Folger Shakespeare Library

Library in Capitol Hill & South DC

Bard-o-philes will be all aflutter here, as the library holds the largest collection of old Billy’s works in the world. Stroll through the Great Hall to see Elizabethan artifacts, paintings, etchings and manuscripts. The highlight is a rare First Folio that you can peek at. Pop into the evocative on-site theater, a replica of the Elizabethan Globe Theatre; it’s worth returning in the evening to catch a show.

The centerpiece, however, is the library’s reading rooms, closed to all but scholars, except on Shakespeare’s birthday (April 23) and during weekend tours (noon to 1pm Saturday and 1pm to 2pm Sunday; book online in advance). Here you’ll find most of the library’s most valued Elizabethan artifacts, paintings, etchings and manuscripts. The Shakespeare bust on the east end wall is one of only two approved likenesses.

Docents also give hour-long tours (11am, 1pm and 3pm Monday through Saturday, noon and 3pm Sunday) of the building and exhibitions; no reservations are required for those. An Elizabethan garden, full of flowers and herbs cultivated during Shakespeare’s time, blooms on the building's eastern end.

The Folger building itself is notable for being the most prominent example of the modernist-classical hybrid movement that swept Washington, DC, during the Great Depression. Jokingly referred to as ‘Stark Deco,’ it tends to inspire strong feelings: lovers say it elegantly pays homage to Greek classicism and 20th-century modernism, while haters say it ruins both styles.