Buenos Aires stands alongside New York, Paris, London and Saint Petersburg as one of the greatest literary cities in the world. The Argentine capital is home to more bookstores per capita than any other city on the planet, including over 100 rare and used book shops, and the city’s Book Fair attracts over a million visitors each year.
The love of the residents of Buenos Aires for the written word keeps independent bookshops in business, and their penchant for nocturnal living means that you can browse shops and stands for titles old and new well into the night. Every street corner is packed with literary lore, and seemingly every café in the city claims to have been the favourite haunt of legendary writers like Borges or Cortázar.
Buenos Aires was named World Book Capital of 2011, and to celebrate the local government built a 25-metre tower of books in Plaza San Martín, using books in dozens of different languages (over 30,000 in all), collected mainly from donations and later gathered to create a multi-lingual library in the city.
But one bookshop stands out from among the city’s prolific offering, and is considered one of the most beautiful in the world: the Ateneo Grand Splendid.
Housed in a grandiose former theatre on Corrientes Avenue, El Ateneo is a sight to behold. After incarnations as both a theatre and a cinema, it was converted into a bookshop in the year 2000 and quickly became a favourite among locals and visitors, and it’s not hard to see why.
The building dates back to 1919 and still retains many decorative features from the original design, including ornate carvings and ceiling frescoes.
The stage, behind its hanging scarlet curtains, is used as a reading area and café, and the original balconies and theatre boxes are now used as reading nooks.
In our view, there is no bookstore anywhere that can match El Ateneo’s beauty and atmosphere, and we can think of no better place to browse, shop, relax and admire on your next trip to Buenos Aires.
For more information on El Ateneo and all things Buenos Aires, be sure to check out ArrivalGuides’ complete travel guide below: