Did you know that public libraries can enrich the mind as well as the spirit? Thanks to this collection of breathtaking spots, the pursuit of knowledge can be both intellectually and aesthetically satisfying. Here are just six of the world’s most beautiful libraries.
Library of Parliament, Ottawa, Canada
Located in Canada’s capital, this august, sophisticated library that opened in 1867 (the same year the country was “born”), was designed in the Victorian Gothic Revival style. With its majestic flying buttresses, impressive vaulted ceiling, and walls lined with finely detailed carved, white pine paneling, it’s little wonder this building is a Canadian cultural and architectural icon. The centerpiece is the masterfully inlaid parquet floor made of cherry, oak and walnut, which has many visitors staring at their feet rather than at the pages of their books.
Seattle Central Library, Washington, USA
Think libraries are boring? Think again. As many visitors come to this library to admire its arresting architecture as they do to take out books. The structure’s ultra-modern, unorthodox appearance–which resembles a series of floating boxes outlined in steel and wrapped entirely in glass—puts to rest the notion that libraries must be austere, old-school places of quiet contemplation. When it opened in 2004, Time magazine chose it as one of the year’s top architectural designs. The American Institute of Architects ranked it as one of America’s top 150 architectural wonders.
Abbey Library of Saint Gall, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Dating back to 719 AD, the library and abbey are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites and nearly half of the more than 150,000 tomes date back to the Middle Ages. Some books are even said to be more than 1000 years old. But not only is this hallowed hall of reading among the oldest in the world, it’s also among the most resplendent. Updated in the 18th century in an opulent Rococo style, the singular space features gorgeous woodwork and painted ceilings that are bound to distract even the most passionate bookworm.
Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This sumptuous library (yes, a library can be sumptuous!) is one of South America’s most famous and is certainly among the planet’s most picturesque. Created in 1837 as a repository for Portuguese literature, visitors come from all over to admire its decorative style of design. Four stories of books are held lovingly by extravagantly carved bookcases that are crowned by a magnificent chandelier and a dazzling blue and red stained-glass cupola.
Stuttgart City Library, Stuttgart, Germany
If you were to visualize what a library might look like in the Afterlife, it would possibly resemble the new Stuttgart City Library. Opened in 2011, the modernist, multi-storied, airy space is connected via wide, open staircases. The books add a few splashes of color and are an eye-catching contrast to the rest of the all-white interior. Unsurprisingly, this avant-garde building has met with mixed reviews, but love it or hate it, it’s without a doubt one of the most visually intriguing libraries on the planet.
George Peabody Library, Baltimore, USA
If you’re addicted to your Kindle and ever wonder why the world still needs non-digital libraries and books this place is your answer. Often referred to as Baltimore’s “Cathedral of Books,” it’s a kind of love song to Baltimore from Peabody who dedicated the library to the people of Baltimore for their “kindness and hospitality.” Opened in 1878, massive skylights overseen five rows of ornate balconies that descend to an elegant white marble floor. Your sore neck won’t be from falling asleep with a book, but rather from staring upwards for hours. It’s impossible not to be impressed with this stunner.