El Ateneo Gran Splendid
Avenida Santa Fe 1860 (@ Rodriguez Peņa); Tel. +(011.54.11) 4813.4154
The interior of El Ateneo Gran Splendid is splendid indeed with it's balconies and theater-esque interior. Photo by Greg Roden.
El Ateneo is Buenos Aires' premier bookstore, and the largest in South America. El Ateneo is a popular and well known bookstore with several locations throughout the city, though a far cry from the omnipresence of US bookstore chains.
The main store on Avenida Santa Fe is worth a visit for the unique architecture and design. Some say the interior resembles theTeatro Colon, with its three-story balconies wrapping around the center floor, all lined with literature from around the world. It was originally known as the Teatro Gran Splendid, built in 1919 by Max Glucksmann, with a capacity of 1050 spectators. It was also a popular cinema before being converted into a bookstore.
Today porteños and tourists alike stroll the lines of shelves, make special orders, and lounge on the sofas around the store. The basement level hosts a CD section where one can find a wide selection of tango, traditional Argentine, and popular music from around the world. One can also listen to a CD prior to purchase, making life a bit easier for tourists dabbling in Tango or other new tunes.
The café, located where the stage of the theatre once was, features outstandingly rich desserts, European-style lunches including baguette sandwiches, spinach salads, and Argentina-style picadas, all at a slightly higher rate than other Buenos Aires lunch-spots. The café also hosts occasional performances by local musicians - call ahead for listings and showtimes.
—El Ateneo Gran Splendid review by Gena Mavuli