10 of the world’s most awe-inspiring libraries for World Book Day
There’s no denying it; libraries are magical places. Serene and calm, they hold a distinctive charm, and often offer travellers a taste of rich history, diverse culture and stunning architecture (as well as the opportunity to get lost in literature of course). Every country has something unique, from a sleek and modern book-lover’s escape, to a stately structure filled with ancient collections, informative displays and rare artefacts. To celebrate World Book Day, Lonely Planet Travel News has rounded up some of the most amazing libraries around the globe, the perfect list to help you start planning your next adventure!
Boasting over one million books, as well as a futuristic spherical auditorium and a cultural centre set across 33,700-square-metres of space, the Tianjin Binhai Library is a bibliophile’s dream come true. With bookcases that reach from floor to ceiling and undulating shelves that also function as staircases and seating areas, the library is refined and unique. Located in the Binhai district of Tianjin (a coastal city that borders the Beijing municipality), it is beside a park and is part of five cultural buildings that are connected by a public corridor underneath a glass canopy.
Home to the Book of Kells, a famous ninth century monastic manuscript that documents the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ, Trinity College’s Old Library is an extremely popular spot for anyone visiting Dublin. Passers-by can expect to see a long line of tourists spilling out onto the cobbled campus courtyard, with the college’s close proximity to the city centre adding to its appeal. A ticket to the exhibition also features access to the Long Room, a magnificent chamber of high ceilings and dark wooden shelves stacked high with books.
Designed by world-famous architect Gunnar Asplund, the City Library in Stockholm is a great example of a style called Swedish Grace. Opened in 1928, it has a stunning 24-metre-high rotunda in the central book hall with a white-finished designed to look like clouds. The floor and the two galleries above house about 40,000 books in the various Nordic languages, Sweden’s national minority languages, as well as English, German and French. There is an arcade of buildings for restaurants and shops along Sveavägen in front of the library, and to the south lies an adjoining park, also designed by Gunnar Asplund.
Unlike other libraries, the first thing that hits visitors who step into this establishment is the smell of fresh coffee. The building was completely renovated in 2013, reopening with a café and an attached book store. Visitors can relax and browse books, as well as buying magazines. Quiet music plays in the background to encourage a feeling of serenity.
2016 saw the reopening of New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, following two years of extensive renovation. The work saw 900 original plaster elements dating back to 1911 being reinforced, while muralists were called in to recreate a 33-foot James Wall Finn on the ceiling of the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room. The rooms have spaces where researchers can access the Library’s general materials as well as areas for members of the public to use for reading or study. A new state of the art storage system has also been built underneath Bryant Park, where millions of research books are accessed by staff using a book-train conveyor-belt system.
The University of Coimbra’s baroque library is a beautiful sight to behold. Named after King João V, who sponsored its construction between 1717 and 1728, it features a central hall elaborately decorated with ceiling frescoes and huge rosewood, ebony and jacaranda tables. Curiously, the library also houses a colony of bats to protect the books by eating potentially harmful insects. Admission to the library is strictly regulated with entry in groups at set times
Taiwan’s beautiful Beitou Library was created with an eco-friendly approach. The building resembles a treehouse, with lush greenery all around it. Large French windows make use of natural light, while the roof has a special drainage system that collects rainwater. Visitors can gaze at their surroundings from the wooden decks or relax inside with a book.
Founded in 1896, the State Library of Queensland is responsible for collecting and preserving a comprehensive collection of the state’s cultural and documentary heritage. It is also one of the main hosts of the Brisbane Writer’s Festival, a diverse and popular event taking place this year from 5 – 8 September. The festival includes readings, discussions and other thought-provoking events featuring both Australian and international writers.
This famous institution stands on the shores of Alexandria, where the ancient library once was. Opened in 2002, this impressive piece of modern architecture has become one of Egypt’s major cultural venues and a stage for numerous international performers, as well a home to a collection of museums. The building takes the form of a gigantic angled discus, while the granite exterior walls are carved with letters, pictograms, hieroglyphs and symbols from more than 120 different scripts. Inside, the main reading room can accommodate eight million books and 2500 readers under its sloping roof, with windows specially designed to let sunlight flood in but keep out rays that might harm the collection.
The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a large complex near Madrid. One of the most important architectural monuments of the Spanish Renaissance, the site is home to a church, monastery, royal palace, college and library, which were built in a quadrangle. Tickets allow visitors to gaze at the library’s ornately-finished ceilings and ancient manuscripts.
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