Europe is home to some of the world’s most impressive collections and archives, spanning a rich history that goes back thousands of years. What makes these libraries special isn’t just their impressive collections, though. In many cases they also happen to be some of the greatest architectural masterpieces in the world. Here are five of the most important libraries in Europe, both in terms of their impressive collections and their equally-impressive architecture.
The National Library of France
There are few libraries in the world that can match the history and prestige of the National Library of France. This impressive archive features more than 14 million books and documents, and is the repository for everything published in France. It is housed in different buildings, but it’s the Richelieu site that boasts the finest architecture, with the oval reading room taking center stage. If you love libraries and you happen to be visiting Paris, you’ll want to pay a visit here.
The Vatican Apostolic Library
One of the most famous libraries in the world is the Vatican Apostolic Library. It also happens to be one of the oldest in existence and certainly one of the finest, architecturally speaking. You might remember this library being featured in The Da Vinci Code, but that movie was largely focused on the Vatican Secret Archives, which are actually a separate entity that was created in the 17th century. Many of the world’s greatest philosophical and theological masterpieces are archived in these hallowed halls.
The Library of El Escorial, Spain
One of the lesser-known European libraries in Europe is the El Escorial in Spain, but that doesn’t make it any less significant in European history. This beautiful building is actually housed in a monastery that at one time was also a Spanish Royal Palace. There is a lot of history in these halls, along with some very significant archives from Spanish history.
Wiblingen Monastery Library, Ulm, Germany
No European tour of world famous archives would be complete without a visit to the Wiblingen Monastery Library. This great example of German Baroque architecture may not have the vast archives found in some of the other libraries on this list, but it easily matches them in terms of its beauty. Don’t get me wrong – it does have an impressive collection as well.
The Codrington Library, Oxford, England
One final library that definitely deserves a place among Europe’s finest is the Codrington Library in Oxford, England. This library has more than 185,000 items in its collection – representing historical collections, legal collections, and, of course, the classics. The architecture is elegant and authoritative, as you might expect from a library that’s part of the world-renowned Oxford University.