Libraries are great community spaces that you can use for a range of purposes, from carrying out your own research to ticking some books off your reading list or joining in with events. If you're looking for the best and most beautiful libraries around London for studying, reading, or simply browsing what's available, there are plenty of destinations to choose from. This is our guide to the best libraries in London.
Guide to the best libraries in London
In this guide
The best libraries in London
- Coombes Croft Library – Cosy Tottenham library
- British Library – The world's largest collection
- Kensington Central Library – Grand local library
- Islington Central Library – Peaceful haven in Holloway Road
- West Greenwich Library – Well-styled domed space
- The Wiener Holocaust Library – World-leading archive
- SOAS Library – University library for everyone
- Forest Hill Library – Community-run hub
- Mayfair Library – Get married at the library
- Cat and Mouse Library – Modern local space
- The National Poetry Library – A hub for poetry
- Bethnal Green Library – Attractive and timeless space
- Archway Library – Friendly local library
- Artizan Street Library and Community Centre – Buzzy community hub
- Blue Anchor Library – Friendly space in Bermondsey
- The London Library – Renowned literary institution
- Barbican Library – Vibrant creative library
- Bishopsgate Library – Subversive archives
- Wellcome Collection – Museum library and reading room
- St Bride Library – A place for graphic design fans
- Shepherds Bush Library – Dynamic modern space
- Canada Water Library – Dramatic architecture
- The Library at Willesden Green – A space for the community
- National Art Library – Focus on fine and decorative arts
- York Gardens Library – Community project in Battersea
- Palmers Green Library – Lots happening for children
- Guildhall Library – Uncover London here
- Fulham Library – Popular West London library
- Swiss Cottage Central Library – Recognised for its architecture
- Hornsey Library – Creative library in Crouch End
- Putney Library – Peaceful community library
- Islington West Library – Polished space in Islington
- Westminster Reference Library – All about art and music
- The BFI Reuben Library – Vast collection for film fanatics
- Balham Library – Community space in South London
- Bibliothèque Quentin Blake – French children's library
- Senate House Library – Accessible academic library
The best libraries in London
The best and most beautiful London libraries
Cosy Tottenham library
Tottenham's Coombes Croft Library is a cosy and modern local space. As well as books, the library is equipped with computers, newspapers and magazines, and activities for everyone, including lots of sessions for kids. The events that go on at this site include film screenings, crafts, and activities for the youngest children.
The world's largest collection
The iconic British Library is located close to King's Cross station. You'll recognise it by its imposing and well-known entrance gates. It's the largest library collection in the world with millions of titles available. Some of the world's most important literature is also housed here, including letters, manuscripts, and religious texts.
Grand local library
Based in an imposing Grade II-listed building, Kensington Central Library is a grand and traditional space. Browse the books, CD collection, and digital materials, or settle in here to read. The library has free-to-use computers and you can hire rooms here. There are also regular events for adults and children.
Peaceful haven in Holloway Road
Islington Central Library sits on a corner with Holloway Road. It's a peaceful space with a skylit reading room and an ornate exterior. You can read or borrow books, use the computers, or visit the learning centre to get support with using tech. Other facilities here include study spaces and a room that's available for hire.
Well-styled domed space
Fitted out in calming shades of blue and topped off with a glass dome, West Greenwich Library is a peaceful community space. Drop in to explore the collections of books, including a dedicated section for children and teenagers, check out the gallery displaying work by local artists, use the computers, or take part in an activity like fitness or arts and crafts sessions.
The Wiener Holocaust Library holds one of the world's most extensive archives on the holocaust, the Nazi era, and genocide. This compact library is open to the public and houses thousands of books and documents. You can visit the reading room to study materials or come along to one of the exhibitions and events that the library runs regularly.
University library for everyone
Although SOAS Library is part of the University of London, everyone is welcome to become a member. This modern space spans several floors and holds about 1.5 million books, periodicals, and materials in about 400 languages, plus a growing digital library. Resources here focus on Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, covering subjects like law, politics, history, and music.
Run by volunteers rather than a local authority, Forest Hill Library has the community at its heart. There's a warm atmosphere here, plus a big choice of books. There's also a community room you can hire for a range of activities, and computer facilities including printing and scanning. Free events take place regularly like craft sessions and kids' story time.
