10 unmissable libraries for the literary traveller
*This libraries post is a collaboration with Holidu
I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm and my love of literature has followed me round the world from bookshops, to libraries, to book swaps in hostels. I’ll admit I’ve never gone tech and swapped up my paperbacks for a Kindle because I just love the feeling of slamming a book closed when I finish. It’s a satisfaction that can’t be beaten. Those of you who have been following my trip to Romania on Instagram will have seen I visited the rather beautiful Cărturești Carusel bookshop. It was even more incredible in real life than from the pictures in this post. Wherever I travel, I love to visit bookshops and libraries – one of my faves I’ve seen was the New York Library – and lose myself in the stacks. This post is for all my fellow bookworms who just love to lose themselves in the pages of a good novel.
10 unmissable libraries for the literary traveller
Europe has such a fantastic selection of libraries to offer the literary traveller, from the old school to the more modern styles. When travelling is all about discovering different cultures and traditions, what better place is there to truly indulge than its libraries? From the second you walk in the door, you can smell the history and the creativity immersed in these countless volumes. Rare books and architectural masterpieces await the literary traveller, ready to envelop the senses. If you’re a true book lover, then Holidu – the search engine for holiday rentals – has the perfect list for you. From the classic to the sleek and chic, these are the must-see libraries to plan into your next European getaways.
Top 5 modern libraries
1. Wirtschaftsuniversität Bibliothek – Vienna, Austria
Go against the classic Baroque style and majestic rooms of Vienna’s beautiful national library. Instead, seek a more modern vibe when you visit the library at the University of Economics. Just a short walk from the Danube lies this futuristic six storey building which houses 745,797 books, 59,009 e-books and 1,014 newspapers. The original library dates back to 1898, but was destroyed by arson in 2005. Renovated with a modern twist, now the innovative interiors use bright lighting and sinuous movements are like something from another planet. Open daily 8am to 8pm.
2. Warsaw University Library – Warsaw, Poland
Modern and colourful, head to Warsaw University Library in Poland where over 350,000 volumes await the avid reader among us. Located in the city centre and founded in 1816, the new building was opened in 1999 and features a terrace with four different gardens. Don’t miss the entrance where there are several writings in various languages including Plato’s in Ancient Greek and another in Ancient Polish. Receiving multiple accolades for its beauty, the entire outside of the building is in patinated copper and the greenhouse-like building blends with the vegetation which climbs up the exterior towards the roof garden. Open all week, 9am to 9pm.
3. Royal Library – Copenhagen, Denmark
Dive into 200,000 volumes at Copenhagen’s Royal Library – a true neo-modern jewel known as the “black diamond”. Overlooking the Strait of Øresund in the historic district, the black cube was built as an extension of the old library in 1999. It bewitches on the outside with its curated lines and glossy black granite and glass surface, while on the inside it seduces with its twisting lines, wide spaces and escalators. In addition to its seven floors, the terrace can accommodate as many as 600 people for events such as concerts and plays. Open daily from 9am to 7pm.
4. Central Library Oodi – Helsinki, Finland
Of course, Helsinki’s brand new Central Library Oodi had to be included in this list, only inaugurated at the end of 2018. Home to 100,000 books in 17 languages. The futuristic building has an imposing three-story structure made entirely of glass and wood. A masterpiece of Finnish architecture, the building is also eco-sustainable and looks from some angles like a ship, and from other angles, like the waves. Close by the city centre, it’s worth visiting to study, work or even express your own art. Open midweek 8am-10pm / weekend 10am-8pm.
5. Stadtbibliothek am Mailänder Platz – Stuttgart, Germany
Think minimalist style for the final modern offering on this list – the new civic library in Stuttgart. Opened in 2011 and designed by Korean architect Eun Young Yi, this architectural gem spans eight floors. A “big white cube” like no other, the symmetrical entrance and spiral staircases offer a view of the interior from all angles. Holding 500,000 volumes within the external cubic structure and a wash of white colour that pervades the interiors. Open Monday to Saturday 9am-6pm.
Top 5 old school libraries
1. John Rylands Library – Manchester, United Kingdom
Seizing the top spot on my list is a stunning neo-Gothic building housing 1.4million items. John Rylands Library in Manchester took 10 years to build and was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her late husband. Designed in 1889 by architect Basil Champneys, the library is in Deansgate, in the heart of the city. Don’t miss The Reading Room, with its high columns and vaulted ceiling complete with intricate decorations. It will provide the perfect photo backdrop when visiting this truly iconic building. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm / Monday to Sunday 12-5pm.
2. Stiftsbibliothek Admont – Admont, Austria
Explore the largest monastery library in the world in central Austria, an enchanting building designed by Austrian architect Josef Hueber. A man who firmly believed in the ideals of the Enlightenment and thought that the spaces should also be “enlightened”. Completed in 1776 and in a beautiful Baroque style, the building features statues and frescoes. There are four bronze statues in the corners of the main hall, representing death, the resurrection, Hell and paradise. The entrance to this enchanting building costs €11.50. Open all week 10am to 5pm.
3. Kloster Wiblingen – Ulm, Germany
Head to the south of Germany, to Kloster Wiblingen to find a breathtaking 72m long library filled with frescoes, statues and extravagant coloured marble columns throughout. Dating from 1903, this Baroque Benedictine monastery is one of the best examples of Rococo art. The architects idea was to preserve the treasures of wisdom and science and to visit it will only cost you 5€. Holds 9,000 volumes and open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm.
4. Biblitoeca Marciana – Venice, Italy
Home to 622,804 volumees, 13,113 manuscripts and 24,069 16th century manuscripts. The Marciana Library contains one of the most important collections of Greek, Latin and Oriental manuscripts in the world. Located in San Marco Square, Venice, it’s one of the largest and most prestigious libraries in Italy. The building, which was designed by Sansovino, was built in 1588 and has an unusually elegant style for the time. Many contributed to the beauty of its interior, including painters of the calibre of Titian and Tintoretto, among others. Open during the week 8:20am – 7pm / weekend 8:20am – 1:30pm.
5. Sainte-Geneviève Library – Paris, France
And last, but by no means least, a stunning Parisian library is a must for this list – especially when it’s one dating back to 1850. Home to 1.5million volumes, 85,000 manuscripts, 15,000 periodicals and 87 databases. This library is located in the 5th arrondissement and was completed in 1850. A mixture of architectural styles, the main façade is in Neo-Renaissance style and its shape is long and rectangular. The body of the reading room is divided into two large naves, decorated with cast iron columns. Engraved on the walls are the names of the most important authors. Open Monday to Saturday, 2pm to 6pm.