It’s seldom you find the words “library” and “romantic” in the same sentence. But we here at Romance Travel Concierge know all too well that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and the same goes for places you can find and celebrate love.
In fact, we think libraries have the potential to provide the most romantic of ambiances; dimly lit spaces, high ceilings, wooden and historic architecture… and the list goes on and on. We often encourage our clients to visit local libraries while traveling. Visits are free, informative, and allow you to explore an area’s local culture in an unconventional way.
Here are a few of our favorite libraries around the world:
Stockholm Public Library; Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm’s public library was designed by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund, also known for his work on the Skandia cinema and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Woodland Cemetery. Its round main hall, has every book in every Nordic language. (Le sigh.) But perhaps the most heavenly part is its white, textured roof that was designed to look like clouds. Here at Stockholm’s public library, we are literally on cloud nine.
Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal; Paris, France
Located just steps from the Bastille and Seine, the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, is a branch of the Bibliothèque National de France. It’s one of the smaller, but oh-so quaint libraries of Paris but still boasts plenty of historic charm. The façade dates back to the 17th century and used to be connected to the nearby building now housing the Gard Republican, and wasn’t turned into a public library until the French Revolution. Historic reading rooms and bookstores were constructed in the 19th century and restored by the city as recently as 2012. In our eyes, Paris’ enduring respect for this smaller library, is the epitome of love.
The Vatican Library; Rome, Italy
Roma is Italy’s geographical, cultural, and historical capital, so its no surprise we found one of our favorites here at the Vatican Library. As one of the world’s very oldest, the library houses not only theological documents of the papacy, but fascinating and often historically delicious artifacts such as Henry’s VIII’s love letters, ancient Chinese manuscripts, and one of the only 50 bibles made for the first ever Christian Roman Emperor. Like love, the wonders of The Vatican Library knows no bounds
Richard Riordan Central Library; Los Angeles, California
The Central Library is one of downtown Los Angeles’s most significant buildings. On the outside, it’s a prominent example of Art Deco design, but on the inside, there’s an elegant rotunda whose centerpiece is a bronze chandelier, a sweeping, magnificent staircase (a rom-com staple) that used to lead to the card catalogues and decorative stencils depicting important moments in California history.
Portuguese Reading Room; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Before you ask, YES, this is very much a library. But once you step inside, you’ll realize it’s more a palace devoted to books. Its limestone exterior was inspired by the famous Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, where it was built before being shipped to Rio de Janeiro. The interior is just as stunning with a red, white, and blue stained glass window letting natural light in through the ceiling. The breathtaking view embodies one of our favorite quotes, “where there is love, there is light.”
The Strahov monastery in Prague was originally founded in 1143. Despite wars, fires, and other disasters, the order endured and built its library in 1679. Its rich and often difficult history gives it an unspoken resilience and grit that is quite touching. The library’s best-known features are its remarkably intricate ceiling, which is covered in Biblical frescoes, and the “compilation wheel” that can turn and rotate shelves in order to make books easier to find without knocking any of them over. Yes, you heard right. Hashtag amazing.