Tag Archive | "splendour"

Top 5 Buenos Aires Historical Hotels

From the 1880s to the 1930s Argentina was rolling in it. On the back of European investment and agricultural exports, the country became the 10th wealthiest in the world.

Buenos Aires was transformed. Vast swathes of the city were knocked down to build grand boulevards lined with buildings following the latest European designs, while monuments, palaces and large plazas sprung up throughout the city. Argentines were travelling the world  and bringing back the best of everything, from everywhere. So much so, that a large French architectural influence lead to the area between Avenida Alvear and the Palermo Gardens becoming known as the Paris of South America.

Exclusive hotels were built in Retiro and Recoleta and along the Avenida de Mayo to cater for the influx of visitors in a style that echoed famous palaces and stately homes Europe. Many of these hotels have, despite recent re-modellings to cater for modern tastes, maintained the splendour of this golden age.

We take a look at five hotels that have kept true to this old-money grandeur over the years.

Presidential Suite at Hotel Alvear (courtesy of Hotel Alvear)

1. Alvear Palace Hotel

Since its completion in 1932, the Alvear Palace Hotel has long been regarded as the epitome of luxury and among the top hotels in the world. Just as the Belle Époque period drew to a close in Europe, Dr Rafael de Miero, a Buenos Aires businessman and socialite, put together a team of top architects and engineers to incorporate 120 years of French opulence in one hotel.

Completely restored and modernised in 1984 and 2004, the old money ambience lives on – the extravagant lobby teams with marble columns, gold leaf, works of art – to the sound of classical jazz music.

The hotel’s 87 rooms and 110 suites overflow with masterpieces, antique chandeliers and original French furniture. Luckily, even those staying in the cheapest rooms benefit from the same, personalised butler service as those in the US$8,000 per night royal suite – usually reserved for discerning blue-blooded Europeans or Middle Eastern emirs.

If hiring one of the 12 Versailles-esque ballrooms for dinner with friends isn’t your style, high tea in L’Orangerie or dinner in Relais Gourmond-rated La Bourgogne followed by cocktails in the cosy Lobby Bar is the best way for non-guests to indulge in the splendour.

For more information on the Alvear Palace, click here.

Castelar Hotel Spa (Photo courtesy of Castelar Hotel)

2. Hotel Castelar

The Hotel Castelar is the only of our Top 5 south of Av. Santa Fe. Located in Monserrat on Av. de Mayo, the historic boulevard that runs for a mile between the Casa Rosada and Congresso, it was designed by Italian Mario Palanti (who also designed the Palacio Barolo) and completed in 1929.

While overseas visitors were drawn to the hotels of Recoleta and Retiro, the Castelar attracted a more literary clientele, and was home to poet Federico Garcia Lorca during the 1930s while his play, ‘Bodas de Sangres’ aired at the nearby Avenida Theatre. His room on the 7th floor has now been turned into a museum.

Other regular guests include Argentine author Norah Lange, poets Alfonsina Storni and Oliverio Girondo, and artists Emilio Pettoruti and Raúl Soldi. The hotel was also where vice president Carlos Álvarez dramatically resigned in October 2000. Formerly with a cafe as busy and as important as Tortoni, the hotel keeps with its cultural roots with concerts, literary evenings, and tango nights.

Having resisted overtures from international brands in recent years the hotel hasn’t had the large investment and extensive remodelling as other Buenos Aires hotels have benefitted from. However, some refurbishment work in 2008 touched up the rooms (leaving original wood, speckled glass and tiled bathroom floors), added the popular Turkish-style spa in the basement and altered to main ball room to imitate the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

The hotel takes its independence seriously. Hotel president Armando do Mayorga said, on the hotel’s 80th anniversary: “We considered the benefits of outside offers but we realised that, for our clientele, the Castelar always has to be the Castelar.”

For more information on Hotel Castelar, click here.

