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Loyally guarded by 'Patience' and 'Fortitude' (the marble lions overlooking Fifth Ave), this beaux-arts show-off is one of NYC's best free attractions. When dedicated in 1911, New York’s flagship library ranked as the largest marble structure ever built in the US, and to this day its recently restored Rose Main Reading Room steals the breath away with its lavish coffered ceiling. It's only one of several glories inside, among them the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room.
This extraordinary building is home to precious manuscripts by just about every author of note in the English language, including an original copy of the Declaration of Independence and a Gutenberg Bible. The Map Division is equally astounding, with a collection that holds some 431,000 maps, 16,000 atlases and books on cartography, dating from the 16th century to the present. To properly explore this mini-universe of books, art and architectural flourishes, join a free guided tour (departing from Astor Hall) or grab a free audioguide from the information desk (also in Astor Hall).
Across its branches, the NYPL keeps brains lubricated with its string of lectures, seminars and workshops, with topics ranging from contemporary art to the writings of Jane Austen. You’ll find some of the best at the main branch on 42nd St. You can search all happenings at the library’s website.