With four glass towers shaped like half-open books, the National Library of France, opened in 1995, was one of President Mitterrand’s most ambitious and costliest projects. Some 12 million tomes are stored on 420km of shelves and the library can accommodate 2000 readers and 2000 researchers. It also hosts excellent temporary exhibitions (entrance Est), mostly visual arts. For access to the reference library, add €3.90.

No expense was spared to carry out the library’s grand design, which many claimed defied logic. Books and historical documents are shelved in the sunny, 23-storey, 79m-high towers, while patrons sit in artificially lit basement halls built around a ‘forest courtyard’ of 140 50-year-old pines, trucked in from the countryside.