Bygone Era of Hotel Luxury Found Alive in Buenos Aires

As Argentina finally reemerges from decades of woes, its vibrant Parisian-inspired capital is experiencing a renaissance within its hotel scene that is truly unique among global destinations.

Buenos Aires is a city that was made enormously wealthy over time by Argentina’s vast expanses of land and other natural resources, and the Argentines used that wealth to build exquisite urban manors, wide cafe-lined avenues, expansive parks, and other architectural gems that are woven together into a marvelous seaside patchwork of districts and neighborhoods unlike any other city I’ve visited. But what truly sets this city apart are the distinct upscale hotels that allow visitors to experience a level of affordable luxury unheard of in most other places.

The first stop on my hotel tour of Buenos Aires was the Algodon Mansion. This classic French-styled landmark property dates to 1912 and is situated in the heart of the peaceful and historic Recoleta neighborhood. While the common spaces of the mansion are cozy, the contrasting spaciousness of all of the individual suites is what really distinguishes this boutique property.

The Algodon Mansion, Buenos Aires
The Algodon Mansion, Buenos Aires

Each room in the Algodon is notably large, stylish, and modern. The distinct living area with its large wrap-around couch really made for a pleasant casual setting for hosting guests in the evenings for a few glasses of wine before dinner. The Algodon has its own winery and its own collection of delicious Argentinian wines, which helps to explain why every setting seemed like the perfect opportunity to enjoy another glass.

Oversized and plush were the dominant themes of these suites, with a plush California King in the bedroom, large flat-panel TVs throughout, and an enormous bright bathroom that features a glass-enclosed shower and a stand-alone tub. Needless to stay, it was easy to feel spoiled in here while taking long morning showers and warm, candle-lit evening baths.

A stroll up to the Algodon Mansion’s roof reveals a great view across Recoleta that can be enjoyed from the lounge deck or from the hotel’s elegant, elongated pool. There’s also a full-service spa on the top floor too in case lounging by the pool and wading in the water while enjoying another glass of wine isn’t relaxing enough.

Back downstairs, the bar just off the lobby I found to be quite the quaint little gem. It’s small enough to feel like you’re relaxing or reading in a manor’s private library, albeit with a full service bar and black-tie personal bartender at your beck and call. There’s also a stylish restaurant just off the bar which proudly serves up a large variety of the wines produced at the Algodon’s sister property and winery in Argentina’s wine country.

The Algodon Mansion tastefully combines modern luxury with an attentive boutique atmosphere in a central location within the heart of Buenos Aires. No one would have to twist my arm to stay here again on another trip to Buenos Aires or to recommend it to others, but what I’m really looking forward to next time is trying out their sister wine resort in Mendoza.

The next stop on my tour de Buenos Aires was the nearby Alvear Palace Hotel. Stepping through the doors of the Alvear Palace is like stepping back in time. From the moment you’re greeted by a formally dressed doorman through your initial steps through the lobby and past the opulent bars and restaurant, just your arrival alone is an awe-inspiring experience in and of itself.

The Alvear Palace Hotel, Buenos Aires
The Alvear Palace Hotel, Buenos Aires

The rooms are also something to marvel at. They’re classically furnished with ornate period pieces, which makes you feel like you’re living in a real life version of Downton Abbey. The suite I stayed in was one of the most spacious hotel rooms I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. There were two sparkling bathrooms (one with a television over the tub), a master bedroom, a foyer, and a living room, but the sheer scale of each and the high ceilings made it all feel and appear simply palatial. I just couldn’t stop imagining that I had transformed into the Argentinian version of the Countess of Grantham and had finally come home to reign.

Outside of the rooms, the Alvear Palace features two French-themed restaurants and three elegant bars - the lobby bar, a champagne bar, and a rooftop bar. While staying here, I particularly enjoyed happy hour in the cozy champagne bar and pre-dinner drinks later in the larger open lobby bar. And being me, of course I could not resist hosting friends up in my room each evening to enjoy the minibar, beside which a fresh bucket of ice seemed to be ever-present, and the chocolates and fresh fruit deliveries that magically appeared in the sitting room daily.

