The city’s most luxurious hotels are concentrated in Recoleta, its most luxurious neighborhood. Pretty much any building here could be converted into a five-star property, and many of them have. Palacio Duhau, for example, a magnificent Neoclassical pile from the 1920s, stood empty for several decades before Hyatt Hotels acquired it in 2002, reopening it as a Park Hyatt four years later. For once, the profit interests of a multinational and the heritage interests of a city found themselves in perfect alignment.
To avoid category fatigue, I’ve included two hotels on this list—Algodon Mansion and Faena Hotel + Universe—that occupy the gray area between boutique and luxury. Both offer a less reliable but potentially more memorable experience than, say, the Four Seasons. If you’re looking for a hotel where the concierge is still called “the Concierge,” and where guests are still more likely to get their news from the complimentary newspaper than from their tablet, look no further than the Alvear Palace.
Palacio Duhau, Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
If money is no object, the choice between the old mansion and the new tower is the proverbial no-brainer. The latter offers a decent, if vanilla, five-star experience; the former is something special, with original features such as red marble floors, brass door fittings, fireplaces, and ceiling cornices meticulously preserved and restored. The health club, restaurants, and bars are terrific.
It’s the little things that count: The iPod-synced hydrotherapy massage tub; the temperature-controlled wine rack behind the damask sofa; the rooftop cognac and cigar bar. Housed in a handsome Recoleta mansion from 1912, this luxe boutique delivers a high-end experience with nonchalant aplomb. For the urban leg of a honeymoon, nowhere could be better.
Alvear Palace Hotel
Lodging emperors (Akihito), screen sirens (Sophia Loren), presidents (Nelson Mandela) and dodgy Swedish pop-rock duos (Roxette) since 1932, the Alvear is comfortably the city’s most famous hotel. If you’re an average Joe like me, stepping into the gleaming marble lobby will make you feel twice as classy, five times as wealthy, and around ten years older. French restaurant La Bourgogne is overrated; lunch, tea and brunch spot L’Orangerie is not.
Faena Hotel + Universe
Few hotels anywhere have generated as much hype and debate over the past decade as this one. But it’s probable that for every guest repelled by designer Philippe Starck’s singular vision—unicorn heads mounted in the restaurant, chandeliers that look like deep-sea creatures, etc.—there are nine dazzled by it. It’s the kind of place where you might easily find yourself sharing an elevator with Sting.
Four Seasons, Buenos Aires
If you’ve stayed at a Four Seasons, you’ll know what to expect: peerless staff, including a bend-over-backwards concierge service, luxuriously equipped guestrooms, and top-notch shared amenities. This particular property’s USP is La Mansión, a Beaux-Arts construction from 1920 that now houses seven opulent suites. If you’re Madonna, you book the lot.