Diamonds and dogs are wonderful, but truly a book is man’s best friend. They transport, they inspire, they educate, they heal, they reveal; there’s not much a good book cannot do. Once upon a time, books were precious and rare. Hand-illuminated by monks, they were housed in libraries that could rival any temple. Throughout the centuries, libraries transformed from precious institution to status symbols; they became proof of a civilisation’s intellect and wealth. Today, libraries are often seen as relics from the past, but there are still breathtaking libraries dotted around the world, and we’ve rounded up a list of our favourites, perfect for any bibliophile.
Any list of exceptional libraries that doesn’t include Trinity College is a fake. Don’t trust it. Now known as the Old Library, it was built in the 18th century and is home to the Book of Kells, a famed 9th-century gospel manuscript. It remains Ireland’s largest library and the only Irish ‘copyright library’ in the United Kingdom.
The Library of Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
The Bibliotheca Joanina is possibly the closest thing to The Beauty and the Beast library you’ll ever see. Built in the 18th century in the Baroque style, this striking building is home to approximately 250,000 volumes from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
Bibliotheca Joanina, Pátio das Escolas da Universidade de Coimbra, 3004-531 Coimbra, Portugal
One of Europe’s oldest libraries, The Abbey Library of St. Gallen dates back to roughly 820 AD. The striking Rococo style-space is home to one of the world’s most important collections, spanning over 12 centuries. If you can’t make it to Switzerland you can still check out over 400 of their precious manuscripts online here. Hope your palaeography is up to par!
The Abbey Library of St. Gallen, Klosterhof 6D, St. Gallen 9000, Switzerland
This Classical style library, with two dramatic baroque halls and an ornate ceiling of stuccowork, was completed in 1679, a replacement for the one that was irreparably looted at the end of the 30 Years’ War. Still the largest monastic library in the country, there are over 20,000 volumes currently stored here, including an entire wall dedicated to Bibles. Sadly, due to the delicate nature of the frescos, visitors are no longer able to walk through the halls, but it is worth visiting just to get a peak at the grandeur (and the adjacent 'Cabinet of Curiosities').
The Theological Hall at the Strahov Monastery, Strahovské Nádvoří 1/132, 118 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
Potentially the most NSFW library on our list, The Royal Portuguese Reading Room is the purest form of ‘library porn’ known to man. Built during the Gothic renaissance of the late 1800s, it houses a seemingly endless collection of Portuguese texts. With more than 400,000 titles - and growing each year - it’s the most comprehensive collection of Portuguese works outside the nation. If you’re not familiar with Portuguese literature, this is a great excuse to acquaint yourself.
The Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rua Luis de Camoes 40, Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Beautiful library’s don’t have to be old, and they don’t have to be in the west. The newly opened five-storey Tianjin Binhai Library, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a futuristic design is proof of that. It spans over 36,00 square feet, and gives the illusion of being one immense, continuous bookshelf, thanks to its curved design. Hidden reading rooms and nooks abound, encouraging visitors to explore.
Tianjin Binhai Library, China
You don’t have to go Scotland (or Harry Potter World) to feel like you’re at Hogwarts - San Simeon, California will do. Here is where you’ll find the former home of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. And within the sprawling Spanish Revival estate is a book-lover’s dream: the Gothic Suite. A simultaneously cavernous and church-like oasis with over three thousand books. It’s thought to be where Mr. Hearst conducted important meetings, and reviewed the evening’s paper’s before they went to print.
The Gothic Suite, Hearst Castle 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, California, USA
These are just seven of the world’s most beautiful libraries, but we know there are many more! Tell us who we need to add on Facebook or Instagram @hashtag_legend.