El Ateneo, Santa Fe 1860, Palermo, is the bookshop to end all bookshops. Built in 1920´s and was originally opened and ran for 80 years as a theatre named Teatro Gran Splendid, included shows from the famous tango singer Carlos Gardel and composer/musician Francisco Canaro. In February 2000, the theatre was officially leased by Grupo Ilhsa and the conversion to create one of the world’s most stunning bookshops began.
The interior has been exquisitely fresco-painted by Italian artist Nazareno Orlandi. All original features have been retained, the old stage has been converted into a coffee shop, the old stalls are now areas where you can sit and enjoy reading books. The fresco, the ornate furnishings, the golden touches, the delicate lighting, the crimson curtains and the tiers of bookshelves impressively stack in the old stalls, all combine to retain the feeling of the grand and majestic theater that it once was. In 2007, the store sold more than 700,000 books and saw more than a million book lovers wonder through its doors.
It’s fantastic to see a bookshop where it’s actually encouraged to read books, all the more in such an incredible environment. While you are in Buenos Aires, if you fancy dipping your nose into a world of literature in the tranquil ambiance of an historic theater, then I recommend that you visit this particular El Ateneo on Av. Santa Fe.