It's always a good time to curl up with a great book—even more so when you have libraries as beautiful as we do in Los Angeles. Sure, you may not find Hogwarts-like halls filled with books, but L.A. does have its fair share of Renaissance-inspired sanctuaries and Art Deco shrines to literature. From a Downtown landmark to a state-of-the-art complex in Santa Monica, these are the most beautiful libraries in Los Angeles. Oh, and while you're checking out a book, make sure to brush up on how your L.A. library card can save you cash.
Los Angeles Central Library
The city's main library is worth a look even if you've no interest in borrowing books. The exterior is an Egyptian and Mediterranean beauty, topped with a dramatic, tiled pyramid tower and decorated with bas-reliefs. The most stunning features, though, reside in the second floor rotunda, with its deco-meets-arabesque dome, California history mural and globe chandelier.
630 W 5th St, Downtown L.A. Mon-Thu 10am-8pm; Fri, Sat 9:30am-5:30pm; Sun 1-5pm
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
This founding building on the UCLA campus resembles a church, and that's not by accident; the brick building was supposedly modeled after Milan's Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio. Step inside the Romanesque revival structure and you'll find a sanctuary-like rotunda at its center.
Election Walk, Westwood. Hours vary.
Photograph: Courtesy UCLA (left, right); Yelp/Brittany R (middle)
Doheny Memorial Library
Like many of the other brick buildings on campus, USC's main library borrows elements from Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Its main study hall is a quintessential university library with high, ornate ceilings and dangling chandeliers.
3550 Trousdale Pkwy, University Park. Hours vary.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia/Padsquad19 (center), Yelp/Matt D (left), Yelp/Garima C (right)
Hoose Library of Philosophy
USC boasts over a dozen libraries on campus, and this intimate courtyard building may be its most beautiful one. Inside you'll find dark wood, stained glass windows, stone arches and a cathedral ceiling.
3709 Trousdale Pkwy, University Park. Hours vary.
Photograph: Courtesy Matt Construction
West Hollywood Library
This L.A. County library is startlingly nice, with a ground-floor cafe, views of the Hollywood Hills, an LGBT collection and a parking garage that bears both Retna and Shepard Fairey murals.
625 N San Vicente Blvd, West Hollywood. Mon-Thu 11am-7pm; Fri, Sat 10am-6pm; Sun closed
Photograph: Courtesy Johnson Favaro (top left, right), Yelp/Stanley L (bottom left)
Memorial Branch Library
The Mid-Wilshire branch of the L.A. Public Library owes its English Tudor-like exterior to the work of two local luminaries: Griffith Observatory architect John C. Austin and Highland Park art glass experts Judson Studios.
4625 W Olympic Blvd, Mid-Wilshire. Mon, Wed 10am-8pm; Tue, Thu noon-8pm; Fri, Sat 9:30am-5:30pm; Sun closed
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jeanne W
Pasadena Public Library
The first building to open in Pasadena's Civic Center looks much as it did in the 1920s: a courtyard entrance leads to a narrow, high-ceiling hall lined in dark wood shelves.
285 E Walnut St, Pasadena. Mon-Thu 9am-9pm; Fri, Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 1-5pm.
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Joyce W (left), Yelp/Lolia S (right)
Once the castle-like home of Glendale's Brand family, this quiet canyon library boasts a stunning Spanish, Moorish and Indian-inspired structure at its center.
1601 W Mountain St, Glendale. Mon-Thu 10am-8pm; Fri-Sun 10am-5pm.
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Joseph A (top and bottom left), Yelp/Kym B (right)
Santa Monica has a handful of notable libraries, from the bright main branch to the midcentury stone facade of the Montana Avenue branch. But this 2014 expansion to the city's library system is a much more stylish, contemporary take than the others, with its geometric canopy and patio-like orientation.
2201 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica. Mon-Thu noon-9pm; Fri noon-5:30pm; Sat 10am-5:30pm; Sun closed.
Photograph: Courtesy Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Manhattan Beach Library
This new, glassy library looks lovely as it glows at night, but by far its most alluring asset is its ocean views from the top floor.
1320 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach. Mon-Wed 10am-9pm; Thu 10am-6pm; Fri noon-6pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 1-5pm.
Photograph: Courtesy L.A. County Public Works
This one comes with a caveat: You can't actually check books out of the Huntington, and you can't use it's reading rooms unless you're a qualified scholar. But the main library's hall is bright and stately on the outside and dark and handsome on the inside, with everything from a manuscript of Chaucer’s "Canterbury Tales" to the Gutenberg Bible.
1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino. Mon 10am-5pm; Tue closed; Wed-Sun 10am-5pm.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia/Aaron Logan (left), Michael Juliano (right)
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