Holding more than 9 million volumes, Brazil’s National Library (Biblioteca Nacional) is the largest of its kind in Latin America. Founded in 1810 and relocated to its current Greek Revival-style building in 1910, the library maintains an archive of the country’s most important publications, periodicals, photographs, films, and music.
The library is open for public use and wows visitors with its elegant red-carpeted staircase and eclectic interior. The building makes up part of the Triangle of Culture in Cinelandia Square, together with the Municipal Theater (Theatro Municipal) and the National Fine Arts Museum (Museu de Belas Artes). All three buildings are typical stops on history-focused walking tours of downtown Rio. For a more in-depth experience, join a free guided tour offered by the library.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The National Library is a must-visit for architecture and history lovers.
- The library is free to enter.
- Books may not be borrowed, but you can read them inside the library.
- You must show photo ID to take a guided tour.
- Guided tours are in English and Spanish.
- The library is wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The National Library is in the Centro district, in downtown Rio de Janeiro on Cinelandia square. If you’re traveling by Metro, the nearest station is Cinelandia, a minute’s walk away; use exit C - Pedro Lessa. If traveling by bus, use any line that goes through Rio Branco Avenue.
When to Get There
The National Library is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. It tends to be at its quietest early in the morning. Free guided tours take place Monday through Friday at 2pm; meet at the reception in the main hall.
A UNESCO-Recognized Collection
One of the library’s most valuable holdings is the late19th-century photography collection of Empress Theresa Christina Maria, Naples-born wife of Brazil’s second emperor, Pedro II. The collection was recognized by UNESCO for its historical significance and, after the empress’ death, was given by Pedro to the library on the condition that the collection would be named for her.