This lively city offers history, fine dining and impressive accommodations.
By Art Terrero
The classic architecture of Buenos Aires is continually compared to that of Madrid, Rome and, most frequently, Paris, yet it is its neighborhoods that give the city its unique identity. That was our opinion after a few days of navigating its wide boulevards and expansive plazas, then ducking into its narrow, personality-filled streets.
Celebrated as the birthplace of tango, this lively city encompasses almost 50 neighborhoods filled with unique hotels, museums and galleries.
Then there are the restaurants and cafés. The city is famous for its restaurants catering to every cuisine and price range, although the Argentina beef, renowned throughout world, reigns supreme. We thoroughly enjoyed our grilled steak at La Cabana, the famous steakhouse in the heart of Buenos Aires—it’s also a member of Orient-Express—and the bistro-style La Cabrera (011-54-11-4831-7002). Be sure to complement the steak with a bottle of Graffigna wine, which comes from vineyards in the San Juan district. If you want a taste of seafood with a Mediterranean twist, we suggest you secure a reservation at Oviedo (011-54-11-4822-5415), which features an exceptional wine list.
The sheer number of cafés in every neighborhood is proof of the European cultural influence on Buenos Aires. We visited the famous 150-year-old Café Tortoni where prominent artists and celebrities have relaxed over a beverage or enjoyed entertainment in the late evenings in the Sala Alfonsina, located at the rear of the café.
An evening at Teatro Tango Porteno or at Boca Tango offers dinner and a theatrical display of Argentine song and tango performances, providing a peek into the sublime culture of Argentina. Not to be missed are the other “tanguerias” (nightclubs) offering dinner with orchestras performing for a show or for listening and personal tango dancing pleasure.
Shopping at the most sophisticated designer and fashionable boutiques along Alvear Avenue in La Recoleta district, or along Florida Street and Santa Fe Avenue will satisfy your high-end clients for days on end.
They, along with those looking to save a few dollars, must also visit the “best deal” shops and malls, along with the various open-air markets where they will find one-of-a-kind items. For the newest local designers, a visit to the Palermo “Soho” neighborhood is also a must.
We were fortunate to stay at the classic and historic five-star Alvear Palace Hotel in the elegant La Recoleta neighborhood. This hotel, with 110 guest rooms and 100 suites, provides the utmost in quality accommodations and is classically appointed with Louis XV- and Empire-style decor. The service is top-notch as well: A personal butler greets guests with a vow to deliver exceptional service. The hotel can also provide, at your client’s request, an expert personal shopper who will offer the best shopping guidance and all special in-store benefits that are available.Frequented by celebrities from around the world, the Alvear Palace Hotel boasts a fascinating guest list, including Sharon Stone, Henry Kissinger, Joan Collins and Ted Turner. During our stay, we enjoyed a brief conversation in the hotel lobby with Carolina Herrera.You can enjoy the finest French cuisine in Buenos Aires at La Bourgogne, the hotel’s acclaimed restaurant overseen by the renowned chef Paul Bondoux. It’s also the only Relais Gourmand restaurant in South America. We suggest making a reservation for a Friday evening dinner at the lower-level Restaurant La Bourgogne, where a talented jazz group performs throughout the evening. Le Orangerie, meanwhile, offers a sumptuous buffet or traditional breakfast and lunch daily, and an impressive Sunday brunch.
The top accommodation in the house is the Royal Suite (No. 924), where many international heads of state and prominent officials have stayed when visiting the hotel. In this suite, the unique reception hall is decorated with a Belgian Goblin from the 19th century, while its living room is filled with original artwork by master painters from Argentina and Latin America. The spacious dining room displays a series of Belle Epoque bronze and crystal chandeliers. Other amenities throughout the suite include two Jacuzzis and a sauna.
Those looking to book other high-end suites can consider the Governor Suites, which are set in the corners of the hotel, and are more spacious than the hotel’s several one-bedroom Luxury Suites. The Governor Suites also connect to the Palace Rooms, which are ideal for families (as are the Diplomatic Suites). For ultra-affluent clans, the area containing three additional rooms next to the Royal Suite can be closed off to create a private enclave.
