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Take a Look, It’s in a Book: A Rainbow of Stunning Libraries Around the World

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The best way to get a read on a city is to head to its library. From Amsterdam to Monterrey, here are the world’s most beautiful places for peace, quiet, and long reads.

A version of this appeared in the March/April 2018 issue.
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Paris, France
The National Library of France dates back to 1368 when Charles V established the Royal Library. Located in Paris, it opened to the public in 1692 as one of the world’s first free public libraries. Its collection grew with books confiscated from...
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Utrecht, Netherlands
The Utrecht City Council originally established the Utrecht University Library in Saint John’s Church in 1584 as one of the first public libraries in the Netherlands. After the foundation of Utrecht University, this collection became the...
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Muyinga, Burundi
The Library of Muyinga in Burundi was designed by the Belgian group, BC Architects, and built by the community using locally sourced materials, such as clay for roof tiles. Completed in 2014, it is the first public library in the 709-square-mile...
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São Paulo, State of São Paulo, Brazil
In 1999 Brazilian businessman and bibliophile José Mindlin commissioned his grandson Rodrigo Mindlin Loeb and his friend Eduardo de Almeida to design a library for what Mindlin referred to as “The largest and most important private collection in ...
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Museumstraat 1, 1071 ZB Amsterdam, Netherlands
Located in the main building of the Rijksmuseum, the Rijksmuseum Research Library is the oldest and largest art history library in the Netherlands. Its collection has grown without interruption since 1885, and some of its most valued titles...
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Berlin, Germany
Nicknamed the “Berlin brain,” the Philological Library at Frei Universität Berlin was designed in the shape of a human cranium. Since the building’s opening in 2005, the library is primarily used as an academic space, but special architectural...
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101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540, USA
Established in 1800, the Library of Congress is the oldest federal institution in the United States. The library was destroyed by British troops just 14 years after its conception, and Congress used Thomas Jefferson’s collection of 6,487 volumes...
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José Mariano Abasolo 1024, Centro, 64000 Monterrey, N.L., Mexico
The Conarte—Monterrey, Mexico’s council for culture and art—commissioned Mexican design group Anagrama to create a modern and intimate way to showcase their library’s collection. The result was a bookshelf cocoon. Anagrama’s design uses a unique...
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Onedera 535, Constitución, Región del Maule, Chile
Constitución Public Library was opened in 2016 as part of an initiative to rebuild the coastal city after an 8.8 earthquake and tsunami devastated the area in 2010. Because Constitución is located within one of the biggest clusters of wood...
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ETH Zürich, Rämistrasse 101, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
The University of Zurich’s law library was first built in 1909. Eighty years later, Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was chosen to renovate the old building. He left the exterior mostly untouched, but for the interior he designed a stunning...
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15 Fukang Rd, Nankai Qu, China
The Tianjin Binhai Library opened in October 2017 and received 10,000 daily visitors in its opening week. It’s easy to see why it’s such a popular destination for book and architecture lovers—the five-story futuristic building...
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Pátio das Escolas da Universidade de Coimbra, 3004-531 Coimbra, Portugal
King John V of Portugal commissioned the Joanina Library in 1717. Baroque architect Gaspar Ferreira enlisted the best painters, guilders, cabinet-makers, and craftsmen to design the library’s three luxurious salons. The Joanina Library houses a...
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Sydney NSW, Australia
Australian collector David Scott Mitchell donated his vast personal book collection and the funds to house them to the New South Wales State Library in 1898, and the Sydney Mitchell Library was born. Though his offering was put to good work,...