Autumn Travel List: The best libraries to visit in the world


Posted on: 10 September 2016 by Jonathon Derby

With the summer holidays drawing to a close, where should you visit on holiday? I run through the best libraries to visit in the world.

Now that summer is over and everyone is back at school and work, it is the perfect time to go sightseeing without having to worry about excessively long queues, too hot weather and over-priced holiday lets. But where and more importantly what, should you visit?

At my local library - Rawdon Community Library - we recently celebrated National Read a Book Day. As such, it got me thinking about the best libraries to visit in the world.

Here are my top 4 based on beauty, history and uniqueness:

Strahov Monastery Library - Prague

Founded in 1143, this beautiful library steeped in history and culture makes for a stunning visit. Overcoming wars, natural disasters and internal conflicts, it was finally established in 1679.

Two of the main selling points this library has to offer are the breathtaking painted ceilings and the cleverly engineered 'compilation wheel' that only be described as a latter day cd changer for books.

The Library of El Escorial - Spain

A UNESCO world heritage site, the library of El Escorial in Spain is a building of pure beauty. Like The Strahov Monastery, it has wonderfully and intricately painted ceilings, in this case to depict power, intellectualism and royalty.

The library includes many important illuminated manuscripts, such as the Ottonian Golden Gospels of Henry III, as well as over 40,000 volumes all stored on beautifully carved wooden shelves.

Library of Alexandria (Bibliotheca Alexandrina) - Egypt

As some of you will well be aware, Alexandria was once home to the most famous library in the world. As such, the term ‘Alexandria’ has become a byword for the collection and storage of world knowledge.

This reconstruction designed by Norwegian firm Snøhetta, pays homage to such a great, historical library. With a curved exterior, carvings by local Egyptian artists and a large, crystal clear pool, it really does a good job of paying tribute to it’s ancient ancestor.

A must visit indeed for those with a particular interest in anthropology.

New York Public Library - United States of America

The final library that makes my top 4 list is none other than the New York Public library. While not possessing the history or intricate artwork of the others on the list, it is still a beautiful library (from an architectural point of view) and is immensely powerful in inspiring critical thinking.

The Rose main reading room is a wonderful place to sit and the peace and tranquility inside is second to none.

The library has made quite a few appearances on the big screen, featuring on the blockbuster hit, The Day After Tomorrow, as well as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the original Ghostbusters Movie.

Suggestions for more?

If you think I have missed any libraries that are particularly special to you, please comment below with your answer. I’d be interested to learn why.

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Jonathon Derby


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