guest post: five historic libraries to turn you into a reader

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We love travel and we are sure everyone who visits us here knows that. But other than travel, our other love is reading. And so we couldn’t resist this opportunity when we were approached to feature a guest post about libraries.


Shhhhh. From monastic reading rooms to an astonishing everyman’s book trove, Holiday Lettings takes a temporary vow of silence and explores five of the most historic libraries on the planet.

George Peabody Library, Baltimore

George Peabody LibraryPhoto credit: By Matthew Petroff (license) via Wikimedia Commons

From its marble floor to the decorative iron balconies all the way up to its vertiginous 61-foot roof, this labour of love is undeniably impressive.

Founded by philanthropist George Peabody for the people of Baltimore to enjoy, and now part of John Hopkins University, this huge temple of learning contains around 300,000 books. These mostly date from the 18th to 20th centuries and cover a broad range of reference topics, including history, art, religion and travel.

Trinity College Library, Dublin

Trinity CollegePhoto credit: Superchilum (license) via Wikimedia Commons

Trinity College’s Old Library is Ireland’s largest. It specialises in early printed works and dominates this attractive city-centre campus. The main attraction for visitors is the impressive Long Room (65 metres long, to be exact). Here you can marvel at the extravagant illustrations and graceful calligraphy of the Book of Kells, an ancient illuminated manuscript dating back to 800 AD.

See if you can spot writer Jonathan Swift among the pale marble busts. Then check out the barrel ceiling, a later development devised when the library’s groaning shelves called for an extra level to be added.

Bodleian Library, Oxford

BodleianPhoto credit: Koen de Geus (license) via

Part of the prestigious University of Oxford, the Bodleian is a must-see attraction on a visit to this genteel city. Walk the hallowed halls, from the hushed reading rooms to the Divinity School, to the Exhibition Room, then step back out into the quadrangles to admire the elegant frontage.

On your tour you may think you recognise certain spots – that’s because parts of the Bodleian featured in the Harry Potter films. Check online before making a special trip, as certain rooms close for university ceremonies and private events.

The Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janeiro

The Royal Portugese Reading RoomPhoto credit: Os Rúpias (license) via

The pale limestone facade here reveals a stunning interior heaving with around 350,000 volumes of Portuguese literature. It’s the largest assemblage of Portuguese works outside of Portugal itself.

Chandelier-lit, adorned with carved wooden arches and packed almost up to its soaring, ornate ceiling with valuable literature and New World maps, grand doesn’t quite cover the magnificence of this reading room. Time to take a seat at one of the dark wooden desks and put on your most studious face…

Strahov Monastery Library, Prague

StrahovPhoto credit: Pascal Hassenforder (license) via

Head to the imposing Strahov Monastery to see its two historic library spaces, lined with around 200,000 texts. The 17th-century Theological Hall is dotted with antique globes and features an entire wall of Bibles in various editions and languages. All of this is overlooked by a jaw-dropping ceiling fresco by painter Siard Nosecký.
Move on to the Philosophical Hall, a newer 18th-century addition, which sports another ceiling fresco by Vienna’s Anton Maulbertsch. You won’t be able to tell, but false book spines hide secret staircases up to the higher levels here. Be sure to book in advance onto a guided library tour to guarantee a glimpse of these awe-inspiring rooms.


Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, it was selected by us to be featured. This is a guest post written by Holiday Lettings, a company. 


37 thoughts on “guest post: five historic libraries to turn you into a reader

    alexraphael said:
    February 14, 2015 at 8:30 am


    Forestwoodfolkart said:
    February 12, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Aren’t t these fantastic places to visit? Are they on your itinerary soon, Monkeys? I have always dreamed of using one of those awesome old ladders to choose a book, as in the Portuguese reading room.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 12, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      These are ALL on our to visit list. We haven’t been to any of them but it’s now on the list…. We have seen some impressive ones that unfortunately we could not photograph BUT the image of them are in our minds 🙂

    White Postcards said:
    February 12, 2015 at 6:36 am

    Beautiful! Just stepping foot in those libraries would make me feel smarter:) -Ginette

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 12, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      Yeh, there is that feel to them, huh? Especially where people are sitting at those long desks, hunched over books and looking so studious. Thanks so much for reading. Hope you have been well.

