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Overlooking the Kremlin in central Moscow, the Russian State Library is Russia’s—and one of the world’s—biggest public libraries. Spanning various 18th-and 20th-century buildings, this vast and grand complex hosts 47 million books and treasures; making it a fascinating place to explore for book, history, and architecture buffs.
Founded in 1862, the library was originally housed in Moscow’s Pashkov House—the 18th-century palace that still forms its core—before it was expanded during Soviet times with the addition of neighboring buildings. Today, its hallowed corridors and halls lead to 36 reading rooms of polished cabinets, parquet floors, and green desk lamps. Visitors can explore independently via a day-long guest pass or in-house tour.
The library is a regular stop on Moscow sightseeing tours. Typical itineraries combine an exterior library stop with must-sees like St. Basil’s Cathedral; while other tours, such as multi-day experiences, include an interior visit as part of a round-up of the city’s less-visited sights. History enthusiasts might want to take in the library’s 20th-century buildings on tours that focus on the city’s communist period.
The library’s main buildings stand on Moscow’s Vozdvizhenka Street and Mokhovaya Street opposite the Kremlin and a 30-minute walk from Red Square. Public transit is the easiest travel option: the nearest metro stations are Arbatskaya, Aleksandrovsky Sad, and Biblioteka Imeni Lenina; which are all just steps from the principal entrance.
The library is open Monday to Saturday, but closed on the last Monday of every month. The busiest times are Fridays and Saturdays; so if you want to explore with fewer people around, aim to visit between Monday and Thursday, and either early or late in the day—the library is open until mid-evening.
Boasting a staggering 170 miles (275 kilometers) of shelving, the Russian State Library hosts more than 17 million books alongside a multitude of other documents written in as many as 367 languages. With so much to offer, it attracts huge numbers: around 100,000 new users register here annually and five visitors pass through the doors every minute during opening hours.