The gorgeous Austrian National Library, known in German as the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, which is often shortened to simply ONB, is the biggest library in Austria. It is also one of the most stunning libraries in the world!
Part of the magnificent Hofburg Palace, a beautiful imperial palace that was once home to Austrian rulers, the Austrian National Library is well-worth a visit when spending time in the elegant and stunning capital city of Vienna.
A grand building with plenty of history
Even if you only admire the Austrian National Library from the outside, it is sure to impress you. Built in the 1720s, the striking baroque building was the work of Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, the same architect that constructed the magnificent Schonbrunn Palace.
Originally designed to show off the imperial family’s vast collection of books, there is still a huge section of the library that is used today for research and pleasure by students and other members of the public.
At the front stands a large statue on horseback, with the elegant columns, delicate arches, and decorative carvings and statues of the main building behind it.
The library contains several museums and attractions that are of interest for tourists. These include the striking and elegant State Hall (admission 7 EUR / 7.90 USD), the Literature Museum (admission 7 EUR / 7.90 USD), the Globe Museum, the Papyrus Museum, and the Esperanto Museum. A combination ticket for the latter three museums costs 4 EUR (approximately 4.50 USD).
Admire the beauty of the marvellous State Hall
Whilst the old leather-bound books in the exquisite State Hall are not available for perusing, you can soak up the atmosphere of being surrounded by old books of wisdom that are now protected in glass-fronted display cases.
Imagine how research was conducted in the past, with moveable wooden staircases positioned around the room to allow access to the higher books. With around 200,000 historic books, it’s sure to make you feel at least a little intellectual!
The wooden galleries showcase intricate carvings and there are marble statues and old Venetian globes throughout the long main hall. Did you know that these globes represent the earth and sky? Artwork and beautiful decorations cover almost every surface that isn’t taken up by books.
Feast your eyes on the captivating ceiling
A veritable architectural and artistic jewel, cast your eyes upwards at the enormous breath-taking frescoes underneath the dome in the State Hall. Created by Daniel Fran, the court painter, you can be transported to celestial realms as you turn your gaze towards the heavens.
Supported by majestic marble columns, circular windows provide plenty of sunshine to highlight the marvellous artwork. Wooden carvings, ornate plasterwork, and golden finishing enhance the overall grandeur and awesomeness of the fabulous paintings.
Other useful information for visiting the Austrian National Library
Whilst photography is permitted within the library, you cannot use a flash.
To browse through the large public book collection, you will first need to obtain a library card. You can get a day card from the ticket counter for 3 EUR (approximately 3.40 USD), or alternatively a yearly pass is available for 10 EUR (approximately 11.30 USD). To access the library, you will also need to show photo identification along with your library card. Only people aged 15 years old and over can use the library.
The main highlight is certainly the State Hall; allow at least an hour to fully enjoy its splendour. If you wish to visit other parts of the library, including its museums, it is recommended to allocate around half a day, if not more.
You could easily spend several days enjoying the amazing buildings and museums of the wider Hofburg Palace complex, so do make sure that you factor enough time into your Vienna itinerary for this beautiful gem.
Although a library might not immediately spring to mind as a top place to visit when on your travels, the Austrian National Library really is an awe-inspiring treasure not to be missed.
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