Buenos Aires Times

culture ON SANTA FE AVENUE

BA's Ateneo bookstore voted most beautiful in the world

The Ateneo is an old theatre in the Recoleta neighbourhood which was converted to a bookstore. It has one of Latin America's largest collections.

Thursday 10 January, 2019
The Ateneo Library on Santa Fe Avenue in Buenos Aires.
The Ateneo Library on Santa Fe Avenue in Buenos Aires. Foto:Perfil-File

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The Ateneo Grand Splendid, an architectural jewel in Buenos Aires, is the world's most beautiful bookstore according to National Geographic.

"On a bustling commercial street in the fashionable Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina, you can visit a serene temple of books", the world-renowned publication said of the city's most famous bookstore.

"Conversations are hushed, as if in a grand library, yet the space is so warm and welcoming that the raised café at the back of the cavernous room is filled with patrons reading and sipping cappuccinos and chocolate submarinos", its article added.

Built from 1903 in Recoleta, the "Grand Splendid" theatre hosted the country's first radio auditions in the 1920s and later incorporated a record label.

In 2000, it reopened as a bookstore and today it hosts one of Latin America's largest collections, including 90,000 titles and 200,000 books, as well as 35,000 albums and 24,000 films. The store has a staff of 50 people.

The store, which maintains its baroque charm, original balconies and a fresco of angels, is spread across three floors and a basement, with the theatre's old balconies having been converted into private reading areas. The stage is now a coffee store.

El Ateneo receives almost 3,000 visitors a day and up to 5,000 on weekends, its owner reported.

Among the old theatre's most recent high-profile guests was French President Emanuel Macron who visited during the G20 Leaders' Summit in Buenos Aires in late November.

The late Tango singer Carlos Gardel and authors Ernesto Sabato, Paul Auster and Mario Vargas Llosa have also visited.

-TIMES/PERFIL

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