The historic El Porteño building, a onetime grain warehouse made of imported Manchester bricks, was slated for demolition in 1998 before a local cultural preservation group stepped in. Soon after, Argentine fashion designer Alan Faena picked it up and hired designer Philippe Starck to turn the old mill into his outlandish dream of a hotel, the Faena Hotel & Universe. It opened in 2004 on the now-gentrifying Puerto Madero waterfront, becoming an anchor for future developments—apartment buildings, international hotel brands, and ritzy restaurants. The Faena dares to be different in every aspect. Guests are introduced to the hotel creators’ own ideas of luxury, where black marble meets claw-foot tubs and red velvet meets white leather. The property has become something of a social center and playground for the wealthy, attracting locals to the funky cabaret with nightly tango performances, now almost legendary, or to the antique book–lined lounge and 1920s throwback decor. Multiple restaurants and a pool bar, fronting one of the largest pools in the city, help maintain a steady stream of activity.
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Puerto Madero, a onetime cargo port and warehouse area turned into one of the city’s most modern districts, sits along the Rio de la Plata. A short walk from the hotel is the 864-acre Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, with trails for jogging and cycling, as well as great bird-watching. Nearby is one of the city’s best-known steakhouses, the modern Cabaña Las Lilas. For contemporary Argentine cuisine that explores native ingredients far beyond beef, there’s Chila from Soledad Nardelli.
Need to Know
Rooms: 108 rooms, 16 suites. From $445. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Bistro Sur, with its fantastical, white, Belle Epoque–inspired decorations, is the hotel’s formal restaurant. The menu includes modern takes on regional Latin American dishes like Brazilian moqueca or Patagonian lamb. The more relaxed, antique-filled El Mercado is like a cross between a working-class cantina and a European market. The menu includes wood-fired dishes like pizzas and empanadas, plus a long list of Argentine cuts of meat. The 1920s–style Library Lounge bar, with fireplaces and tufted leather sofas, serves morning coffee, afternoon tea, and nightly live entertainment. La Cava, a candlelit 4,000-bottle wine cellar, is available for private events, while Poolbar, which stays open late (September–April), serves cocktails. Spa and gym details: A full-service health club and spa includes a fitness center, a Turkish hammam, sauna, steam room, and signature treatments, plus yoga classes.
Who’s it for: Well-to-do leisure travelers, maybe artistically inclined, who are looking for something more than just pure luxury. Our favorite rooms: Of the many suites, the two-story Grand Duplex Suite is the most stylish. It’s decorated with lapacho hardwood floors and arabescato marble bathrooms, not to mention white-leather furnishings with antique-inspired filigreed mirrors. Upstairs, there’s even a loaded vintage beverage cart. Dinner and a show: Make reservations for the hotel’s tango show, Rojo Tango, with dinner every night at 8 p.m. followed by the performance at 10 p.m.