El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore in Buenos Aires is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world

Why Is Ateneo Grand Splendid The Most Beautiful Bookstore

El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore in Buenos Aires is the most beautiful bookstore I have ever set foot in and it is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. In 2008 The Guardian ranked it as the second most beautiful bookstore in the world. And eleven years later National Geographic declared El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore “world’s most beautiful bookstore”.

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El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore entrance
El Ateneo Grand Splendid entrance

El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore: How It All Began

El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore, one of the unique Buenos Aires attractions is a former theater, Teatro Grand Splendid.

The Grand Splendid Theater opened its doors to the public in 1919. The imposing building was designed by architects Peró and Torres Armengol for the Austrian proprietor Max Glücksmann. He was one of the pioneers of the film industry in Argentina and South America.

The Grand Splendid Theater had seats for more than 1000 people with four rows of theatre boxes. The ceiling dome was painted by Italian artist Nazareno Orlandi. It was made by a special technique: oil painted on canvas and then glued to the dome.

The fresco symbolizes peace as it was painted in 1919, the year World War One ended.

Many Argentine and foreign artists performed on the Teatro Gran Splendid stage, among them tango legends Carlos Gardel, Roberto Firpo, and Ignacio Corsini.

In the late 20s, the Grand Splendid Theater was converted into a movie theater. Meanwhile, Glücksmann started his own radio station in the building. It was called Radio Splendid.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore ceiling fresco
El Ateneo Grand Splendid ceiling fresco

How Did The Old Theatre Turn Into One Of The Biggest Bookstores In The World?

In 2000 the magnificent early 20th century theater was transformed into El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore with a music shop.

The renovation of the building cost three million dollars and took less than a year.

During the transformation, the original interior architectural details were kept intact. The ornate theater boxes were preserved and even the brass railings are the original ones. As a part of the renovation, the former stage with plush red stage curtains has been converted into a coffee shop with comfortable chairs.

El Ateneo Bookstore coffee shop

The elegant rounded balconies provide a great view of one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world.

One of the world’s most majestic bookstores, El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore opened to the public at the end of 2000. It preserved the elegance of the Grand Splendid Theater and its glory days from the beginning of the 20th century and shortly became a tourist attraction itself.

Harry Potter fans will love the dedicated area on the main floor.

Harry Potter dedicated area at El Ateneo Bookstore Buenos Aires
El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore, Harry Potter area

My accommodation in the Recoleta district of Buenos Aires was meters away from El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore. I popped in every day.

Sometimes I would buy a book, sometimes I would just walk among the shelves and breathe in the aroma of paper and ink. The feeling was amazing. Like in a temple. Temple of words and books.

When you buy a book, don’t forget to ask the attendant for the El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore sticker. You can stick it to the book to remind you of your visit to El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore and Buenos Aires. The attendants also offer to gift-wrap the books.

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Is It Necessary To Buy A Book To Have A Look At El Ateneo Bookstore?

No, although you will find there a great variety of over 120,000 books in different genres and languages. I am sure you will be tempted to buy at least one. It is a good place to find the perfect gift for a book lover. 

El Ateneo Bookstore view from the ground floor to the balconies

When Is The Best Time To Visit El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore

El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Buenos Aires so it is almost all of the time full of visitors.

MY TIP FOR YOU: El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore closes late in the evening so go around an hour or so before closing time (22:00 Sun-Thu and midnight Fri-Sat). You will find the bookstore less crowded and thus have the chance to appreciate one of the most amazing bookstores and enjoy your visit.

Where Is El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore

Address: Avenida Santa Fe 1860 Open: Monday – Thursday, 9:00 – 22:00; Fridays and Saturdays, 9.00 – midnight; Sundays, 12:00 – 22:00. 

In conclusion, El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore, or simply El Ateneo Bookstore, is one of the main tourist attractions of the Argentine capital and one of the most instagrammable places in Buenos Aires. Even if you don’t plan to buy a book, go and have a look, have a cup of coffee on the stage, take some beautiful pictures for your family album or Instagram. And I am more than sure that you will be tempted to buy a book to remember your visit to El Ateneo Bookstore and Buenos Aires.

What is the most beautiful bookstore in the world?

In 2017 National Geographic declared El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore in Buenos Aires Argentina “world’s most beautiful bookstore”.

How many books are in El Ateneo Grand Splendid?

There are about 120,000 books of various genres and languages in the Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore.

What neighborhood is El Ateneo in?

Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore is located in Buenos Aires Recoleta neighborhood.

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