Rendez-vous at the National Library of France in Paris

  • The BNF walkway

    © A.Nestora/CRT PIdF

    The BNF walkway

    © A.Nestora/CRT PIdF

  • The BNF at night

    © E.Trousse/SipaPresse/CRT PIdF

    The BNF at night

    © E.Trousse/SipaPresse/CRT PIdF

Rendez-vous at the National Library of France in Paris Quai François Mauriac 75013 Paris fr

The National Library of France, the largest in France, is none other than the national library of the French Republic.

Located in the 13th arrondissement in Paris, sitting right on the Seine, it is sometimes referred to as “The François Mitterrand Library” to remember the president that founded it, and locally known and referred to as the “BNF” (Bibliothèque National de France).

The largest library in France

Located in Paris, the National Library of France has the largest collection of books in France but also competes as one of the largest in the world.

Within its 4 towers, it really does hold some literary masterpieces. Take for example the royal collections, started by Charles V and then Louis XIV, comprised of books including some that were written towards the end of the Middle-Ages.

Overall, around 14,000,000 books and forms are archived here. That doesn’t even include the somewhat 250,000 manuscripts, millions of magazines and also photos, coins, multimedia documents, sceneries and other prints. All together, this makes for almost 30 million documents!

4 modern towers

Designed by Dominique Perrault, the architecture of the library is impressive. Boarding the Seine on the François Mauriac quay (on the left bank) extends a vast esplanade of wood (Ipe of Brazil, a rot-proof hardwood) accessible via several steps.

Here stand 4 imposing towers. 260ft high, and individually symbolising four open books facing each other. Each has 18 floors, 11 of them reserved as "bookstores" (approximately 500 miles of stock!) and 7 as offices.

Each tower has a specific theme:

  • The Tower of Times: philosophy, history, and human sciences;
  • The Tower of the Arts: art and literature;
  • The Tower of Laws: law, economics, and politics;
  • The Tower of Numbers: science and technology.

At their feet stands a large 2.5 acre garden filled with trees. Unfortunately this is not open to the public, but can be seen from some of the reading rooms.

The National Library of France, a place of culture, also showcases several exhibitions every year in its two galleries, and organises many other cultural events such as concerts and conferences. 


Bibliothèque nationale de France - BnF
Quai François Mauriac,
75013 Paris

Things to see

Point of interest