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Szabo Ervin Library in Budapest

The incredible Szabo Ervin Library in Budapest is a hidden treasure, left often out of guidebooks, tucked into a busy section of the city. But for those who know, this is a stunning step back to time when libraries were like mansions.
It was Ervin Szabó, sociologist who established the public library network in Budapest at the beginning of the 20th century.
Built by Count Frigyes Wenckheim (1842 – 1912), a well-known Hungarian aristocrat, the Central Library is easy to miss, because a modern library surrounds it, secreting away the beautifully preserved Wenckheim Palace. This neobaroque palace was built between 1887 and 1889 and it was restored and enlarged between 1998 and 2001.

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It was once the private residence of the aristocratic Wenckheim family, landowners in south-eastern Hungary. The City Council purchased the building and converted the beautiful palace rooms into reading rooms for their new library in 1931. The hungarian neo-baroque arcitecture makes for a handsome backdrop to the walls of leather tomes and the old Dining Room, converted to a long reading room, centered by a long table, once for feasts, now for quiet contemplation, is an especially suggestive place. The former Smoking Room, with its spiral staircase leading to a gallery also stands out and these two rooms are warmly lit and encased in dark wood.

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Even if it can be a confusing process to find the Central Library in the maze-like modern section of the library, once you do, you can pick out a beautiful old book, sink back into a deep leather chair surrounded by the soft light of chandeliers, and relax like a 19th century Hungarian artistocrat…

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