is housing some of the oldest recordings of local weather and other manuscripts dating back to 1775. The magnificent details adorning the shelves, walls, ceilings and interior objects are a true testament to the legendary craftsmanship of masters from the olden days.