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10 Incredible Libraries to Add to Your Travel Bucket List

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10 Incredible Libraries to Add to Your Travel Bucket List


Book lovers are notorious for seeking out bookish places to visit on holiday. From the famous stacks of historic bookshops to the homes of celebrated writers, there’s no shortage of travel selfies — or should we say, shelfies — to be found across social media.

Rather than turning to social media for inspiration this World Book Day, we’ve turned to the history books, or at least our own bookshelf. We’ve scoured the 8th edition of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites to compile a list of historic libraries every book lover should visit at least once.

Here are ten beautiful historic libraries to inspire your literary wanderlust.


Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex, Belgium

The Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp is a printing plant and publishing house that dates back to the Renaissance and Baroque periods. It was named for Christophe Plantin, the greatest printer-publisher of the late sixteenth century, and has been associated with the invention of typography. The extensive library contains the Officina Plantiniana archives.


Abbey of St Gall, Switzerland

The Abbey of St Gall was one of Europe’s most important monasteries between the 8th and early 19th century, and as such its library is one of the oldest and richest in the world. Containing around 160,000 books and precious manuscripts, including 400 volumes that are more than 1,000 years old, this is a must-see for bookish travellers.


Library of Celsus at Ephesus, Turkey

The Ancient City of Ephesus is an outstanding example of Roman architecture, and the Library of Celsus, completed circa 114-117 AD, is its crowning glory. Once called “one of the most impressive buildings in the Roman Empire”, the library was home to 12,000 scrolls and the mausoleum of the senator Celsus. Though the interior of the library was destroyed in an earthquake, visitors can still take in its impressive façade.


The Joanine Library, Portugal

Part of the University of Coimbra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Biblioteca Joanina is situated at the historic centre of the university. Built in the 18th century, the library is a stunning example of Baroque architecture as well as being just one of two libraries in the world whose books are protected from insects by a colony of bats.


Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil, Iran

Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, this monument to Sheikh Safi, an eminent leader of an Islamic Sufi order, is divided into seven segments that mirror the seven stages of Sufi mysticism. The library is considered the second most important library in Iran and contains historic religious and literary works.


Fasil Gebbi, Ethiopia

The fortress-city of Fassil Gebbi in the Gondar Region of Ethiopia was the residence of Ethiopia’s emperors during the 16th and 17th centuries. The city is divided into 8 parts including the Castle of Emperor Fasilides, the Castle of Emperor Iyasu, The Castle of Emperor David, and the Library of Tzadich Yohannes with its epic views.


Mogao Caves, China

Also known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, this system of 492 cave temples situated along the Silk Road have become famous for their wall paintings and statues. It was the discover in 1990 of the Library Cave along with the tens of thousands of manuscripts and relics it contained that make this a must-visit for book lovers.


Palafox Library in Puebla, Mexico

The historic city of Puebla was founded in 1531 at the foot of the Popocatepetl volcano near Mexico City. While its 16th and 17th-century buildings are a sight to behold, the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, credited with being the first library in the Americas, is the star of the show for book nerds. Established in 1646, the library houses over 41,000 books and manuscripts dating back to the 15th century.


Monastery and Site of the Escurial in Madrid, Spain

Built in the late 16th century, the Escorial is home to not one but three libraries: one behind the Chorus of the basilica, the second within the monastery itself, and the Royal Library, which was once the most advanced in Europe. The Royal Library houses many important illuminated manuscripts and rare books that live beneath stunning vaulted ceilings decorated with frescoes.


The Vatican Library in Vatican City, Holy See

The Vatican Apostolic Library was established in 1475, making it one of the oldest libraries in the world. Containing around 1.1 million printed books, 75,000 historic codices, and some 8,500 incunabula (books or pamphlets printed before the year 1501), this library is home to one of the most significant collections on earth.


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 World Heritage Sites, 8th Ed.

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