100-Year-Old Theatre in Buenos Aires Is Turned Into a Thriving Bookstore
Attention all book lovers! It’s time to make Buenos Aires, Argentina your next travel destination. Not only does the city have about 734 bookstores—making it the bookstore capital of the world—it’s also home to El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a pristine palace-turned-bookstore looming over Santa Fe Avenue in the Barrio Norte. Named by The Guardian as the second most beautiful bookshop in the world in 2008, El Ateneo is also one of the biggest. Visitors can expect to get lost in the shelves for hours. History and nostalgia lurk behind every corner.
The theater shifted to a cinema during the 1920’s and continued to operate as one until 2000, when it was retrofitted into the flagship store for Yenny-El Ateneo Publishing. Working closely with the historic structure of the building, architect Fernando Manzone was careful to leave the ceiling, the ornate wall detail, the stage curtains, and the auditorium lighting as it was. He only added to the “browse-ability” of the store—a café now lights up center stage; escalators plunge into the heart of the store; reading nooks and comfy chairs wait to be found on every balcony level. Thanks to the fact that books are exempt from standard sales tax, the book (and bookstore) are more alive in Buenos Aires than ever. More than a million people visit El Ateneo annually and buy 700,000 books a year.