6 most beautiful libraries in Switzerland

6 most beautiful libraries in Switzerland

In cold weather, it may be tempting to cosy up on the couch with a good book and forget that the rest of the world exists. However, if you’re a bookworm who also has a love for architecture, a day trip to any of these Swiss libraries will give you the escape you need. You’ll still get the peace and quiet you crave while also exploring the wondrous beauty of libraries.

The best Swiss libraries

Your favourite reading nook has yet to be discovered. It’s waiting among ceiling-high shelves, full of your favourite books, in a beautiful library in Switzerland. Here are six of our top spots to spend absorbed in the pages of literature.

1. Abbey Library of Saint Gall, St. Gallen

As the oldest library in Switzerland, the Abbey Library of Saint Gall is definitely one of the most stunning libraries in the world. Based on building plans, the library’s collection dates back to the 9th century and the Baroque Hall was built in the 18th century. The library is connected to the Abbey of St Gall, part of a beautiful complex that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Walking through the doors of this library in St Gallen and witnessing the gorgeous architecture could make you forget all about the books within its walls. Ceilings with intricate artwork and elegantly carved wooden balconies create the Rococo style that this Swiss library is known for. However, the volumes themselves are just as noteworthy, with the historical book collection making the Abbey Library of Saint Gall an important part of European heritage.

Video: YouTube/Swiss Commission for UNESCO

2. Basel University Library, Basel

Old libraries aren’t the only ones that amaze book lovers - libraries with large collections blow them away too. The Basel University Library is one of the biggest libraries in Switzerland with more than 8 million print and handwritten manuscripts, maps, diagrams, pictorial documents and other media. If that wasn’t enough to wow you, not only is this library in Basel impressive but the main library building is also very aesthetically pleasing.

In the 1960s, an elegant concrete dome was added to the 15th-century library to act as a reading room. With the dome shape fulfilling acoustic needs and curtain glass facades bringing in just the right amount of light, this modern four-storey cubic extension created by Hans Otto Senn is the perfect spot to read and study in peace. 

3. The Law Library of the University of Zurich, Zurich

Some libraries can feel dark and stuffy, but you definitely can’t say that about the Law Library of the University of Zurich. This institute library is full of light and airiness, with a glass dome roof and six oval reading galleries that appear to be floating on top of each other. 

Light maple wood was used for the galleries, funnelling the light down from the skylight to the white stone floors, creating an elegant space to pore over the reading material of one of the largest law libraries in Switzerland. Completed in 2004, the library in Zurich was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who wanted to create a beautiful and functional space for students at the university. From a single glance, it’s obvious that this goal was accomplished! 

Video: YouTube/Ank Kumar

4. Geneva Public Library, Geneva

The city of Geneva has countless magnificent sights to see, and the Geneva Public Library, also known as the Bibliothèque de Genève, is certainly one of them. As Geneva’s oldest institution, the library has a collection of over 2 million works, covering a wide range of subjects, which take up almost 60 kilometres of shelving. 

Not only is this library filled with all the texts you can imagine, but it also has an impressive lawn that provides a welcoming spot to take in the classic beauty of the library’s exterior. After spending long amounts of time in the large library reading rooms, the garden is just the place to get some fresh air and enjoy the sunshine. 

Image credit: Maykova Galina / External view of Geneva Public Library beautiful libraries in Switzerland

5. Cantonal and University Library of Lausanne, Lausanne

Looking for an outing that combines your love of libraries with your love of museums? Try a visit to the Cantonal and University Library of Lausanne. The library is one of the biggest public and university libraries in Switzerland, with the public collection kept at the Riponne site in the Palais de Rumine. 

Here, you can see the stunning architecture of the Florentine Renaissance-style building from the 19th century, before exploring the museums and library inside. The library in Lausanne won’t let you down, with a collection of books and multimedia items that occupy a special place in the cultural landscape of the canton of Vaud.

beautiful library in switzerland cantonal and university library in lausanne

6. Zentralbibliothek Zurich, Zurich

As the central library of Zurich, this library is bound to be a stunner. Zentralbibliothek Zurich is one of the city’s oldest cultural institutions, with a wide range of historical collections that date back to the Middle Ages. There are, of course, also collections of scientific literature along with travel guides, novels and advice books.

It was only in the early 1900s that the city and cantonal libraries were merged to form the city’s central library, realising the ambition of establishing a collection covering every area of knowledge. All of this is packaged in a stately building with five floors which is definitely something to look at. 

Other unique libraries in Switzerland

If you haven’t quite quenched your thirst for knowledge-filled libraries, consider taking a peek at these other unique libraries. The Swiss National Library in Bern plays a vital role in collecting, cataloguing and conserving a wide range of information connected with Switzerland. Being the national library of Switzerland, its great size shouldn't come as a surprise.

The Cantonal Library of Lugano is one of the most important cultural institutions in the city of Lugano, focusing on collections with reference to Italian and Ticinese culture. Not only is it historically and socially important, but it is also a unique-looking library.

Another stunning library is the Einsiedeln Abbey Library, which is part of a monastery. With manuscripts and books dating back to the 10th century, covering holy scripture and philosophical resources, the Rococo-style library is a sight to see. 

Find your new favourite library!

Are you ready to explore the number of lovely libraries Switzerland has to offer? The library of your dreams could be hidden among these gems. Do you have a favourite library? Tell us your favourite spots in the comments! Happy reading!

Thumb image credit: YueStock /

Simone Jacobs


Simone Jacobs

Editor for the Netherlands at IamExpat Media. Simone studied Genetics and Zoology at the Univeristy of Pretoria in South Africa before moving to the Netherlands, where she has been working...

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