Avenida Alvear 1661, Buenos Aires
After an illustrious first decade through Argentina's ups and downs, the capital city's Park Hyatt is now firmly established as one of the city's top luxury hotel options.
In 2006, the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt took on a most ambitious project: to try to blend a historic 1934 Recoleta palace located next to the Vatican embassy with a new, ultra–modern building one street away. They would join the two to create a luxury hotel that could compete with the nearby polo-themed Four Seasons and the gilded Alvear Palace. They have managed to establish a hotel where an older, more conservative guest sipping on a 30-year single malt next to the fireplace in the Oak Bar can feel just as at home as a younger guest perusing the underground corridor of trendy modern art, a collection that can rival any at the nearby MALBA museum.
Upon arrival at the Park Hyatt (which has a sister property in downtown Mendoza), you should be aware that there are two separate hotel entrances and reception areas. One is on Avenida Alvear—arguably the most upscale street in town—and the other is on Posadas. Both entrances look fairly similar from the outside, so check with your driver to make sure you are getting dropped off at the entrance you desire, or you may feel a bit turned around upon entering the building. The main marble–and chandelier filled chec–in, Oak Bar, and formal, traditional Argentine cuisine Duhau Restaurante—with its stocked–to–the–brim wine cellar and cheese room—are in the original Avenida Alvear building. The more casual Italian Gioia Restaurant and Terraces, a second reception desk, a business center, and a few upscale shops are located in the other newer building on Posadas. (Come for the incredible bakery that sells scrumptious macaroons if you're not sleeping in this section), You can reach this building from Alvear by walking either through the well-maintained gardens or the underground art corridor, although neither are a great option for those with limited mobility.
Head one level down from the Alvear entrance and you will find yourself at the largest indoor pool in town at 80 feet long. It is ideal for lap swimming. Those traveling with children should know that there are goggles and pool toys available by asking at the spa desk. One thing to be aware of is that when you walk from the spa reception into the pool area, there are a few small steps that go down—straight into a foot washing area filled with about an inch of water. It's not marked and it's not instantly obvious that you are stepping into shallow water. Many guests strolling into the pool area are caught by surprise and end up with wet socks or shoes.
The fitness center is large and well-equipped, with two bicycles, three treadmills, two elliptical trainers, seven isotonic machines, free weights, and a personal trainer on hand to keep you in shape. A full menu of spa treatments is available Monday through Saturday from 6am -10pm and on Sunday from 8am-10pm from five marble and oak treatment rooms at the Ahín Wellness and Spa. The treatments are inspired by traditional indigenous plants and practices. For example, as you wait you may be offered a rose hip tea, as the (albeit non-native) plant grows wildly throughout Patagonia where the Mapuche Indians still populate the area. To follow, you could choose the Liwen Ceremony, a full-body exfoliation that uses cinnamon and larch, natural ingredients favored by the Mapuches, or a mask created from Patagonian mud and fruits from the Pehuén tree (an evergreen tree native to Argentina).
The bedrooms are almost as soothing as the spa, and have been well thought out to put you at ease in every way. An easy wave of the key card at the entrance opens the room door. Controls at the side of the bed easily adjust all of the curtains and lights, and the lights brighten and dim gradually. The safe is large and has both 110 and 220 plugs so you can keep devices charging while you are out. Large HDTVs and DVD players are standard and two cordless phones from the room can be carried around the entire hotel, keeping you available while you have a drink or go downstairs to buy chocolates.
Well–designed baths are large and have two entrances, with a dressing room, a large tub with salts available, a separate shower stall with rain shower, separate WC, and an extensive selection of toiletries including Celedonio Lohidoy–designed spa products.
Over half the 165 rooms are classified as suites, though the numerous Park Suites are really larger one–room junior suites with an additional sitting area, Bang and Olufson stereos, and double vanities in the larger bath. Standard rooms start at 33 square meters, while the larger suites are 61 square meters. Some suites have a balcony or a fireplace. Rooms that face the interior gardens have a much better view than those facing out. The suites in the original palace building feel larger and have retained some of the original period details.
Guests who like a good back story will be interested to hear that in the the 28-seat "Club Style" Oak Bar, the ornate European oak paneling was specially carved in the 17th century to decorate a castle in Normandy, France. Mr. Luis Duhau bought the panels from the last owner's widow and brought them to help decorate his own Palace in Argentina. Now it's suitably timeless and cozy, with a wood-burning fireplace, brown leather wingback chairs, and an intimate terrace.
It is this type of attention to detail that sets the Palacio Duhau apart. There was the perfectly–made foamy cappuccinos at the hotel breakfast, a concierge who went way out of his way to help a guest score sold–out music festival tickets for her teenage daughter, and impeccable service at high tea in the Piano Nobile room, The Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt demonstrates time and time again that they understand the varied desires of their high-end clientele. It is an ideal choice in Buenos Aires for a guest who wants the refined elegance of the Alvear Palace without the pretentiousness, or who seeks the warm, personalized service of the Four Seasons with just a bit more palatial feel and history.
Review and photos by Cathy Brown, photos courtesy of the Park Hyatt.
Web Site: Buenosaires.park.hyatt.com
Total Number of Rooms: 147
Published rates: Standard room $540 - $790. Executive suite $990 - $1240 (prices seasonal)