The 19 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World

It’s nearly impossible to define the most beautiful libraries while solely considering their purpose: to offer infinite access to knowledge to anyone at no cost. As the location of countless community resources and places of cultural engagement, the draw of these institutions is inherent. After all, as Albert Einstein once said, “The only thing you absolutely have to know is where the library is.”

Still, some have aesthetic pull as well. From the Americas to Europe, Asia, and Africa, visually beautiful libraries exist on nearly every continent. Located on university campuses, in monasteries, and even within a shopping mall, these palaces of learning are meant to be savored like a good book. Some are hundreds of years old, adorned with gilded finishes, carved wood shelves, and captivating frescoes. Others are strikingly modern, with designs conjured up by top contemporary architects featuring sleek lines, gravity-defying book storage, and futuristic details. In either case they capture the spirit of wonder and the pursuit of learning that is both necessary to design a one-of-a-kind space and often found in the patrons who visit it.

Here, AD surveys just a small collection of thousands of stunning athenaeums around the world, which top our list as the most picturesque.

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