Libraries hold hundreds, thousands, and sometimes millions of pieces of history and culture, serving a similar purpose as a museum, but instead of calling the pieces art, we call them books. Books offer insight into culture, politics, history, and our sense of humanity. Libraries, as the places that allow access to books, are fascinating depositories, and their designs often reflect the sense of wonder and interest that can be found inside.
Europe, specifically, holds countless beautiful libraries. Here are ten of them you can see during your next trip across the continent.
10 The Long Room Library, Trinity College, Ireland
The Long Room Library, named for its shape and design, is part of the Old Library at Trinity College and holds the 200,000 oldest books of the collection at the college. The library was built in the early 18th century, and the history of the library is as abundant as many of the books it holds. Its most famous piece is the Book of Kells, a magnificent illuminated manuscript with Celtic and Christian iconography.
The roof above the books is just as amazing with its barrel ceiling that towers high above the rows of books and marble busts of famous writers and philosophers. Walking through this particular part of the Old Library will make anyone feel small.
9 Black Diamond, Royal Library, Denmark
A more modern library, the Black Diamond extension of the Royal Library in Copenhagen was completed in 1999. Most of the outside is covered in a shiny black facing that reflects the sea in front of it.
The atrium of the library includes floor to ceiling windows that allow visitors an uninterrupted view of the water. The library also includes a museum, restaurant, concert hall, and more, acting as much more than a house of books.
8 Stuttgart City Library, Germany
The newest library on this list, the Stuggart City Library is modern and physically and architecturally imposing. The building is a white cube, 147 feet (45 meters) on each side, and everything from the staircases to the shelves on the inside are also white, giving the entire building a clean, sleek feel.
The library has nine stories in total, two underground and seven above, giving it plenty of space to hold hundreds of books and even a square fountain at the base. Walking through this library will make you feel like you've walked into a piece of art.
7 Biblioteca Marciana, Italy
The idea of a public library in Venice, Italy was prompted when Cardinal Bessarion donated 750 codes to the city in 1468. While this jumpstarted the idea for the library, the building itself wouldn't be built until 1537. The collections of the library then grew considerably thanks to a law requiring all printing presses to deliver a copy of each published book.
The architecture of the library was influenced by both Greek and Italian culture, and elements of both can be seen in the columns, coffered ceilings, and sculptures. The library holds over a million volumes in total and now stands as a famous museum in the city as well, accessible by all tourists with the purchase of a ticket.
6 Baroque Library, Czech Republic
The Baroque Library's beauty comes mainly from the detailed ceiling frescoes that depict motifs of education. The entire interior of the library has survived with little damage since the 18th century when it was opened as part of a Jesuit university. Jesuit history is strong here and can be seen in the portraits of Jesuit saints placed around the library.
There is also an impressive collection of globes in the library, most made by the Jesuits.
5 Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra University Library, Portugal
The Biblioteca Joanina of Coimbra University includes three floors, each serving their own unique, sometimes historical, purpose. The most famous of these floors is the Noble Floor, which was opulently decorated to reflect the wealth of the Portuguese Empire.
The library's lower floor served, interestingly, as the Academic Prison of the library until the middle of the nineteenth century. The university, having the privilege of creating its own legal code, used the prison to incarcerate members of the university who broke this code.
Any visitor to this library will be amazed not only by the richness of the decoration but the rich history found alongside it.
4 Strahov Abbey Library, Czech Republic
The Strahov Abbey Library, connected to a monastery that still serves to house monks, includes two impressive halls. The Theological Hall, completed in 1679, was built in the Baroque style and includes remarkable stuccos that cover the whole of the ceiling.
The Philosophical Hall, built about a hundred years after the first hall, followed the Classical style and also includes impressive paintings that cover its ceiling, although visitors will find these paintings more subtle than those of the Theological Hall.
3 Metten Abbey Library, Germany
The Metten Abbey Library is one of the more opulent interiors on this list with its Baroque ceiling frescoes, stained glass windows, angel sculptures, and massive bookshelves. Upon walking into the room, visitors may not even notice the rows of books tucked into the elaborately decorated shelves. There are, in fact, more than 35,000 volumes in the library.
The library was opened as part of Metten Abbey in 1726, which passed through a period of secularization from 1803 to 1830 before becoming a monastery once again. Visitors can now see the libraries through tours led by the abbey's monks.
2 Mafra Palace Library, Portugal
This Rococo-style library, part of the Mafra Palace in Portugal, was completed in 1755 and is now home to around 36,000 volumes that sit on the worn wooden shelves that line the hall.
The most interesting fact about this library, though, isn't necessarily about the books it holds but what protects them. Every night, bats come out from hiding places behind the shelves to seek out any insects that may pose a threat to the fragile books. However, visitors to the library won't see these creatures during daylight hours as they are safely tucked away, sleeping and waiting for darkness.
1 Admont Abbey Library, Austria
This library, yet another of the Baroque style, exudes a design influenced by the Enlightenment with its tall ceilings that allow light to enter the space, just as light was meant to enter into the minds of those in the library at this time. Seven ceiling frescoes also represent ideas of the Enlightenment, moving through several depictions of human understanding.
The library's construction was completed in 1776, the same year that the United States became a nation. This library is also special as it allows visitors to enter and explore without a guide after purchasing a ticket (about $13.00 for adults), making it more accessible than many of the libraries on this list.