Europe’s Most Incredible Libraries

books in a bookcase
10 Oct 2017

Packed with fascinating stories and amazing architecture, Europe’s libraries are some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Here at Asda Money, we’ve delved into the history behind some of the most spectacular libraries in Europe, uncovering the stories surrounding these interesting, literary places. So, whether you’re a family wanting something educational for the children, or a couple looking for a romantic break, there’s something for everyone to discover. 

We’ve also thrown in some handy travel advice such as flight and hotel costs, as well as other highlights of each destination, to help make the decision of where you take your next break that little bit easier.


Austrian National Library, Vienna

Few buildings showcase Vienna’s history and unique culture better than the Austrian National Library. The current building was completed in 1723, however, the site itself dates back to the Middle Ages.

Today, the library is home to various prized pieces from that era, including a set of Gospel books by Johannes von Troppau that were published in 1368. As well as historic treasures, its ornate architecture and decorative interiors provide a striking example of the 17th and 18th century European baroque movement.

The city of Vienna makes for a fantastic break any time of year. If you’re a fan of culture, take a wander around the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which boasts a world-class collection of fine art and ancient antiques. The winter street markets are also well worth a visit, as is grabbing a beer at Salmbräu, one of Vienna’s most popular breweries.

There’s always plenty to discover in Austria’s capital, and with return flights starting from as little as £50.00 per person*, and three-star hotels for two starting from just €33.98 (£30) a night between November and January, it’s not as expensive as you might think.

hofburg imperial palace, vienna

General Library of the University of Coimbra, Portugal

Once the capital of Portugal, Coimbra is a city with a glorious history. Today, it’s predominantly known as the home of the Universidade de Coimbra, which dates back to 1290, making it the oldest university in the Portuguese-speaking world.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site houses a number of historic and culturally significant buildings, and the magnificent General Library continues to be used by Coimbra’s 23,000-strong student population today.

The library consists of two buildings - the New Building built in 1962, and the Joanina Library built in 1725. Featuring incredible painted ceilings and gold-plated ornaments, around 300,000 medieval books and manuscripts line the shelves of this amazing structure.

There are plenty of other historical activities to enjoy in Coimbra, aside from the library. The Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro is definitely worth a visit. Built over the Roman forum, it has an incredible artistic collection complete with sculptures and galleries. 

The best way to get to the city is to fly to Porto and take public transport to Coimbra. Return flights from London to Porto start from as little as £32.00, with three-star accommodation for two available for just €24.93 (£22.00) a night.


The Library of El Escorial, Spain

El Escorial, the historical residence of the Spanish monarchy, is situated just 28 miles north of Madrid. During the 16th and 17th century, this was a key centre of power in Spain, housing both the Spanish royal family and the leaders of the Catholic church.

In the 16th century, King Phillip II of Spain worked with the prominent architect Juan de Herrera to design and build the magnificent Library of El Escorial. From the marble floors, to the handcrafted bookshelves and intricately painted ceiling, its royal influence is clear to see, even today.

The amazing city of Madrid is full of attractions. The Prado Museum displays original works by Spanish masters, the city centre is brimming with unique boutiques, delis, cafés and bars, and if you’re a football fan, Real Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium is well worth a visit.

Whether you go with a partner, friends or family, the Spanish capital is perfect for a weekend getaway. Winter is the cheapest time to go, with return flights starting from as low as £36.00 in January. You can also find a great deal on your accommodation, with three-star hotel rooms for two from just €38.53 (£34) a night.


Stuttgart City Library, Germany

In contrast to Europe’s historic libraries, the Stuttgart City Library is strikingly modern. Opened in 2011, the distinctive cube-shaped building appears as a 9x9 grid of white cubes by day, but by night each box glows bright blue, creating a spectacular effect on the city skyline.

The interior of the building is equally intriguing. Absolutely everything, from the floors, to the bookshelves, to the ceiling, is bright white. This means that when you’re in the building, the only colour comes from the books on the shelves and the people in the library.

The city of Stuttgart is also the main home of the German car industry, so while you’re there be sure to check out the Porsche and Mercedes Benz museums. If you’re looking for something slightly more romantic, head up to Württemberg Hill. There you’ll find a beautiful early 19th century chapel, with incredible views of the region.

January flights to Stuttgart start from £50.00 per person, with three-star hotel rooms for two from €62.32 (£55.00) per night. Don’t be put off by the thought of low temperatures at this time of year either. The city sits on the second-largest complex of natural springs in Europe, so you can escape the cold at the popular Das Leuze mineral spa.

interior of stattgarrt city library

The National Library of France, Paris

On the banks of the River Seine, just east of downtown Paris, the four towers of the National Library of France dominate the horizon. Although the structures appear contemporary, the building was created in the late 20th century, and the library has a history that predates even the printing press.

Now one of the largest research libraries in the world, its home to over 15 million books and printed documents. The collection has been growing since 1368, when Charles V inherited a collection of manuscripts from his predecessor, John II, and began storing them at the Louvre.

Whether you’re a family, a couple, or travelling alone, there’s so much to discover in Paris. From the eclectic art collections at the Louvre and the iconic Eiffel Tower, to the historic Notre Dame cathedral and the city’s award-winning eateries, France’s cultural capital has something for everyone.

Return flights from London to Paris start from £58.00 per person in the New Year, while you can find three-star accommodation for two for as little as €33.98 (£30.00) a night. That should save you a bit of money, so you can indulge on everything the city has to offer.


Video sourced from geographyuberalles


Before you jet off…

If you’re planning to visit one of these incredible libraries on your winter break, don’t forget to buy your travel insurance and collect your currency before you go. At Asda Travel Money, we offer a 0% exchange rate at 135 bureaux across the UK.

In the meantime, why not browse our book store? We’ve got the top-selling hardbacks, paperbacks and kids’ books available online and in selected stores, with great deals on a range of fiction and non-fiction.

*The above figures are provided for indicative purposes only, and are based on the exchange rate correct as of 11:30 on 29/09/2017.

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