10 Libraries You Should Definitely See in Your Lifetime

Travel Observers

As readers, libraries are one of our favorite sanctuaries. And sure, as great as your (our) local library might be, there are some that are just too amazing for words. To prove it, we’ve put together a list of 10 libraries you should make sure to check out in your lifetime.

Warning: There may be eyegasms.

1. The Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.)

Library of Congress

Located in Washington, D.C., The Library of Congress is more than two centuries old, making it the oldest cultural institution in America. It’s the largest library in the USA and home to the largest collection of rare books in North America as well as the largest collection of books from the 15th century in the western hemisphere. The library is always acquiring new items and has become quite modern, with a huge selection of podcasts and webcasts. James Hadley Billington serves as the current Librarian of Congress. You don’t have to a politics junkie to enjoy a visit to this famous USA landmark.

2. Trinity College Library, The University of Dublin (Dublin, Ireland)

My Renaissance

This gorgeous library dates back to the establishment of Trinity College in 1592 and stands as the largest library in Ireland with over 6 million printed volumes. It is described as a “major research library of international repute,” and is home to the Book of Kells, an illustrated bible more than 1,000 years old. It’s an especially cool place to visit if you’re a Star Wars fan; it was used in the movies as the Jedi Archives in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.

3. Admont Abbey (Admont, Austria)

Twisted Sifter

Admont Abbey is a Benedictine monastery on theEnns River in Austria. It’s the oldest remaining monastery in Styria and has the largest monastic library in the world. Completed in 1776, it houses 200,000 volumes, more than 1,400 manuscripts (the oldest of which comes from the 8th century) and 530 incunabula (which is just a fancy world for early printed books from before 1500). Personally, it reminds me of the library in the animated Beauty & The Beast.

4. Library of Parliament (Ottawa, Ontario)


Overlooking the Ottawa River, the Library of Parliament is one of the most beautiful sites in Canada’s capital city. The Victorian Gothic library opened in 1876 and its reconstruction was completed in 2006. It has a unique circular shape with beautiful galleries and white pine paneling that features carvings of flowers, masks, and mythical beasts. The galleries have the coats of arms of the seven provinces that existed in 1876 and in the middle stands a white marble statue of Queen Victoria. The library is featured on the Canadian $10 bill.

5. The New York Public Library (New York City, New York)

Vanity Fair

Founded in 1895, the New York Public library is the nation’s largest public library system, serving more than 17 million people a year. There are 88 neighborhood branches and four scholarly research centers, and the library houses more than 51 million items. The historical collections include Columbus’s 1493 letter announcing the discovery of the New York, George Washington’s original Farewell Address and Coltrane’s handwritten score of “Lover Man”.

6. Vatican Library (Vatican City, Italy)


This beautiful library was conceptualized in 1451 when Pope Nicholas V had the idea for a place “for the common convenience of the learned”. In 1883 the library opened to qualified researchers. Every year about 6,000 new volumes are added and as of now, there are almost 2 million printed books and serials, over 8,000 of which were printed before 1500. Father Leonard Boyle is the current chief librarian/prefect.

7. The Clementinum (Prague, Czech Republic)


This breathtaking Baroque library opened in 1722 as part of the Jesuit University. It houses over 20,000 books and is the home of the Czech National Library. The ceiling is gorgeously decorated with frescoes and the building has remained unaltered since the 18th century. The library is historic and magnificent.

8. Stuttgart City Library (Stuttgart, Germany)

Travel Observers

This library is much more modern than the others we have looked at. It’s in the shape of a glass cube in the city’s Newquarter, the Europaviertel. At night it is said to look as though it is glowing. The heart of library is an empty space that stretches four stories tall. To me, it looks like the Erudite complex in Divergent which makes me want to visit even more.

9. The Gorge Peabody Library (Baltimore, Maryland)

Linda Hall Library

Housed in the world-renowned Peabody Institute of Music, the George Peabody Library is now a division of John Hopkins University in Baltimore. It houses over 300,000 volumes and is made of 6 tiers of columns with beautiful gold-leaf embellishments, and a gorgeous skylight. It’s a popular place in Baltimore for weddings and is a non-circulating collection open to the general public. Sounds like the perfect place for a wedding to me.

10. El Escorial (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)


Near Madrid in central Spain, this long-named library is one of the most important architectural monuments of the Spanish Renaissance and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The project came from King Philip II who wanted a building that could serve as a burial place for his father, a Hieronymite monastery and a palace. Arranged in a quadrangle, the buildings here include the church, the monastery/royal palace, and college and the library. It’s one of Spain’s most visited landmarks, and for good reason!

Have you visited any of these incredible reading sanctuaries?

If so, tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Lena Gilmour
the authorLena Gilmour

My name is Lena Gilmour. I’m a second-year university student passionate about reading and writing. I live in Canada and yes, it’s as cold as they say it is.