National Library of Finland

Helsinki, Finland | C.1845

Photo Credit: Raluca Acatincăi

The National Library of Finland is a cultural icon and renowned landmark of Helsinki. As the country’s oldest and largest scholarly library, by law it is the depository for all Finnish printed and audiovisual material excluding films.

The library consists of two buildings, the Rotunda and the Fabiana, each featuring vaulted ceilings, grand staircases, and multiple Greek and Roman-inspired statues. The main building was designed by C.L. Engel, a German architect who also designed Helsinki City Hall, Helsinki Cathedral, and Senate Square.

Though these buildings contain over 3 millions printed works and more than 67 miles of shelf space, the collection still outgrew these structures. Drilled into solid rock 59 feet below the library, the “Book Cave” now houses the bulk of the library’s materials.

Due to its longevity and ambitious goals, the library also includes material from before Finland’s independence from Russia in 1917, making it the largest collection chronicling the Russian Empire in the world.

Today, any person who lives in Finland can register to borrow materials from the library. Though the building has of course undergone extensive renovations, many original details still remain, including a bronze bust of Czar Alexander I that has lived there since construction.

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