Best Libraries in the World

Experiencing an epic journey doesn’t always mean traveling to another country. Sometimes, all we need lies on paper in the shape of carefully worded texts that bring us closer to another world or another time. If you’re an avid reader like us, you might just get the thrill you’re seeking by sitting down in your favorite armchair and opening a new book.

Can you even begin to imagine how many books you would come across if you ventured into one of the largest libraries in the world? Get your dose of caffeine ready, because we’re about to take you on a trip to some of the biggest and most extraordinary libraries out there. Learning more about these hot spots of knowledge is a good start, and we’re pretty sure you’ll want to visit one by the time you’re done reading this post!

Library of Congress – Washington, D.C., United States

Washington DS USA Congress Library
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Judging by size and spending budget, the Library of Congress is considered the largest library in the world. Founded in 1800, the library is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and is home to over 170 million items. While the library is open to the public for research, only a selected few people can take its contents out of the premises.

The British Library – London, United Kingdom

View of the courtyard of the british Library, London
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When it comes to the size of the collection, no library in the world beats The British Library based in London. The national research hot spot boasts nearly 200 million items with several million pieces being added to the collection every year. From books to maps and ancient scripts, this public architectural gem has been attracting visitors since 1973.

National Library of China – Beijing, China

Interior view of National Library in Beijing, China
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Employing over one thousand staff members and housing over forty million items is the National Library of China. Founded in 1909, the public institution is famous for its diverse and rich literature encompassing China’s history and ancient dynasties.

National Library of France – Paris, France

Old interior of the French National Library in downtown Paris
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Over 40 million items can be found in this 14th-century library that originally served as a private library for royalty. In the 17th century, the library was opened to the public and it now attracts 1.5 million visitors each year. The National Library of France is known as one of the best places in the world to learn about French history.

The Shanghai Library – Shanghai, China

The Shanghai library on a cloudy day
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Built in 1847, the Shanghai Library is one of the tallest libraries in the world with 24 stories housing over 56 million items. Formerly known as the Bibliotheca-Ka-Wei, the public institution obtained the majority of its contents from scholarly donations and purchases from other countries.

New York Public Library – New York, United States

The main reading room of the New York Public Library
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More than 55 million items can be found in this 1895 non-profit private institution loved by book readers from around the globe. Founded by a group of philanthropists and bookworms, the New York Public Library is part of the Google Books Library Project and has a large digital collection accessible online.

Library and Archives Canada – Ottawa, Canada

Library and National Archives, Wellington Street, Ottawa
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One of the newest libraries on this list is the Library and Archives Canada located in Ottawa. Established in 2004, the institution houses around 55 million items including rare pieces, and is known as the hot spot of Canada’s documentary heritage.

Russian State Library – Moscow, Russia

Russian State Library in Moscow,Russia
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Russia’s largest library is home to over 48 million items including copies of all books published during the USSR. Since its founding in 1862, the library has undergone many name changes. Located in the capital of Moscow, the Russian State Library is known as the first public state library.

National Diet Library – Tokyo, Japan

Exterior of the National Diet Library
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The National Diet Library based in Tokyo, Japan, was built in 1948 and now houses more than 44 million items including extensive collections encompassing the Japanese history, maps, historical documents, and political pieces.

Royal Danish Library – Copenhagen, Denmark

Interior of the Royal Library
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Boasting over 30 million items, the Royal Danish Library is home to nearly all printed Danish works in history. Built in 1648 by Frederick III, the institution is the largest and most comprehensive among all libraries in Nordic countries.

Saint Catherine Monastery, Egypt

St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt
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From some of the largest to some of the most special and beautiful libraries in the world, this list wouldn’t be complete without the oldest operating library in the world. Gracing Mount Sina in Egypt is the library of Saint Catherine Monastery which was founded sometime between 548 and 565 CE. The library houses many rare early manuscripts and codices.

Abbey Library of Saint Gall – St. Gallen, Switzerland

The Abbey Cathedral of Saint Gall in St.Gallen, Switzerland
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One of the oldest libraries in the world is also Switzerland’s Abbey Library of Saint Gall, a beautiful architectural achievement built in the 8th century as a monastic institution. The library was secularized in the 19th century and now serves as an important UNESCO World Heritage site.

George Peabody Library – Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Bookshelf inside Peabody Library a research library for John Hopkins University
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Located in Baltimore, Maryland, is the scenic George Peabody Library. Resembling the shape of the Colosseum, the 1878 public institution is known as the local cathedral of books and is famous for its marble floors and its many skylights.

Library of Trinity College Dublin – Dublin, Ireland

The Long Room in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin
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Ireland’s number one library – and one of the most beautiful libraries in the world – is the Trinity College Library. Its iconic Long Room is visited by book lovers from around the world, whereas the institution founded in 1592 now houses vast collections including important historical pieces.

National Library of the Czech Republic – Prague, Czech Republic

Klementinum library in Prague
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With more than 7 million items, this is easily the Czech Republic’s biggest library. The institution was founded in 1777 and now serves as a great example of Baroque architecture and an important protector of the Czech culture.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina – Alexandria, Egypt

Bibliotheca Alexandrina
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Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a true gem inspired by the ancient Great Library of Alexandria that was infamously burned during the Roman civil war in 48 BCE. The idea of reviving the long-lost epicenter of knowledge dates back to 1974, but it wasn’t until 2002 that the institution was inaugurated.

La Biblioteca Vasconcelos – Mexico City, Mexico

Library Vasconcelos in Mexico City, Mexico
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New but not to be underestimated, this 21st-century marvel faced many political issues upon opening. Now, the so-called hanging gardens in the library house nearly one million items. The carefully planned design allows natural light to brighten almost the entire premises without posing any danger to the books.

Admont Abbey Library – Admont, Austria

Impressive interior of the local abbey
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Built inside the namesake monastery in 1776, Admont Abbey Library is considered one of the most beautiful institutions in the world thanks to colorful frescoes covering its many cupolas. Though it is home to just 70,000 items, the Baroque features itself make the library worth visiting.

Mafra Palace Library – Mafra, Portugal

Library of the Mafra National Palace
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A 300-foot-long hall complemented by marble floors, ornate shelves, and intricate ceiling design makes the Mafra Palace Library a very special place. Built in 1755, this library features many old and rare volumes.

Stuttgart City Library – Stuttgart, Germany

Stuttgart Library has a modern architecture
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There’s no library brighter than this contemporary architectural feat in the center of Stuttgart. With a bright, minimalist design, the public library features a large central skylight and a cube-like exterior. Opened in 2011, the library is home to around 2 million items.

Rijksmuseum Research Library – Amsterdam, Netherlands

The historic library and book archives at the Rijksmuseum
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One of the best sources of literature encompassing art and art history is the Rijksmuseum Research Library which is part of the Dutch National Museum. The 1885 library is famous for its ever-growing collection as well as its mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture.

The National Library of Indonesia – Jakarta, Indonesia

National library of the Republic of Indonesia
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The National Library of Indonesia is the tallest library in the world with 27 floors reaching 417 feet. The contemporary building in Central Jakarta was inaugurated in 2017 and houses over 4 million items.

Library of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial – Madrid, Spain

Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial
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This royal library was built by King Philip II in 1563 and is commonly referred to as El Escorial. Rich in artwork from the Renaissance, the UNESCO World Heritage site is home to some 40,000 volumes and comes in a package deal with a beautiful palace, monastery, and university.

Author: Zan Kokalj


Zan Kokalj is a veteran content writer, copywriter, and author inspired by the impact of ink on paper.

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