The Stadsbiblioteket (The City Library). Stockholm (Sweden)

Photo: Wojtek Gurak

The Stadsbiblioteket, the main branch of the Stockholm Public Library System, is one of the most distinctive buildings in the Swedish capital. The 360-degree tower of books at the top is a bibliophile’s temple to reading in-the-round. The graceful rotunda is open to the public, to climb to the top of the stacks and a peer down on the collections below.

The library is an example of Nordic Classicism, pioneered by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund in the 1920s. The slightly chilly façade is, at the same time, oddly inviting, as if to say “we are here to work, but all are welcome.” This style was sometimes known as “Swedish Grace,” a simplified and accessible classicism that had great influence on everything from furniture design to sculpture.

Beyond its unique architectural design, the Stadsbiblioteket contains over 2 million volumes and more than 2.4 million audio tapes, and was one of the first libraries to allow direct access to the stacks without the help of a retrieving librarian.  It is also host to the International Library, housed across two stories of an annex behind the main building. The collection catalogs books in more than 100 languages, with more than 50,000 titles available to loan.

Know Before You Go

Stockholm’s Public Library is along the northeast corner of Observatorielunden park in Stockholm’s Vasastaden district. It’s open Monday through Friday from 10am to 9pm (except Tuesday, they open at noon), and Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm (closed on holidays). It’s a library, so of course it’s free.

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