Martha Salotti 445, Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires
© Courtesy of Faena Hotel
Faena, located in the recently developed, new money part of Buenos Aires called Puerto Madero, is a place where neutrality simply does not exist. Guests either love Faena, or they love to hate Faena. It is the dreamchild of over–the–top Argentine developer Alan Faena and the design world’s maverick Philippe Starck. These two decided that their vision was so grandiose that the word “hotel” couldn’t adequately encompass their concept, hence “Hotel + Universe”. Faena is a notable establishment that has to be admired for its willingness to take risks. For example, it’s a large hotel of 110 rooms, but there isn’t even a traditional lobby. Yet Faena and Starck somehow pulled it off. What could come across as completely tacky (bird head faucets with wings as the faucet handles) manages to be enjoyably quirky. What could be overtly sexual (heavily mirrored guest rooms), somehow ends up as nothing more than a creative way that the design team played with light and space.
You realize the second that you approach Faena that you are not only worlds, but dimensions, away from an experience like what you would expect from other 5–star hotels in Buenos Aires such as the classic Four Seasons or the regal Sofitel. Depending on which celebrities happen to be staying at the Faena, you may have to battle crowds of fans outside before you can even enter the remodeled warehouse building. Once inside, you are guided down an almost 300 foot long main hallway called El Cathedral, complete with sky high gold curtains and black leather benches, where your “Experience Manager” awaits you in a den-like room. Your Experience Manager will function as your receptionist, concierge, and personal assistant all in one. Definitely don’t miss the chance to ask for a reservation at the intimate on-site Rojo Tango show, which is the most contemporary tango show in Buenos Aires.
You will be escorted to your room, which will have a theme of stark whites with touches of blood red, hardwood floors, and mirrors throughout. There is a big difference between the premium and the executive room in both size and layout, so for it is definitely worth upgrading. As for Suites, Faena offers 8 different types, most notably the Tower suite which is 3 floors with a fiber optic crystal chandelier that changes colors, and the enormous Faena suite, which has two marbled bathrooms and some of the best views in the city.
Even the bathrooms in the executive rooms are quite spacious, with gigantic tubs and a separate shower area. The natural bath products are from Kiehl’s, and are larger in size than what you get at other hotels. Some other basic products that you might expect from a luxury hotel of this caliber were missing, such as toothpaste, but were brought up in a flash with a quick call. In the bathroom alone, there are 4 options for pre-set lighting scenes, which some guests love, and others find overly complicated when all they want to do is turn on a light. The beds are quite lovely, piled high with white down comforters and a nice selection of pillows. There is an electronic control next to the bed to conveniently open and close the blinds and velvet curtains. Closet space is abundant, and housekeeping made a point to carefully hang up and organize clothing that had been on the floor instead of just folding and placing into a pile. The hotel now offers free wi-fi to guests, a welcome change.
The outdoor pool and bar area at Faena is the place in Buenos Aires to see and be seen. It’s not rare that you may see Guns and Roses drinking beer with System of a Down, Chris Martin from Coldplay writing songs, or Naomi Campbell strutting her stuff poolside. Great fun except when the ratio of lounge chairs to guests is inadequate, which happens almost daily when the weather heats up.
The indoor lounge hosts live music at least a few times a week, and fills with an energetic mix of both hotel guests and locals.
After a long night of partying, the trip to the spa may be just what you need. Yoga and meditation classes are offered every day, and the gym is huge and well–equipped, filled to the brim with the latest equipment. When you walk back to the changing area it becomes heavily incensed, which some guests may find indulgent, while others may find it overwhelming. There is a dry sauna and a gigantic hamman, which could comfortably hold 30 people. The steam room has showers right inside, making it easy to quick cool down without having to leave the room. The lighting once you enter the entire sauna area is very low, beautifully candlelit, and evokes tranquility instantly.
There are two restaurants at Faena. One is El Mercado, which is casual, unfussy Argentine food including pastas, empanadas, and meats. El Mercado has a beautifully landscaped patio area, which on Sundays features a traditional Argentine asado. The other restaurant on site is the theatrical and spectacularly kitsch El Bistro, which offers creative, contemporary offerings from chef Mariano Cid de la Paz such as suckling pig confit and melon tacos. It can be pricey (around US$80–$100 per person minimum, before wine), but you are guaranteed a very memorable experience. The décor is straight out of a surreal David Lynch movie, pure white complete with multiple mounted unicorn heads staring down at you as you eat. Both restaurants can count on the gorgeous wine cave downstairs (which can be rented for private meetings or tastings) to supply an endless variety of high quality Argentine wines.
While the forward–thinking Faena is undeniably not the perfect hotel for every type of guest, it has to be noted that it is not exactly trying to be. It unapologetically holds to the vision of creating unforgettable stays for open–minded, creative types who are more than willing to pay some of the highest hotel prices in Buenos Aires for the chance to play in this fantasyland universe. In doing so, Faena has quickly created an international reputation for being one of the most unique and talked–about hotels in the Americas.
Review and photos by Cathy Brown except where indicated.
Web Site: www.faenahotelanduniverse.com
Total Number of Rooms: 110
Published rates: $469 — $6500