In its most basic form, a library is any place a collection of books is stored. Sounds pretty mundane right? Lucky for us bookworms there are quite a few libraries out there that are anything but run-of-the-mill. Whether they’re ultra-modern or from the Middle Ages, these libraries are more than worthy of a visit on your next trip.
1. National Library of Belarus – Minsk, Belarus
Completed in 2006, this 22-floor library was constructed in the shape of a “rhombicuboctahedron”. If you’re not already familiar with this geometric shape (8th grade geometry anyone?), it’s composed of eight triangles and 18 square faces and makes for some impressive architecture. The design is supposed to symbolize the vast knowledge humans have placed in books.
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Stunning in the day time, once nightfall hits the library takes on a whole other personality as 4,646 LED fixtures installed in the glass facade turn on and start to change color, creating an epic light show.
2. Real Gabinete Portugues Leitura – Rio de Janeiro
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The name of this exquisite library translates to “Royal Portuguese Reading Room” and it represents the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal. It was built between 1880 and 1887, and its entire limestone facade was actually carved in Lisbon and brought to Rio via ship. Everything inside the library is over-the-top Gothic Renaissance. Incredible wooden carvings, paintings, a stunning chandelier and massive skylights make this library one for the ages.
3. Seattle Central Library – Seattle, Washington
Opened to the public in 2004, it’s no surprise this library turned out ultra-modern – it was partially funded by a grant from Bill Gates and the architect wanted to convey a feeling of the “digital age”. With an irregularly shaped exterior and an angular, light-filled, and colorful interior, the library has drawn heavy criticism – critics of the design think it seems a bit cheesy and cold to visitors. Although it might not be a darling in the design world, visits to the library have doubled since it was built. Seems like a success to us.
Image: Thomas Hawk/Flickr
4. The Holy See – Vatican City, Italy
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Although the Vatican Library, or The Holy See, was officially established in 1475 its collection dates much farther back than that. Arguably the most important historical archive in the world, it contains 75,000 manuscripts and over 1.1 million books, many of which are of huge historical and religious significance. Lucky for the general public the library is open to everyone, as long as they can provide documentation for why they need to access the library for research purposes.
Image: Michal Osmenda/Flickr
Along with the incredible treasures the library possesses, parts of it are also very beautiful. The library’s Sistine Hall is one of the most stunning and is covered with intricate frescoes telling biblical history.