Hotel review: Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires

If you’re looking for a hotel in Buenos Aires that combines elegance and tradition with a modern touch and a fantastic location, then Esplendor Hotel (770 San Martin Street) is for you.

The original building

There’s always been a hotel in this location. The old Hotel Phoenix was built in 1889 by the same investors who built the local branch of Le Bon Marché  department store. Although the hotel was built in the same block, it is separate from the department store.

The Phoenix was famous for its restaurant, called Alexandra in honour of the English queen, and was known as the “hotel de los ingleses” because most of the guests were British.

The Phoenix was an avant-garde hotel. The spacious rooms had a private bathroom and a sitting room, ideal for extended stays after a long sea voyage.

Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires

Location, location, location

Esplendor Buenos Aires is in the heart of the Retiro neighbourhood and a stone’s throw away from the Microcentro area, the financial and administrative centre of the country. Although we mostly walked everywhere, we took public transport to go farther afield. The hotel is also very close to the ferry terminal, ideal for a day trip across the River Plate to Colonia, Uruguay.

The hotel today

The old Hotel Phoenix was gutted and renovated in 2005 as a boutique hotel. The Renaissance Revival facade was thoroughly cleaned and a skylight added to let natural light in. The architects tried to keep as many original features as possible, like the 13-foot ceilings, wood door and window frames, balcony tiles, and the columns and iron and majolica fireplace in the restaurant.

Our room

We got a room on the first floor (or second, if you’re American), overlooking San Martin Street. We were so close to Avenida Córdoba that I thought that traffic noise would be a problem in the morning. But I was wrong! It was really quiet.

Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires

Our room was very large and decorated in black, beige, and sandy tones. It felt elegant, modern and soothing. It had a large desk against a wall, a wonderfully comfortable King-sized bed, a couch, and my favourite feature, a full-length mirror.

Breakfast

Breakfast is served in the basement, where the old restaurant used to be. The large, cavernous room features the original ceilings, columns, and an alcove. There was a bit of everything in the breakfast buffet. Fresh juice, tea, coffee, pastries, facturas,  toast, fresh fruit, cheese and deli meats. The medialunas (Argentinean croissants) were to die for!

Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires

Services

  • The hotel is pet-friendly with an extra US$18 + tax a night. A US$100 cleaning charge applies.
  • I loved the daily weather forecast written on a chalkboard near the elevators.
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • The elevators have signs in Braille script.
  • Cribs available upon request.
  • Business center.
  • Wake-up call service.
  • Concierge.
  • The following services carry an extra charge: room service, newspapers, shuttle, in-room massage and beauty treatments.
  • Games room on the mezzanine.

Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires

Artwork

Grupo Mondongo, an art collective, created amazing works of art for Esplendor using unusual materials and techniques. These are portraits of many Argentinean political and popular culture icons, like Eva and Juan Domingo Perón, Maria Elena Walsh (poet, author, and songwriter), Jorge Luis Borges, Che Guevara, Diego Maradona, among others.

Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires

What to do near the Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires?

Buenos Aires is a vibrant city and there’s a lot to see and do within walking distance from the hotel. Put comfy shoes on and go!

Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall wraps around the hotel but is not connected to it. The magnificent building was built around the same time as the hotel. Don’t miss the frescos painted under the central dome. Pop in for a bit of shopping, a meal, or people watching.

The Church and Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena is on the opposite end to the hotel on San Martin Street. Pop into the church to admire the main altarpiece from 1776 and the Spanish colonial architecture. Built in 1775, this was the first enclosed convent in the then colony. The cloisters, on the left of the church, are open to the public and there’s a restaurant inside. It’s so peaceful that you forget you’re in the middle of a cement jungle.

Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires

Calle Florida is the most famous commercial pedestrian street in the country. You’ll find all kinds of shops and services here. One of my favourites is Librería Ateneo, where I like to go for a browse and a cup of coffee on the top floor.

