Bookaholics will love this list of enticing libraries in The Swinging City – it is nothing but impressive how many libraries this city is home to, some of them not even explored enough.
There are so many book-filled spots to visit in London that it feels daunting to choose only one, especially if you are on vacation and do not have all the time to adventure on every street of London. Some libraries in this rainy city need no introduction – they are just breathtakingly beautiful, authentic, and elegant. From colossally big to secret libraries, London has everything for everyone. Some places have been here for centuries, so you will likely find large volumes of historic material; others are contemporary or well-kept secrets.
These are the libraries that deserve all your attention! Find here our top London hideouts all the bibliophiles out there need to tour.
“Where Royalty Lives” has, indeed, royal libraries – surprised?
London is recognised for its abundant history and culture, where royalty has had much to say over the centuries. This city symbolises the beauty and elegance of monarchy, which has a long past. And, since this history is very precious to the country, it has to be safely kept somewhere. Well, this “somewhere” is The Royal Library and Royal Archives, where significant holdings regarding royal history are preserved, but also a variety of material from other areas. Access to historic collections is granted to researchers or applicants who aim to use these materials for educational purposes. People can apply for access to the library, especially if they are there for historical research, but not everyone is accepted. The library aims to give access to a broad range of applicants, meaning that sometimes, first-time applicants are admitted to the detriment of repeat applicants.
Given the value of the information held here, it is only normal for the representatives to be cautious and selective regarding who enters the library. Surprisingly or not, data breaches happen pretty often in the UK, and libraries are no exception in this case. That is why their IT security departments should be given special attention, whether we talk about a majestic place like The Royal Library or a public archive such as London Library, British Library, and Hammersmith Library. The truth is that financial loss for these institutions from a data breach could be appalling, and while it is possible to claim compensation from an entity if you have experienced damage from a data leak, some incidents would be better prevented than managed.
However, this is not the only royal library in London – there are dozens of such places inspiring elegance, luxury, and regal beauty. Some of the most fascinating are:
King’s College London’s primary research library is one of the majestic libraries in London, and it is hard to decide on the aspect that makes it so astonishingly beautiful. Is it the neo-gothic architecture that makes it a hypnotically unique building or its many references to famous fiction such as Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code? While it is still unclear whether the Grade II-listed building was the site of Dumbledore’s office in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter (the movies), it is clear that it was featured in R. Langdon’s The Da Vinci Code. Nonetheless, you cannot admire the library’s mosaic floor and impressive book collections unless you are a King’s College London or buy a ticket for the Open House Weekend.
National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the most spectacular in the capital for exploring design and art. Thus, unsurprisingly, the library at the museum is the most pertinent choice in London for subjects like painting, sculpture, drawing, woodwork, and fashion. The impressive National Art Library is somehow hidden away within the museum, but we promise once you reach it, you will wish never to leave this place. Apart from the fact that it simply abounds in history, it is also free to join as long as you provide an ID to prove your address. So, if you are fascinated by decorative and fine arts, you should not miss this place where you are likely to lose yourself.
Swiss Cottage Central Library
This 1960s-inspired library is all about symmetry, so if you are a lover of curves and staircases and passionate about history and philosophy, this is the place you were looking for. Although it is a bit odd to compare this place with a Wes Anderson film, the resemblance is so evident that it is hard not to imagine yourself in the movie while exploring the Swiss Cottage Library. You will be thrilled to discover a brutalist style focused on texture, form, and material, so if you are a big fan of such a heavy-looking and haphazard-like design, we heartily encourage you to visit it next time when nearby.
Filled with hanging copper lamps and squishy floor cushions, the Wellcome Library’s second floor is the most astonishing spot in London to study medical history. But apart from historical medical artefacts, the Wellcome Collection is home to thought-provoking exhibitions, scientific papers, an Ancient Egyptian prescription, and top-notch cafes where you can sit to curl up with a book or listen to poetry readings. The impressive volume of holdings, gallery exhibits, and cosy study spaces make the Wellcome Library one of the most preferred in London. And the best part? You can have free access to the library as long as you sign up for a membership.
National Poetry Library
Though less aesthetically pleasing than other libraries in our top, the National Poetry Library stands out thanks to its vast collection of poetry that is, in fact, the most extensive collection on the globe. The Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre was opened by none other than T.S. Eliot in 1953, one of the most famous poets out there, if not the best. The library allows for book lending and opens doors of opportunities for those who want to participate in various events and competitions.
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