An Imperial Library That Continues To Inspire Awe

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The impressive Austrian National Library is the former Imperial Library of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  You can easily see why it is considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

Austrian national library
image credit: TIna Monumentalia

The Imperial Library was created in the first half of the 18th century in a wing of the Hofburg Palace, the winter residence of the Hapsburgs.  It was built on the orders of Emperor Charles VI (father of Empress Maria Theresa and grandfather of Queen Marie Antoinette) who wanted a library to impress the world. I can’t imagine who would fail to be impressed with the end result.

Entrance to the Imperial Library

The State Hall, which is the central part of the library, is a truly beautiful structure.  It is a grand 80 meters long and 20 meters high with frescoed ceilings painted by the Court painter of the time.

Austrian Imperial Library

Austrian National Library

The two story room is filled with leather-bound books accessed by wooden staircases on wheels as well as other royal collectibles like two ginormous 400 year old globes representing the Earth and the heavens.

Library steps from the Austrian National Library

This State Hall is so pretty that I can’t believe much intellectual work would happen here.  You would be constantly gazing at something else that caught your eye.

gilded pillar from the Imperial Library

I was lucky enough to have a telephoto camera lens with me so that I could capture some of the detail on the ceiling.

Imperial Library Fresco

Imperial Library Fresco

There are more than 200,000 priceless volumes contained in the State Hall including the largest extant collection of Martin Luther’s writings. Overall, there are about 7.4 million items in the library complex spread out over 4 buildings.

balcony of the Imperial Library

The State Hall is the biggest Baroque library in Europe. I really felt like I was in a real-life version of the library from the Beauty and the Beast Disney film.

decorative detail from the Imperial Library


The library is a separate 7 Euro ticket from the Hofburg Palace.  In my opinion, if you are a library or architecture enthusiast, the price is well worth it.  It will only take about an hour to visit the State Hall  and usually they have an interesting exhibit on display.  When we visited, the display showed different depictions of Angels as shown in historic books which even my children enjoyed viewing.

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