New York Public Library Visitors Guide

This Beaux-Arts Landmark has free tours and the Gutenberg Bible!

New York Public Library
••• Alex Proimos/Wikimedia Commons

If you're planning a trip to New York City, you won't want to miss visiting the historic New York Public Library, which features such attractions as Astor Hall, the Gutenberg Bible, the Rose Reading Room, and the McGraw Rotunda, each of which carries a certain historical significance to this NYC staple.

First opened in 1911, the New York Public Library was created by bringing together a $2.4 million donation from Samuel Tilden with the existing Astor and Lenox Libraries in New York City; the site of the Croton Reservoir was chosen for the new library, and its landmark design was conceived by Doctor John Shaw Billings, director of the New York Public Library.

When the building opened, it was the largest marble building in the United States and home to over one million books.

Exploring this great free attraction is relatively easy—all you need to do is register for a library card and walk around the library on your own or head over to the information desk on the first floor to take one of two tours: the Building Tour or the Exhibition Tour.

New York Public Library Tours and General Information

The NY Public Library features two distinct tours for visitors of all ages, each of which is entirely free and highlights different features of this Beaux-Arts landmark.

The building tours are free one-hour walking tours Tuesday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and 2 p.m. on Sunday (the library is closed on Sundays in the summer) highlighting the history and architecture of the New York Public Library. These tours are a great way to get an overview of the beauty and expanse of the Library's collections; meanwhile, the  Exhibition Tours offer visitors a chance to look inside the library's current exhibitions and other events take place regularly throughout the year.

The New York Public Library is located at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Midtown East and takes up two blocks between 42nd and 40th streets. Subway access is available via the MTA 7, B, D, and F trains to the 42nd Street-Bryant Park Station.

Admission is free, with the exception of some lectures that require advanced tickets to attend; for hours of operation, contact information, and details regarding tour times and special events visit the official website before planning your trip to the NY Public Library.

More About the New York Public Library

The building that most people identify as the New York Public Library is actually the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, one of five research libraries and 81 branch libraries making up the New York Public Library system.

The New York Public Library was created in 1895 by combining the collections of the Astor and Lenox Libraries, which were experiencing financial difficulties, with the $2.4 million trust from Samuel J. Tilden given to "establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York." 16 years later, on May 23, 1911, President William Howard Taft, Governor John Alden Dix, and Mayor William J Gaynor dedicated the Library and opened it to the public the next day.

Visitors today can conduct research, take a tour, attend numerous events, and even wander through the library to view its many treasures and artworks including the Gutenberg Bible, murals and paintings, and beautiful architecture that makes this location so unique.