Turkey straddles two continents and boasts a rich history dating back thousands of years. From the mystical tales of the Ottoman Empire to the poetic musings of Rumi, its rich literary heritage is a tapestry woven with threads of imagination, wisdom, and cultural splendor.
Among the many cultural treasures of Turkey are its libraries, which encapsulate the nation’s longstanding reverence for knowledge and literature. In this piece, we will explore the top 10 best libraries in Turkey.
From grand architectural marvels to literary treasure troves, these must-visit libraries will ignite your imagination and leave you spellbound. Let’s jump right in.
1. Library of the Topkapı Palace, Istanbul
Nestled within the historic Topkapi Palace complex, this library was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed III in the early 18th century. The library is a glorious treasure trove of over 3500 manuscripts.
It also boasts of having 15,000 Islamic Miniatures, the Sultanate’s cache of 2,999 rare books, and some of the best Islamic calligraphy you’ll ever set your eyes on.
2. Atatürk Library, Istanbul
Named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, the Atatürk Library is a haven for researchers and students alike.
It boasts a rich collection of over 500,000 books, maps, and periodicals focusing on Istanbul’s history and culture. Some old publications in Arabic, English, and Ottoman go back to the Ottoman Empire period.
3. Beyazıt State Library, Istanbul
Established in 1884, the Beyazıt State Library is one of the oldest and largest in Turkey. The Library nestles in Beyazıt Square, amid the city’s oldest surviving imperial mosque. It’s a vibrant hub in the city’s historic heart.
Its collection spans over 1.2 million books, periodicals, and manuscripts, housed in a splendid building that bears the ornate touches of Ottoman architecture.
Among the library’s most coveted assets are rare pieces like a golden leaf Quran and an Arabic grammar book from 893 AD.
Inside the refurbished building, monolithic black glass boxes containing manuscripts form a striking contrast to the surroundings.
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4. National Library, Ankara
Established in 1946, the National Library of Turkey houses manuscripts, books, periodicals, newspapers, and rare collections, thereby reflecting the country’s literary evolution.
As the capital’s primary research library, the National Library of Turkey holds an extensive collection of over 3 million items.
One of its primary roles is to preserve national publications. Thus, a copy of every work published in Turkey is mandated to be sent here. This makes the National Library a comprehensive archive of the nation’s published output.
5. The Library of Celsus, Ephesus
An ancient Roman building, the Library of Celsus, is a testament to the grandeur of historical architecture. Built in the 2nd century AD, it was once one of the largest libraries in the ancient world.
Although it’s no longer operational as a library, it was once home to over 12,000 scrolls. Despite the absence of books, the grandeur of the place can be a source of inspiration for book lovers.
The Library’s facade, now rebuilt, showcases striking Roman architecture. Grand columns, statues, and detailed carvings mark its design, displaying the finesse of ancient artistry. Ephesus itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world.
6. Istanbul University Library
Founded in 1933, Istanbul University Library is one of the most important academic libraries in Turkey. It holds more than 1.1 million printed books and thousands of manuscripts.
This library is a proud guardian of a rich collection of incunabula – books printed before 1501. It also owns a large number of Ottoman periodicals and rare books.
Its architecture echoes a blend of styles. The main reading room’s high ceiling and long windows convey a sense of grandeur. Certainly, it’s one of the best libraries in Turkey.
7. Süleymaniye Library, Istanbul
Located within the Süleymaniye Mosque complex, this library is a key cultural institution. It holds a wealth of around 70,000 manuscripts and over 70,000 printed works, including a rich collection of Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, and Persian manuscripts.
The library’s architecture is another reason for your visit. Set in a converted 16th-century building within the Süleymaniye Mosque complex, the library offers a blend of history and tranquility.
8. Koç University Suna Kıraç Library, Istanbul
Known for its modern architecture and advanced digital resources, this Koç University Library houses over 500,000 items, which include books, journals, electronic databases, and audio-visual materials.
With its modern design and stunning vistas of the Bosphorus, this library is a delight to visit.
9. Bilkent University Library, Ankara
As one of Turkey’s leading academic libraries, Bilkent University Library provides access to a comprehensive range of resources. With more than 400,000 books, this University Library houses an incredible wealth of knowledge.
The library building is a contemporary masterpiece that combines aesthetic beauty with functionality. Its architecture allows for an abundance of natural light, making it a comfortable and refreshing space for long hours of study or research.
10. The Presidential Library, Ankara
Opened in 2020, the Presidential Library is the largest library in Turkey. An absolute delight for any book lover, it’s a state-of-the-art facility that aspires to be one of the world’s foremost research libraries.
The library is housed in the historic Atatürk Forest Farm, which is a landmark in its own right. The building is a striking blend of traditional Ottoman and modern architectural styles. At the heart of the library is the magnificent Cihannuma Hall.
Adorned with 16 majestic columns, each representing the splendor of the 16 Great Turkic Empires, this expansive space shelters an incredible collection of over 4 million+ books. It is truly a testament to Turkey’s unwavering dedication to literary and academic excellence.
These top 10 libraries in Turkey are not just repositories of books but also magnificent cultural institutions that encapsulate the country’s rich intellectual heritage and contemporary aspirations.
Whether you’re a voracious reader, a history buff, or a curious traveler, these libraries offer a unique gateway into Turkey’s soul.
So, on your next visit to Turkey, take a moment to step away from the bustling bazaars and delve into its world of literature. You might be surprised by what you find!
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