If you love to read, you may have visited libraries during your holidays before. However, libraries are not just for bookworms. Many are architectural masterpieces, have a rich historical background or have rare books or collections. Here are five of the world’s most beautiful libraries, which are definitely worth a visit, should you find yourself nearby.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt
This library is steeped in ancient history. It was burned down by Julius Cesar in 48 BC. This was one of the most significant cultural losses of all time: 700000 texts were lost in the fire. But in 2002, a new library opened in Alexandria, supported by donations from all around the world. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is known as a platform for learning, tolerance, dialogue, and understanding. As well as building a collection of up to five million books, the library hosts art exhibitions and workshops. It also has four museums. Tours are offered every fifteen minutes and are available in Arabic, English, Spanish, and French.
Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, Italy
This renaissance library is part of the church of San Lorenzo, which is the church of the Medici family. The library is located upstairs and was designed by the great Michelangelo. It contains the private collection of the Medici dynasty and is full of illuminated manuscripts and early printed texts. The grand design of the library wraps around a cloister, and the atmospheric reading room is still furnished with the original benches and desks. The library hosts regular exhibitions.
Rampur Raza Library, Uttar Pradesh, India
This library was founded in 1747 by Nawab Faizullah Khan and is one of India’s registered national monuments. The Rampur Raza Library has been a centre of Indo-Islamic studies since it first opened. Its collection includes palm leaves with inscriptions and ancient manuscripts. The library is open to the public six days a week. It is closed on Fridays.
Austrian National Library, Vienna
This spectacular library has a central state hall and opened as a royal library in 1723 and is the largest in Austria. Its extraordinary architecture combines traditional library design with baroque flair. The bookcases are framed by Ionic columns and grand marble statues. Marble floors and fresco ceilings contribute to the baroque atmosphere. The library has a small exhibition space and offers guided tours.
Bodleian Library, Oxford, England
The Bodleian is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. It is the primary research library of Oxford University and contains every single book which has been printed in the United Kingdom in the last four hundred years, amounting to around twelve million books, spread across several buildings and underground passageways. Guided tours start from the main square and take visitors from the Bodleian Library to Duke Humfrey’s medieval library and the circular Radcliffe Camera, which many visitors will recognise from episodes of the TV series, Inspector Morse.