Glass-sheathed, modern towers house a world-class book collection at the French National Library in Paris. More than 15 million volumes are here, including royal book collections that date back to the Middle Ages, and the library hosts rotating exhibitions that range from artistic masterpieces to historic manuscripts and artifacts.
Designed to evoke books standing near the Seine, the French National Library (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) has two main sections: a public library and a research library. Admission is charged at both, but exhibition tickets include access to the public reading rooms. Lunch and dinner cruises on the river Seine pass by the library, as do half-day bicycle tours that focus on food markets. It’s also possible to visit the library independently.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The French National Library is a must for those interested in architecture.
- The library has free Wi-Fi and computers for public use, as well as an on-site café and restaurant.
- Library tours are sometimes available in English.
- A coat check is available on-site, but bags must be carry-on size or smaller.
How to Get There
The French National Library is located on Quai François Mauriac in the 13th arrondissement, across the Seine from the Parc de Bercy. To get there by public transit, take Metro line 6 or 14 or the RER C to Bibliothèque François Mitterrand. If you’re exploring Paris on foot, the most dramatic approach to the French National Library is from the pedestrian bridge Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir, which links the library to the Parc de Bercy.
When to Get There
Visit the French National Library’s public reading rooms Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 8pm (exhibits close at 7pm) and Sunday from 1pm to 7pm. Entrance fees to the public reading rooms are waived from 5pm to 8pm.
The Forest Inside the French National Library
The four towers—the standing “books”—that make up the French National Library are eye-catching, but there’s far more to the site than can be seen from a distance. Reading rooms look down on a forest garden of birches, oaks, and other trees, including full-size pine trees from Normandy. Since the forest was installed in 1994, it’s become a haven for birds in the city.