Plaza San Martin is one of the oldest parks of Buenos Aires. It was the site of a battle between the defending creole forces and the invading English troops in 1807. Take a stroll under the mature trees, admire the sculptures, pay your respects to the soldiers fallen in the 1982 Malvinas war.

Esplendor Hotel is really close to all the bars in the hopping Retiro area, like the traditional Irish pub The Kilkenny (399 Marcelo T de Alvear St.), or Barbaro Bar on 415 Tres Sargentos St.

You can walk down Cordoba Ave. to your right to the converted docks of Puerto Madero, where there are endless choices of bars and restaurants.

If you’re in the mood for a longish walk, stroll up Florida Street all the way to Plaza de Mayo and the Cathedral, the political heart of the country. Don’t forget to look up and admire the monumental architecture! You may catch the changing of the guard at sunset if you’re lucky.

All in all, Esplendor is a great choice of hotel in Buenos Aires if you like stately, old-world elegance in the middle of the action.

We were guests of Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires. However, all opinions and images are mine.

Palo Santo Hotel, a sustainable boutique hotel

Palo Santo Hotel is a modern, sustainable boutique hotel located in the hip neighbourhood of Palermo in Buenos Aires. We were lucky enough to be able to spend time there during our stay in the city.

Palo Santo Hotel
Part of the lobby

Location, location, location

Palo Santo Hotel is located within walking distance from trendy bars, restaurants and boutiques and a short cab ride away from posh Recoleta. The hotel is connected with the financial and historical centres of the city by public transport. When we checked in, the receptionist gave us a guide in English with useful information about the hotel and the city: the different districts, museums and art galleries, nightlife, what to see and do in Buenos Aires, where to shop, bars and restaurants and the like.

Our room

Once inside our room, we heard a beep. We finally figured out that the door wasn’t properly shut and the electronic lock was letting us know in no uncertain terms.

Our room had a balcony with a table and two chairs. The lush vertical gardens along the façade of the building do double duty: it reduces the hotel’s carbon footprint and provides insulation against the elements – and looks pretty too.

Palo santo is a native tree to the Americas which gives the hotel its name and whose wood was used for the floors.

The courtyard

The courtyard, in line with the hotel’s green concept, is an oasis in the middle of the city. I would have loved to sit down to breakfast among the lilies of the Nile but it was raining that morning. The water feature at the top of the garden matches the 20-metre high water feature that runs along one of the inside walls of the hotel.

Palo Santo Hotel

The service

In our experience, service was friendly and unobtrusive. Turndown service is one of my pet peeves – to me, it feels like an intrusion- and although Palo Santo Hotel is a high-end hotel, fortunately this service is not offered.

We were given one voucher each for a complimentary glass of wine in the evening –between 6 and 8 pm- but we came back late from dinner so we unfortunately missed it.

Check-in was a breeze. The receptionist offered us an Argentinean plug adaptor in case we needed one for our electronic devices. It was very thoughtful because, as it turned out, we’d forgotten to bring ours.

Topinambour is the hotel’s restaurant. One word: delicious. We had lunch and breakfast (included in the rate) there and every morsel was delightful. Fresh, good quality ingredients and fantastic execution make for a memorable experience. Chef Sébastien recreates French classics with an Argentinean twist. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s charming and speaks five languages.

Palo Santo Hotel

Sustainability

Palo Santo Hotel is a certified green hotel built to LEED standards. Some of the sustainability features are the use of durable and certified materials, the vertical garden that reduces the hotel’s carbon footprint, LED lights and the VRV inverter air conditioning system that reduce electricity consumption, or the trickle irrigation and efficient toilets that reduce water consumption.

Personally, I liked the fact that the hotel works closely with El Ceibo, a co-op run by former rag-and-bone men and women and which provides jobs for disadvantaged and disabled people. They collect recyclable materials from the hotel and process and sell them.

The cotton fair trade laundry bags are made by small communities from Northern Argentina and can be purchased for US$ 5.

 

Disclaimer: we were guests of Palo Santo Hotel but opinions expressed here are my own.

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