Plaza Hotel Marriott (Photo courtesy of Plaza Hotel)

3. Plaza Hotel

The Plaza Hotel arguably has the best location of all – it faces Plaza San Martín at the northern end of Calle Florída. A long time dream of Argentine businessman Ernesto Tornquist, the 1909 inauguration was so important to the city that it was attended by Argentine president José Figueroa Alcorta.

Designed by Alfred Zucker (of New York Metropolitan Opera House fame), it was the finest and most modern in South America at the time – all rooms had central heating, telephone access and were all accessible by lifts. Furniture was imported from Thompson & Co. and Warin & Gillow of London, and statues of Eberlein and ceilings painted by Spanish artist Vila y Prades.

Since its purchase by Marriott Hotels in 1994, a US$10m refurbishment brought the building to its current five-star rating with 270 rooms and 48 suites.

More traditional and old-school than unashamedly luxurious, the hotel attracted the likes of Edith Piaf, Luciano Pavarotti and Indira Ghandi, while the Suite Fundador accommodated the likes of Charles de Gaulle and Theodore Roosevelt.

Caked in mahogany and velvet, the Plaza Bar (gentlemen only until the 1980s) attracts a mixed crowd of locals, tourists, diplomats and business executives. Next door, La Brasserie serves international cuisine while the renowned five-star Plaza Grill concentrates on Argentine steaks and a hearty wine list not to be missed.

For more information on the Plaza Hotel, click here.

Four Seasons La Mansión (Photo courtesy of La Mansión)

4. La Mansión

La Mansión was a wedding present given by Félix de Álzaga Unzué to Elena Peña Unzué. Designed by British architect Robert Prentice as a ‘hôtel particulieur’ in the then-popular Beaux Arts style, it is considered one of the best examples of turn of the century architecture in Buenos Aires.

Now owned by Four Seasons, it has 138 rooms including 27 suites – the suites mostly in the mansion building and the rooms in the 12-storey tower constructed in 1992. The 2007 remodelling aimed to  reflect the wealth of the period in which it was built. It is described by its architect Francisco López Bustos as “the luxury of the 18th century, seen through the eyes of the 20th.”

Despite recent competition from nearby in Recoleta, La Mansión maintains a regular flow of celebrities, who have included Michael Jackson, Madonna and the Rolling Stones.

With spacious rooms complete with walk-in closets and large bathrooms as standard, it is hard not to feel taken care of here. The two buildings are separated by gardens and a pool, while the Pachamama spa includes treatments using wine – presumably not from its extensive restaurant wine list. Saturday nights sees tango at Le Dôme bar, while fine Mediterranean dining is provided at informal Le Mistral.

For more information on La Mansión, click here.

Palacio Duhau Façade (Photo courtesy of Palacio Duhau)

5. Palacio Duhau

Located on Av. Alvear, the Palacio Duhau was built in 1934 by French architect León George on behalf of the land-owning Duhau family, and inspired by the Château du Marais near Paris.

Fronted by wrought iron gates and neoclassical columns, the Alvear lobby with red marble flooring, Bordeaux leather and Parisian stone invites guests through to the gardens and pool. The hotel is littered with areas for light snacks and afternoon tea in the Piano Noble Salons or La Biblioteca where you can sip in the company of more than a century of Argentine literature.

The Posadas building, added by Park Hyatt in 2006, is located on the eastern end of the hotel’s 4,400 square metre landscaped gardens. It increases capacity by 142 rooms and 27 suites, and, decorated with minimalist styles and contemporary furniture, provides a modern alternative to the traditional Palacio Duhau.

The Duhau and Gioia restaurants offer Argentine and Italian cuisine supported by the 7,000 bottle vinoteca, but for those who prefer a more personal dining experience service the 160 square metre Duhau Suite offers a private, staffed pantry and city-wide views from its 80 foot wrap-around balcony. But even the dark wood furniture and crystal chandeliers won’t stop the most discerning guest from venturing to the infamous Oak Bar, with views over the gardens and decorated with 17th century carved oak from France – it guards its extensive collections of whisky, cognacs and cigars in the old palace safe.

For more information on the Palacio Duhau, click here.

Posted in The City, Top 5, Travel, TravelComments (0)

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