Photo of a large orb. On the walls are rows and rows of bookshelves that slowly ripple as they get closer to the ceiling. There is a hole left directly above the orb. It gives the impression of an eye.

Visiting the Tianjin Binhai Library

When I was getting ready for my move to China, people kept sending me articles about the amazing new Binhai Library that opened in Tianjin. It had gone viral because of the stunning looks, and then went viral a second time once people learned the books were all fake. It even made The Time’s list of greatest places in 2018. I really wanted to visit the library, so decided to take a day trip to Tianjin. The library was included on the tour I chose, but it’s also possible to visit it independently if you want.

About the Library

Photo of a row of books in Chinese. They all have an orange band around the base of the spine with two sets of numbers.
Some real books available for borrowing.

The Binhai Library was opened in 2017. It’s located in Binhai, which is an area to the east of Tianjin. The original design of the library was that the books were meant to be accessible from behind. That, however, got scrapped, and instead all the shelves have printed images of books on them, going all the way up to the ceiling. The middle has a giant orb, as the design is meant to represent an eye. Now, even though the main area is fake, there are other sections of the library that do contain actual books. The real books all have an orange shelf mark label on them, so I imagine they thought that might ruin the aesthetics of the entrance area.

Getting to Binhai Library

Photo of some grass with a large rectangular building in the background. The part on the right of the building has long vertical stripes in random arrangements while the left side is a reddish colour. There are two metal columns that start narrow and then expand into large platforms at the roof. Inside the building is Binhai Library but you can't see anything on the building to indicate that.
Binhai Library is located inside this building.

Because Binhai Library is on the edges of Tianjin, it’s not that easy to visit from the city centre. The best option is to take a Didi (Chinese taxi app) or if you book a tour to Tianjin from Beijing then they tend to include it as a stop. I visited as part of a tour and found that was the easiest way.

The library is located inside of a mall, so when you arrive you might be a bit confused. It’s quite easy to navigate though, so you can just walk through until you reach the library.

Visiting the Library

Photo of a large white orb in the middle of a room. Behind it on the walls are rows and rows of bookshelves leading all the way up to the ceiling. There is an open space above the orb. At the far wall are several staircases allowing people to climb up to various platforms. The platforms are part of the shelves so it's hard to see what people are standing on. There are a lot of people in the photo, most on the ground and around the orb.
The main entrance of Binhai Library.

One important thing to note is that you are not allowed cameras inside the library. If you have one, you need to leave it in a locker. They have no problem with you using your phone to take photos though. I imagine they just don’t want loads of people turning up to do a photoshoot. They also don’t want you to bring in any food or water, again you can leave that in the lockers.

Both times I visited, the library was quite busy. As it’s in a mall, there are always going to be a lot of people around. It’s free to enter and is a popular place for people to go to take photos for social media.

You are able to climb up staircases and walk along the edge of the shelves on the lower levels of the library. The orb in the centre will sometimes be illuminated by different colours or designs which I found really beautiful to watch. If you have the time, definitely sit for a while to enjoy the changing colours.

Photo of the same orb as in previous photos. This time though, it's purple.
I loved when the orb turned purple.

Is it worth visiting Tianjin Binhai Library?

Photo of a shelf in Binhai Library. The wall is metal with printed images of Chinese books on it.
The fake printed books.

A lot of people say it’s not worth visiting because of how fake it is. However, I still thought it was a cool place to visit. I can understand being disappointed if you’re expecting real books, but as long as you know what to expect then it should be fine. I think if you came to Tianjin just to visit Binhai Library then you probably would feel like you wasted your trip. However, Tianjin is a great place to visit. If you’re already visiting Tianjin then it’s easy enough to include in your itinerary before heading back to Beijing. I ended up visiting twice as I went back again with my sisters and they loved seeing it too. We all love books and the design is really cool.

Have you visited the Tianjin Binhai Library? What did you think? Was it worth a visit?

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