New York City Public Library

This magnificent building holds a collection of over 50 million volumes.

TravelCurious Tip

Afterward exploring the library, step out into Bryant Park and enjoy a coffee at the open-air café

The New York City Public Library is second biggest library in the US, after the Library of Congress, and the fourth biggest in the world. Opened in 1911, it stands on Fifth Avenue at its intersection with 42nd street, and stretches for two full blocks. Though imposing, it is completely open to the public.

Grand Designs

The library is a beaux-arts style masterpiece, sculpted from more than 530,000 cubic feet of white Vermont marble. Its entrance is palatial: a wide staircase leads up to three arches, flanked by Corinthian columns that support a frieze adorned with six statues, representing philosophy, romance, religion, poetry, drama and history.

Two marble lions sit either side of the stairway leading in. In the 1930s they were named “Patience” and “Fortitude” by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who thought these were the qualities the citizens of New York required to see themselves through the Great Depression. The names stuck.

Inside, there is the Astor Hall, with its tremendous, vaulted ceilings, and a short walk takes you to the Rose Man Reading Room — the jewel in the crown. The room has a 16m high, lavish, panelled ceiling, and is lit through colossal arched windows by day, and with grand chandeliers by night. Work, read, or just admire the room from its banks of weighty wooden tables, adorned with polished brass lamps, to the sound of pens scratching, pages rustling and the odd tired creak of a chair.

National Treasure

Among the treasures housed here you will find an original copy of the declaration of independence, a Gutenberg bible, and the largest collection of maps in the world: 431,000 maps, and 16,000 atlases and books on cartography, all dating from the 16th Century to the present day.

Beyond that, various oddities have stacked up over the years. They have Truman Capote’s cigarette case, the cane Virginia Woolf left on the riverbank the day she committed suicide and locks of hair from Charlotte Brontë and Walt Whitman. Probably the most bizarre item, though, is Charles Dickens’ favourite letter opener. The shaft is ivory, but the handle is the embalmed paw of Bob, his favourite cat, fur, nails and all.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in New York
Empire State Building
The building that defined an epoch, it stood as the world's tallest for over 40 years.
Times Square
Neon-lit and monumentally busy, this most famous of intersections is a mecca for tourists, shoppers and protesters.
Bryant Park
A green oasis amongst skyscrapers and the hubbub of city life, popular with city workers taking a break.
Grand Central Station
One of the USA's most famous landmarks, this historic transport hub made New York what it is today.
Chrysler Building
A stunning Art Deco pinnacle, the Chrysler was the world's tallest building when it opened in 1930.
There's a show for everyone in the world's premier theatre district.

Related Tours

Private Walking Tour of Modern Manhattan
Experience the bustle of Manhattan in this extensive trip around some of  New York City’s finest sights. Journey beyond sightseeing and discover their secrets in the company of your own professional, local guide.   

  • See some of New York's best architectural masterpieces
  • Enjoy the bustle of Times Square
  • Learn about what makes Broadway so special in the theatre world
  • Walk through the art deco Rockefeller Center
  • Step inside the beautiful St Patrick's Cathedral
  • Become absorbed in New York's famous Fifth Avenue
Monuments of New York

In this intimate tour of NYC, you will discover some of midtown Manhattan’s best known and much loved attractions. You will begin at the most iconic transportation hub in the United States— Grand Central Terminal. Catch a perfect view of the gleaming spire of the Chrysler Building, another of New York's Art Deco masterpieces, explore the New York Public Library where you will meet the giant stone lions, and enjoy Bryant Park—a lovely green oasis in the heart of Midtown. You will then continue west to the crossroads of the world —Times Square— to view the news ticker on the One Times Square Building, the NASDAQ board, and the myriad neon signs.

Bright Lights and Old School Glamour

Soaking up the bright lights, you will learn about the evolution of Broadway and how theatre  transformed Times Square into one of the most famous destinations in the world. You will have the pleasure of seeing many of the historic buildings in the area dating back to 1900, as you head towards the recently restored art deco masterpiece— Radio City Music Hall. A short walk will lead you to the Rockefeller Center, a magnificent complex of towering skyscrapers. 

As your tour continues, you will see the beautiful, gothic St Patrick's Cathedral, seat of the Archdiocese of New York. Heading north toward Central Park, you will have your chance to be part of the shopping mecca that is Fifth Avenue, abounding in old world glamour. Your tour will finish at the corner of Central Park, near the Zoo and Wollman Rink, where you will be able to explore this green oasis in the very heart of New York City. 


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