Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right New York State icon-chevron-right New York icon-chevron-right The most gorgeous libraries in NYC

The most gorgeous libraries in NYC

You don’t have to like reading to geek out over the most gorgeous libraries in NYC, from the NYPL to Jefferson Market

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/sarahtarno
By Dan Q Dao and John Marshall |

Whether you're a bookworm or an architechture addict, you're certain to fall in love with the most stunning NYC libraries. Because you have to admit: Libraries are some of the most beautiful NYC buildings to visit. Gotham has no shortage of great architecture, but our libraries make for some of the most interesting lesser-known NYC attractions. One of the best things to do in Manhattan is visit the New York Public Library, which ranks as one of the most famous book dens in the world. But there are plenty more lesser known—yet equally jaw-dropping—libraries worth getting to know. From Jefferson Market to the Morgan Library, these are the most gorgeous libraries in NYC.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to New York attractions

The most gorgeous NYC libraries

Photograph: Courtesy Max Touhey Photography
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

New York Public Library

icon-location-pin Midtown West

This iconic location, proudly guarded by regal-looking marble lions, is among the city's most ornate public spaces. The pièce de résistance is of course the Rose Reading Room—who wouldn’t be inspired by all those crystal chandeliers? But if you’re here for the books, you won’t be disappointed either: There are some 50 million items spread out across these stacks.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Car Los
Museums, History

The Morgan Library & Museum

icon-location-pin Murray Hill

Originally the private library of none other than John Pierpont Morgan—yup that J.P. Morgan—this lavish edifice was first dedicated to bookish pursuits in 1910. In 2006, a massive renovation by the famed Renzo Piano brought more natural light into the building and doubled the size of the exhibition space. Today, a museum welcomes visitors to see collections of original Michelangelo drawings and Steinbeck manuscripts and a theater, Gilder Lehrman Hall, regularly hosts recitals and concerts.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Steve Guttman NYC
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

New York Public Library, Jefferson Market Branch

icon-location-pin Greenwich Village

This former courthouse building has been an important part of the Greenwich Village community for more than four decades. Arched stained glass windows are some of the major architectural draws, along with carved doorways, a public garden, and a variety of mural-size artwork. Also, it looks like a freakin’ Victorian castle, so there’s that.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Caitlin C.
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

New York Society Library

icon-location-pin Upper East Side

The townhouse-set New York Society Library includes some cozy reading rooms that are open to the public—but you have to be a member check out a book. (After all, it is called a society). But the Upper East Side location deserves a spot on this list regardless: It’s the oldest book lender in the city, opened in 1754, and holds some 300,000 volumes.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/kyle rw
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch

icon-location-pin Prospect Heights

Designed to physically resemble an open book, this 1941 Art Deco building is arguably Brooklyn’s most popular library. Overlooking Grand Army Plaza, this branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system also boasts an outdoor performance space for concerts and other events. Among the library's strongest suits is its first-floor Youth Wing, with designated spaces for toddlers and teens to discover a love of reading.

<p>New York Public Library for the Performing Arts</p>
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

Whether you’re looking for some worthwhile literature on your favorite ballroom dancer or would rather gawk at beautiful people—all while hanging out in a sleek, modern space—this library will not disappoint. Housed within the Lincoln Center complex, naturally, this branch of the NYPL is known specifically for the Billy Rose Theatre Collection, one of the world’s largest collections with works about the performing arts.

Poets House, 101 TTD
Photograph: Courtesy Poets House
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

Poets House

icon-location-pin Battery Park City

What better place to get some inspiration than this poetry mecca touting views of Rockefeller Park and the Hudson River? Founded in 1985 by poet laureate Stanley Kuntz, the whimsical, sunlit book den is fitted with quirky decor like a canoe-shape bookcase, an old-fashioned birdcage and antique school desks. And with some 70,000 volumes to peruse, there’s no doubt you’ll get your poetry fix here. The best part? It’s free and open to the public. There’s even a Children’s Room for the youngest sonneteers.

Brooklyn Public Library, Pacific Branch
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Reading Tom
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

Brooklyn Public Library, Pacific Branch

icon-location-pin Park Slope

Opened in 1904, this library isn’t the largest even in Brooklyn, but it has an antiquated charm that makes it worth a stop if you’re a local or happen to be in the area. Architecture buffs will get a kick out of the century-old beaux arts building, which was thankfully saved from demolition in 2013 by City Council. It’s also notable for being the first Carnegie library in Brooklyn.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/edwardhblake
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

New York Public Library, Yorkville Branch

icon-location-pin Upper East Side

A bona fide historical landmark—it’s been added to both the National and State Registers of Historic Places—this Palladian-inspired, James Brown Lord–designed building is one of Manhattan’s most elegant. Opened officially in December of 1902, it was the first of the Carnegie-funded branches of the New York Public Library. Architecturally, it boasts a limestone facade with soaring arched windows and Ionic columns.

Ready to explore more of NYC?