Boston Public Library
Boston Public Library
4.5
Points of Interest & LandmarksLibraries
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday
9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Tuesday
9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Wednesday
9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Thursday
9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Friday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
About
The main branch of the Boston Public Library opened in 1852 as the first free, publicly-funded municipal library in America. The library, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, houses over 20 million items. Enjoy a free tour of the building to learn about its history and marvel at the treasured artworks and architecture that spans three centuries. After that, sit back for a cup of tea in one the library’s tea lounges. When you're done, go shopping or check out the restaurants in Back Bay, the busy district where the library is located. – Tripadvisor
Duration: 1-2 hours
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The area

Address
Neighborhood: Back Bay
Wander around this quintessential neighborhood in the heart of Boston for high-end shops, restaurants, and the feeling of city bustle. Its most identifiable skyscrapers, the Prudential Center and John Hancock Tower, are highlights of the city skyline. Visit Newbury street to explore unique and trendy boutiques – as well as every other kind of store imaginable – all housed in beautiful brownstone buildings. In nice weather, restaurant patio seating is packed with Bostonians and tourists alike soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the food. Commonwealth Ave offers a beautiful stroll down residential tree-lined streets. Keep walking towards the Charles River and enjoy a beautiful view by the water. In warmer months, people run and bike on paths running along the esplanade, and sail and kayak on the Charles River. Boylston street, also full of shops, bars, and restaurants, is the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Head towards Copley Square and check out the Boston Public Library, which is particularly beautiful from the Dartmouth street entrance.
How to get there
  • Copley • 1 min walk
  • Back Bay • 5 min walk
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See what travelers are saying

