Budapest is a true gem for every book lover. In this article, I will list the best libraries and bookstores in Budapest.
Budapest presents an eclectic treat for all bibliophiles. You don’t even have to leave the metropolis as all the great bookstores and libraries are well within the city limits. What’s more, these literary destinations can leave you spoiled for choice.
Budapest might as well be called a bookworm’s paradise. You will find some of the most stunning public libraries and bookstores here. Some of these libraries house invaluable and protected literature of national importance.
Literary tourism is vital to Budapest. Below you will find some of the best libraries and bookstores in Budapest that leave an indelible impression on anyone who visits here. If you happen to visit Budapest anytime soon, make sure you check out these literary destinations. The place won’t disappoint you!
1. Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library
This modern city library resides inside the historical Wenckheim Palace built in the late 1880s by designer Artúr Meinig. In the 90s, the place was renovated and two more buildings were annexed to the original building.
Named after the Hungarian sociologist and bibliographer, Ervin Szabó, the library is famous for its enchanting communist-style utilitarian charm and hidden series of wonderfully restored reading rooms.
The most beautiful part of the Metropolitan library is the incredible spiral staircase which, thanks to Pinterest and Instagram, has become its remarkable symbol.
Once you pay for the ticket and pass through the security, you can head directly to the 4th floor where the famous halls of the library are.
There are silver, gold rooms, a long ballroom, and a special wood-carved room. It might sound exaggerated, but with all its elegance and splendor, the place draws comparisons with Versailles Palace.
It is estimated that the library has a capacity of housing 1.1 million volumes in its vast collection.
Another thing worth mentioning; this library is a part of a library’s network under the acronym FSZEK, so it’s probably worth it to check other libraries in the group, too.
2. National Széchényi Library
One of the biggest libraries in Hungary, National Széchényi Library is located inside the enormous Buda Castle. Built in 1802 by Hungarian aristocrat Ferenc Széchényi, the library is a spiritual citadel of sorts for bibliophiles.
For tourists, it’s one of the first destinations to take in when in Budapest. The retro vibe of the place can leave you amazed.
Being one of Hungary’s two national libraries, Széchényi Library endeavors to collect everything in Hungarian – whether published at home or abroad. As a result, it houses a collection of over 3 million books (published in Hungary since the 16th century) and 1 million periodicals.
Its special collection is immense, too. As per its official site, the library has over 7.1 million special documents which comprise manuscripts, early printed books, incunabula, maps, photos, etc.
The library often holds exhibitions telling the exciting story of the Széchényi library. One of the biggest attractions for literary tourists is glass bookcases packed with old and authentic tomes from the library’s founding.
Don’t miss to give this library a visit when you are visiting the city.
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3. Library of Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA)
The library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences came about because of a generous donation from a bibliophile. In 1826, Count József Teleki, who was also the first President of the Academy offered his 30,000 volume library to the Academy.
If you are a book lover or a research scholar, MTA offers a massive collection of books, documents, and periodicals. If your interests lie more on the touristy side, even then this neo-renaissance-style building has plenty to offer. You can enjoy the breathtaking view of the Danube river from its reading rooms.
The library holds a special Oriental collection section. The reading room in this section was designed with Islamic motifs back in the 1950s. This part of the library contains the most comprehensive Hungarian collection of Arabic manuscripts. A substantial part of the manuscripts is preserved from the 150 year period (1541-1699) of Ottoman occupation in Hungary.
If you walk up the grand staircase of the Academy, you will find another unique collections library – the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books. Overall, the MTA library comprises 2 million books, articles and periodicals.
4. Parliament Library
This stunning library deserves ‘the most beautiful library in Hungary’ title. It is located inside the Gothic-revival-style Parliament building in Budapest and offers a great view of the Danube river.
Established in 1870, the library both parliamentarians and the general public with services. The library houses 45000 documents in its main reading room. It’s a non-lending library.
Architecturally, this building is truly magnificent for its ornate decorations. The library’s ceiling-high bookshelves are excellent; the highest ones are accessible from the gallery only.
