Photo by Felix Busso
El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore
Buenos Aires is a city of readers—it supports more bookstores per capita than any other place in the world. The crown jewel of the librerías here is the Ateneo Grand Splendid. Housed in a theater where music legends such as Carlos Gardel once attracted vast crowds, the store features shelf after shelf of tempting volumes on its rounded balconies. Italian frescoes on the domed ceiling and plush red-velvet curtains are from the theater’s original 1919 design. The four-story space carries over 120,000 books and a local-music selection, and there’s a café on the erstwhile stage.
The Play is the Thing
Where in the world can you read Shakepeare's famous plays while on a stage, or in the box, and pretend to be the Bard while reading about the Bard? Only one place that I know of, El Ateneo in Buenos Aires in the neighborhood of Barrio Norte. Featuring one of the world's largest collections of books for sale, a terrific cafe and corner after dark corner ripe for long hours of book perusing and reading - this Argentinian bookshop that was once a theater is heaven for lovers of drama both acted and written. There isn't really a bad time to go, the space is more than large enough to accomodate crowds and yet cozy enough to surround the visitor even when nearly alone. The only thing you'll have to decide when you do go, is how you fit everything else into a day of sightseeing when inevitably everything else you had wanted to do won't seem quite as appealing after you've stepped through the front doors and into this theatre of literary love.
By Kirsten Alana, AFAR Local Expert
A Theater Full of Books
How many cities have turned a beautiful 1920's era cinema into a book shrine? This is one thing I love about BA. They are proud of their bookstores, which are all over the city. Locals sit quietly on the floor, in the cafe or even in balcony seats reading at El Ateneo. If anything go for the large selection of history books on Argentina - plenty to ready on Evita!
By Ali Stielow
El Ateneo Grand Splendid is the most beautiful library I have ever been to. From the moment you walk in, the beauty and elegance of its interior takes your breath away. The building was built in 1903 to serve as a theater and in 2000 was restored and turned into a bookstore. Visiting the Ateneo is a wonderful way to spend your afternoon, either by reading or going to the café located on the back of the building, where the stage once was.
Reading in the Box Seats
El Ateneo Grand Splendid is a former theater transformed into one of the best book stores in the world. You can shop for travel and art books in the orchestra, browse DVDs in the balcony, leisurely read magazines in the box seats, and sip on tea on the stage. Look for the table near the original back stage light switches.
By Kristin Rust, AFAR Local Expert
Best Book Store in Buenos Aires
Spectacular! This is a book store you never want to leave. The setting is magnificent and the books seen to never end. I spent hours here on a cool, wet day. I purchased Don Quijote in Spanish as a gift for my husband.
By Jayne Davis