  • Monica
    12 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Gasp. Beautiful Library!
    Wow. I squeezed in this library on one of my down days in the rain. It was free to the public and it was one of the best places I saw in Boston. It took my breath away many times when rounding a corner or entering another surprising space. They have free tours if you arrive at the right time on the right day, but I walked around on my own and read the signs instead.
    Visited July 2023
    Written July 19, 2023
  • Heidi H
    42 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    One of my favorite places in the entire world!
    Years ago, my Art History professor included a slide of the courtyard of the Boston Public Library in his discussion and I thought to myself, someday, I am going there. I remembered that when I was planning my first trip to Boston in the early 1990's and casually added it to my list of things to do. Little did I know that it would become the first thing on my list to do upon my return. I am only sorry to say that it has taken me so long to return. I fell in love with this building then and I still am awestruck by the classic architecture, breathtaking murals and of course, the lion sculptures (Kind of a sentimental family thing, I inherited my great grandparent's lion which I climbed on as a kid, although mine is well loved and no longer as beautiful.) Only thing that could top this visual feast for the eyes, would be to include a really great glass of chardonnay and Andrea Bocelli's music and having the museum all to myself. Other than that, it's perfect in every way. Since I was last here, they have added a quaint bar (which actually seemed romantic to me and I wished my husband was with me) and a tea room. You need reservations which I did not have. Book this before you leave home, you do not want to miss out like I did. If I would have known this existed, I would have made reservations for both, not necessarily on the same day. I have no idea of prices of anything but that would not concern me as I would just be happy to be there. It was a rainy afternoon when we visited which had followed close to 100 degree temperatures and the library was crowded with tourist like me who had cameras in hand to take photos of everything, to be able to remember our experiences. You know when you take photos of the Grand Canyon and then look at them and are disappointed, well that is how my photos turned out. They do not compare in the least to seeing this library in person. Do not miss the Sargent gallery. My personal favorite is the Prophets, it's certainly not the most impressive but still it's my favorite. I stopped by the Bookstore which is incredibly small and purchased some notecards. Big mistake in not purchasing more than one of each mural, so buy more, you will be happy when you get home and at one dollar a piece, they are a bargain. The quirky book socks are also a bargain at three dollars and my son had to have a pair. Even my son, loved this place and I was grateful that he did not complain as I dragged him all over the library. Enjoy your time, do not rush and if you have the entire day to spend there, then I envy you.
    Visited July 2023
    Written July 31, 2023
  • SeniorTravelerTF
    1,192 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Leave time and bring a book to read in the beautiful, serene courtyard (or the wondrous reading room) and take the tour.
    There are really two libraries. All of the following in pointed out in the free tours. The first, the original building that was the first public library in the country, is much more like a museum with noteworthy works of art scattered throughout. Also, the famous photo of the reading room is even more impressive in person. (if it is cold, do your reading here, an option to the outdoor courtyard). The recent expansion and renovation which can use another entrance or via the original building, certainly is more modern but still feels comfortable and works well in tandem with the old.
    Visited July 2023
    Traveled with family
    Written August 3, 2023
  • 363cymru123
    Cardiff, United Kingdom127 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Awesome building!
    The Public Library is impressive from outside but boy wait until you step inside, it is VERY impressive. Free to enter and you can pick up free wi fi while inside. The courtyard is fabulous, lots of table and chairs around the edge in the cooling shade. Its a very popular place to chill out during the summer. You can book in for a very nice afternoon tea in the tea rooms here, we didn't have time for that but they seemed very popular.
    Visited August 2023
    Written August 6, 2023
  • CraftBeers
    Plano, Texas25,039 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Well this was cool and unexpected
    My adult daughter did some homework before our visit and said she wanted to see the public library. I was highly skeptical. I was even more reluctant when Uber dropped us in front of a generic modern day library you find in every city in America. We were all sort of befuddled on why this was a five star visit. We did a quick google searched and learned the old library was way on the other side of the building. We started cutting through a beautiful courtyard where we stumbled upon a gorgeous tea room. Then we found what everyone raves about. The marble stairs, wall murals, and carved statues. The Bates Room was spectacular. You've seen this room in millions of movies. Take the time to go to each room. Be sure to go upstairs to the top level. I 100% recommend visiting here. It's free to enter and the architecture is incredible.
    Visited June 2023
    Written August 7, 2023
  • Allison K
    48 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    The most beautiful library filled with history
    Wow, a breathtaking library with so much history and attention to detail. It's completely free and they give free guided tours, but we didn't do the tour. We walked around and on each floor there was literature explaining the murals and history of the building. The courtyard is stunning. This library is truly a special place.
    Visited August 2023
    Traveled as a couple
    Written August 26, 2023
  • yalibrarian
    San Antonio, Texas355 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Well Worth a Stop
    I'm a retired k-8 school librarian, so of course I love visiting libraries when I travel. The Boston Public Library, on Copley Square in Back Bay, is worth the trip. The first U.S. library to have a dedicated children's library, I had to peruse that area, but the main draw is the historical end. Wonderful architecture, ample signage, and lovely photos/views. Don't miss Bate's Hall! Downstairs, there is a lovely courtyard and they have both afternoon tea and a full bar. Yes, a library with a bar! The afternoon tea looked lovely -- wish we would have known ahead of time so we could have stayed. I believe they take reservations. When finished, cross the street to see Trinity Church. Atlantic Seafood is within walking distance.
    Visited September 2023
    Traveled with family
    Written September 28, 2023
  • OrlandoMouse
    St. Augustine, Florida2,343 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    The older library section so much classier than the new section.
    If you like libraries, you may like to visit here. But you need to know there are two libraires located here. One is the ultra-modern section with computer stations everywhere as well as the home of the children’s library. The other is next door. If inside the new library, follow the signs to the Courtyard. For those with the pocketbook and interest, the Courtyard is the home of the Tea Room. It is pricey, however, people who have done it enjoyed the finger sandwiches and tea. Further past the tearoom is some fantastic artwork as well as two marble lions. This is the McKim Lobby with the Grand staircase. There is beautiful artwork on the walls in the staircase area. Don’t miss at the top of the stairs going to Bates Hall. It has long desks and cool green glass reading lamps. It is an amazing reading room. Find the Abbey Room with the intricate wood walls and tapestry paintings around the top border. This section of the library should not be missed. It is worth spending a few hours looking through the older part of the library. Very classic.
    Visited September 2023
    Traveled as a couple
    Written October 25, 2023
  • Roary
    Vancouver, Canada3,721 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Beautiful space to visit if nearby
    I’m not one to normally visit libraries, but I had a few hours to spare before checking out of my hotel nearby. The Grand Staircase, Chavannes Gallery, and Bates Hall were highlights worth visiting especially since it’s free. I’m glad I visited.
    Visited October 2023
    Traveled with friends
    Written October 28, 2023
  • Dexter B
    York, Pennsylvania1,125 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Definitely a Place to Visit
    The outside statues are a bit strange to me. The inside is amazing. This is a very large place. The main hall reminds me of Harry Potter. The history of this place is very interesting. I loved General Washington's painting in one of the rooms. It is definitely a place to visit.
    Visited October 2023
    Traveled with family
    Written November 13, 2023
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Heidi H
Orlando, Florida, United States42 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2023
Years ago, my Art History professor included a slide of the courtyard of the Boston Public Library in his discussion and I thought to myself, someday, I am going there. I remembered that when I was planning my first trip to Boston in the early 1990's and casually added it to my list of things to do.

