view of Admont Abbey library

For book lovers, there’s nothing quite as lovely as a library – the ultimate book sanctuary. For a lot of bibliophiles, the first library they fall in love with is their local one, with local libraries providing unlimited value to children, as well as people of all ages, as a free resource and a vital community asset. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, libraries are open to the masses and act as a sanctuary to individuals as well as the horde of books that reside there. A library, no matter what it may look like, is quite a beautiful thing.

Throughout the world, there are certain libraries that take beauty to a whole new level, though, and act as actual artistic marvels. Despite universal literacy being a more modern goal, the first known library is well over 2,000 years old and was a grand thing meant for a king’s studies. Though the libraries on this list aren’t quite as ancient, some of the older libraries still around are also some of the most visually stimulating and awe-inspiring. Travelers who see the beauty in books may want to add these stunning book sanctuaries to their bucket list, because they are among the very best in the world.

Stuttgart City Library

Wide view of Stuttgart library

The public library of Stuttgart, Germany is a minimalist’s dream. Sleekly crafted with a crisp white design, the library’s seemingly only color is from the book spines that are housed on every floor. From the outside, Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart looks like it took some inspiration from "Hollywood Squares," with each vertical side hosting a nine-by-nine grid of cubes with windows open to the interior. The interior is much more complex, with the central reading room having five stories of open floors connected by a number of staircases in which patrons of all ages can navigate the impressive library in search of their favorite reads or something new to discover.

According to The Architectural Review, the architect and creative mind behind the Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart Eun Young Yi seem to have taken great inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s "2001 Space Odyssey" and it’s easy to see the similarities. Both the inside and outside of the library use the sterile color of white and symmetrical squares to great effect. The library has a futuristic feel, which makes even stepping into the building a unique experience.

The Mafra Palace Library

detail of Mafra Palace Library

Another grand library that makes great use of white, the Mafra Palace Library is a sight to behold. Unlike the public library in Stuttgart, the library located within Mafra Palace in Portugal is overwhelmingly intricate, with tall dome ceilings and a massive amount of carvings that will take your breath away. Once the royal family’s summer home, Mafra Palace contains a number of historical artifacts, and, according to Visit Portugal, its library is similarly equipped with books and manuscripts that date all the way back to the 16th century.

Cultura Portugal boasts Biblioteca do Convento de Mafra as one of the most crucial libraries in the country because it is home to collections like the illuminated Books of Hours and the Nuremberg Chronicle. The library itself is arguably just as impressive as its collection, being located in the "most noble" room of the Mafra Palace and consisting of a towering cross-shaped hall with a domed intersection. While the library keeps to a light color palette on the high walls and vaulted ceiling, the floors contain earth-toned patterns with reds, yellows, and blues. Interestingly enough, these polished colors bring out the same in the hundreds of old books the library contains, making the Rococo-style library an even more elegant architectural wonder.

view of Klementinum National Library
Inside Wiblingen Monastery Library
outside of Rampur Raza Library
Long Room in Trinity College Dublin