Vancouver Public Library

Library in Downtown & West End

This dramatic Colosseum-like building must be a temple to the great god of libraries. If not, it's certainly one of the world's most magnificent book-lending facilities. Designed by Moshe Safdie and opened in 1995, it contains 1.2 million books and other items spread out over seven levels, all of them seemingly populated by language students silently learning English from textbooks (and messaging each other).

There's free wi-fi, and computer terminals if you don't have your own device. The library hosts a lively roster of free book readings and events. On our visit construction was underway to add a theater space and a lofty public garden to the top of the building – ask for updates at the front desk (quietly). And save time for the library shop; it's crammed with cool bookish gifts.