Okay, perhaps the words library and excitement aren’t words that are linked together all that often--but this is Boston, one of the nation’s cultural hubs, and you should know that the Boston Public Library in Copley Square is one of our city’s most interesting, but sadly overlooked treasures. More than just a quiet home for musty tomes, this magnificent building houses historical artifacts, including maps from the Revolutionary War, the personal collection of founding father John Adam’s and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison’s personal manuscripts, to articles and evidence from the infamous trial of Italian-American Anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti--it’s a great place to get your hands on our history in a more immersive way. Equally fascinating are the many surprises tucked away inside the labyrinthine corridors of the old McKim building. When you’ve conquered the lines at the Freedom Trail attractions, checked-off the New England Aquarium, the Museum of Science, and, of course, one (or more) of our Gray Line excursions, the Boston Public Library is an excellent place to simply get lost in, with loads of history, atmosphere, artwork, and fascinating exhibits, so often forgotten by visitors and locals alike.
The elegant main reading room, Bates Hall, is a stunning and peaceful place to take a seat and smugly flip through the pages of the reading material of your choice, or gawk at the students toiling away next to literal literary mountains, under the green lamps. In fact, the library is full of graceful architecture, from the lion-bedecked marble staircase, to the palatial courtyard connecting the two main buildings, a truly luxurious place to wander.
Our favorite thing to do here, however, is to seek out the strange miniature museum-exhibit rooms on the various floors. Lovers of strange curios will appreciate the somewhat creepy collections of antique marionettes, instruments, and a fascinating array of antique dioramas, in various states of disrepair, tucked around the library--it all gives you the sense that you’ve uncovered some forgotten secret stash of treasure, which you’ll most likely have all to yourself. At the top of the stairs, don’t miss the awe-inspiring murals by John Singer Sargent--whose other work you should also check out at the inimitable, eclectic Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum over by the Fens. Of course, unlike most other museums in this city, entrance to the Boston Public Library is absolutely free--and they even offer FREE art & architecture tours on a daily basis, as well as a full calendar of special events, exhibits, and lectures. There’s more than enough to see to spend a few hours here, so make sure to make time for this often-missed treasure trove at the BPL!
Get a brief introduction to Copley Square and the Boston Public Library on our Best of Boston Guided Trolley Tour!