Esplendor de Buenos Aires
THE LOOK Located in a Neoclassical building near the Borges Cultural Center, Esplendor has the vibe of a modern art museum—note the floating staircase, white walls, and massive portraits of Argentine icons (Che Guevara, Eva Perón) made of unorthodox materials such as cookies, bullets, and thread.
THE SCENE Mostly South American business types, Brazilian couples, and families on a shopping spree.
THE ROOMS The 51 rooms are done in seven different cheerful colors and have tall mirrors and Bertoia steel-mesh chairs. Nobody comes to B.A. for a quiet getaway, but if street noise bothers you, request a room facing the drab but quiet inner patio.
THE SERVICE A maintenance person arrived immediately to change a dead lightbulb by our bedside table and help with the Wi-Fi connection. The biggest glitch: the list of traditional cafés and tango halls we requested was never delivered to our room.
THE RESTAURANT Natural light pours into the spacious restaurant, where moldings and vintage mirrors have been perfectly restored, and the lunch menu is surprisingly affordable. Best dish: seared Patagonian lamb with orange zest-roasted baby eggplant.
DIRTY SECRET We missed having a bathrobe to lounge around in, especially after taking advantage of the in-room Jacuzzi tubs in the executive suites.
NICE SURPRISE We loved the 13-foot-tall ceilings (only in the first-and second-floor rooms) and the French doors, which open out onto Evita-worthy balconies. 780 Calle San Martín; 54-11/5256-8800; www.esplendorbuenosaires.com; doubles from $155.
725 Buenos Aires Hotel
THE LOOK On one of B.A.'s busiest streets, this beautiful 1927 Art Deco hexagonal building has an interior that could stand in for a Design Within Reach showroom. Eames, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier pieces are everywhere.
THE SCENE Because of its close proximity to office buildings and the theater district, the hotel's sleek bar has become a popular spot for martini lunches and pre-show cocktails.
THE ROOMS The 192 rooms, designed by Argentine studio Urgell-Penedo-Urgell, represent a who's who of Modernist style, updated with black-and-white photographs of local urban landscapes, hardwood floors, calculated mood lighting, and floor-to-ceiling silk curtains. Bathrooms are decked out in Carrara marble and Philippe Starck fittings.
THE SERVICE Though the staff is fast, efficient, and courteous, we were disappointed with the shopping-mall brochures and dining directory the concierge handed us when we inquired about recommendations for top-end stores and private dining clubs.
THE AMENITIES Every two weeks, chef Javier González Alemán changes the menu at Cetrino, the second-floor restaurant. An example of his European, Asian, and Latin fusion: the delicious mussel-and-prawn risotto with beans, almonds, and lemongrass. There's a pool, sauna, massage room, and bar on the top floor.
DIRTY SECRET Avoid the rooms ending in -01, which are directly across from the constantly beeping elevators.
NICE SURPRISE The rooftop bar, with its outdoor heated swimming pool and comfortable daybeds, is the perfect spot to enjoy a sunset cocktail. 725 Avda. Roque Saenz Peña; 54-11/4131-8000; www.725buenosaireshotel.com; doubles from $260.