Boston Public Library

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Essential Boston attractions: Boston Public Library
Back Bay Free

The BPL is actually two libraries. The original structure, designed by Charles McKim and completed in 1895, is now the research library, while an extension opened in 1972 to function as a general library. Frequented by local students and casual book-browsers, the complex is well worth visiting. Most days you can join an informal art and architecture tour conducted by volunteers (call for times), but the labyrinthine structure is a joy to get lost in as well. At the center of the building is the cloistered courtyard, with its central fountain—a tranquil place to linger. Bates Hall (the expansive second-floor reading room named after an early benefactor) runs the entire length of the library, and features a majestic barrel-arched ceiling. Another highlight is John Singer Sargent's recently restored epic mural, the Triumph of Religion, which dominates the third floor gallery; there are also murals by 19th-century French painter Puvis de Chavannes, among others. The modern wing of the library—which echoes its parent's materials, lines and proportions in a modernist vocabulary—has had its critics but has aged well.

Venue name: Boston Public Library
Address: 700 Boylston Street

Cross street: at Copley Square
Opening hours: June-Sept 9am-9pm Mon-Thur; 9am-5pm Fri, Sat. Oct-May 9am-9pm Mon-Thur; 9am-5pm Fri, Sat; 1-5pm Sun
Transport: Green line to Copley
Price: Free