Posted by: bluesyemre | January 21, 2019

#NationalGeographic names El Ateneo Grand Splendid the World’s most beautiful #Bookstore


I don’t mean to get everybody’s ego *too* inflated, but amidst the crisis that the country has been suffering, Buenos Aires has collected a fair share of pretty impressive accolades. It boasts one of the top ten ice cream shops in the worldthe most important opera house in the globe and, to top it all of, it can now say it’s home to the most beautiful bookstore on the face of the Earth, thanks to a recent National Geographic piece that gave it top billing thanks to “both old world flourishes—such as the gorgeous frescoes on the soaring ceiling—and Latin flair, such as the friendly staff, great coffee, and relaxed pace.” Bragging rights, indeed…

El Ateneo Grand Splendid (or just El Ateneo if you’re on a first-name basis) is that enormous, breathtaking bookstore located on Av. Santa Fe, close to the corner of Riobamba in Recoleta. It is also known as that place you take your newly arrived friends when you want to impress them. The building was opened in 1919 as a theater, back in the days when Buenos Aires was booming as a major port and center of commerce (sigh with #nostalgia).

Just to give some context, even Carlos Gardel himself came to El Ateneo to record for the Nacional Odeon label that was installed inside of the theater; he even made his radio debut at Radio Splendid, the station that began transmitting in 1923. There’s a little bit of trivia for you to brag about. You’re welcome.

National Geographic (NatGeo, if you’re a millennial) also pointed to several notable features that made their decision easier: “It offers up thousands of books, CDs, DVDs, and more to the more than one million people who drop in a year. Travelers find a wonderful experience browsing the colorful shelves arranged artfully in the former orchestra and mezzanine sections. Former luxury boxes offer quiet nooks, with stunning views, to peruse a book or take it all in. The café is actually set on the theater’s former stage, so you can imagine your name in lights as you tuck into a pastry.”

One of the most notable extracts from the piece has to do with the reading culture in Buenos Aires, a city long known for its bookworm population. “Buenos Aires is among the cities with the highest number of bookstores per person in the world“, the article reads, “with more than 700 brick-and-mortar establishments. Ateneo Grand Splendid is worth a visit as an attraction in its own right, though the city has many other inviting bookstores to browse.”

This is not the first time that El Ateneo has been featured in a world class publication. In 2008, it ranked number 2 in The Guardian‘s Top 10 bookstores from around the world, just behind the Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore in the dutch city of Maastricht, and six steps ahead of the only other shop from Latin America, Mexico’s El Péndulo (sorry not sorry, Mexico).

Ice cream shops, opera houses, bookstores… Buenos Aires ranks high on some pretty impressive lists. Now if we could only find a way to stay away from the top spots in some other dubious lists in the process…

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