El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore

Photo by Eduardo M

{The El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore in Buenos Aires, Argentina}

I have a strange fascination with bookstores, and I find myself visiting them all over the world. It’s right up there with my unusual attraction to foreign supermarkets – I just find myself drawn in to those mysterious foods with foreign words all over the packaging.

Now, the supermarket visits don’t seem so strange to the locals – we all have to eat after all. But there’s usually an awkward silence when I visit the bookstores, right after the owner realizes I don’t actually read the language their tomes are printed in.

Well finally, I found a bookstore where the awkward silences were replaced with hushed awes of silence. No one will question why you’re visiting the El Ateneo bookstore in Buenos Aires – this magnificent shop is an attraction in and of itself.

Opened in 1919, the ornate theater showcased many of the city’s tango artists – including the legendary Carlos Gardel – until the year 2000 when the building was bought out. The seating area was gutted and replaced with scores of bookshelves, but everything else, down to the stunning cupola, was left intact.

Today, visitors can relive the glory days by sipping coffee in the café set up on the old stage, perusing titles along the original balconies or curling up with a book in one of the theater boxes.

And with more than 100,000 books in English, Spanish, French, Italian and more, you’re sure to find something you can actually read.


El Ateneo's Cupola

Photo by Jorge Sousa


The aisles at El Ateneo

Photo by Alicia Nijdam


People browsing at El Ateno

Photo by Alicia Nijdam

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