Charming Algodon Mansion hotel in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires is like Paris on the Upper East Side of the Southern Hemisphere.
With its wide, tree-lined boulevards and ornate fin de siècle architecture, Buenos Aires has won itself the title the Paris of South America. And while that designation probably sells the Argentine capital's own vibrant personality short, there's nowhere in the city quite as Parisian-chic as Algodon Mansion.
Situated in a gorgeous 1912 townhouse in the quiet Recoleta neighborhood (it's like the Upper East Side of Buenos Aires), the hotel is a perfect home base for exploring the city and an equally excellent place to hole up and escape the urban sprawl.
Claim to Fame
Algodon Mansion is known for its ridiculously attentive, but never overbearing, service. Every room comes with a designated butler who can help with everything from unpacking luggage to scheduling private on-site tango lessons. The hotel, which also can be rented as a single property for grand occasions, is popular with celebs, tennis greats (like Roger Federer and Andy Roddick), and fashion companies like Hermès and Chanel, who have hosted events in the space. It's also the first and only Relais & Châteaux property in Buenos Aires.
What's on Site
The hotel sits on a sleepy residential block of Recoleta around the corner from such other luxe properties as Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires and Alvear Palace Hotel. A simple wooden desk at the Mansion entrance does double duty as check-in and 24-hour concierge. Past this is a small but well-appointed bar, where inventive cocktails (I loved the Chardonnay sour) and plenty of Argentinian malbec can be procured. The ground floor also houses the hotel restaurant and a glass-ceilinged atrium that serves as a space for private events and a breakfast room in the morning.
There are ten suites, two per floor. Other than that, there's a roof deck and pool on the top floor and a small spa for massages or facials. If you're not afraid to get very personal with your massage therapist, ask for Charlie. With a combination of Thai, deep tissue, and lomi lomi techniques (plus some Cirque de Soleil-level acrobatic stretching), he gave me the most thorough and restorative massage of my life.
Breakfast options range from scrambled eggs to a very decadent dulce de leche and toast that I ordered every morning.
For lunches and dinners, the on-site restaurant is as popular for business lunches as it is romantic date night dinners. People don't show up for dinner in Argentina until around 10 p.m., so if you decide, like me, to be an embarrassing American and have dinner at 7:45 p.m., you'll likely have the place to yourself.
The restaurant menu features typical Argentine dishes like steak and really good empanadas. But the highlight of the food and beverage service is the wine. Algodon Wine Estates, the hotel's sister property in Mendoza, bottles a wonderfully crisp chardonnay and many delicious reds. (I particularly liked the Malbec Bonarda blend.) The hotel is happy to set up a private tasting (best done on the roof if the weather is good) and provide a sommelier to give background and tasting notes.
In the Room
All the rooms are significantly larger than my NYC apartment. The Ambassadeur Suites have oversized and insanely cozy beds, a substantial sitting area, and bathrooms decked out in Italian marble. A few minutes in the steam shower — or in the adjacent soaking bathtub — and you'll never want to leave. Bathrooms are stocked with L'Occitane products and his and hers bathrobes. The "hers" robe comes with a cute little lace detailing and a hood, and it was all I could do to stop myself from stuffing it in my suitcase on the way out.
Upon arrival, I found a complimentary bottle of Algodon wine — no doubt to enjoy while lounging in my robe. When I got hungry, the minibar provided relief with the usual snacks as well as a bag of intriguing-looking empanada chips and several flavors of alfajores, the quintessential Argentine sweet.
Larger suites have separate living and dining areas and floor-to-ceiling wine walls, useful for hosting impromptu cocktail hour in your room…for 400 of your closest friends.
Room with a View
The 1,300 square foot Algodon Royale Suite on the first floor — a favorite of many a tennis star — is crazy luxurious. In addition to the beautiful interior, it has a small balcony that overlooks the street, providing a great view into the neighboring apartments for those with voyeuristic tendencies.
Across from the Royale Suite, the Ambassadeur Suite includes a small, private courtyard facing the building interior, a perfect spot to lounge in the afternoon with a novel and a glass of Algodon wine.
This Place is Perfect For
This is one of the best hotels in BA. Anyone from honeymooners to business travelers (the WiFi is fast and reliable) would feel comfortable here — assuming they want top-of-the-line luxury in a personal, boutique setting and are willing to pay the price tag that comes with it. The larger suites could easily accommodate a small family.
But Not So Perfect For
People who like mega-resorts and their amenities. Algodon doesn't skimp where it counts, but there's no gym or business center.
Wander the streets of Recoleta for a few minutes, and you'll likely see groups of uniformed schoolgirls on their way to class, old men out for a walk in the park, and a lot of dog walkers. It's an upscale, residential area that draws tourists and locals alike for its high-end boutiques and restaurants. If you want vibrant nightlife and bustling streets, look to Palermo Hollywood or Palermo Soho. But if peaceful and tranquil are more your vibe, you'll love Recoleta.
What to Do Nearby
Buenos Aires is a massive city, so if you're planning to explore all of it, you're going to have to get in a taxi or on the subway at some point. That said, Recoleta is a great neighborhood to use as home base. The famous Recoleta cemetery is a quick ten-minute walk away. MALBA, the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires (one of my favorite spaces), is a quick taxi ride. If you happen to be at the cemetery on a hot day, make a pit stop at famous ice cream shop Freddo (there are locations throughout the city) for a scoop or two of dulce de leche deliciousness.
For lunch one day, I ventured out of the hotel and down a few blocks to Fervor, where businessmen were putting back bottles of malbec and massive steaks at 1 p.m. on a work day. I joined them in this hedonistic pursuit and didn't regret it.
Rates start at $480. Click here for reservations.