For serious bookworms, the greatest libraries of the world are well worth an international pilgrimage - here are the most impressive locations to curl up with a good book

Library Hall, Clementinum, Prague

With foundations dating back to 1722, this beautiful Baroque library is part of the vast Clementinum complex and is decorated with frescoes by Josef Diebel.

Legend has it that the Jesuits who founded the library in 1622 arrived with only one book but grew the collection to 20,000. Some of the markings on the bookshelves date back to the opening of the library.

The Royal Library Copenhagen, Denmark

Known as the Black Diamond, the neo-modernist Royal Library was built in 1999 and offers stunning harbour views. It's the largest library in Scandinavia and holds nearly all known Danish printed works. The building contains a concert hall, cafe and exhibition spaces, as well as a fresco by Danish artist Per Kirkeby.

Library of Congress, Washington DC

After the original Library of Congress burned down in 1814, President Thomas Jefferson offered his own personal library as a replacement. Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, is represented in the decorative mosaics and the collection contains an impressive 32 million catalogued books.


New York Public Library, New York

Perhaps best known for its appearance in Ghostbusters, the New York Public Library and its iconic lion statues are a must-see for tourists. Inside, the epic Rose Main Reading Room stretches over two city blocks, while murals by New York artist Richard Haas adorn the Periodicals Room.

Marciana Library, Venice

One of the oldest surviving libraries in Italy, construction began on the Marciana in 1527 and continued for more than 50 years. The walls are adorned with works by important Venetian artists like Alessandro Vittoria, Titian, and Tintoretto. Much of its vast collection is the result of a 1603 law which required local printers to donate a copy of every book published to the library.

Trinity College Old Library, Dublin

The main chamber of the library, the Long Room, is nearly 65m long and lined by marble busts of great philosophers and writers - including a centrepiece of Jonathan Swift by Louis Francois Roubiliac. Many visit just to see the Book of Kells, a richly decorated medieval manuscript that contains the four Gospels of the New Testament.

Stuttgart City Library, Germany

Resembling a crystalline block from the outside, this library emits a blue glow at night. Inside, the nine-storey building is crisp and white with a five-storey reading room shaped like an upside-down pyramid. Designed to be the city's cultural heart, there are meeting rooms, a cafe and a rooftop terrace on offer, and patrons who prefer to read at night can turn up after hours at the "Library for Insomniacs".

Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt

While Alexandria's original library was destroyed over 1600 years ago, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina hopes to recapture its spirit. The library is housed in a massive disc-shaped building, decorated with letters and characters from over 100 languages. It contains a planetarium, four museums, research centres and a massive reading room that tilts towards the sea.

Bodleian Library, Oxford University, England

Scenes from Harry Potter were shot at the Bodleian Library. Photo / iStock
Scenes from Harry Potter were shot at the Bodleian Library. Photo / iStock

If this library looks like a great place to conjour up some ancient magic, it seems the producers of Harry Potter would agree - scenes from The Chamber of Secrets and The Goblet of Fire were filmed in Duke Humfrey's medieval reading room. However, its history stretched back far further, with generations of scholars studying behind its well-learned walls.