Most guest rooms throughout the hotel have double sinks, Jacuzzis and rain showers. Those in the mood for romance should opt for rooms 603, 801 and 904 because they have the best views of the sunset.
Olga Petroni (011-54-11-4808-2100) runs this classic hotel, which is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World; travel agents should contact Gregorio Massot, the guest relations and operations manager.
The Alvear Spa & Fitness Center opened earlier this year with five treatment rooms. Two of the treatment rooms include an in-room shower, with one room including a Jacuzzi. There’s also a wellness and a fitness area and a salon providing hairstyling, manicure and pedicure services. Along with steam baths and hydro-massage showers, a stainless-steel Ludic “vitality” swimming pool percolates with “ozonated” bubbles to detoxify the body and lull clients into deep relaxation. One can take a walk on two “water sensation” paths, each with different temperature modes, where water-washed stones provide therapeutic stimulation to increase leg circulation and to benefit the lymphatic system. In addition, Alvear Palace Hotel features a heated swimming pool on its second floor.
Travel agents can consult with Lindel Wilson, the spa coordinator who is also the treatment specialist. We suggest contacting Liliana Costa, the top massage therapist at the spa.
Alejandro Noya (email@example.com) is the head concierge who oversees a talented team that can assist demanding travelers and make recommendations on everything from entertainment and social outings, dining and gala events to trips with personal shoppers, private functions and luxury transportation rentals, including private planes.
During our visit, we also stopped in at the Palacio Duhua/Park Hyatt, which is also along Alvear Avenue in La Recoleta. This beautiful hotel, with 165 guest rooms, including 39 suites, has been artfully restored to provide a modern, luxurious venue for leisure and business travelers. The property is actually divided into two sections.
The original rebuilt Palace section features marble bathrooms, crystal chandeliers, Persian carpets and silk drapes. The Posadas building, meanwhile, has a more contemporary style, with modern dark furniture and lush fabrics in soft cream, beige and gray hues. The works of many well-known artists and sculptors are beautifully displayed throughout the hotel—be sure to visit the underground gallery Paseo de las Artes.
The hotel’s Oak Bar offers up the finest cigars and a seemingly unlimited selection of cocktails and other favorites in an intimate, antique-oak paneled room with leather furniture, a wood-burning fireplace and the most extensive single-malt Scotch menu in the city. La Biblioteca (The Library) is a 14-seat salon offering the option of Afternoon Tea and other light refreshments. There are many other unique salons inside the property.
The Palacio Duhua/Park Hyatt features wonderful dining. The contemporarily designed Goia Restaurant & Terraces offers views of the Palace and garden while serving Italian cuisine provided by Chef Maximo Lopez May. In contrast to the Goia is the Duhua restaurant, which displays the Old World charm of the Palace. The restaurant offers patrons contemporary French-style cuisine prepared by its chef, Rafael Martinez Casas.
A stop at the hotel’s Vinoteca will delight the wine enthusiast, as will the Cheese Room featuring a huge assortment of artisanal regional cheeses, breads and dried fruits, all within a lovely setting.
For further information, agents should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Book Buenos Aires at least six months in advance for the Christmas/New Year’s period. Polo Open Season, between November and December, can also be a challenging time to book rooms.
LAN To Buenos Aires
We flew LAN from New York’s JFK to Buenos Aires. The airline recently introduced several service enhancements to its fleet, including its new Premium Business Class for flights between the U.S. and South America. We loved the 180-degree reclining, full-flat seats, and the on-demand entertainment system that included a great selection of films and TV shows, as well as the option to choose from 450 music CDs. Then there were the 14 games, which we were told we could play individually or with other passengers. Another fine distraction was the top-notch cuisine and wine selections, which we hear were selected by the only Master Sommelier in Latin America. If Premium Business is sold out, take heart: e Economy Class has also been improved (think increased reclining seats and larger individual video monitors to show off the on-demand entertainment).