Get married at the library
Mayfair Library isn't just known for books - it's also a popular wedding venue. This small red brick building has a charming look, making it a great choice for both readers and wedding-goers. The library has a range of books and resources in its collection and also organises a variety of different events. You can join a reading group here or join activities like language groups, classical performances, and crafts.
Modern local space
Islington's Cat and Mouse Library is based a short distance from Holloway Road. Opened in 2017, this modern venue looks crisp and has books for every age range, plus audiobooks, magazines, and digital resources. There are computers and study areas, plus a space for children, and you can also book individual IT support sessions.
A hub for poetry
Based at the Southbank Centre, The National Poetry Library celebrates the diversity of poetry. It's a modern specialist library where all ages are welcome. Browse collection of poems for specific occasions to find the right choice for a personal event, enjoy poetry books here, take part in events, or get advice on writing and publishing your own poems.
Attractive and timeless space
Often rated as one of the city's most beautiful libraries, Bethnal Green Library is full of polished wood, tall bookshelves, and an elegant skylit reading room. As well as browsing the books you can use computers, printers, and scanners, or bring your own laptop along. Added to that, there are social groups and activities aimed at children and adults.
Friendly local library
Archway Library has a reputation for being friendly and welcoming. This modern space in North London has a varied collection of books and digital materials. You can use computers here and also get individual sessions for IT support. The library is also equipped with study spaces and has a quiet and calming atmosphere.
Buzzy community hub
Artizan Street Library and Community Centre has lots to offer the local community. Drop into this vibrant space to browse the books or borrow some to read at home. Newspapers, CDs, DVDs, and computers are also available here. Added to that, there are loads of activities and additional services including wellness sessions and support services, activities for kids under five, and reading groups.
Friendly space in Bermondsey
Bermondsey's Blue Anchor Library has a friendly atmosphere and a community feel. Books and activities are available to appeal to every age range here. Books, audiobooks, and DVDs are available, or you can use the computers here. The library also hosts a variety of events and activities such as its weekly baby and toddler group.
Renowned literary institution
One of the world's leading literary institutions is The London Library. This independent library opened in 1841 and is housed in an atmospheric traditional space. A variety of spaces are there to explore and the library carries about one million items, with a particular emphasis on history, cultural expression, and thought and life. There are events and initiatives like a literary festival too.
Vibrant creative library
Modern Barbican Library is part of the Barbican Centre. Items at this vibrant space cover various topics but the focus is on art, music, graphic novels, London, and finance. You can borrow books, CDs, DVDs, and sheet music, and there are items for children. The venue also puts on a variety of special events like exhibitions and talks.
Based in a Grade II-listed building and part of the Bishopsgate Institute, Bishopsgate Library looks classic and idyllic but is home to one of the country's most subversive archives. The materials here focus on humanism and free thought, including campaigning and protest. This library also has thousands of resources that relate to the cultural and social history of London.
Museum library and reading room
Innovative museum Wellcome Collection has its own library and reading room. This stylish contemporary space has lots of comfy places to settle in with a book plus thousands of titles covering health, medicine, art, science, and technology. Historical and contemporary books are available and the space is free to use.
A place for graphic design fans
St Bride Library focuses on print, typography, graphic design, and book art. It's home to one of the largest collections of type specimens available. You can visit this elegant and traditional library by booking an appointment for the reading room. You can browse the collection here and use the space for reading or studying the materials.
Dynamic modern space
Modern library Shepherds Bush Library is full of eye-catching modern design. Visit for books, information, and the right environment for quiet studying, but there's loads more to do here as well. You'll find books in several languages, recycling facilities, play sessions for the youngest children and book clubs and writing groups for older kids, plus reading groups for adults.
Canada Water Library boasts dramatic and eye-catching architecture both indoors and outside. Inside this striking space you'll find collection of books for adults and kids, computer facilities, and a lively café. Events and activities are often on here - there are book groups and IT support sessions for the adults whilst kids can take part in reading groups and arts and crafts activities.
A space for the community
There are thousands of books available at The Library at Willesden Green, which is spread over three floors. This bustling space is also a vibrant community hub. As well as the book collections, you'll find an on-site art gallery, museum, and performance space, a learning centre, and spaces you can hire out. The library also has a busy programme of events.
