El Ateneo is Indeed Grand Splendid
As a country, Argentina may be popular for producing Pope Francis and soccer legends Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, but it goes further than that. The South American country has in the past endured economic collapse, military dictatorship and slanderous policy-making. So it’s perhaps easy to understand why Argentinians still find consolation in one of the world’s oldest pleasures: reading a good book.
For that reason, Argentina is known for having more bookshops per person than any other country in the world. That not only goes a long way in explaining the reason why Argentina is known as the bookstore capital of the world, but also suitable for satisfying Argentinians literary cravings.
One place that rightly celebrates Argentina’s widely known literary tradition is the El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Located in the ritzy Barrio Norte neighborhood of Buenos Aires, this 20th century theater-turned-bookstore is indeed a grand example of splendid use of space.
It’s one of the biggest bookstores in South America and undoubtedly the most beautiful. Opened in 1919 as a theater, it was turned into a bookstore in 2000 by architect Fernando Manzone, who retained many designs of the original architects Pero and Torres Armengol. In essence, El Ateneo still has all the features of a glorious Italian opera house and cool decadence’s to attract more than one million visitors a year who are eager to peruse the over 120,000 books that are available.