Spectacular Libraries of Paris

Most people don’t go to Paris to see the libraries . . . but maybe they should.


The Mazarine

When you think of Paris, what comes to mind? Is it Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre  . . .  the libraries? If that last one wasn’t at the top of your list, maybe you should think again. The City of Lights is home to some of the most spectacular libraries in the world, and the fact that they’re all packed into a relatively small area makes library hopping a fun and unusual way to experience this amazing city.

For an interesting glimpse into Parisian culture and history, try touring some of these monuments to creativity and architectural genius.  Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne


Sorbonne University maintains one of the most beautiful libraries in Paris. Located in the 5th arrondissement, the Sorbonne Library is known for its stunning architecture and elegant décor. The result is a peaceful atmosphere, the perfect place for reading and study.

Visiting hours are Monday-Friday and one Saturday per month
17 rue de la Sorbonne 75005
Check out the website here

St. Genevieve Library


This amazing space was created by French architect, Henri Labrouste.  Known for its light and airy feel, its delicate iron arches give it a French Quarter, New Orleans feel. St Geneviève is a public, and university library which inherited much of its collection from St. Genevieve Abby. The building was completed in December 1850 and opened to the public on February 4, 1851.

Location:10 Place du Panthéon,
75005 Paris, France

National Library of France /  Richelieu Site

Labrouste Reading Room
After his success with the St. Genevieve library, Henry Labrouste was asked to oversee the expansion of the Richelieu site.  Labrouste and his team worked from 1854 through 1875 and one of the main projects was this marvelous reading room which bears the architects name.

Oval Reading Room


Another remarkable area in the Richelieu is the oval room. With its floor to ceiling book- shelves, it was created to store this library’s massive book collection.

Location: 58 rue de Richelieu 75002
Hours: 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday
Check out the website here 

The Mazarine

Visite de la bibliothque Mazarine

The Mazarine, the oldest public library in Paris, first opened its doors to scholars in 1643. This library was nearly lost in 1652 when, during a political upheaval, it was looted and thousands of books were burned or stolen. Fortunately, much of the collection had been hidden in the Abby of St. Genevieve.

It can be found in the 6th arrondissement on the Left Bank of the Seine, facing the Pont des Arts and the Louvre.
23 Quai de Conti 75006
Hours: 10 am to 6pm Monday to Friday; closed on weekends.
Check out the website here 

Bibliothèque Forney


With its blue roof and gothic towers, the Forney looks like something out of a fairy tale. Located inside the Hotel de Sens, this medieval castle is a little hard to find but well worth the effort. 

Located at 1 rue du Figuier 75004
Hours: 10am to 7.30 pm Wednesday and Thursday; 1pm to 7.30 pm Tuesdays, Friday, and Saturday; closed Mondays and Sunday.
Check out the website here


Images courtesy of :
Sorbonne – Zantastik, Mazarine – Marie Nguyen, St. Genevieve – Marie Nguyen, Richelieu Oval, Vincent Desjardins, Forteney – Pline


5 thoughts on “Spectacular Libraries of Paris

  1. Pingback: What the Library Lady Wants You to Know | The Library Lady Travels

  2. What amazing interiors and elegant architecture! The French aesthetic really shines through. I’ve been to some beautiful libraries but none compare to these.


    • I know, I work at a library that’s functional but not very beautiful. I honestly can’t believe some of the amazing libraries out there. Anymore, I look for libraries whenever I travel. I’ve seen some great ones.


  3. Dang, I was so busy drinking the world’s best hot chocolate – I know Angelina’s! I noticed you mentioned it in another post – that I completely missed the libraries. Now I’ll have to go back.


    • Hah! I should do a whole post on Angelina’s. Maybe they’d give me free hot chocolate next time. So sorry you missed the libraries. They’re worth a second trip.


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