Step Inside 7 of the World’s Most Remarkable Libraries

Oh, hi! Welcome to my virtual tour through seven of the most remarkable libraries in the world!

Last updated: February 25, 2024

The world's most remarkable libraries - Roads and Destinations
Inside the world’s most remarkable libraries

Inside the World’s Most Prestigious Libraries

I haven’t been to all the biggest, most beautiful and oldest libraries in the world. But it’s on my list, no matter how Herculean this goal can be. A bookworm and history enthusiast like me can’t miss a beautiful book sanctuary or a local bookshop while traveling to new cities and towns.

Traveling the world opens new possibilities, broadens our horizons, lets us immerse into new cultures and have more compassion for each other. Traveling ceases to be a luxury. It’s a way of life.

Books offer a special kind of travel. They transport us in time and space, let us meet ancient sages and introduce us to the most eminent people of our days. As you can see, I have a soft spot for books.

My love for written works magnifies when I step inside the world’s most prestigious libraries. I’m in my happy place. The size of the library doesn’t matter. It may be just a tiny structure or a large, elaborately decorated edifice in the heart of an old town.

What You Should Know before Visiting the World’s Most Reputable Libraries

Prior Reservation

I can spend hours walking between wooden, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with books of all genres and topics. Many world’s recognizable libraries, however, save this privilege for serious scholars who consult their expanded collections with prior reservations. Curious visitors that flock to these book heavens from all corners of the world often get only a sneak peek of what’s inside.

Guided Tours and Special Observation Balconies

The options of visiting the world’s most reputable libraries are also limited. Normally only a small section of the building is open to curious book lovers who have little time on their hands to conduct research. Some libraries organize daily guided tours, taking locals and world travelers to rooms filled with books protected behind glass doors. Others allow to peer inside the mysterious realms of the printed works from designated balconies and special nooks.


While some of the oldest and most beautiful libraries in the world keep their doors open to the public free of charge, others, such as the Long Room of the Trinity College Library, require reservation. The tickets are limited. The libraries are still, first of all, places to study and do research. Appropriate environment must be maintained.

I was fortunate to walk through some of the world’s oldest libraries. As a curious visitor, several times I peeked inside some of these book sanctuaries from designated balconies. Some of the institutions enticed me with their invaluable collections that I consulted while working on a research paper in my final years at the university.

In this article, I bring up seven of the world’s most remarkable libraries. If you have time and opportunity, please do visit them in person. Otherwise, enjoy this virtual tour through the libraries the world can’t stop talking about.


1. New York Public Library – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York City

The New York Public Library deserves to be called one of the most popular libraries in the world for quite a few reasons. With 92 locations and almost 53 million items, it’s the second largest public library in the U.S. It’s also known as the third largest library in the world.

Many book lovers, however, ache to see the famous Stephen A. Schwarzman Building located near Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan. The most opulent structure in the New York Public Library system, the Schwarzman Building entices with its remarkable historic collections and commitment to provide free access to its resources.

World's most remarkable libraries - Roads and Destinations
The New York Public Library is one of the world’s largest libraries. Photo by Antoinette Plessis (unsplash)

2. Trinity College Library, Dublin

The Trinity College Library is by far one of the most recognizable historic libraries in the world for two reasons. First, it’s home to some of the world’s oldest books, including the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels of the New Testament.

Second, the classic look of the Long Room of the library filled with floor-to-ceiling bookcases inspired J.K Rowling for creating the Hogwarts Library. For any Harry Potter fans out there, it’s one of a few libraries in the entire world you don’t dare to miss.

Read more: A Visit to Trinity College Dublin

The 6 most Popular Libraries in the World, Ireland Itinerary  - Roads and Destinations
Trinity College Library

3. Library of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Library of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is arguably one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. From its early days, the place was designed as a sanctuary for books and manuscripts of philosophy and theology. Later ornate globes, armillary spheres, astrolabes, and maps joined the vast collections.

Today the library holds more than 40,000 books, written in different languages and covering a large variety of topics.

Colorful frescoes and paintings adorn the ceiling and walls. Depicting scenes from classical history, these masterpieces instill a sense of awe and admiration and once again remind you why the place is considered one the most resplendent libraries in the world.

El Escorial - Roads and Destinations
El Escorial. Photo by Hernan Gonzalez (unsplash)

4. Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

The biggest library in the U.S., the Library of Congress is also known as the largest library in the world. Founded in 1800, it contains more than 164 million books, films, audio recordings, maps, photographs, newspapers, and manuscripts.

The Library of Congress is a legislative library and the major research arm of the U.S. Congress. With a library card, anybody age 16 and older can get access to some parts of the library, including the grand Main Reading Room.

The Library of Congress is free to visit, but a timed ticket is required.

The Library of Congress - Roads and Destinations
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library

5. The Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA), Paris

Nestled in the heart of the historic center of Paris, the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art is one of the most underrated libraries in the world. Relatively young (it was created in 2001), the library focuses on research.

Apart from yearly conferences and meetings, the INHA develops different resources and research programs in art history. The Oval Reading Room and the Labrouste Room are two of the most popular rooms of the INHA.

6. The Cuypers Library, Amsterdam

Located in Amsterdam’s famous Rijksmuseum, the Cuypers Library is the oldest and largest art history library in the Netherlands. As the most prestigious research institution in the country, the Cuypers Library has been expanding its collections since 1885. Today it’s a proud owner of 450,000 books, journals, periodicals, exhibitions, as well as catalogues about art auctions.

The library is open for research and study with prior reservation. All other visitors are welcome to take a sneak peek inside the main reading room from a balcony located on the second floor of the museum.

Read more: Why You Should Visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Cuypers Library inside the Rijksmuseum - Roads and Destinations
Cuypers Library | The world’s most remarkable libraries

7. National Library of Belarus, Minsk

I first walked inside the new, diamond-shaped National Library of Belarus shortly after it opened its doors to the public in 2006. Spacious, with glass walls and floors, it looked like no other library I’d been to before. The sound of my steps amplified as I walked across the transparent floor to the second level where I would request books on Humanitarian aid, a research study I had to complete by the end of that school year.

With 23 floors stretched across the 73.6-meter (241.5-foot) structure, the book institution looked unorthodox, innovative, and modern. Probably way too modern for me back then. I was scared to walk on the glass floor, but embarrassed to admit it.

The National Library of Belarus is the largest library in the country. It contains roughly 10 million items. And now the library also has the look that matches its dominance.

World's most remarkable libraries - Roads and Destinations
National Library of Belarus | The world’s most unique libraries. Photo by Eugene Krasnaok (unsplash)

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