Is This The World’s Most Beautiful Bookshop?


It’s hard to believe that the Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires is a bookshop. This 100 year old converted theatre has a rich and varied history. 

The decline of independent stores in favour of giant internet-driven retailers is a common complaint these days. Bookshops have perhaps suffered more than most, thanks to the advent of e-readers. Certainly online shopping has its advantages, but it can’t offer an experience like the Grand Splendid.

In the 2019 edition of Old Moore’s Almanac, our in-house psychic predicts that experiences will soon replace shopping as the most important factor attracting people into bricks-and-mortar shops and away from online retailers. Looks like the Ateneo Grand Splendid is way ahead of this particular curve!

Stunning is the best word to describe the interior of the Ateneo Grand Splendid. In fact, it’s a tourist attraction in its own right, with 3,000 visitors per day coming to marvel at the early 20th Century decor, the ceiling murals and the stage that now serves as a café.

painting on ceiling at Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookshop

The building itself opened in 1919 as a theatre. It was built by Max Glucksman (an Austrian who emigrated to Argentina in 1890) and was central to the tango scene, hosting many tango legends. In 1929, Glucksman converted the building into a cinema. At first, silent films were shown, accompanied by a live tango orchestra. The cinema went on to show the first ‘talkie’ in the city.

By 2000, the building was facing demolition. Luckily Grupo Ilhsa, which owns 40 bookshops, stepped in and leased it. Now, it houses thousands of books, DVDs and CDs while also preserving a little bit of the city’s history.

So, if you’re lucky enough to be travelling to Buenos Aires, pay a visit to the Ateneo Grand Splendid. You won’t regret it.

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