Buenos Aires: El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Exploring the city of Buenos Aires in far-off Argentina, our fearless heroine discovered an enchanted place called El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Paperback and hardcover, glossy and matte, histories and romances, genres galore, the booklovers’ haven overflowed with texts in all shapes and colors, all weights and sizes, stretching beyond its balconies.



Standing from my perch, three stories high and looking out over vast aisles of literature, I’m uncertain which is more impressive: the sheer amount of books or the setting they reside in. As a lover of both theaters and bookstores, I’m hard-pressed to leave. I mean, how could you walk away from all this? Look at that beauty. Just look at it!



Once upon a time, El Ateneo, which opened in May 1919 as the Teatro Gran Splendid, featured live performances and tango (must tango in Argentina!). It was subsequently converted into a movie theater, and, on the brink of demolition, it was restored and converted into its present-day state as a bookstore. And a glorious one at that. Taking in the hustle and bustle, it’s nice to know people still enjoy books…or, at least, coming to bookstores (even if it’s just to sit at the cafe or admire the facades). Oh hey, and they can read while listening to the soothing melodies of a live piano player!



Scanning the width of this bookworm’s dream, I can almost envision elegantly dressed aristocrats in lofty theater boxes. With sweeping balconies, iconic red curtains, and pastel frescoes (by, surprise, an Italian), El Ateneo’s gorgeous interiors take you back to a time long gone. Hmm, it feels like only last week I said something similar about Casa Rosada. Despite its many modern developments, Buenos Aires is a city filled with elegant gems from the past – its old-world charms seamlessly blending into the present.

May the foundations of your past lead toward beautiful perspectives,