Reading can transport you to a magical world… but what if you looked up from your novel and realized you were already in one? Libraries have always offered a quiet respite from the world, where you can uncover beguiling places between the pages of a book or relax within their peaceful sanctuaries. Whether you’re looking to study within a contemporary masterpiece or just want to hide from the world in a Baroque book collection, cozy up in the most beautiful libraries in the world.
Admont Abbey Library - Admont, Austria
Housed within a monastic abbey at the base of the Ennstal Alps in southern Austria, the Admont Abbey Library is a Baroque masterpiece. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped inside a storybook, with ceiling frescoes depicting ethereal images of cherubs, blue skies, and cotton candy clouds painted by Bartolomeo Altomonte. Walking beneath these dainty works of art, you'll pass rows of stark-white bookshelves with gilded details and rosy pillars. The library itself holds 70,000 of the abbey’s impressive collection of 200,000 written works which makes it the largest monastic library in the world. Located less than a two-hour drive from Salzburg, it's an easy day trip, and afterwards you can stroll the charming town of Admont, backed by the snow-capped Alps.
Trinity Library - Dublin, Ireland
Dublin’s Trinity College is home to one of the most iconic archives in the world: the Trinity Library. The distinct smell of ancient manuscripts and centuries-old paper wafts through the air of the largest library in Ireland. The Long Room is the main architectural focus and beating heart of Trinity Library, stretching down a two-story corridor filled to the brim with books. Marble busts adorn each alcove, most of which depict famous philosophers and writers, with recent additions of celebrated women as well. The library had to be renovated several times to accommodate the collection of nearly 6 million pieces, which includes rare volumes and printed manuscripts. The library is home to famous relics like the Brian Boru Harp, also known as the national emblem of Ireland, and the Book of Kells, a stunning illuminated manuscript created by monks around 800 CE. Different pages of the Book of Kells are on display each day making it exciting to visit more than once to get a new glimpse at this ancient manuscript each time.
Biblioteca Vasconcelos - Mexico City, Mexico
Tucked away in a quiet enclave of Mexico City, Biblioteca Vasconcelos is something out of a Sci-Fi movie set. This massive library was built in 2007 and named for José Vasconcelos, a writer and important figure in the Mexican Revolution. Its modern approach to architecture includes an open-air concept with shelves that rise seven stories into the sky. The colorful display of books and whimsical glass balconies give the illusion that the library's vast collection is suspended in thin air. Yet another unexpected addition to Biblioteca Vasconcelos' already contemporary appearance is Gabriel Orozco’s famous Balena sculpture, created to look like a whale skeleton, swimming through the cathedral lobby. After perusing the stacks, explore the Santa María la Ribera neighborhood, located just a few blocks from the library. Saddle up to a local cantina like the famous Sálon Paris or visit the Kiosco Morisco, a unique taste of Moorish architecture in the middle of Mexico City.
New York Public Library - New York City, USA
Guarded by two lordly lions on 5th Avenue, the New York Public Library is an institution. You might recognize this iconic building from blockbusters like The Day After Tomorrow or Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but this stately marble facade has served as an icon of New York City itself for decades. Over 75 miles of shelves snake their way through the two-block building that opened in 1911 to the applause of ten of thousands of New Yorkers. Vermont marble mined from the Dorset Mountains was brought in to construct the library lending an air of majesty. Be warned, you can only go inside the iconic Rose Main Reading Room if you’re actually at the library to study or utilize its facilities. Bring your backpack or laptop to prove you're there to get down to business and sneak into the inner room with its long work tables, chandeliers, carved ceiling, and massive arched windows.
Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading is a true masterpiece of literary devotion. Over 350,000 volumes rise into the atrium, crowned with a stunning stained glass work of art. This is the largest collection of Portuguese texts outside of the country of Portugal itself and is a testament to the original aim of its 43 founders: to bring Portuguese culture and literature to the people of Brazil. Opened in 1887, the inner sanctum of the Reading Room is a triumph of Gothic-Renaissance architecture while the building's facade is Neo-Manueline and carved from stone that came straight from Lisbon itself. The library's texts reach skyward to the dangling chandelier in a kaleidoscope of colorful books, carved wooden balconies, and statues of famous Portuguese. Be sure to add this gorgeous assembly of books to your itinerary next time you’re in Cidade Maravilhosa.
Tianjin Binhai Library - Tianjin, China
Tianjin Binhai Library looks like an eye, peering out from a protected shade. That's thanks to the library’s central architectural feature, a pupiless orb that doubles as an auditorium. The room's architecture seems to build around the ivory sphere itself, rippling out in undulating waves that hold books and quiet nooks to study and read within. As a strange twist, the books on display in the upper reaches of the library’s main atrium are not real books but printed images. You’ll have to venture further into the Tianjin Binhai Library's inner rooms to find the real deal. The library's innovative architecture is the brainchild of both the MVRDV architectural firm based out of Rotterdam and the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute. Join the throngs of crowds that visit this iconic library for its never-ending photo opportunities.