Suzzallo Library Reading Room – Seattle, Washington - Atlas Obscura

Suzzallo Library Reading Room

University of Washington

With its vaulted ceiling and gilded details, this University of Washington library would feel right at home inside an old palace. 


Suzzallo Library is a University of Washington fixture that is full of collegiate charm, but it’s the reading room on the west wing that makes it feel more suited to a European castle than a modern American library. The massive hall blows away visitors with its magical atmosphere that seems to be directly out of a movie. It’s one of the most majestic views in all of Seattle, and while fully open to the public, is only really used by matriculates.  

Entering Suzzallo Reading Room, you feel instantly transported to another place and time. The hall is filled with light pouring in from stained glass windows that stretch 35 feet (10.7 meters) tall. Ornate oak bookcases house countless books, and long wooden tables shelter busy co-eds who write their papers under the light of Gothic chandeliers. 

If you’re half-expecting to run into Harry Potter here, you’re not alone. The room is commonly called the “Harry Potter Reading Room” by students and tourists alike because of its similarity to Hogwarts’ Great Hall in the films. University lore has it that J.K. Rowling was inspired by the library when dreaming up Hogwarts, though there has not been evidence for this.  

It is no surprise that the library’s namesake, Henry Suzzallo, believed that universities should be “cathedrals of learning.” The library was built in 1926 in the collegiate gothic style, and it conjures up images of European palaces, old churches, and the halls of Oxford and Cambridge.  

When you enter the library, walk past the front desk and climb up the curving grand staircase to the second floor. While certain parts of the year see the library fill up with students, you are typically treated to an uncrowded and quiet environment. The massive hall tends to be eerily silent because of its no-talking rule. 

The rest of the library is worth checking out too, as it houses around 1.6 million books and a rare book collection. You can find plenty of other beautiful places to study by wandering around Suzzallo and Allen Libraries.

Know Before You Go

This is a silent reading room used by University of Washington students, and while visitors can come freely, signs posted outside the room dictate silence. Take photos, drink coffee, and read the books if you like, but keep talking to a minimum!

Public hours vary based on day and season. Hours tend to be 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Check the website for updated information based on the school schedule: Suzzallo and Allen Libraries

Parking is available in paid lots on campus or street parking near campus. 

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August 26, 2022

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