National Library of Brazil

The magnificent National Library of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro is the largest library in Latin America and the 7th largest in the world

Facade of the National Library of Rio de Janeiro
Facade of the National Library of Rio de Janeiro cc licensed Wikimedia photo by Halleypo

For those of you who love to read and who love seeing historical buildings you absolutely have to take a trip down to the National Library of Brazil. This library is the largest library in Latin America and the 7th largest library in the world with a collection of roughly 9,000,000 items. Situated in Rio de Janeiro, this magnificent building is a treasure chest of manuscripts, books, lithographs, cartographic material, photographs, coins and medals.

There seem to be two versions as to why the library was brought to Brazil. In one version of the story it is stated that in 1755 Portugal suffered a massive earthquake which led to a lot of damage to the existing infrastructure of the Royal Library. In a bid to save the prized documentation of the Royal family the library was moved to Brazil in three phases which started in 1810. Initially, it was the upstairs rooms of the Hospital of the Third Order of the Carmel located close to the Palace Imperial that was used. But because these were not considered the best location for this valuable library, Prince Regent issued a decree for funds to be provided from the royal treasury in order to build the royal library.

In the other version of the story, the Royal family brought the books from Portugal with them as they exiled themselves to Brazil days before Napoleonic troops invaded Portugal in 1807. This was their way of protecting their royal documentation and other items of interest. It is stated that the National Library was moved three times before the go ahead was given and the National Library of Brazil, then called the Portuguese Royal Library, was built. At the time of its establishment it had over 60,000 books, manuscripts and other items. Over the years the collection grew as other items of interest were collected and added to its vaults.

In its early years it is said that the library was only open to special scholars. They needed to get permission in order to access materials. Later in 1814 it was opened to the general public but the general public did not have a great interest in the library due to having only basic literacy so its aisles were frequented by the educated elite of Brazil.

Pay a visit to the National Library of Brazil, take some time to browse through the amazing collection and satisfy your curiosity on almost any topic while surrounded by the splendour of it architecture.

Facts For Your Visit

Fee: No

Currently Closed

Hours This Week:
  • Monday: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Thursday: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Friday: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Saturday: 10:30 AM – 3:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Address: Av. Rio Branco, 219 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20040-008, Brazil

Phone: (21) 2220-3040

Official Website: National Library of Brazil

Directions

Metro Line Nearest Station Walking Time
Line 1 - Orange or Line 2 - GreenCinelândia1 Minute

How to get to National Library of Brazil by Metro

National Library of Brazil is located immediately east of the exit from Cinelândia Station.

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Reviews

Rated 4.5 out of 5Fundação Biblioteca Nacional Star Rating

4 Star Rating The biggest library of Latin America is very impressive from outside! You can visit it for free, but actually inside you’re only able to visit very few places, most of it is closed for visitors.

jonna martikainen - 3 months ago

5 Star Rating By chance, as we were waiting for our tour of the opera building across the road, we stumbled into this library - wow - it is the FINEST example I have ever seen! What a statement to have level upon level of glorious staircases and magnificent light fittings. Rio really is a city full of luxurious and glamorous surprises.

David Maddison - 4 months ago

4 Star Rating Beautiful building and it’s free to walk around and visit. Shame that only 2 of the 4 floors are open to the public - and even then, all of the side rooms that contain the archives are closed off to the public. Descriptions of the limited exhibits that are accessible are only in Portuguese :(

Robert Freele - 5 months ago

2 Star Rating I agree that a reading and studying space would make the environment more fluid and utilitarian. There seems to be an insular and smug atmosphere. Hope this doesn't negatively impact the ability of the institution to accompany the evolution of contemporary and future Brazilian work. The museum belongs to the public, in theory. Took the time to make a donation, they humored me in a thinly veiled way and effectively threw the books in the trash. Don't expect much beyond the very beautiful building.

Lanne T - 9 months ago

5 Star Rating The National Library is beautiful. With a very rich architecture is considered by UNESCO one of the biggest national libraries of the world and the largest library in Latin America. When I visited the library I saw the exposure to exiles from World War II. Very interesting!

Monica Brittes - 1 year ago

Video


A quick look around the beautiful interior of the National Library of Rio de Janeiro

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