A good book can transport its reader to a particular moment in time, inside the mind of a compelling character, or to the farthest corners of this planet or another. A good library can offer those same rich destinations hundreds or thousands of times over. From hulking campus buildings to intimate volunteer-run archives, here are NorCal libraries worth getting lost in.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Cecil H. Green Library
Stanford University’s main library is home to nearly three million volumes. Named for Texas Instruments founder and philanthropist Cecil Howard Green, the historic Beaux Arts facade of the structure dates back to 1919, when it replaced the previous university library destroyed by the 1906 earthquake (a major structural overhaul was needed in the 1990s, too). The social sciences and humanities collection is housed in the building, and while serving students and faculty is its primary purpose, members of the public can enjoy the Green’s shelf-lined aisles and public art as well, after obtaining a pass from the building’s information desk.
Burlingame Public Library
After the original library was destroyed by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the city commissioned a new library in its place. The new library’s architecture boasts multiple awards and was featured on the cover of American Libraries. The whole place possesses a sophisticated yet relaxed vibe, perfect for diving into a good story. There are big windows and a lofted ceiling, and the building retained its historic Mediterranean-style charm even after reconstruction. In 2008, two lion statues were placed at the library’s front entrance, flanking the door. The “Literary Lions” were a gift to celebrate the building’s centennial year in 2009. If architecture is not your thing, the library offers several classes, seminars and talks on various subjects relating to literature and art.
San Francisco Public Library
Open to the public daily, the San Francisco Public Library Main Branch is consistently filled with tourists and locals looking for shelter from the chill in the air, but it’s an ideal place for bookworms to duck into as well. The Main Library serves as the primary resource center for the entirety of the SFPL system, hosting a variety of collections like the San Francisco History Center, the African American Center, the Chinese Center, the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, the Steve Silver Beach Blanket Babylon Music Center, the Wallace E. Stegner Environmental Center, and the Marjorie G. & Carl W. Stern Book Arts & Special Collections Center. Look for the dramatic Beaux Arts granite Sierra White granite facade and on Grove and Hyde streets, a more contemporary look. With seven floors and 376,000 square feet of space, the building likely requires a map, and lucky for visitors there are tours held the first Tuesday of every month.
With soaring ceilings and plenty of natural light, the University of California at Berkeley’s main library is a striking place to study. It’s not a bad spot for plain old exploring, either. Students and visitors will find workshops, lectures, exhibitions, and several smaller library collections within its walls. The Heyns and North reading rooms are lined with long tables and seating for up to 400 in a peaceful, historic setting. The hulking structure, named for its benefactor Charles Franklin Doe, opened in 1911 with an initial selection of more than 160,000 volumes. The building’s neoclassical style was the design of campus architectural contest winner Emile Bénard. Today, the pillared library, home to the university’s Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and International and Area Studies resources, is linked to the Moffitt Library with the underground Gardner Stacks.
Mill Valley Public Library
About 15 miles north of San Francisco in Marin County, Mill Valley is a cozy community of about 15,000. Its inviting, light-flooded public library was built in 1966 and houses more than 115,000 items, plus hand-crafted furniture by Art and Tripp Carpenter and several pieces of art, including oil paintings by Ray Strong and Ludmilla Welch. Beneath its peaked ceiling, the library hosts regular community events, film screenings, lectures, and classes alongside its comfy fireplace and towering windows. Outside, a deck overlooks a thicket of redwood trees and a babbling creek. Inside, its monthly gallery program showcases established and emerging local artists. It’s also the site of Mill Valley’s Lucretia Little History Room, a space that stores and displays historical documents, photos, and other materials.
If you find yourself in SoMa, be sure to check out Prelinger Library, open to anyone looking for ‘research, reading, inspiration, and reuse.’ An independent research center founded in 2004 by Rick and Megan Prelinger, the library prides itself on housing a community of artists, writers, activists, and other creatives, and it shows. The space is crowded with donated maps, books, and historical ephemera that would be hard to find elsewhere. The atmosphere is just as funky. Colorful walls and neon signs make for a different take on the traditional library (the sometimes wacky hours add to that uniqueness, be sure to check the website before visiting). Prelinger hosts a collection of print memorabilia from the the 1800s and 1900s, primarily consisting of works published in the United States, giving visitors a taste of the corners of American culture at those times that didn’t stick to the mainstream.
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.