The central branch of the city’s library system is an architectural and intellectual monument. The original 1895 building, a National Historic Landmark designed by Charles F. McKim, is an Italian Renaissance–style masterpiece that fairly drips with art. The lobby doors are the work of Daniel Chester French (who also designed the Abraham Lincoln statue in the memorial in Washington, the “Minute Man” statue in Concord, and the John Harvard statue in Cambridge). The murals are by John Singer Sargent and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, among others. Visit the lovely courtyard ★ or peek at it from a window on the stairs. The adjoining addition, of the same height and material (pink granite), was designed by Philip Johnson and opened in 1972. Ask the staff at the information desk about changing exhibits. The Courtyard restaurant serves lunch Monday through Friday and afternoon tea Wednesday through Friday, and the Map Room Café is open Monday through Saturday 9am to 5pm.

Free Art & Architecture Tours ( run daily; check the schedule on the website.