In many people’s minds, libraries are still synonymous with beautiful things, the best place to study and the place where all sorts of wonderful encounters take place. Today, we introduce you to some of the most beautiful libraries in Europe, where study abroad parties can see if they have ever left your beautiful mark, and travellers can add a beautiful location to their bag for future trips.
In a comfortable and relaxing, well-equipped library, calm down to read a good book, is not a beautiful thing in life.
Historic libraries in Europe
1. Trinity College Library
- Address: College Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
Trinity College Dublin Library is the oldest and largest library in Ireland. It was founded in 1592 and is known as one of the “Three Great Libraries of Europe”, along with the British Library and Oxford University Library.
It features oak panelling and high vaulted ceilings, and the Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter films was set in the “Long Room” reading room.
The library is also a “copyright library”, which means that it is legally entitled to one free copy of every legal publication from every publisher.
One of the most famous manuscripts in the library’s collection of 5 million volumes is Ireland’s national treasure, the Book of Kells. This is a handwritten copy of the four Gospels of the Bible, written in Latin on vellum around 800 AD, and is the oldest handwritten masterpiece in the world.
2. Strahov Library
- Address: Strahovske St., 132/1, Prague, Czech Republic
- Opening: 9am – 5pm
Built in 1781, the Strahov Library has long been on the list of the world’s most beautiful libraries because of its classic Baroque style.
The library consists of two halls, the Theological Hall and the Philosophical Hall, which, in addition to the impressive walnut inlays, gold-encrusted laurel crowns and inlaid decoration.
The library also has a collection of about 900,000 ancient books. Sixteen of them are original manuscripts, the oldest of which date back to the 9th-10th centuries.
The library is also famous for its ceiling frescoes, which are warmly coloured and depict figures such as God and Adam and Eve, as well as Aristotle, Sugar, representing the development of scientific civilisation.
3. Wiblingen Abbey Library
- Address: Schloßstraße 38, 89079 Ulm, Germany
- Opening: on weekends from 1 pm – 5 pm
The Wiblingen Monastery Library was built in 1744 in the town of Wiblingen, a suburb south of Ulm. The ornate decorations make it a fine example of Baroque architecture, and it was once rated by Reuters as one of the “10 Most Neglected Architectural Treasures”.
The statues symbolise self-discipline and virtue, and both the statues and the columns are made using the artificial marble technique, in which wood is used to give the appearance of marble.
Some baroque blue has been used on the walls to show off the grandeur of ancient Rome. The roof lights are cleverly arranged without being cumbersome.
There are many statues around the room that look like they are made of porcelain but are in fact carved and painted wood. Each statue has a meaning and they represent Faith, History, Jurisprudence, Natural Science, Mathematics, Obedience, Prayer, and Renunciation of the World.
4. The Admont Library
- Address: Kirchplatz 1, Admont 8911, Austria
Known for its ornate Baroque architecture, The Admont Library is the oldest monastic library in the world. It is situated at the foot of the Alps, with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and a natural view of the River Enns.
The nearly 70-metre-long main hall contains a collection of more than 200,000 volumes, including a large number of handwritten antiquarian books. The seven stunning frescoes on the ceiling, which took the then 80-year-old Baroque painter Bartolomeo Altomonte a whole summer to complete, illustrate the various stages of human knowledge.
5. The Royal Library El Escorial
Known as having the most beautiful ceiling in the world, The Library of El Escorial decorated with magnificent frescoes representing the seven literary art forms: rhetoric, dialectic, rhyme, grammar, algorithm, geometry and astronomy. This Library was built in the second half of the 16th century by the King of Spain – Philip II, who had the desire to collect and reunite the greatest books of the time.
From an architectural point of view, the main hall, 54 m long and 9 wide, was designed taking up the model of Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence with many low windows that flood the large extended nave with light. Slabs of white and dark marble were used for the floor, while the vaults of the library were embellished with frescoes by the Italian PellegrinoTibaldi.
Today, the Royal Library of the Escorial houses many books of great value, including the wonderful collections of Greek, Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts. There are editions of the Koran dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries, but also medieval and 16th-century manuscripts. In 1984, UNESCO declared the Monastery and the Library of the El Escorial a World Heritage Site.
