The magnificent New York Public Library

Carrie Bradshaw gets off the limo in a cloud of silk. Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda climb a marble staircase, ready for the long-awaited wedding. Waiting on the landing, Carrie gets the worst kind of news: Mr. Big got cold feet! A stupefied Carrie beseeches her friends to get her out of there. We see how they help her down the staircase and out into the street. In the background, we see a wonderful Beaux-Arts building and the typical New York traffic.

The location for this scene of the 2008 Sex and the City film is the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. For a dramatic view of the building, I recommend approaching it from 41st Street from Madison Avenue. That stretch is known as the Library Way.

New York Public Library

Continuing with the film references, those two blocks of 41st Street become the yellow brick path that Dorothy and her friends take. The bronze plaques embedded on the floor help create that effect. In this case, we’re not going to find the Wizard of Oz at the end but the lions that guard the entrance to the library.

In all, 96 plaques quote 45 writers from 11 countries spanning twenty centuries. Each plaque carries an illustration based on that quote. I’m glad to find that Argentinean author Jorge Luis Borges is one of the writers. The first two stanzas of his poem A Compass are quoted on a plaque.

New York Public Library

The magnificent Astor Hall is all marble. Noises and conversations bounce off the walls, making it incompatible with the atmosphere of a library. However, the reading rooms are as quiet as they should be. This is where Carrie’s wedding should have taken place.

The DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room on the first floor is one of the must-visit rooms. Its wood panelled walls, the murals depicting scenes of New York and the chandeliers are spectacular. DeWitt Wallace founded the Readers’ Digest. Personally, I loved the Map Collection for its intricately decorated Golden ceiling and of course the maps.

New York Public Library Map Collection

Amateur genealogists have their work cut out for them in a special room. I thought that finding my ancestors was as easy as opening a book and voila! But the librarian explained that it is a lengthy and laborious process. Still, I tried to look up long-lost relative using my maiden name but I had no such luck. Similarly, those interested in world Jewish history have a special room, the Dorot Jewish Division.

The McGraw Rotunda definitely took my breath away with its soaring arches, vaulted ceiling and wonderful murals. The McGraw Rotunda acts as the foyer of the famous Rose Main Reading Room, which was closed for maintenance at the time.

Useful info

Address: 476 Fifth Avenue

Library hours: Mon, Thurs-Sat: 10 AM-6 PM. Tue, Wed: 10 AM-8 PM. Sun: 1-5 PM. Closed Sundays in July and August.

Free guided tours.

Free Wi-Fi

New York Public Library website 

The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwartzman Building opened in 1911. 

 The building of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue is magnificent, as are the different reading rooms. A must-see place in New York.


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