Believe it or not, NYC’s libraries are some of the most prestigious around the country (and world for that matter). Whether you’re looking for somewhere to curl up with your new book, or want somewhere lesser known to admire architecture, there’s plenty of places to do it! From the famous New York Public Library in Midtown to lesser known (but equally beautiful) spots, you’re sure to be in awe when you see the detailing and book collections these places have to offer. Without further ado, these are the best and most gorgeous libraries in NYC to visit!
1. New York Public Library – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Midtown
The most notable library in NYC is none other than the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library in Midtown. Complete with dozens of stunning chandeliers and millions of works ready to be explored, why wouldn’t you want to spend an afternoon in the iconic Rose Reading Room (pictured above)? Stop by and see their collection of items that aim to “inspire and empower visitors to discover, learn, and create new knowledge—today and in the years ahead.”
Where: 5th Ave and 42nd St
2. The Morgan Library & Museum, Murray Hill
What was once the private library of John Pierpont Morgan (yes, thee JP Morgan), this architectural beauty was gifted to the city in 1910 and then renovated once again in 2006. It’s full of a collection of jaw-dropping historical works, including Beethoven music, an early copy of Frankenstein, and more. When you’re not thumbing through historical artifacts in their naturally lit exhibition space, you can visit Gilder Lehrman Hall for occasional concerts and recitals.
Where: 225 Madison Ave
3. Brooklyn Public Library – Central Library, Brooklyn
Central Library is arguably Brooklyn’s most notable library, and its beautiful architecture is meant to resemble an open book. The 1941 Art Deco building is perched in front of Grand Army Plaza and hosts many events and concerts in their outdoor space. The sweeping grand lobby is something to behold and their vast contemporary and historical collections are worth your hours of browsing.
Where: 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn
4. Jefferson Market Library, Greenwich Village
Jefferson Market Library has been a Greenwich Village staple for years now, and why wouldn’t it be when it looks like a Medieval castle? Between the stain glass windows, carved doorways, public garden, and more, it’s jaw dropping both inside and outside. It originally being a courthouse adds to the mystique, alongside its Adult Reading Room, first-floor Children’s Room, and beautiful brick-arched basement called the Reference Room.
Where: 425 Avenue of the Americas
5. New York Academy of Medicine, Upper East Side
The New York Academy of Medicine has been open to the public for over 140 years now, and it’s home to one of the most significant historical libraries in medicine and public health in the world. We’re talking about all sorts of health documents and artifacts that tell the history of health in our country: from journals on small pox to ancient medicine recipes. They also host many health-focused events you can attend!
Where: 1216 5th Ave
6. New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Square
Located inside the Lincoln Center, this library lies more on the performing arts side than the book side, but it’s still a great visit! It’s home to the Billy Rose Theatre Collection (one of the world’s most extensive research collections in the fields of theatre, film, dance, music, and recorded sound), and they constantly host events, panels, and exhibitions about performance art.
Where: 40 Lincoln Center Plaza (entrance at 111 Amsterdam between 64th St and 65th St)
7. Poets House, Battery Park City
As the name suggests, Poets House is a poet’s dream, and a great place to come for inspiration. It sits right near Rockefeller Park and boasts lovely views of the Hudson River (that will surely get the creative juices flowing). Aspiring poets and writers frequent this hangout in order to browse their 70,000+ volumes of literature and write works of their own. They also offer tons of programs for children and adults alike who are interested in diving into the world of poetry.
Where: 10 River Terrace
8. New York Society Library, Upper East Side
Another Upper East Side library is the New York Society Library, who’s been around since 1754, and resided in its current townhouse since 1937. With over 300,000 volumes of info ready to be read, you can hangout in their cozy reading rooms free of charge, but you have to be a member of the library to check out any books. They also host free exhibits and events that are open to all!
Where: 53 E 79th St
9. Butler Library, Morningside Heights
Butler Library resides on Columbia University’s Morningside campus, and from the outside, it looks like a European facade. Once you acquire a guest pass, you can find tons of resources and books in their collection to help you cozy out in their space. With over 2 million books shelved in the maze of stacks, you’ll be in awe as you check out inscriptions from writers and philosophers like Homer and Dante on the walls. This gorgeous library just oozes Ivy League.
Where: 535 W 114th St
10. Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, Midtown
The all-new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library just received a major renovation that now ranks it as one of our favorites. The library offers tons of services and resources, including unlimited browsing, seating, computer access, a free publicly accessible rooftop terrace, and more. Plus, this summer will see the return of in-person programs and classes as well! There’s also a Thomas Yoseloff Business Center, with additional research materials and services!
Where: 455 5th Ave