They're one of the last remaining places where you can just sit and explore for hours on end. When done right, they're also beautiful spaces that fill visitors with awe.
Business Insider has ranked the most beautiful libraries in the 25 largest US cities, using census data to determine the cities included and awards from the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association to select the buildings. For cities whose libraries have yet to win any awards, we selected locations that employed the most innovative designs.
Make sure to give these a look on your next road trip.
26. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. is the oldest federal cultural institution in the US and contains 130 million collection items across 2.1 million square feet of space.
25. Seattle's Central Library, the main branch of the public library, won a 2005 national AIA Honor Award for Architecture for its silvery, asymmetrical design that lets in heaps of light.
24. Founded in the mid-19th century, the Boston Public Library boasts an impressively spacious reading room and a courtyard encircled by archways.
23. The George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is open to the public and contains five floors of books around a main atrium.
22. The Bellevue Library in Nashville won the 2015 AIA Tennessee Merit Award for its flexible design, which can cater to large groups or intimate gatherings.
21. Rhodes College Library in Memphis, Tennessee features medieval architecture both inside and out. It has been recognized by AIA Memphis as one of the city's hottest attractions for arch lovers.
20. The Esperanza Acosta Moreno Library utilizes Mexican-inspired designs and bold colors to create a soft, inviting space for visitors.
19. Inside the Detroit Public Library are soaring ceilings, marble staircases, and many ornate frescoes.
18. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Charlotte, North Carolina glitters and dazzles in the nighttime, while providing a cozy interior for kids to read.
17. The Louisville Free Public Library won an Honor Award as part of the AIA's 2016 Kentucky Design Awards for its overlapping wooden facade.
16. The Fort Worth Public Library opened in 1901 and has retained much of its handsome aesthetic. It was originally called the Carnegie Public Library due to a sizable donation from Andrew Carnegie.
15. The palatial William Oxley Thompson Library in Columbus, Ohio won the 2011 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.
14. The University of Texas at Austin's Architecture and Planning Library recalls the vaulted ceilings of medieval design but adds some modern flair.
13. San Francisco's North Beach library won the 2016 AIA San Francisco library awards for its sleek, jagged design and expansive interior.
12. The original 19th-century design of the Jacksonville Public Library has been preserved, and was recognized in 2012 by the AIA Florida chapter in its list "Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places."
11. Indianapolis' Central Library invites visitors in with lofty white arches and colorful banners in the atrium.
10. In San Jose, California, the Martin Luther King Jr. Library serves as the main library for both San Jose State University and the San Jose Public Library system. At eight floors and 475,000 square feet, it's one of the largest libraries on the West Coast.
9. The Lochwood branch of the Dallas Public Library was built in 2009 and incorporates open-concept designs with wide windows so that even kids can see the sweeping views.
8. The tree-shaped Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego, manages to evoke an organic feel despite its Brutalist concrete design.
7. The Mission Branch of the San Antonio Public Library was awarded the 2015 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for its modern use of local materials in homage to regional architecture.
6. Phoenix's South Mountain Community Library won a 2013 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for its design, which resembles a circuit board, and its use of natural shading to merge the indoors and outdoors.
5. The Free Library of Philadelphia opened in 1894 and has retained its sense of elegance and enormity for more than a century.
4. The Oak Forest Neighborhood Library in Houston, Texas received a 2011 renovation to its 1961 construction, adding in new rooms for younger readers. It won a 2013 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.
3. The Chicago Public Library's Chinatown branch won the 2016 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for its sleek design and emphasis on community involvement.
2. The Los Angeles Central Library is the third-largest library in the US, featuring a mix of Mediterranean and Egyptian influences.
1. The New York Public Library's main branch, built between 1897-1911, is a soaring and magnificent piece of the city's history.