5 Instagrammable Libraries in the World and Where to Find Them
I was not exactly fond of reading while I was growing up. I only read books to pass my exams and make my book reports. But as I’ve fallen in love with writing during college, I figured that I’d least know how a novel is structured, so I tried reading my friend’s recommendation. And after reading My Sister’s Keeper, I found myself reading more and more books. I think that’s the reason why when I started traveling, I always try to look for places with pretty libraries. But I haven’t been going on a trip for a while, so I decided to have a few friends join me in sharing you some of the Instagrammable libraries in the world.
1. State Library of Victoria in Melbourne Australia
The State Library of Victoria is beautiful outside and more so when you get inside. I visited the library when I joined one of I’M Free Walking Tours session in Melbourne during my winter trip last year and to say that I was blown away would be an understatement. I spent about an hour marveling at The Dome, endlessly taking the shot of the spacious reading room. The State Library of Victoria, formerly known as the Melbourne Public Library, is the older public library in Australia. It’s a four-level building with different sections and galleries. The topmost floor offers the breathtaking view of the books, the wooden tables, and green lamps. It’s like a dream! You can visit the library and join the 30-minute tour from 10:30 am to 11:00 am every Tuesday. So, if you have the time, it’s a great way to explore the library and learn more about its history and what it offers.
Address: 328 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
2. Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal
It has been awarded as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world by Lonely Planet and The Guardian and a book buff’s dream. Before visiting Porto, Livraria Lello has been the very first thing on my bucket list as I am your typical bookworm. The second I walked in the bookstore, it was the grand architecture the first thing that caught my attention, especially the gracious spiral staircase at the heart of the store which is covered in a vibrant red carpet. The stained-glass ceiling inscribed with the store’s motto (vecus in labore, which translates to “dignity in work”) in combination with the rich wood paneling makes it seem more like an ancient church than a neo-gothic styled bookstore. It’s said that when J.K Rowling spent two years in Porto as an English teacher, she was frequently visiting the library to write her first Harry Potter book. You can see the relevance of the bookstore with Flourish and Blotts, the store where young sorcerers in Harry Potter buy their magic manuals. We spent at least two hours there capturing photos of every corner and browsing their grand collection of special edition books and even purchased a captivating book by Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist.” If you visit the library, I would totally recommend to arrive as early as possible to avoid big crowds and capture the perfect photo of your dreams!
Address: R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal
3. New York Public Library in New York, United States of America
By Stella Jane
New Yorkers have the tendency to think everything about our city is the best and the brightest, but in the case of the Main Branch of the New York Public Library, it’s actually true. If you disagree, feel free to take it up with the two giant lion statues (nicknamed Patience and Fortitude) that live outside the place. The building itself is officially called The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, but literally zero New Yorkers actually call it that. To us, it’s either the Main Branch or simply The Library.
There are so many things one can do at the Main Branch. You can go on a free guided tour of the Library. You can visit the (also free) museum and see exhibits on everything from WWI propaganda to classic children’s books. You can roam around the stacks and try to reenact the library ghost scene from Ghostbusters. (That scene from the movie was really shot in this library.) You can even visit at Christmas time and admire the lions all decked out in wreaths. The one thing you can’t do is actually check out a book. You can borrow books from the collection, but you’re not allowed to leave the building with them! It's the prettiest library, but not the most convenient.
My favorite hidden treasure inside the library is the plaque that reads, “A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit.” I couldn’t agree more! See if you can find the plaque for yourself when you visit.
Address: 476 5th Ave, New York, New York
4. Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland
By Bruna Venturinelli
My favorite library ever is the one in the Trinity College in Dublin. This place is home to some Irish manuscripts as well as to the oldest book in the world.
Yes, that’s right! Right in the center of Dublin, you can see this extraordinary piece. You’ve probably heard about the Book of Kells before, but just in case you didn’t, these manuscripts, which date back to the 9th-century, are a copy of the four gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in Latin. Don’t miss it!
Like I said, the book is pretty old, and for that reason, they can’t turn the pages so often, so you’ll see two pages of it during your visit. But that’s not all! There is a full explanation of this book as well as other pieces to learn about.
However, the best part of the visit is about to come. Continue your path to the Long Room of the Old Library, the one which inspired the Harry Potter library. Needless to say, this place is a must-see of Dublin, right? Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not! The imposing Long Room holds more than 200,000 of the library’s oldest books and the 14 busts along the room give this place a picturesque look.
If you’re in Dublin, don’t leave the city before visiting this remarkable library.
Address: The University of Dublin Trinity College, College Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
5. Library of Birmingham in Birmingham, United Kingdom
For many decades, Birmingham’s library was an acquired taste, being a strong example of Brutalist architecture. But when that part of the city became due for redevelopment, courageous design for its replacement gave the city a bold and beautiful extravaganza of a community building. Birmingham’s new library has been likened to a wedding cake and a floral cage. The external filigree design is replicated in many of the internal spaces, and the whole building feels playful and friendly. No wonder then that it is one of the city’s most popular attractions, receiving nearly 2 million visits in 2015. That made it the most visited tourist attraction outside London.
There are plenty of features to appreciate too. At the top of the building in the rotunda, you’ll find the Shakespeare Memorial Room, ornately paneled and strangely historical in this modern building. It was originally constructed by John Henry Chamberlain in 1882. The room is in an Elizabethan style, with carvings, marquetry, and metalwork, full of birds, flowers, and foliage.
There’s an observation space on the top floor. From here you can see so much of Birmingham’s skyline, from the colonnaded Town Hall to the new and vibrant Cube development. On level 7, you’ll find the library’s stealth surprise: a secret garden, full of lush planting, and with plenty of seats to stop and read awhile. There’s a further outdoor terrace, a studio theatre, an outdoor amphitheater, and the BFI Mediatheque, giving free access to the National Film Archive. Even the lifts are chatty, producing a collection of literary quotes as you transit the building.
Address: Centenary Square, Broad St, Birmingham B1 2ND, United Kingdom
It’s easy to find yourself spending at least half a day in libraries like these. I mean, with the lovely interiors, who wouldn’t be inspired to read a book or two? I must admit, I wasn’t much of a fan of libraries when I was in college, but if we only had libraries as beautiful as any of these before, I would have been very inspired to study.