Over the centuries, kings, presidents and other luminaries have constructed libraries not just as book repositories, but as symbols of knowledge, power and wealth. Not only were these commanding structures symbols of the prosperity of a nation, they also helped harmonise with the study and imagination that would take place within. As some of the oldest countries in the world, Europe has amassed some impressive libraries, from Baroque masterpieces to cutting-edge modern structures that are all sure to thrill.
Admont Abbey Library in Admont, Austria
Although located in a rather obscure Austrian town, the library enthusiast could not want for a more beautiful locale to read in. As one of the largest monastic libraries in the world, the Admont Abbey Library is a masterpiece of baroque architecture. Upon entering, visitors will feel like they stepped into book heaven, literally. The bookshelves are all painted white with golden accents while large windows bask the space in natural light and the cavernous ceilings are covered in frescoes that show the progress of human knowledge all the way up to divine revelation. This decoration, according to the library staff, is meant to stress the purity and elegance that is the essence of knowledge. Those in search of knowledge should be comforted by the fact the contents of the library match it's decoration in their grandeur. From antique books to ancient manuscripts, this isn't a place to check out the latest in literature, but a place to actually touch and read some of the oldest and most difficult to find literature in Europe.
Philological Library at Free University, Berlin, Germany
The Philological Library is the kind of library that doesn't play coy with its purpose. The exterior is as intriguing as it is odd, built by Foster and Partners to resemble a giant brain made from aluminum and fibreglass with windows that open and close to suit Berlin's varying climate. While the exterior will undoubtedly draw visitors in, it is the interior that will make them stay. The design uses curves and the most sterile white colouring that anyone has ever seen to imbue the entire building with a kinetic feel. The bookshelves and reader stations all serve as the interconnected neurons and axons in the brain and the metaphor continues even further as the library is split into two hemispheres that gradually narrow in size until they reach the cupola. Not only do they have a fantastic collection inside, but visitors will simply be too intrigued not to explore the Philological Library in full.
Old Library in Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Located in Trinity College, the Old Library is a highlight of the campus. The most famous feature in one of the United Kingdom's oldest libraries is it's 65-metre long so-called 'Long Room', which resembles the nave of a large church. The stacks in the Long Room are punctuated by detailed marble busts of important figures from the history of Trinity College, from Aristotle to Edmund Burke. However, the busts pale in comparison to the treasures that can be found inside. The Old Library's primary treasure is its illustrated gospel book, the Book of Kells, which sits on permanent display in the library. There are also temporary exhibits such as the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and a collection of Samuel Beckett's letters.
Black Diamond Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen, Denmark
Although relatively new among Europe's libraries, the beautiful Black Diamond has proven to be both a classy and revolutionary addition to the collection as well as to the Copenhagen skyline. Those searching for the Black Diamond certainly won't be able to miss it as the shapely black glass building juts out over the waterfront like a ported ship. From the interior, this slanted glass provides an unparalleled view over Copenhagen's waterfront to readers while keeping the entire library beautifully lit. The building is actually separated in two by bridges that run through the atrium. These two halves serve as a symbol of Denmark's past and present with older books housed in one area while newer fiction is just across the bridge.
Francois-Mitterrand Library in Paris, France
The Francois-Mitterrand Library is just a portion of the French National Library whose ornate individual complexes are home to a mind-boggling amount of collected knowledge, but it is also a particular visual highlight of the library overall. Built by Dominique Perrault in 1989 following international competition for its design, this section of the library looms over the Paris skyline, though not quite as prominent as say, the Eiffel Tower. Many of its architectural cues come from other building in Paris, including an imitation of industrial architecture styles that has proven controversial among local Parisians. However, while this streamlined, sleek building is the very essence of modern architecture on the outside, the interior is warm, welcoming and a very exciting sight. Its rolling ceiling and gentle lighting provide the perfect venue for the pursuit of knowledge.