Boston Public Library
Boston Public Library
4.5
Points of Interest & LandmarksLibraries
9:00 AM - 8:00 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
Neighbourhood: 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
Reach out directly
See what travellers are saying
  • Paul C
    Wellington, New Zealand170 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Amazing architecture
    This is a pretty low impact place to visit i.e. free; so if you're passing you need o drop in. Some pretty amazing architecture and the main reading room looks so good it's like a movie set.
    Visited May 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 22 May 2023
  • stevehh2525
    91 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Grand Building
    The main building's central staircase alone makes this a place to visit. The reading room is another. The map room is another - if you are into history. The oldest public library in the US, this is a must see if you are central Boston.
    Visited May 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 29 June 2023
  • Jaskel08
    California240 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Beautiful library – well worth the visit.
    There is no entry fee into the library. It’s the oldest functioning library in the country. A tour is not essential but would be helpful. We went in and meandered the different levels and sections of the library. Just the architecture alone is worth a visit. The map room, study hall, and the grand staircase when you first enter are beyond amazing. At times, I had to remind myself I wasn’t in a historic Italian museum – I was in a library. We also spent another hour in the children’s section which was expansive and extensive.
    Visited June 2023
    Written 9 July 2023
  • 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 19 July 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 31 July 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
    Travelled with family
    Written 3 August 2023
  • 363cymru123
    Cardiff, United Kingdom123 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 6 August 2023
  • CraftBeers
    Plano, Texas25,230 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 7 August 2023
  • Allison K
    36 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
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 26 August 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
    Travelled with family
    Written 28 September 2023
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Popular mentions

4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles4,118 reviews
Excellent
3,015
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995
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Poor
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jerrys01
Bel Air, MD585 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2024 • Couples
The daughter of our next-door neighbor now lives in the Boston area, and she told us you must visit the library. I have to say she was right. With the high ceilings and the impressive murals on the walls, along with the large lions on the main staircase, the building is really something to see. The courtyard between the old and new areas was also very attractive with its fountain and statue. The new area contains most of the books, and while attractive, its only worth visiting if you need to find a book.
Written 18 May 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.

Alireza123
Tehran, Iran1,307 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2024 • Couples
During site seeing we went there and I couldn't go out. Amassing building . Cafe and bar .
Huge and fascinating.
Free and one hour is more than enough.
Written 8 May 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.

RayGCincinnati_OH
Cincinnati, OH270 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2023 • Couples
What a feast for the eyes! This Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classic was built in 1870 by Charles McKim. The Grand staircase is made of yellow Siena marble. One of the most striking features of the stairs is a pair of Louis Saint-Gaudens lions. Exquisite murals adorn the walls of the grand staircase and second floor gallery. Stairway murals represent the disciplines of poetry, philosophy, and science while the mural in the gallery depicts "The Muses of Inspiration Hail the Spirit of Light."
Upstairs, murals titled the "Quest of the Holy Grail," by Edwin Austin Abbey, grace the walls the Abbey Room. The murals are composed of a series of panels featuring life-sized figures illustrating the Arthurian legend. On the third floor are spectacular murals painted by John Singer Sargent. The theme of this series is the development of world religions. These murals are fantastic!
All of this wonderment for the grand total of zero dollars.
Written 10 April 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.

Soabrevaya
Buenos Aires, Argentina448 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2024 • Solo
Incredible library. Has an older and newer part. Both beautiful. If you live here, it's a great place to study and work. The old part has amazing art and architecture. I wish there was an audio guide or some presentation to the art. There is some but it varies on level of detail. It's free and a must see.
Written 26 March 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.

Richard C
Virginia780 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2024 • Couples
I visited BPL to see the murals by John Singer Sargent, Edwin Austin Abbey, and Puvis de Chavannes. They are all overwhelming and on a scale that one would never see repeated in current times. Before corporate sponsorship there was the public good, and uplifting the mind and spirit is the essence of the BPL's mural cycles. Here, they continue to do so and have added more public spaces with contemporary necessities. Come for the great murals, and commend the city of Boston for its commitment to the public health and growth of the spirit.
Written 12 January 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.

Coffeewow
Columbia, MD66 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2023 • Couples
It's an amazing library. Make sure to visit the historical side and the courtyard. Beautiful, both inside and out.
Written 30 December 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.

balkanmomma
New York City, NY149 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2023 • Solo
The tour with Gail was a complete joy. She is passionate about the topic and it showed. I went to learn about the Sargent murals and got to see and learn more than I had expected. It was a highlight of my trip.
Written 21 December 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.

ian1811
Scotland, UK599 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2023 • Couples
We did a guided tour in the evening. Our tour guide Gretcha was superb and very knowledgeable. The building itself is stunning and once the details were pointed out and the history that goes with it made the tour.
Highly recommend.
Written 20 December 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.

Nina J
6 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2023 • Family
This is the most beautiful library I have ever seen. You will feel transported to Europe. We spent about an hour enjoying the architecture and visiting all the rooms. It was also a break from the chilly weather outside. Hard to believe that it is free!
Written 6 December 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.

Teresa G
St. Petersburg, FL51 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2023 • Family
What an amazing structure. The murals are beautiful and tell unique stories. So much detail in batea hall
Written 28 November 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.

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

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