The inside arrangements, the window frames, furniture, and bookshelves, are original from the early 1900s. Parliament library is a wellspring of documents on politics, law, history, literature, and the UN and the EU areas. Besides being visually astonishing, this library is also one of the quietest in Hungary. It is a true gem.
5. ELTE University Library
If you visit the ELTE library, located right in the heart of Budapest, you won’t be able to ever forget its truly breathtaking reading hall. The incredible entry to the library is also definitely worth seeing.
The famous Hungarian architect Antal Szkalnitzky designed the ELTE University library in 1876 and decorated it with the frescos of the Hungarian painter Károly Lotz. These paintings depict female figures – symbolic of the art and sciences.
The building’s glass roof is a beautiful feature, with three giant windows letting lots of natural light into space.
You can find over 2 million documents on history, philosophy, literature, and psychology in ELTE University Library. Some of them date back to the 16th century!
6. National Library of Foreign Literature
Established in 1956 as a library for collecting Russian literature, the National Library of Foreign Literature, today, houses books in several other languages, too.
Its façade may look unassuming, but behind the outside walls lays a beautiful library of foreign literature where you can find books in more than a hundred languages. Its reading room is beautifully decorated with frosted glass doors and marble walls, and it’s also tranquil.
In addition to the spacious reading room, there is also a modern language studio, where you can even learn a foreign language. Fiction and language books in foreign languages can be borrowed.
7. Institute of Slavic and Baltic Philology
Located inside the premises of ELTE University, this library made it on this list for the lovely atmosphere. The Institute’s library is one of Budapest’s most incredible small libraries, but it has a vast collection of dictionaries, literature, and history books in Slavic and Baltic languages.
The library looks terrific. It is lined floor-to-ceiling with bookshelves, and it has a nice-looking gallery too. The central motif is a wooden spiral staircase from the turn-of-the-century design, of course.
8. Mai Manó House
The building itself dates back to 1893-94. It was the place where the famous Hungarian photographer Mai Manó lived, and it looks incredible. The library’s design, which is located on the third floor, matches the building’s style.
You can find around 10000 photo albums, professional books, encyclopedias and bibliographies in Mai Manó House. It’s a non-lending library and you can only read on the premises.
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Independent Bookstores & Antiquarian Bookshops in Budapest
Alongside magnificent libraries, a few of the independent bookstores and antiquarian bookshops in Budapest are also worth mentioning.
1. Massolit Bookstore and Café
This is the most popular destination for most literary tourists who find themselves in Budapest and represents somewhat of an “institution” of this Hungarian metropolis.
It’s a second-hand bookstore and a coffee shop. It hardly gets better than that, right? You can always find interesting stuff on the bookshelves in Massolit, and treat yourself to a great selection of coffee, tea, and homemade cookies.
This bookstore is incredibly charming for its tiny art gallery, which usually showcases works of local artists. Massolit has a welcoming interior with shelves stacked with fiction and non-fiction books which you can enjoy reading in their garden during spring and summer.
2. Bestsellers Books Budapest
Just a few steps away from the famous St Stephen’s Basilica, you will find the bookstore with one of the best selections of English literature in Hungary. Bestsellers books has a nice collection of books combined with academic and general titles.
This bookstore actually serves as the Central European University bookstore. You can find books in English, German, Italian, French or Russian, with the English section being the largest in the Bestsellers books. They have something for everyone, from classics to sci-fi and fantasy.
3. Weores Sandor Antikvárium
If you’re an adventurous type, you should visit this unique little second-hand bookstore named after the famous Hungarian poet Weöres Sándor.
Space is literally crammed with books. Every square inch of the bookstore is piled with books that are threatening to topple like dominos and potentially drown you. It indeed looks like the books jungle, and you’ll be genuinely amazed by the compilation there.
4. Atlantisz Book Island
This charming bookstore is located in the Jewish Quarter of the city in an incredible two-story historic building. It specializes in humanities and social sciences with a vast collection covering architecture, and travel, too.
You can also find newly published studies in social sciences here. If you plan to visit this bookstore, ensure plenty of time to investigate the shelves.
I hope you enjoyed this list of the best libraries and bookstores in Budapest. Please leave your comments in the box below. You may as well browse posts on other literary destinations on this website. Thank you for reading!