“Buenos Aires: The Paris of South America.” It’s a cliched description of the capital, though it’s true that the two cities share some similarities: statuesque architecture, refined fashion, striking history. But after our recent visit to the South American cultural center, led by Borello Travel & Tours, we couldn’t help but think that comparison is a little too easy. Buenos Aires has a European feel, it’s true, but it’s also a city all its own, filled with local artisans’ markets and sizzling tango performances and surrounded by a countryside with rustic gaucho history.
Fine Arts at Faena Art is in the air everywhere in Buenos Aires, whether it’s on display in one of the city’s many museums, imbued into the architectural landscape, or simply waiting for you in your hotel guestroom. That’s certainly the case at Faena Hotel+Universe, a striking design hotel set in Buenos Aires’ up-and-coming Puerto Madero district. The worn, brick exterior of the converted grain building that houses the hotel stands in stark contrast to its lush, indulgent interiors—accommodations ruled by deep-crimson hues, thick velvet fabrics and red roses at every turn. If all that sounds over the top to you, well, it is—this is, after all, not your average hotel suite. But though the Faena pushes the boundaries of effective yet unique design, its opulent surroundings always stay firmly on the side of good taste.
The one exception to that rule might be El Bistro, Faena’s fine dining restaurant done up entirely in white: white curtains, white tables, white armchairs and busts of white albino unicorns lining the walls. The effect is curious and a little creepy (not to mention photo-worthy), but clients will forget all about their surroundings as soon as they get a taste of El Bistro’s inventive dishes, ultra-high-end international offerings using local ingredients like Argentina’s famous beef.
Lurking below El Bistro, The Cellar is a rustic wine cellar that’s been transformed into a dining room seating as many as 16. The surroundings here are far less avant-garde but just as high-end, with the unicorns replaced with rack after rack of bottles of fine wine from across the globe. This is the perfect place for wine lovers to get an education in the different varieties of Argentinian wines, from its famous malbecs to lesser known varieties like torrontes, a light, sweet white wine.
When night falls, the Faena hotel turns into a chic, lounge-y nightspot. Clients can exercise their newfound wine knowledge at The Library Lounge, a low-lit bar with plush furniture and vast selection of champagne cocktails and other mixed drinks to complement the hotel’s wine list. Live, local bands play here almost every night, though clients will have to stay up into the wee hours to hear them; the locals here typically won’t start their night out until midnight or later. Clients who’d rather spend a full, happy night asleep in their plush hotel rooms don’t have to miss out, though, thanks to Faena’s Rojo Tango show, an impressive showcase of some of the best dancers in the city, that gets underway earlier in the night. Our advice: make reservations far in advance, as it’s not uncommon for the show to be sold out.
European Flair Another benefit of a stay at Faena: the hotel sits within 15 or 20 minutes of just about anyplace in Buenos Aires you’d like to visit. A ride from Puerto Madero to the chic Palermo district, for example, takes you past such iconic sights as La Casa Rosada, the government house where you’ll find the famous balcony where Evita made her addresses to the people, and the Teatro Colon, one of the most distinguished opera houses in the world, made no less impressive for the restoration efforts underway around it.
Palermo itself is a gorgeous district for walking, with vast European-style mansions and tall, leafy trees lining its winding, narrow streets like Avenida Ortiz de Ocampo, with French-style, high-class apartments on either side. Our tour guide showed us several international embassies in this area, as well as vast green parks that close to traffic on weekends, allowing locals and tourists alike to escape from the hectic pace of the city with a stroll or picnic through the greens.