A Library may not be the first thing that you think of when you’re a tourist in a country where you can’t speak the local language. But a few years ago, I came to understand the value of visiting a library while traveling with kids.
I was in Barcelona babysitting my then 10-year-old nephews. They were active at the playgrounds, but loved reading books as well.
My then 2-year-old was also very active, but from time to time needed a quiet moment. My trick to get all three to calm down was to go to the library in the vicinity of Park Guell. A couple of books to browse and everyone was in a good mood after that.
Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden has one of our favourite libraries.
It is located on the 4th floor of a building called Kulturhuset (The House of Culture) in the heart of the city, by Sergels torg (Sergel Square).
In the children’s library (bibliotek) children have a play area for activities such as painting, listening to the stories and even occasionally events such as dance shows or theatre plays. The area is called “Rum för Barn” (Room for Children).
The library has mostly Swedish books, but even Finnish and English books are available. When children cannot read, it really does not matter which language the book is in.
I have noticed some adults having difficulties using their imagination: “I’m not able to read this to you since I don’t understand what it says in here”. But as long as there are pictures in a book, any adult should be able to make a story, right? Kids really do not mind, they still let their imagination flow.
Every time we visit Kulturhuset and the Children’s library we have met children from all over the world, either residents or fellow tourists visiting the town and it has made our visit even more interesting.
Useful info: shoes are left by the entrance in a shoe lockers to ensure the library area stays clean. Strollers are left on the ground floor which has an area specifically for baby prams and strollers.
A so called “traffic light” system is used to get into the library, as it is very popular especially during weekends and holidays. Red colour naturally indicates that the area is full and already has a long queue. Yellow indicates the area being very busy. Green means you are welcome to play and read without any waiting time. You can see the traffic light from Sergel Square, making it easier for families to make a decision when still outside, if they should go inside or not.
What I particularly like about this place is that parents are also encouraged to leave their mobile phones aside while visiting, to be able to experience better their time together in the Room for Children.
www.kulturhusetstadsteatern.se (there is a TRANSLATE option on the website).
Last summer when we were in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, we had a very interesting experience at their Central Library. The library is located between the Central Station and NEMO science centre.
We spent our morning exploring the NEMO museum. It was packed with people. The children didn’t find it interesting enough, as there was not a chance for them to concentrate and properly experience any of the activities they wanted to. After a while we decided to leave the place as there were only more and more people storming in.
Since it was raining cats and dogs, we needed a shelter while walking towards the Central Station. At first I did not even notice that the huge building we passed by was a library, but when I saw all the bookshelves I suggested to my friend that we should go in. It was a good decision.
The three children enjoyed the thousands of books that were available, the little play areas and the ambience that an enormous library can offer. For a long period of time they admired a little miniature house which had a family of mice living in it. Similar to a doll house.
The biggest giggles came when they noticed that the mouse family had even done their laundry.
We ended up spending over two hours in the library.
No English books or films were available, but the library was packed with many books that were well illustrated, different themes such as Tintin and Barabababa for example. Nice comfortable giant cushions on the floor made both kids and adults feel at home, suddenly we were not in a hurry to go anywhere anymore. The library seemed to be very popular amongst other families as well.
On a rainy day (literally a rainy day as we had) a visit to a library can save your day.
An added bonus, was that as we took this two hour break in the library, we had lots of energy for the evening and continued exploring Amsterdam by walking and riding trams until late in the evening with kids who were not exhausted or grumpy. I think the library had worked it’s magic.
In general, any library in any big city can be a place for families with very small ones, the best place to find some clean and decent bathrooms with good facilities for a diaper change or for feeding in peace and quiet.
Hanna was born and raised in Finland, but has been traveling since she was nineteen. She has always found other countries, cultures and religions very fascinating. Hanna blogs about traveling with her children over at Tripsnkids