6. Mafra Palace Library
- Address: Terreiro D. João V, Mafra, Portugal
- Opening: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm
The Mafra Palace Library (Biblioteca do Palácio de Mafra) is located in the convent of the Royal Palace of Mafra and, at 88 metres long and in the shape of a cross, it is the longest convent library in the world.
The library’s most famous feature is its steel dome, modelled on the railway tracks of the time. It contains about 40,000 rare books, the most valuable of which is a rare first edition of Gil Vincent’s Writings, which has been circled and marked by ecclesiastical censors.
7. Austrian National Library
- Map: Josefsplatz 1, 1015 Wien, Austria
- Opening: 10 am – 6 pm.
The Gala Hall – the heart of the National Library of Austria is one of the most beautiful library rooms in the world. It is the largest baroque library in Europe. Founded in the first half of the 18th century as a separate wing of the imperial residence in the Hofburg. Emperor Charles VI ordered its construction.
The impressive Gala Hall of the library is almost 80 m long with a height of 20 m and is covered by a sumptuously frescoed dome. More than 200,000 volumes are contained and exhibited to the public, including the largest collection of manuscripts of the MartinLuther Reformation in the world. Among the exhibits, 2 splendid baroque globes of Venetian manufacture are worthy of mention: a terrestrial globe and a celestial globe, each with a diameter of over one meter.
Here were inspired some scenes in the Disney animated film, released in 1991, “Beauty and the Beast”.
8. Sainte-Genevieve Library
- Map: 10 Pl. du Panthéon, 75005 Paris, France
- Opening: 10 am – 10 pm.
The Sainte-Genevieve Library is located in the Abbey of Saint-Genevieve, the largest and oldest abbey in Paris, and has a collection of more than two million books in its collection and is one of the hot spots of France capital.
Built in the 19th century under the direction of architect Henri Labrouste, the library’s interior is an architectural marvel, with a stunning reading room characterized by Labrouste’s pioneering use of cast iron. The arched framework, adorned with delicate patterns, supports the expanse of the ceiling, while the alignment of tables crowned with iconic green lamps creates a symmetrical aesthetic of light and learning. The interplay of robust materials and elegant design makes this space not just a house of books, but a magical gallery of historical innovation.
The library is also equipped with computer stations and a wifi network. It can be accessed from Monday to Saturday (excluding holidays). There are 3 types of passes (free): the card for students, the card with priority access for professors and researchers, the elderly and the handicapped and the pass for tourists and occasional visitors.
9. University of Salamanca Library
The University of Salamanca was the first university established in Spain, founded in 1218. The University of Salamanca is one of the major academic centres in Europe, alongside the University of Paris, Oxford and Bologna, and a source of pride for Spaniards.
The University Library of Salamanca is one of the ten most beautiful university libraries in the world. It is a valuable library that holds 125,000 volumes, including 400 ancient books printed from the invention of movable type to the beginning of the sixteenth century, as well as printed copies from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries and other very rare and ancient books.
Walking around the university town of Salamanca, there is a strong academic atmosphere that gives you a sense of knowledge. The majesty and heavy cultural heritage of the Salamanca Library is also striking. I hope you can visit it when you have the chance!
10. Abbey Library of Saint Gall
- Map: Địa chỉ: Klosterhof 6D, 9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland
- Opening: 10 am – 5 pm
Abbey Library of Saint Gall is a perfect example of one of the great monasteries of the Carolingian period and is on the United Nations World Heritage List. Built in the ninth century, St. Gallen Abbey was a centre of learning in medieval Europe. On its main door are these words – “The pharmacy of the soul” – boldly engraved in Greek.
The historic library of the St Gallen Abbey contains 2,100 parchment manuscripts from the 8th to the 15th centuries, including the oldest version of The Nibelungenlied. Its hall is in the Rococo style and was designed by Peter Thumb (1681-1767).
Everyone who enters the library is captivated by the splendid frescoes on the roof depicting the four earliest councils of the Christian Church: the Council of Nicaea (325), the Council of Constantinople (381), the Council of Ephesus (431), and the Council of Chalcedon (451).
11. Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library
- Map: Szabó Ervin tér 1, Budapest, 1088 Hungary
- Opening: 10 am – 8 pm from Monday to Friday. Saturday it’s only open 10 am – 4 pm.
