British Library

Top choice Library

in North London

Consisting of low-slung red-brick terraces and fronted by a large piazza with an oversized statue of Sir Isaac Newton, Colin St John Wilson’s British Library building is an architectural wonder. Completed in 1998, it's home to some of the greatest treasures of the written word, including the Codex Sinaiticus (the first complete text of the New Testament), Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks and two copies of the Magna Carta (1215).

The most precious manuscripts are held in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery, including stunningly illustrated religious texts, Shakespeare's First Folio (1623), a Gutenberg Bible from 1455, a copy of The Diamond Sutra in Chinese dating to 868 – the world's oldest block-printed book – as well as handwritten lyrics by the Beatles and the score to Handel's Messiah.

Book a one-hour guided library tour (adult/child £10/8) for an eye-opening glimpse into the inner workings of the library and its treasures. Tours can be arranged on the website.