Biblioteca de México – Mexico City, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Biblioteca de México

This "City of Books" holds a museum, library, and the complete personal book collections of five of Mexico's greatest thinkers. 


This historic Mexico City library holds the celebrates the city’s rich history of letters with the personal collections of some of the country’s greatest thinkers, each with their own incredible architectural style.

Modeled after the Royal Tobacco Factory in Spain, the building that now houses the library came to be called “La Ciudadela” thanks to its fortress-like appearance (it served as a political prison for José María Morelos y Pavón until his death). After serving as a prison, a school, and an actual military site, since 1946 it has been home to the Biblioteca de México. In 2010 the historic facility was remodeled, creating different library spaces inside including the complete collections of some of the country’s most prominent intellectuals, taking the nickname, “The City of the Books.”

It all started with the death of the intellectual José Luis Martínez. His complete collection of books was placed in the old library, then the next two collections came as donations from diplomats and writers Jaime García Terrés and Antonio Castro Leal. The collections eventually became so big that the government decided to remodel the building completely.

The architects dedicated separate rooms to the collections of these great Mexican thinkers adding the libraries of poet Alí Chumacero and writer Carlos Monsiváis. Each collection was assigned a separate design team, so every section has its own atmosphere. In the area dedicated to Monsiváis for example, the shelves were designed to evoke the buildings of Mexico City because he was the city chronicler.

In addition to the personal libraries, the library has a number of other things to offer. There are unique murals, a large collection of books in braille, a children’s deptartment, concert halls, a gallery, a museum, a theater, a movie hall, and even a newspaper library. Today it is considered one of the three most beautiful libraries of Mexico. Considering the city’s rich bibliographic offerings, that’s no small praise.

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