Revel in the opulence and elegance of an early 20th-century theater while perusing thousands of tomes at this huge bookstore.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid is a magnificent bookstore set inside the building of a one-time theater and cinema. Join the bibliophiles who come to browse shelves stocked with over 120,000 titles at El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Admire original decorations, such as Italian frescoes and sculptures, and delight in the chance to read peacefully in preserved theater boxes.
Learn about the history of the building, which started in 1919 as the Teatro Grand Splendid and quickly became an integral part of Buenos Aires’ performing arts scene. Legendary tango singers Carlos Gardel and Ignacio Corsini graced the theater’s stage. It was converted into a cinema in 1929 and had the honor of being the first place in Argentina to screen sound motion pictures. The building reopened as a bookshop in 2000 and today welcomes a million visitors per year.
The luxuriousness of a bygone theater era greets you the moment you step inside the store. Frescoes by the Italian muralist Nazareno Orlandi decorate the ceiling, ornate friezes adorn the rounded balconies and bright red curtains frame the stage. Note how the lighting of the auditorium is set to mimic that of a theater performance. The sculpted caryatids are by Troiano Troiani. Pillars and pilasters dominate the façade.
Books are arranged according to theme and displayed on shelves set around the stalls area and balconies. Be sure to visit the children’s section in the basement. Although this is a retail store, you are welcome to grab a book and skim through it while sitting in one of the stylish boxes. Take a seat on the stage and order a coffee to accompany your reading. From the upper balcony enjoy a wonderful view of the auditorium, ceiling and stage.
Free special events, such as book presentations, poetry readings and talks, take place regularly. Be aware that most are in Spanish. There are also opportunities to attend free live music performances. Find out more via the shop’s official website.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid is open daily. It is located in the Recoleta neighborhood. Make the short walk here from either the Callao or Pueyrredón metro station.