Beautifully refined and as majestic as ever, Parisian libraries offer more than one reason to visit. However, apart from on open days, getting access to some of them is difficult if you aren’t a member.

We are delighted that Stéphanie Benjamin, accomplished photographer, is happy to share some of her photographs and interesting facts with us. The good news is that many of the main libraries in Paris are open to visitors who are quiet and considerate.

"La Mazarine" library

Commonly called “la Mazarine”, this library was initially a private establishment belonging to Cardinal Mazarin. Built in 1643, it later became the first public library in France. Open to everyone, its reading room is a perfect example of the unique decoration found in a great library during the 17th century.

Address           23 Quai de Conti Paris 75006
Access             Pont Neuf metro station
Details              Open from 10 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday
                          Entrance through l’institut de France
                          Free entry. ID required

The National Library of France, Richelieu site, a much awaited reopening

After five years of restoration work, the Labrouste room at the Richelieu site has finally regained its splendour. On a tour, you discover the renovated room and the new spaces, which have been specially set up to accommodate the varied collections of the National Library of France and its members.

Address             58 rue de Richelieu 75002 Paris
Access               Bourse, Palais-Royal, Pyramides metro stations
Details                Single entry visits every Thursday, 3.30 pm
                            Group tours every Tuesday, 9.30 am
                            Tour only available in French
                            Duration: one hour
                            Price:  3 € (preferential rate available for groups)
                            To book, call +33(0)153794949 or email visites@bnf.fr

It’s possible to have a short visit to get a quick overview. This is free and no need to book.

The Sainte-Geneviève library, from an abbey to an impressive new building

The Sainte-Geneviève library got its name from the Sainte-Geneviève abbey founded in the sixth century by Clovis. It started out as an ecclesiastical library integrated into the heart of the abbey and maintained by the clergy. The architect Henri Labrouste was tasked with the construction of a new building: the Sainte-Genevieve library relocated from the abbey to an impressive new building inaugurated on 4 February 1851.

Address               10 place du Panthéon Paris 75005
Access                 RER B Luxembourg
                              Cardinal-Lemoine, Maubert-Mutualité metro stations
                              Short visit (around ten minutes) from Monday to Saturday from 2 pm to 6 pm
                              Go to the reception desk

With a minimum of five people per group, open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 10 am possible to have a guide (English/French). To book, email bfgvalorisation@univ-paris3.fr


The Library of the National Assembly

The Library of the National Assembly located at the Palais Bourbon is intended for Members of Parliament. It was founded in 1796 using funds confiscated from the aristocracy during the Revolution, and decorated by Eugène Delacroix in the 19th century. The five domes represent Science, Philosophy, Theology, Poetry and Law. It contains many valuable works, including a copy of the Roman de La Rose, a medieval literature masterpiece.

Address                 Palais Bourbon, 126 rue de l'Université 75007 Paris
Access                   Assemblée Nationale metro station
Details                    Visit on open days

The Sorbonne library

Opened to the public in 1770 under the name of the University of Paris library, it was called the Sorbonne library for the first time in 1846. Rebuilt from 1885 to 1901, the restoration work was lead by architect Henri Paul Nénot with the aim of creating a more important and prestigious space.

Address                    17, rue de la Sorbonne Paris 75005
Access                      Metro Cluny La Sorbonne
                                   Visit on open days