Little did I know that it would become the first thing on my list to do upon my return.

I am only sorry to say that it has taken me so long to return. I fell in love with this building then and I still am awestruck by the classic architecture, breathtaking murals and of course, the lion sculptures (Kind of a sentimental family thing, I inherited my great grandparent's lion which I climbed on as a kid, although mine is well loved and no longer as beautiful.)

Only thing that could top this visual feast for the eyes, would be to include a really great glass of chardonnay and Andrea Bocelli's music and having the museum all to myself. Other than that, it's perfect in every way.

Since I was last here, they have added a quaint bar (which actually seemed romantic to me and I wished my husband was with me) and a tea room. You need reservations which I did not have. Book this before you leave home, you do not want to miss out like I did. If I would have known this existed, I would have made reservations for both, not necessarily on the same day. I have no idea of prices of anything but that would not concern me as I would just be happy to be there.

It was a rainy afternoon when we visited which had followed close to 100 degree temperatures and the library was crowded with tourist like me who had cameras in hand to take photos of everything, to be able to remember our experiences. You know when you take photos of the Grand Canyon and then look at them and are disappointed, well that is how my photos turned out. They do not compare in the least to seeing this library in person.

Do not miss the Sargent gallery. My personal favorite is the Prophets, it's certainly not the most impressive but still it's my favorite. I stopped by the Bookstore which is incredibly small and purchased some notecards. Big mistake in not purchasing more than one of each mural, so buy more, you will be happy when you get home and at one dollar a piece, they are a bargain.

The quirky book socks are also a bargain at three dollars and my son had to have a pair. Even my son, loved this place and I was grateful that he did not complain as I dragged him all over the library.

Enjoy your time, do not rush and if you have the entire day to spend there, then I envy you.
Written August 1, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Kelly C
Illinois8 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020 • Friends
I love libraries and have visited many “important “ libraries. This is the most inviting library I’ve visited. It is light and airy & welcoming and designed for real people to use and enjoy. In addition, there is the fabulous historical section (oldest public library in the nation) with marvelous architectural details, mosaics, ....and Singer Sargeant frescos on the top floor. It even has a restaurant and tea room!
Written January 22, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

hrobinson1114
Nashville, TN5,809 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2022 • Solo
Not as awe-inspiring as the New York Public Library, but still worth your attention. Some beautiful photo ops, but surprisingly, compared to NYPL, it’s harder to get good photos without crowds obscuring your shots.