Focus on fine and decorative arts
Based at the V&A, the National Art Library is the UK's most comprehensive collection of resources relating to fine and decorative arts. The space has a grand and traditional look, and you can use the reading rooms here or discover what's in the collection. Materials here include books, journals and periodicals, exhibition and sales catalogues, comics, and books aimed at children.
Community project in Battersea
In Battersea you can visit York Gardens Library. This vibrant library and community project welcomes everybody into the simple and modern space. There are books and DVDs for children and adults, in addition to hire space, study areas, and a busy programme of events. Sessions that take place here include coffee afternoons, story time for pre-schoolers, and song and rhyme sessions for the very youngest children.
Lots happening for children
Palmers Green Library in North London is open to everyone but is especially popular with parents and kids. It's a modern and comfortable library with a large section for children, plus books and activities to keep all ages entertained. Study spaces and computers are offered here too. This fun and lively library also hosts events like storytelling clubs and play sessions for toddlers.
Uncover London here
Renowned reference library Guildhall Library focuses on materials related to London's history and culture. The building combines grand and traditional spaces with more modern design. It's home to internationally-recognised collections on a range of topics, including family histories and census records. As well as discovering the collection, you can join a variety of events and activities at this library.
Popular West London library
The Grade II-listed Fulham Library building was built in 1904 but a library has been on this spot since at least 1894. It's still a popular destination for readers today. Diverse book collections are here including items for younger readers, books in other languages, large print materials, graphic novels, CDs, and DVDs. Browse what's available, borrow something to take home, or get some work done in one of the study spaces.
Recognised for its architecture
Bookworms and architecture fans alike are impressed by Swiss Cottage Central Library. This Grade II- listed building is recognised for its design, with curves and spirals both inside and out. Browse the book collections, including titles for children, or use the computers and quiet study spaces. This library also runs activities for all age ranges including homework clubs and craft sessions for children and computer skills sessions for adults.
Creative library in Crouch End
Crouch End's Hornsey Library is a creative space. You can discover the library collection here or explore two commercial art galleries, a cinema with regular screenings, meeting spaces, and an immersive space for children. The Grade II-listed gallery is enhanced with permanent artwork and also houses one of the country's largest collections of music scores.
Peaceful community library
Putney Library is a peaceful community space that combines traditional architecture with a modern modern extension to the building. Inside this Grade II-listed space you'll find compelling collections of books for adults as well as kids, plus newspapers and magazines, computers, and study rooms. The library also hosts community activities like film clubs and reading groups.
Polished space in Islington
Based a short distance from Caledonian Road, Islington West Library has a distinctive look and a polished entrance area. There's a warm and friendly atmosphere here. A wide variety of books and digital resources are available, plus there are computers you can use. The library has a space for hire and also offers one-to-one IT support.
All about art and music
Westminster Reference Library feels traditional and includes lots of space. The collections here focus on art and design, performing arts, and music - the library is also home to the Westminster Music Library. As well as discovering the collections, there are exhibition spaces and meeting rooms for hire. This library also puts on a range of events from knitting groups to lunchtime concerts.
Vast collection for film fanatics
The BFI Reuben Library holds one of the UK's largest archives focusing on film, television, and moving image. The collection includes books, journal, and digital material, available to explore in a space that feels modern and has dramatic architecture. You can visit the reading room here or join an event like a talk or film screening.
Community space in South London
Based in the heart of the local area, Balham Library is a big part of the community. You can explore books in a comfortable and quiet setting here, with collections for children and adults. You can also take advantage of computer access, study areas, free wifi, and a hall for hire. A variety of events and activities are offered here too such as reading groups, English conversation classes, and coffee mornings.
French children's library
Contemporary children's library Bibliothèque Quentin Blake focuses on France and the French language. This cosy space offers plenty of resources for learning French plus books for every age, DVDs, music, digital materials, and games. The space is decorated with art by Sir Quentin Blake and French artist Delphine Perret.
Accessible academic library
Part of the University of London, Senate House Library is based in an imposing tall building. This traditional academic library is full of comfortable spaces and membership is open to the public. Collections focus on arts, literature, humanities, and social sciences. There are also special collections and archives that date back to medieval times.