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Erika Owen
February 17, 2017

In 1919, Argentina's El Ateneo Grand Splendid was a tango theater.

For 10 years, it hosted a number of performers while also broadcasting a local radio channel called Radio Splendid starting in 1924. But today, it's a different scene: Step inside and you'll find thousands of books ready to be sold and literature lovers searching for their next favorite read.

DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

But before it became one of the world's most beautiful bookstores and after it served its time as a performance theater, The Grand Splendid was a movie theater. At first, the owner played silent films with a live tango orchestra providing background music for the films.

But in 1929, the location presented its first sound films, which were also the first movies featuring sound to be played in Argentina.

It's not just the architecture that makes this bookstore a work of art. Designed by architects Peró and Torres Armengo, the interior features ceiling frescos by artist Nazareno Orlandi. You'll also find a number of sculptural pillars inspired by the female form inside the building.

DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

The Grand Splendid is only one of 40 bookstores owned by Grupo Ilhsa, an organization that has single-handedly helped Argentina become on of the book capitals of the world.

DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

Never fear: if reading is not your thing, the bookstore offers live piano music from the same stage famed tango dancers once danced on. Oh, and there's a coffee bar to help fuel what could easily turn into an hours-long shopping session.

Want to know more? Head on over to walking tour specialists Buenos Tours' website.

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