One of the worst parts of the pandemic for me has been the limitation on travel and even travel planning. I apparently spend a lot of time researching and planning travel, even for short trips, and all that has been put on hold. My husband and I are really privileged that being cooped up in our studio apartment is really the most challenging part of pandemic life. We know many people who have lost their jobs or have had their hours cut or their lives entirely disrupted. But I am still dreaming of all the places to go and things to see, and when I saw that Rick Steves had written an article on beautiful libraries worth traveling to, I knew I wanted to draft my own bucket list.
As you probably know if you follow Rick Steves, he concentrates mostly on European travel, so the libraries he picks like the Bodleian library in Oxford reflect that. He also seems to have a thing for the baroque–libraries that are almost cathedrals in their own right that glitter with gilding and smell of spicy, dusty histories.
Interviewed by American Libraries magazine, he had this to say about libraries “For me, libraries are the great equalizer. Everybody goes into the library, whether they’re powerful or not, whether they’re rich or not, and they realize, man, there is so much out there. We’re so little compared to all that there is in this time and place that we live. I like that dimension of libraries.”
Without further ado, here are some of the libraries I’m dreaming about visiting someday.
The Bodleian Oxford, England
Thomas Bodley’s library was opened in 1602, and if it looks familiar that’s probably because it’s been used as a set for films like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s closed right now, but they have some online exhibits available for perusal here on Tolkien and advertising in the 20th century.
Dokk1 Aarhus, Denmark
This is one of the most exciting new libraries in the world based on the idea that a library is a community center, gathering place, and hub for ideas–not merely a place for books. One of the features I love about this library is that there is a bell inside. This bell is activated by new parents in the hospital who can choose to ring the bell after the birth of their child. So every time you hear the bell ring, a new person has been brought into the community. You can take a virtual tour of the library, and you can learn more about the library in this Slate article.
Trinity College Library Dublin, Ireland
Does it get more gorgeous than a building that makes the books look like they’ll go on forever? The 18th century building holds the Book of Kells, a famous 9th century gospel.
Harold Washington Library Center Chicago, United States
We were all set to go to Chicago this May with one of my oldest friends. Whenever I travel, I try to make time to visit one of the libraries, and I think a visit to this indoor garden at the Harold Washington library would have been just lovely.
Bibliotheque Mejanes Aix-en-Provence, France
This library entrance could not be a more perfect homage to the works inside the building. I love how whimsical this library is and hope that one day I’ll be able to go back to France and visit it.
Do you visit libraries when you travel? What is the most beautiful library you’ve ever been to? Let me know in the comments!