Check Out 7 of the Most Beautiful Libraries in the World

By: Laurie L. Dove  | 
Biblioteca Joanina
At the heart of the University of Coimbra, in Portugal, lies a famed baroque library, the Biblioteca Joanina. Its lavish interior is shown here. Planet One Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Visiting a library for fun might not seem like a good idea, if the only libraries you've ever seen are the very plain ones in your neighborhood or college, but the ones we're featuring offer plenty of interest. From stunning architecture to innovative art, these libraries are testaments to human ingenuity and, in some cases, divine inspiration. At least two were originally part of monasteries.

Although there are dozens of beautiful libraries around the globe we could have spotlighted, these seven might just top the list.


1: Strahov Monastery Library, Prague, the Czech Republic

Strahov Monastery Library
The present-day Strahov Monastery Library was finished in 1679. Peopanda/Wikipedia

Visitors may be drawn to viewing the several thousand volumes that comprise the Strahov Monastery Library' s collection in Prague, the Czech Republic, but the main attraction is probably over their heads. The monastery library, which originated in the 12th century, features intricately painted biblical scenes on its stucco ceiling. Considered one of the most important historical libraries in Europe, Strahov Monastery Library is home to more than 200,000 books. Among the collection are thousands of books categorized as "in cunabulis," which means they were printed after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press around 1450 but before the end of the 15th century.


2. Handelingenkamer Library, The Hague, Netherlands

Handelingenkamer Library
The Handelingenkamer Library in the Netherlands has many Chinese influences such as handles in the shapes of dragon claws and dragon heads on the railings. rijksoverheid, Arenda Oomen/Wikipedia/CC0

The Handelingenkamer Library inside The Hague, Netherlands, is also known as the Old Library of the Dutch Parliament. This beauty is topped with a glass dome that allows light to filter through the building's four stories. It was constructed at the close of the 19th century and is well known, not only for its architecture, but also for its interior. In this historic library, richly ornamental balustrades and red wrought iron balconies wind and curve around towering shelves of books filled with reports of parliamentary debates and bills. Keep an eye out for the dragon motifs.


3. Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Widener Library
The Widener Library was built with a gift from Eleanor Elkins Widener. It was a memorial to her son Harry, a Harvard graduate who died aboard the Titanic. Laurie Dove

Widener is Harvard's flagship library. This marble monolith is filled with notable literary collections that span its 57 miles (91 kilometers) of shelf space. The library was built as a memorial to Harry Elkins Widener, a 1907 Harvard graduate who amassed 3,300 books, manuscripts and drawings — many of them first editions of authors such as Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson — before he died aboard the Titanic's maiden voyage in 1912. Today, Widener Library is known as a "silent library," with two main floors of completely quiet study rooms and five stories of underground literary resources. Graduate students frequently research their thesis topics in the library and then take triumphant photos on Widener's wide front steps upon graduation.


4. Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra, Portugal

Biblioteca Joanina
The Biblioteca Joanina is named after its founder, King John V of Portugal, who started building the library in 1717. xiquinhosilva/Wikipedia/CC BY 2.0

Built between 1717 and 1728, Biblioteca Joanina is one of the world's most exquisitely decorated libraries. Although it features a collection of books published in the 16th to 18th centuries, the library's aesthetic is a huge tourist draw because of its decoratively gilded dark-wood shelves and trompe l´oeil ceilings, a painting style designed to "fool the eye" into perceiving flat surfaces as 3D objects. The library, located at the University of Coimbra, houses a 300,000-book collection, many of the books printed before the 1800s.


5. Admont Abbey Library, Admont, Austria

Admont Abbey monastery library
The large ceremonial room of the Admont Abbey Library in Austria. The monastery was founded in 1074 and the library was built in 1776. Imagno/Getty Images

The Admont Abbey Library in Admont, Austria, is the largest monastic library in the world. It's also one of the most beautiful. Founded in 1776, the library is part of the oldest still-operating monastery in Austria and features a stunning white and gold Baroque style interior. Atop the gilded shelves and columns in the library's grand two-story interior, curved ceilings feature stunning frescoes painted by Bartolomeo Altomonte, an Austrian who was known for painting large-scale frescoes. Today, the library is home to more than 200,000 sacred texts.


6: Trinity College Old Library, Dublin, Ireland

long room, Library of Trinity College
The Long Room in the Trinity College Old Library is 213 feet (65 meters) long and filled with 200,000 books and busts of great philosophers, writers and men associated with the college. Diliff/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

With its two stories of dark wood arches encompassing a collection of more than 7 million volumes, the Old Library at Trinity College, is not only one of the world's oldest libraries, but one of the most renowned. Located in the center of Dublin, the dark and hallowed halls of the Old Library were constructed in 1712. It's a key attraction for tourists, many of whom purchase advance tickets to view the Book of Kells, an illuminated vellum manuscript of the four gospels that dates back to the fourth century. Every day, a different page of the book is displayed to the public.


7. Tianjin Binhai Library, Tianjin, China

Tianjin Binhai Library
Since here is an interior view of the Tianjin Binhai Library in Tianjin, north China. Its stunning design has received a lot of attention from tourists. Zhao Zishuo/Xinhua via Getty Images

Unlike the other libraries on our list, this one is practically new. The Tianjin Binhai Library opened to the public in 2017 and was described by Time magazine as a "ziggurat," with its white undulating bookshelves surrounding a spherical auditorium. The 363,000 square-foot (33,700 square-meter) building was designed by Dutch firm MVRDV and can hold 1.35 million books. Built in just three years, it's become quite a tourist attraction since it was finished.