Herald favorites: Buenos Aires’ best bookstores

In Buenos Aires, you can hardly toss out your old yerba mate leaves without splashing someone who was too engrossed in a book to be paying attention. Whether it’s a lazy Sunday in a San Telmo Cafe or the hours-long queue for the Buenos Aires book fair, it’s plain to see that this is a city of book lovers. The capital and its suburbs have raised world-famous writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and stars of contemporary literature such as Samanta Schweblin, Claudia Piñeiro and Agustina Bazterrica.

Add that to the fact that e-commerce giants like Amazon and eBay never really got a foothold here and it’s easy to see why the Argentine capital is home to more bookshops per capita than any other city, by some estimates

From the eccentric to the expensive, it can be hard to know where to start. So, the Herald has compiled a list of our staff’s favorite bookshops. 

La Libre

Chacabuco 917, San Telmo

Best for: Soaking up the ambience

Hours: Monday-Friday, midday-7p.m., weekends and public holidays 2p.m.-7p.m.

Funky, vintage, queer-friendly, feminist and full of surprises, La Libre is a bookstore that seems to embody the spirit of San Telmo. Run as a co-operative, it’s home to everything from the classics to collections of independently-published Argentine sci-fi stories, and the booksellers will happily introduce you to whichever colleague most loves the niche genre you’re looking for. Don’t leave without having a thorough look around: every time you think you’ve seen it all, you find another corner to turn.

El Ateneo

Av. Santa Fe 1860, Recoleta

Best for: Reading in splendor

Hours: 9a.m.-10p.m.

This bookstore in a converted theater is a monument to literature complete with expansive, frescoed ceilings and delicate gilt details. Its enormous collection spans everything from philosophy to manga and music. The view from the balconies makes it obvious why this place often tops lists of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. 

El Ateneo has a great cafe where the stage and orchestra pit used to be. Sometimes, pianists play on the grand piano in the corner – if you close your eyes, you can imagine you’re the star of your own literary show.

Céspedes Libros

Av. Alvarez Thomas 853, Colegiales

Best for: Meeting the literati

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10a.m.-8p.m.

A hip young bookstore with a focus on literature and tailor-made recommendations, Céspedes is also explicitly feminist and inclusive. Come along for the book presentations and debate evenings and you might bump into some of Argentina’s literary stars – it’s a favorite among writers like Magali Etchebarne, Alan Pauls, Andres di Tella, Felix Bruzzone, and Marina Yuczuck, among others.

Walrus

Estados Unidos 617, San Telmo

Best for: English-language books

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, midday-5p.m.

Walrus Books is an eccentric English-language bookstore in San Telmo that exudes olde-worlde charm. Small but perfectly formed, the collection is carefully curated to include a mixture of novels, nonfiction, philosophy, history, and many other topics. The owners will buy second-hand books if they’re in relatively good nick – the prices aren’t amazing, but if you’re looking to switch out your holiday reading, it’s a good option.

Centro de Trasbordo Pacífico

Best for: Reading on the go

Av. Santa Fe between Thames and Uriarte, Palermo

If you’ve just Googled this entry and found a Metrobus stop, that’s because, well, it’s a Metrobus stop. While stores like El Ateneo are renowned for their beauty, some of the best places to buy books in Buenos Aires aren’t stores at all, but market stands and fairs. Along the Metrobus by Plaza Italia in Palermo, you’ll find stand after stand of booksellers hawking a wide variety of titles – perfect for if you want to read something that isn’t your phone screen when you’re on the move.

MalaTesta

Gándara 2994, Parque Chas

Best for: Coziness

Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 10a.m-7p.m.

Full to the brim with independent publishers and gems of Andean literature, this small, friendly shop in Parque Chas will make you want to stay. Workshops from the past few months include autobiographical writing and Chinese poetry.

Páginas Libres

Santiago del Estero 1112, Constitución

Best for: Politics, society and philosophy

Hours: Monday-Friday, 11a.m.-6p.m.

Even if we didn’t tell you that this bookshop is opposite the University of Buenos Aires’s social sciences faculty, you’d be able to tell from the collection. The owners keep a timely display of pertinent and thought-provoking recent social sciences works on display, as well as keeping a good stock of social sciences classics. We particularly like this one, but while you’re there, you might also be interested in Vivaldi, a cafe across the street from Páginas Libres that also boasts a majestic book collection.

These are some of the Herald staff’s favorites – but since there’s no substitute for getting in between the stacks yourself, our final recommendation is…

Night of the Bookshops

Best for: meeting like-minded literature lovers

City-wide but especially Av. Corrientes and San Telmo

Once a year, the bookshops of Buenos Aires open their doors after hours to host a smorgasbord of literary talks, workshops, sales, readings and other events to delight bookworms of all stripes. Around 45 bookshops along Avenida Corrientes and a dozen in San Telmo take part, and there are stages dotted around the streets, too – a map and timetable of what’s happening where is usually uploaded a few days in advance. In 2023, the theme will be Argentina’s return to democracy, to mark 40 years since the end of the last dictatorship. The date hasn’t been announced yet, but details will be posted on the Buenos Aires City government’s website, so keep your eyes peeled – if you can bear to look up from the page!

Related Posts

Popular

Recent

All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald