The 12 Most Amazing Libraries in the World. Libraries are obviously more than just a giant place to hold all of your favorite books. Libraries are meeting places for book clubs and study groups and friend groups, learning centers that reflect the local culture, and an excellent resource for reading your favorite books for free—or just enjoying some real peace and quiet in the company of all of the classics. At these 12 unbelievable libraries from all around the world, however, you will definitely spend more time looking (read: marveling) at all of the gorgeous, breathtaking architecture of the libraries than you will actually spend looking at the pages in each book. If they don’t take your breath away, @ us.
State Library of Victoria
The State Library of Victoria is Australia’s oldest public library, established in 1854, but the famous domed reading room wasn’t opened until 1913. It was the largest reinforced concrete dome in the world when completed and holds over 1 million books and 600 people.
The library and its impressive dome helped contribute to Melbourne’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.
Royal Portuguese Reading Room
Rio de Janiero, Brazil
The Royal Portuguese Reading Room isn’t the oldest or the largest of Brazil’s libraries, but it certainly wins the award for most beautiful.
Noteworthy for its Portuguese Gothic architecture, the interior reading room features dark, ornately carved wood, unique iron chandelier, and ornamental silver, ivory, and marble accents. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear you were in a church for books.
Abbey Library of Saint Gall
St. Gallen, Switzerland
The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is amazing for its ornate Rococo architecture and beautifully painted ceilings alone. What makes it doubly amazing is that the library has been collecting books since the Middle Ages.
More than 400 manuscripts are over 1,000-years-old and 2,100 works in its collection are handwritten!
The ancient Library of Alexandria is still one of the most famous libraries in the world, even to this day. So how do you follow in the footsteps of something so grand? Bibliotheca Alexandrina commemorates that bygone time with a modernly beautiful building featuring a ceiling that slopes toward the ocean and pock-marked by skylights.
Its circular granite exterior is engraved with characters in 120 alphabets and writing systems.
City Library on Mailänder Platz
If the Royal Portugues Reading Room was the “church of books,” the City Library of Stuttgart is the “hospital of books.” The completely stark interior is blindingly white and completely devoid of any ornamentation.
The minimalist symmetry continues to the exterior of the building which is a solid white cube. At night, the whole building glows blue.
Seattle Central Library
Seattle’s Central Library is the exact opposite of Stuttgart’s minimalist cube. The exterior looks like someone dropped a stack of glass books on the ground. The steeply sloping glass walls and roof allow tons of light into the huge open expanses of the interior.
You can’t help but to want to curl up on a couch with a good book for a little while. Also, don’t miss the neon yellow escalator.
Kanazawa Umimirai Library
The Kanazawa Umimirai Library inspires curiosity before visitors even step in the door. The building’s simple white box exterior is dotted with over 6,000 small circular windows luring people to come investigate the inside, where their curiosity hopefully continues to the books.
The small openings also serve as anti-earthquake technology for this building in seismic activity-prone Japan.
Spain Library Park
No, that’s not a typo. Despite its name, Spain Library Park is located in Colombia. The Spanish government helped fund this combination public library and urban complex.
The three main buildings rise off the city’s hillside as what appear to be giant brown-gray rocks. The uniquely positioned windows create interesting vignettes of the surround skyling.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City’s Vasconcelos Library might look like your typical building on the outside, but, like the books it houses, you shouldn’t judge it based on its cover. As you walk into the main atrium, cantilevered book shelves soar over your head, literally hovering above you.
The complex architectural design led to multiple construction defects and costly delays, but the finished effect is well worth the effort.
Huairou is a small rural village on the outskirts of Beijing. The quaint setting called for an equally appropriate design when it came time to build a new library.
What sets apart this square building of glass is the exterior walls that are covered, from floor to ceiling, in wooden sticks. This clever inside-but-outside design gives visitors the effect of reading in a bamboo forest without having to sit in the dirt.
Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination
This is as close to Hogwarts as you’re going to get. The Walker Library features holographic glass-paneled stairways, floating platforms, and interactive music and lights. Unfortunately, this is a private collection and not open to the public; however, you can take a virtual tour to see the eccentric design for yourself.
Celebrating human ingenuity and the pursuit of discovery, the library contains an original backup satellite to Sputnik and a 1699 atlas.
Eastern Cape, South Africa
Often called the “smallest library in the world,” this one-room library for the small mountain village of Hogsback. The surrounding area is said to be Tolkien’s inspiration for Mirkwood in The Lord of the Rings. (But he left South Africa at the age of 3, so take this with a grain of salt.)
If you’re wanting to visit the library, you better make sure you properly plan your itinerary. It is only open to the public for 1 hour on Wednesdays and again on Saturdays.