Still in the XXI Century we can say that Argentines love reading. And Buenos Aires, the capital, is a city which is full of bookstores. In fact, there’s an event performed every year, called «The Night of the Bookstores»: stores are open all night long offering special promotions, the opportunity to meet and chat with writers, shows, etc. And every year «The Night of the Bookstores» calls a lot of public. But between too many shops, there is one which is really special.
Without a doubt, the Ateneo Grand Splendid is the most beautiful bookshop in the city. The reason? It is stablished in the building of an old theatre, and of course, it looks like a theatre today.
This building has an history starting in 1919. It was May 14th when the Grand Splendid Theatre was opened. It had 500 seats, 4 rows of boxes, cooling and heating, and even a sunroof. Great personalities acted there, including the famous tango singer Carlos Gardel.
Nowadays the theatre no longer funtions as theatre. Since year 2000 Ilhsa Group is in charge, and they installed there the most important branch of the El Ateneo bookstore. But they kept the structure of the theatre, and in this way they created the most beatiful bookshop in the city (and I am confident, in the country).
So when you enter the bookshop, you can instantly imagine how a play could be performed in the stage. The main hall does not longer have seats, but there are thisshelves full of books now there. And in the back there is the scenario, where you can sit to drink a coffee, while reading some of the books you have chosen.
The dome, intact, is a true work of art by the Italian painter Nazareno Orlandi.
In the first floor you will also find lot of books, now ordered by theme, and in the second floor there are films and music. You will also find the boxes there. Nowdays there’s nothing to see in the stage, but you can have a sit there to enjoy a book as well.
In the basement you will find the area reserved for kids: Ateneo Junior.
Ateneo Grand Splendid is not only the most beautiful bookstore in Buenos Aires. In 2008 it ranked second place as the most significant bookshops in the world as per the British newsletter The Guardian.
First place this time was for the bookshop Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, Holland, which is located in an old church with more than 800 years. So seriously, second place is not bad!
If you are in Buenos Aires and love reading, Ateneo Grand Splendid is a must visit. It is located in Santa Fe Avenue 1860 (you can see the location in Maps by clicking the link). And if you visit it, remember to add your comments on this post telling me how your experience was!
And of course, enjoy a good book in the middle of this old theatre.