The main building of the library was originally the “Wenckheim Palace”, built between 1886 and 1889. The building was later converted into a library in the early 1930s.
This library is a hidden gem in Budapest and it will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a bygone era. You can study, read, or remotely work in between the bookshelves of this elaborate book trove with gold walls, sumptuous armchairs, and twinkling chandeliers.
If you’re visiting the library as a tourist they do have a small daily charge of 1500 HUF to visit which is around £3.30 / 4 euros / $ 4.25 USD. This entry fee not only lets you look around the library with the gorgeous historic floor but you also get a WiFi code and your choice of study space. It’s great value for money.
12. Joanina Library (Biblioteca Joanina)
The beautiful Joanina Library, a jewel of Coimbra, is famous for its splendid interiors, rare copies of important books from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The Portuguese are particularly proud of this prestigious institution and often say that it is the second oldest university in Europe, after the University of Bologna.
The building of the Joanina Library, a true Baroque masterpiece, was built to showcase Portuguese wealth in the early 18th century, decorated with gold foil and other fine materials. However, its importance is much more than the beautiful building. Joanina houses more than 200,000 volumes, some of which are very rare. These include the very first 16th century edition of the main book written in Portuguese – “Os Lusíadas” by Luís Vaz de Camões, and a Hebrew Bible, published in the 15th century (there are only about 20 copies in the world).
Some curiosities about the Joanina Library
The good maintenance of the books is also due to a colony of bats that eat the insects that can damage the pages. At night, the tables are covered with skins to protect them from the droppings of the animals, which protect the books after the library closes.
The Joanina Library was built over a medieval prison, which later became the academic prison. Even today there is access to the underground from the library, which can also be visited.
New libraries in Europe
13. Stuttgart city library
- Map: Mailänder Platz 1, 70173 Stuttgart, Germany
- Opening: 9 am – 9 pm
From the glass roof, the light enters obliquely and illuminates the Stuttgart Library: an almost perfect cube with a blue skylight. The construction dates back to 2009 in MailanderPlatz and the project called Bibliothek 21 entrusted by the German municipality to the South Korean architect Eun Young Yi. Brick by brick, the new and futuristic Stuttgart library was born, which was opened on 24 October 2011.
Due to its shape and size, the library impresses: the surface is 20,200 square meters and has a square base with sides of 44 m and a height of 40. The external facade of the library is made up of concrete glass blocks superimposed on a transparent internal coating. On the 4 sides, in the upper left part, there is the word “library” in different languages.
At the center of the Stuttgart city library is the Herz is a space at the height of the 4th floor where there is a funnel-shaped exhibition hall outlined by a glass canopy. This room serves to radiate light into the heart of the Stuttgart library but also has the traditional function of reading. Reading to be consumed in a different and unique environment so as to seem outdoors.
14. The Vienna University of Economics Library
- Map: Welthandelspl. 1, 1020 Wien, Austria
- Opening: 8 am – 8 pm
The Vienna University of Economics Library work of the Anglo-Iraqi architect ZahaHadid stands out in the center of the new Viennese university campus.
The library and educational center immediately catches the eye, due to its futuristic and asymmetrical architecture: a polygonal volume 136 meters long placed in the center of the university campus, defined by lines that move from the outside to the inside, then becoming curvilinear and fluid and creating a large hall inside, a point of interaction and passage, completely white (while the exteriors are dark bronze).
The work has divided critics: some have accused the architect – the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Prize – of “projects that are always the same” and the most ferocious have said that the building resembles a gigantic coffin due to its elongated shape and dark colors. On the other hand, there are those who praise the project.
15. University of Aberdeen New Library
The new library was designed by Schmidt Hamer Lassen (SHL) Associates and opened to the public in 2012. Architecturally, the heart of the library is a spiralling atrium connecting all eight storeys, and as a dynamic vortex, this space contrasts the clean cut exterior profile.
The building is designed to meet the highest sustainable standards, minimising long term running costs and energy use. Consisting of an irregular pattern of insulated panels and high performance glazing, the façade not only allows plenty of daylight to penetrate into the building but also offers a great view over the city of Aberdeen.
After looking at these libraries of outstanding value, do you have the urge to explore them?
Into the dream-like book hall, slow down the pace of walking, open the dusty books, quietly travelling in the sea of books, is also a beautiful thing in life.