Inside Paris’ opulent new reading room


A stunning new public library and high temple to reading has opened in Paris for both local and traveling bibliophiles. It goes by a nickname that couldn’t be more apt: the Oval Paradise.

After a painstaking 12-year restoration that carried a price tag of €261 million, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France’s historic Richelieu site in 2nd arrondissement has reopened the last of its reading rooms, giving Parisians and visitors a soaring new space in which to read, work, study, write…or just daydream. 

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And unlike the library’s other reading spaces – which are reserved exclusively for accredited researchers – the Oval Room (Salle Ovale) is free to use and open to the general public.

Readers in the Salle Ovale at the Richelieu site of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, ParisLocals and visitors alike are welcome to curl up with a book and read for hours in the soaring Salle Ovale © Vivian Song

Since it opened its doors last September, the Oval Paradise has become Paris’s newest architectural attraction. A monumental glass ceiling brings natural light flooding into the majestic setting, where 20,000 books on French art, history and literature – all free to peruse – are stacked under soaring archways.

But it’s not all textbook academia. If you’re more into manga than Montesquieu, you may be interested to learn that nearly half (or 9000) of the room’s holdings consist of comic books and graphic novels from around the world, the largest collection of its kind in France. 

If you’re a student or working remotely, park yourself at any one of the long tables in the center…

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