    Ami (Yearful of Sundays) said:
    February 12, 2015 at 5:44 am

    And what of those of us who are already avid readers? This post makes us go maaaaaaad with joy! 🙂 So many stunning libraries!! Some of them look like pure magic. Ahhhh, thank you so much for this post! 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 12, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      Hahaha – yes! Avid readers can enjoy and have their eyes grow wide! But doesn’t it just make you want to visit a library right away? We went to our local one the day after we published it 🙂 Thanks for reading!

    unfinishedtravel said:
    February 11, 2015 at 10:55 am

    I love libraries, but sadly I have not been to any of these!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 11, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      We haven’t been to any of these either… so we had to accept this guest post purely from a wanderlust perspective 🙂 Two of our favourites were in monasteries…. so old and so full of character!

    Tvor said:
    February 11, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Another gorgeous library is the John Ryland library in Manchester, UK. It’s like walking into a cathedral!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 11, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Oooh… will have to be sure to add that to our list next time we visit England 🙂

    the eternal traveller said:
    February 10, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Have you been to the reading room at the State Library in Melbourne? It is gorgeous.

    Diana said:
    February 10, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    Love this post…I go crazy for these beautiful libraries as well. Reading in a place like one of these libraries must be magical!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 11, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      Hey Diana, YES – beautiful libraries and the complete silence whilst in there… just adds to the experience, right?!!

    particularkev said:
    February 10, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    Reblogged this on At the BookShelf.

    Curt Mekemson said:
    February 10, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Libraries and books stores: two of my favorite areas to explore. I am with you on reading. I am afraid my house somewhat resembles a library. 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 11, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      Hahaha – ours too! Books everywhere – we have had so many boxes donated/sold/given away… but we seem to restock just as quickly. We have vowed that this year, we do NOT buy another book until we have read all the ones on our bookshelves!! We have failed already 😉

        Curt Mekemson said:
        February 14, 2015 at 3:50 pm

        Us too… We gave way 2000 books and our bookshelves are still packed. LOL –Curt

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          February 14, 2015 at 9:13 pm

          Did we read that correctly?? 2000 – as in TWO THOUSAND?? There isn’t an extra zero in there??? Wow – that is amazing!

            Curt Mekemson said:
            February 17, 2015 at 3:37 pm

            2000 it was. 🙂

            wisemonkeysabroad responded:
            February 17, 2015 at 9:18 pm

            Gobsmacked!! Totally gobsmacked!

            Curt Mekemson said:
            February 18, 2015 at 5:43 am

            Every room has floor to ceiling bookcases. 🙂

    CrazyChineseFamily said:
    February 10, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Those libraries are sooo much cooler than the once I had to use in the past years. Usually those libraries I viaited where normal office buildings with rows of too few books 😦

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 11, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      Hahah – these libraries are worth a visit – not the ones we had to study in, right?!!

    Elizabeth said:
    February 10, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Wow, I love all of them!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 11, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      Always in awe at the architecture of them…. and the history that must be contained within…. *sigh*…

    discoveredinthelibrary said:
    February 10, 2015 at 11:50 am

    What a fun post.

    Gypsy Bev said:
    February 10, 2015 at 10:25 am

    In my gypsy travels, I stop at many libraries for book exchange and internet access. While the large libraries are more beautiful, the smaller ones always are more receptive to letting me use their computers, and have better book sales!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 11, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      Yes, you are very precise with saying that libraries are handy for internet access and also for book sales – speaking of which, we ducked into our local library and picked up four VERY good quality books for 50cents each today 🙂

    kayrpea61 said:
    February 10, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Well read 😉 Having only been to Bodleian and Strahov (of that group), it is hard to comment. For me, the Benedictine library at Melk Abbey is right up there as well. No photos permitted, so maybe that is why it doesn’t appear 😉

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 11, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      Oooh – would love to visit the Melk Abbey! We’ve been to two monastery libraries and we loved them both: one in St Gallen, Switzerland and one in Lima – just adore looking at books… even if its from afar 🙂

    Jess Carey said:
    February 10, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Fantastic post – I think that as a reader, I’m always looking for bookstores to visit when I travel, but I forget all about libraries! These are all gorgeous picks, too 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 11, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      We love exploring book shops too even if we can’t read majority of the titles …. we just like that feeling of browsing 🙂 We are book-addicts!! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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