Visiting El Ateneo, a majestic former theater converted into a gorgeous bookstore in downtown Buenos Aires, really was on my List of Things to See Before I Die. Does that mean I’m now really one step closer?
More specifically, this marvel of redesign is the El Ateneo Grand Splendid, named for the theater which opened its doors in 1919. First a performance venue that hosted the country’s leading tango voices, it was converted into a cinema in the late 1920s and in 1929 screened the first sound films in Argentina before taking on its latest form as a bookstore in 2000 when it became the El Ateneo group’s flagship store.
Book-wise, it reminds me of a Spanish-language Barnes and Noble, but the feel is overwhelmingly theatrical, elegant and nostalgic. The seating was removed to make room for shelves, but the ornate trappings, the painted ceiling, stage curtains and other elements remain. The stage is now a café, and the theatre boxes small reading rooms where customers are free to read while they browse.
I did browse but didn’t buy a thing. I can’t remember the last time I did that in a bookstore.
These were all taken with a GoPro Hero2, so the angles are obviously exaggerated. Dimly lit indoor settings are unfriendly to GoPros, but I think you’ll get the general gist.
Avenida Santa Fe 1860
Near the blurred junction where the city’s exclusive Bario Norte and Recoleta neighborhoods meet