Splendidly situated on the north side of Logan Circle, the Free Library of Philadelphia rivals the public libraries of Boston and New York for magnificence and diversity. The library and its twin, the Municipal Court, are copies of buildings in the Place de la Concorde in Paris (the library's on the left).
The main lobby and the gallery always have some of the institution's riches on display, from medieval manuscripts to exhibits of modern bookbinding. Greeting cards and stationery are sold for reasonable prices, too. The second floor houses the best local history, travel, and resource collection in the city. The local 130,000-item map collection is fascinating. The third-floor rare book room hosts visitors Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, with tours by appointment. If you're interested in manuscripts, children's literature, early printed books, and early American hornbooks, or you just want to see a stuffed raven, this is the place.
There's an active concert-and-film series, and when Anne Lamott, Toni Morrison, or, um, Candace Bushnell comes to town for a reading, you can bet he or she will be speaking in the library's auditorium on a weekday night. Other notables participate in the library's regular lecture series. The library is also planning a 180,000-square-foot modern addition designed by Moshe Safdie.