In talking to new friends I met while visiting Buenos Aires, I learned that the Alvear Palace is evidently a popular option in town for major high society events, such as notable receptions and weddings. The hotel also offers guests an enclosed heated pool on the roof and a sun deck with great views of the surrounding historic neighborhood.

Both the Alvear Palace and the Algodon Mansion are walking distance from the highly popular Recoleta Cemetery, which is an attraction in and of itself because of the architecturally striking tombs of many of Argentina’s wealthiest and most historic families. Most notable among the cemetery’s eternal residents is Eva Peron, whose burial place in her family’s mausoleum (maiden name Duarte) is quite popular.

The area is a short uber ride to the trendy Palermo area, where you’ll stumble upon myriad trendy bars and restaurants, as well as to the downtown area in which you can find Argentina’s national legislature and the presidential palace, called the Casa Rosada or Pink House. While Uber is widely available in Buenos Aires, the city’s government is still resisting change and essentially only allowing non-Argentines to use the service by requiring a non-Argentine bank to be the payment source within the app. Given the popularity and success of Uber in the rest of the world, however, that should eventually change as city officials catch up with modernity.

One area that I was not expecting to be so well developed is Puerto Madero. Port-adjacent neighborhoods are often rather industrial and dreary, but Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires was surprisingly modern, developed, and lively. Here is where you’ll find modern high-rise apartment and condo complexes, bustling restaurants and outdoor cafes, a casino, and the not-to-be-missed Faena Hotel.

The Faena in Buenos Aires isn’t just a place. It’s an experience. But let’s start with the hotel, which is by far the most modern and design-conscious in the city. Just walking in the Faena makes you feel like you’ve entered a different world as you’re immediately struck by the visuals, the colors, the art, the fabrics, the ambiance, and the sounds, and you just know that you’ve arrived. The rooms are a standard size, but they’re generously decorated with artistic modern furniture akin to a luxurious Kimpton, Delano or W property.

Faena Hotel, Buenos Aires
Faena Hotel, Buenos Aires

Back on the first floor, the hotel’s layout concept is quite unique. As you walk through the long, red carpet-lined hallway that forms the backbone of the property, various rooms appear one after another like surprise boutique shops nestled between the golden drapes and red brick columns that line the elegant corridor. A bar, a restaurant, a private dining room, a shop, a theater, an event space - each spacious and bustling yet cozily tucked away by the expanse of the main artery that connects them all.

The pool at the hotel is certainly one of a kind, with an enormous crown water fountain as its centerpiece. This served as a great backdrop for some wonderful photos, which prompted other friends to share their iconic Faena crown pool photos too from previous trips to Buenos Aires.

In the evenings, the main bar in the lobby of the hotel can be quite a social destination itself. When I emerged from a dinner tango show at the theater one weekend night, the bar had a live band and was as busy as any bar or club I saw in Palermo. But as happening as the bar may have been, and it was, nothing compared to the incredible experience that was the Faena’s tango show.

Combined with dinner it was a bit pricey compared to everything else in Buenos Aires, but Rojo Tango, or Red Tango as it’s called, was absolutely worth every single peso. Wine was free flowing and unlimited, dinner was delicious, and the extraordinary show that followed featured incredible dancers, singers, and musicians all weaving together a masterful performance that is widely acclaimed to be the absolute best tango show in Buenos Aires.

In a city that is comparable to any American city in age, I was truly blown away by the incredibly rich cultural and historical ambiance that Argentina exudes, well beyond that produced by any other city in the Western hemisphere. There seems to be a uniquely perfect blend of old and new, historic and modern, urban and quaint, trendy and traditional in Buenos Aires. And these welcomed contradictions are aptly reflected on the city’s luxury hotel scene, as I personally saw and experienced during my stays there.

The chic sophistication of the Algodon Mansion gives visitors a great boutique hotel experience in the heart of a quiet and easily walkable neighborhood. The nearby Alvear Palace impresses with its relaxing classic appeal and formal five-star service. And the Faena captivates with its stylish design and first-rate nightlife. Three very unique and very upscale hotel options that will be as much a memorable part of a trip to Buenos Aires as are the myriad sites and amazing experiences to be had around this charming South American capital.

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