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. 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.
Rojo Tango: The Best Tango in the World
I’ve attended quite a few professional tango shows over the years, but I’ve always wondered where you can see the best tango in the world on any given night. Rojo Tango—"a mix of love, passion, madness and glamour"—at the high-fashion Faena Hotel in Buenos Aires might be it. The room is really small. Maybe 50 people are sandwiched around tiny cafe tables between the 10-piece band and short stage. Grab a seat by the band or right upfront so you’ll feel like you’re almost part of show. With the accordian player directly behind me, the lights go down and the show begins quietly with one couple. Then two and three. As the music crescendos, four couples are spinning wildly without bumping into each other or flying into the crowd. The intimacy of the space mixed with the frenzy of the dancers is overwhelming. When one male dancer whipped around his partner and spun her almost violently downward, he caught her inches before she hit the hardwood floor. The crowd exhaled in one collective gasp at the combination of emotional abandon and physical precision. The world’s best tango partners dance together, and only together, for many years to reach this level. Rojo Tango feels like the purest result of that collaboration, unadorned with the theatrics and hubris surrounding the mass market tango shows elsewhere around town. You have to pay a little more here but it’s worth the splurge. You will never look at two people dancing the same way again.
Faena Hotel and Universe in Puerto Madero
In Buenos Aires' most expensive and exclusive neighborhood lies the Phillipe Starck designed Faena Hotel - a project by the Faena Group, who is responsible for converting Puerto Madero into a neighborhood that could easily be mistaken for Miami's East Brickell. The main floor is centered around a long, dark hallway; bold architecture is illuminated by red and gold. One should expect this elegant fusion of romance and drama when you stick Starck's mind inside Buenos Aires. I recommend sitting in the library bar for a cocktail, where you can overlook the pool.
Hippest New Year's Venue In Buenos Aires: Faena Hotel
The party of the year is almost sold out in Buenos Aires and the Faena Hotel Buenos Aires' rooms are completely spoken for. From 8pm on December 31 to 4am January 1st there will be plenty of food, drink and surprises in the restaurants, bars and at the pool at Faena. I spoke with GM Ariel Barrionuevo at lunch this week at Faena and he promises the hotel's creative department is working to outdo their divine party last year. This fantasy hotel is my choice for ringing in the New Year in Buenos Aires, will you be there too?
Martha Salotti 445, C1107CMB CABA, Argentina
+54 11 4010-9000