Free. Pretty. Stop to see the murals and architecture. I spent probably half an hour here. But on another note, I felt guilty entering the main reading room because I felt like I was intruding on all the people actually there to study (there were a lot of us milling around). This is not a huge space, so extra people snapping photos, no matter how quietly, are likely noticeable.
Written February 5, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Adam T
York, UK911 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2019
We stopped in on the way to Fenway and it was a nice break. The reading rooms are beautiful and the art gallery was a surprising find, with good description cards of the pictures for a quick self-guided tour. It’s free so worth a look if you’re in the area. The cafe also looked really nice if you have a little more time.
Written August 15, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Elizabeth H
Burlington, NC12 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2021
If you love art, especially art commissioned for the public, this is a distinctly American building, based on European traditions...full of beautiful murals. It is easy to imagine using this as an inspiring place to study, read or reflect. You can spend a fairly small amount of time and get a big payoff!
Written October 18, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MidwestKathM
Detroit, MI1,070 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2021
This 1895 building designed by Charles McKim is a masterpiece inside and out! From the minute you walk in the front door, you will be amazed! Be sure to look up and down and all around!! Some of America's finest artists have work in this building, most notably Augustus St. Gaudens (sculptural details), Daniel Chester French (bronze doors), and John Singer Sargent (murals in the 3rd floor gallery). French painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes did the awesome murals at the top of the main staircase. The Abbey Room features murals depicting Sir Galahad's Quest of the Holy Grail. The Reading Room is awesome with its arched ceiling; check out the sculptures displayed along the bookcases. Sit outdoors in the courtyard to relax. No admission; public restrooms. We also stopped in the 1972 Philip Johnson addition (home of the circulating collection) to see its modern (Brutalist) take on the library and its 2016 renovations. We were intrigued by the huge wall mural made of actual books!
Written July 17, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

OrlandoMouse
St. Augustine, FL2,343 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2023 • Couples
If you like libraries, you may like to visit here. But you need to know there are two libraires located here. One is the ultra-modern section with computer stations everywhere as well as the home of the children’s library. The other is next door. If inside the new library, follow the signs to the Courtyard. For those with the pocketbook and interest, the Courtyard is the home of the Tea Room. It is pricey, however, people who have done it enjoyed the finger sandwiches and tea. Further past the tearoom is some fantastic artwork as well as two marble lions. This is the McKim Lobby with the Grand staircase. There is beautiful artwork on the walls in the staircase area. Don’t miss at the top of the stairs going to Bates Hall. It has long desks and cool green glass reading lamps. It is an amazing reading room. Find the Abbey Room with the intricate wood walls and tapestry paintings around the top border. This section of the library should not be missed. It is worth spending a few hours looking through the older part of the library. Very classic.
Written October 25, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

lamontravel
California627 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2021 • Friends
I wanted to visit the library as it was across the street from our hotel, and looked beautiful. I was not disappointed. It is one of the most beautiful public libraries I’ve ever visited. The historic feel, with the Washington room and the large study halls were consistent with the old town of Boston. The architecture and marble stairs were reminiscent of the era in which it was built. There was an interior garden where people were sitting, reading, studying and relaxing. I would highly recommend a visit to this library. A quick visit can be done in 30 minutes, but I’d love to go back and spend some time just taking in the surroundings.
Written August 28, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

BeachStone2C
Helsinki, Finland2,629 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020 • Solo
Boston Central Public Library consists of two architecturally impressive buildings; McKim and Johnson buildings. The former is older one and more impressive. It was completed at the end of the 19th Century. It has architecturally awesome Lobby, Staircase and Halls. The main entrance is in the Johnson building as well as cafe. There are free tours on daily bases. I would’ve certainly taken one had my schedule been more flexible. Free entrance.
Written January 15, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Jaffathecat1
oxford585 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2024 • Couples
Late opening meant we could visit here late this afternoon. We were very lucky to find there was a free concert in the courtyard with 2 great soul singers entertaining the crowd. Then upstairs to the Bates reading room which is spectacular, although the tourists must be irritating for those studying here! The hidden gem is 1 floor further up to the Sargent hall which has some great frescos telling the story of the Knights of the holy grail - the real one, not the Monty Python story!
Written June 12, 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Boston Public Library - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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