I found these virtual tours of impressive libraries and thought I’d share them with you. Why? If I had to pick five of my most missed places I visit on a regular basis during this stay-at-home time, libraries would be on that list. I’m a regular library visitor. Have been since I was a kid in the day of bookmobiles.
I don’t go in and out quickly, either. I’ll often linger, perhaps read or get some work done, look through interesting magazines, pick up a movie, that sort of thing.
As much as I travel, I visit libraries everywhere and can likely tell you about the libraries in destinations I frequent. I enjoy architecture in general and find library design and architecture fascinating. Does a space seem welcoming and inviting? Is the library design historical or ultra modern, perhaps?
I’m not a fan of all libraries I’ve been in. Some strike me as cold and unwelcoming with too few places to sit. Some can be functional with no personality. I’d go, but wouldn’t stay. Not a place I’d want to get lost in the stacks, as a librarian might say.
If you haven’t yet been in person to these libraries, visit them virtually and see if they are impressive enough and worthy of a visit next time you’re in their home city.
Impressive Libraries Virtual Tours
The New York Public Library, New York, New York
No doubt when in New York City you’ll have a long lists of places to visit. And that’s if you can drag yourself away from the pizza and lobster rolls. Do make sure, though, to add visiting the New York Public Library’s Main Branch on your must-see list. Its location in midtown Manhattan means no matter what’s on your sites to see agenda, you’ll be nearby.
The library is in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at 42nd Street. At some point either in person or perhaps in a film you’ve seen the entrance. You’re greeted by Patience and Fortitude, two marble lion statues.
The Rose Reading Room underwent an extensive renovation in 2016. The Rose Room, including the ceiling frescoes, was fully restored.
The Library at Clarence House, London, England
Much like New York City, one visits London with a long list of historical places to enjoy. Not to mention taking in some theater, a trip to Marks & Spencer Foodhall or my personal favorite, visiting 165 Eaton Place. For library enthusiasts though, Clarence House is worth a visit. It has a long history of royal residents. Nowadays, Prince Charles and Camila live there. Prior to that, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, called Clarence House home for nearly 50 years, from 1953 to 2002.
The Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria
Vienna is a city of such impressive architecture, you don’t know where to look next. The opera house, amazing. Going inside the church to hear the Vienna Boys Choir, wow. The Austrian National Library is like being in both a library and museum, a doubly special experience. The Austrian National Library is the largest Baroque library in Europe. It is also the biggest library in all of Austria. The library houses over 12,000,000 items in its collections. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the architecture alone would make it worth the visit.
Clementinum Library, Prague, Czech Republic
In centuries past, Baroque architecture was the style for so many European city buildings. This library, as with the one in Vienna, is another example of Baroque. In 1722, the Clementinum (or Klementinum, as it is known in Czech) Library opened to the public. Nothing about the interior has changed! The library was originally part of a Jesuit university. This explains why when you visit you’ll notice that much of its collection is theological books. And don’t forget to look up during your visit. The ceilings in this library are stunning.
The Stone Library at the Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, Massachusetts
Historical themed libraries and presidential libraries are nothing new. Built in 1870, the Stone Library is thought to be the first ever presidential library. It houses 14,000 books in a total of 12 different languages. Given its name you won’t be surprised to learn it is the home of the books and papers of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Charles Francis Adams, and Henry and Brooks Adams.
Casa Guillermo Tovar de Teresa Library, Mexico City, Mexico
I had plans to be in Mexico City which got canceled due to the pandemic, so this is one library I’ve yet to visit. Not all libraries are huge in size or collections. Libraries that specialize their collections or are housed in houses or smaller buildings are worth a visit, too. The former home of Mexican art collector and historian Guillermo Tovar de Teresa has been transformed into a historic house museum. The library has a marble fireplace that’s adorned with a gold French clock. I love the floor and the relative simplicity of the library that overlooks the garden.
The Library at the Mafra National Palace, Mafra, Portugal
Mafra is a municipality near Sintra in the region of Lisbon. It is mostly known for the Mafra National Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most libraries are not houses in palaces. Most libraries do not house 36,000 books that are from 200 to 700 years old. But that’s exactly what you’ll find at the library at the Mafra National Palace. It’s both a beautiful and impressive library.
Five Other Impressive Libraries
Unfortunately, I don’t have libraries virtual tours to point you to for these choices. They are however, to me, well worth visiting when you’re in their home cities.
Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library is one of my favorite urban libraries in the states. I’ve lived in Boston, so maybe that’s why it’s so special to me. It’s one of the most frequented libraries in the world. It opened in 1895. It was the first municipal library in the United States. This was the first library to loan books and other material to the public. Those are two pretty important claims to fame. According to a general survey, this library has a collection of 6.1 million books.
Folger Shakespeare Library
Folger Shakespeare Library opened in 1932 in Washington DC. The library is known for having the largest collection of the printed works of Shakespeare. This library offers advanced programs, Shakespeare education, poems, plays and lectures.
National Szechenyi Library
If you haven’t been to Budapest, you’re missing a wonderfully historic destination. My favorite place to explore is the Szabo Marzipan Museum. And just a short distance away when you’ve had your fill of marzipan is the National Szechenyi Library. The Hungarian aristocrat Count Ferenc Széchényi established the library in 1802. Széchényi traveled the world buying Hungarian books. He assembled and donated them to the nation. They opened the public library in Pest the following year.
In 1808, the Hungarian National Assembly created the Hungarian National Museum. The museum collected the historical, archaeological and natural relics of Hungary. The Museum merged with the Library. For the last 200 years it has existed as a national depository for written, printed and objective relics of the Hungarian past.
In 1846, the Hungarian National Museum moved into its new building. It was not until 1949 that the Library became a separate entity with its current name. In 1985, the library moved to its new home at the Buda Castle Palace.
Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen, Denmark
The Royal Danish Library gets 1.4 million visitors a year. If you like libraries with fantastic modern architecture, this is your place. In January of 2017, Denmark’s State and University Library and the Royal Library merged into the Royal Danish Library. As an aside, I also liked the neighborhood libraries in Copenhagen. Any city that has kept its neighborhood libraries open is a winner in my book! I found Copenhagen’s libraries well-designed and relaxing spaces. Some of the libraries even had good caffeinated vibes.
Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland
No matter where you stay while in Dublin, Trinity College is nearby. It’s a gorgeous, impressive library. The Trinity College Library is the largest library in Ireland. Over a million people a year visit the library. Why? Many visitors come to see the Book of Kells: a gorgeous 9th century illuminated manuscript. It is among Ireland’s greatest treasures. There’s also the famous Long Room, which you just have to experience for yourself.
When you think about it, the idea of a library is unique. Libraries virtual tours are even more unique. Public libraries operate on trust. Members of the community borrow books for free. They can even keep them for long periods of time. They offer many other perks, too. Even when libraries are not open for sharing with the public, as in the case of some of the libraries I’ve mentioned, they still are amazing places of art, history, architecture, and culture.
Which libraries have impressed you the most, and why? Know of libraries virtual tours to add to the collection?
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