There is nothing more intriguing than a grand library featuring elegant structures, millions of books, telling fascinating tales and virtually taking you around the world. Libraries have been an important part of society for centuries as they have helped humankind broaden the spectrum of their knowledge.
While each library has something unique to offer, Europe is filled with the most breathtaking libraries dating hundreds of years. These libraries are known for their striking architecture, the millions of books they house and their stylish interiors. If you are an avid reader, you must check out these 10 stunning libraries on the continent.
National Library of Finland
Located in the University of Helsinki, the National Library of Finland was established in 1640 and is the largest and oldest library collection in the country. Housing over three million books and periodicals, the beautiful library is divided into two buildings – the Fabiania building and the Rotunda annex. The majority of the collection is stored in Kirjaluola (Finnish for Bookcave), a 57,600-cubic-meter underground bunker below the library. The library features vaulted ceilings and classic architecture, creating a grand and dreamy space for book lovers to enjoy.
Austrian National Library, Austria
The Austrian National Library is the largest in the country, with over 12 million items in its various collections. The library compound includes four museums, as well as multiple special collections and archives. Founded in 1368 as the Imperial Court Library, the place was expanded and developed in the early to mid-18th century. It has two Venetian Baroque spheres and several marble statues, along with gorgeous dome-shaped ceilings and walls decorated with frescoes.
Stuttgart City Library, Germany
The nine-story Stuttgart City Library is one of the most stunning libraries on the planet. Its all-white, minimalist interior induces complete awe making it a cultural center and a grand physical presence. Designed by Yi Architects, the building takes the form of a cube with an edge length of 45-meters. The gallery hall is a five-story space, square-shaped and surrounded by a shell of books. The interior circulation is arranged in a spiral among the reading gallery in a spiral design, with walkways illuminated by natural light from the glass roof.
The Old Library at Trinity College, Ireland
The breathtaking Old Library at Trinity College in Dublin was established in 1592. Some of Ireland’s most famous authors such as Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift have frequented this library while attending college. Part of the Old Library, the Long Room is the main attraction. It is a 213-foot main chamber, housing over 200,000 of the library’s oldest books. The building is also home to the Brian Boru harp, which is a national icon of Ireland, a copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the Book of Kells, dating back to the 9th century.
Admont Abbey Library, Austria
Absolutely a stunning space with colorful bookshelves and beautifully painted ceilings! The picturesque Admont Abbey Library is one of the largest remaining monastic libraries on the planet. Famous for its Baroque architecture, art and manuscripts, this library offers a dreamlike vibe with over 70,000 volumes. There are seven ceiling frescoes that are “suffused with the spirit of the Enlightenment” and were painted by Bartolomeo Altomonte between the summer of 1775 and 1776.
The Bodleian Library, Oxford, England
The Bodleian Library forms the largest UK university library system, with over 13 million printed items, 8,000 e-journals and more. Established in 1602, the Bodleian Library is one of the oldest in Europe and is Britain’s second largest. It features three historic reading rooms – the Lower Reading Room, the Upper Reading Room and Duke Humfrey’s Library. The building has also been part of many popular movies such as Harry Potter.
Biblioteca Joanina, University of Coimbra, Portugal
Located in the heights of the historic center of the University of Coimbra, Biblioteca Joanina is a Baroque library that was built in the 18th century during the reign of the Portuguese King John V. The beautiful space consists of three great rooms separated by arches adorned by some of the country’s greatest artists and houses over 250,000 books. It is a national monument and has an invaluable historical importance being one of the main tourist attractions.
Baroque Library, Czech Republic
A historic complex, the Baroque Library is the national library of the Czech Republic. It is a beautiful building adorned mainly with the meticulous ceiling frescoes that depict motifs of education. The interior of the building has endured with little damage since the 18th century when it was opened as part of a Jesuit university. Along with an impressive collection of books, there is also a remarkable collection of globes in the library.
Biblioteca do Convento de Mafra, Portugal
Located in the largest and most prestigious room in the Palace of Mafra, Biblioteca do Convento de Mafra is one of the most important Enlightenment libraries on the continent. It is a monumental Baroque and Neoclassical palace-monastery located in Mafra. Featuring the wooden Rococo bookshelves, the grand Mafra Palace Library has 36,000 leather-bound volumes dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries.
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Located in Paris, the national library of France boasts the collection of books once owned by the Abbey of Geneviève, one of the largest and oldest abbeys in Paris. The library was built in the mid-19th century. It has an iron roof that reminds of railway buildings. Spanning five sites throughout the city, the library is one of the largest libraries in the world. Some sites offer a more modern vibe, while others have a historic feel about them. It’s simply breathtaking.