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TPG Managing Editor Eric brings us our weekly Destination of the Week Post…
For the first time ever, we tango south of the equator for our Destination of the Week, and head to the vibrant city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
THINGS TO DO
In recent years, Buenos Aires has become one of the world’s premier international destinations thanks to a great exchange rate, heaps of culture, excellent food and more and more great flight options, as well as a spate of hotel openings both in terms of the big brands and more boutique options.
If you haven’t been there yet, what are you waiting for? Pack your tango shoes, bring an extra suitcase for all the leather goods you’ll be buying, start a pre-trip cleanse because you’ll likely be having steak every night you’re down there, and watch Evita to get into the proper spirit. Once you’re there…
Start at the Casa Rosada, the pink presidential palace, then stroll down toward the river to catch a show at Luna Park, where Evita met Juan Perón for the first time in 1944. See the tomb of the famous lady herself at Buenos Aires’s creepy-cool necropolis, Recoleta Cemetery on a guided visit so you get all the good gossip on the interred inhabitants.
Buenos Aires doesn’t have many museums, but the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA for short) houses an extensive collection of Latin artists including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and the eccentric Xul Solar, whose former house is also a museum: House of Xul Solar. Consider skipping the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and instead visit the small Museo Evita, where you can learn all about Argentina’s iconic first lady’s life and legacy.
The baroque-style Teatro Colón is one of South America’s most famous performance venues, so if you’re there for the opera season, you could score some tickets, but for some real fun, try to catch a soccer match at blue-and-yellow Bombonero stadium in the equally colorful La Boca neighborhood which, though touristy, is still fun to wander (just not at night when it can get dangerous).
Argentina is the land of beef, and you’ll find some of the world’s best steakhouses in Buenos Aires. Guidebooks often suggest the fancier places like Cabana Las Lilas in Puerto Madero, but many visitors prefer more authentic parrillas, or grills, like humble La Dorita and upscale La Cabrera (TPG personal favorite), or the hip newish Parrilla Miranda, all in Palermo.
The bohemian but gentrifying neighborhood of Palermo is also where you’ll find the city’s stylistas dining at fashionable watering holes like Sucre, Bar Uriarte and Casa Cruz (another TPG favorite), though venture to the Barrio Norte to dine at Gran Bar Danzon and Milion, which is in a converted early 20th-century mansion with a gorgeous garden where you can enjoy a nightcap.
Literarati should be sure to make time to visit Café Tortoni just up Avenida de Mayo from the Casa Rosada to have a coffee and roll just like the famous author Borges used to.
The shops along the pedestrianized outdoor mall of La Florida sell mostly tacky souvenirs, but there are also many fine leather shops and the famous El Ateneo bookshop, which was founded in 1912.
If you’re looking for custom-made leather goods and clothing (at a fraction of the cost of goods in the U.S.), your best bet is Uru Cuero, which is right across the street from the Recoleta Cemetery.
If you’re there on a Sunday, be sure to explore the picturesque streets of the San Telmo neighborhood as you peruse the wares of its famous weekly antiques market.
Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations, nor are they endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there. As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of these destinations.
The main airport in Buenos Aires is Ministro Pistarini International Airport, also referred to as Ezeiza (EZE). American Airlines offers non-stop service from Dallas, Miami, and New York-JFK (See TPG’s review of EZE-JFK in AA First); Delta flies direct from Atlanta, and United flies to Houston, Newark (beginning April 7), and Washington-Dulles (ends April 6).
Award travel to Buenos Aires on American Airlines begins at 20,000 miles each way for their MileSAAver Off-peaks awards, or 30,000 miles for MileSAAver Peak Awards. AA flights can also be booked with British Airways Avios points – for example JFK-EZE costs 50/100/150k for coach/business/first. Delta redemptions start at 60,000 miles roundtrip for low-level awards, though they are difficult to come by in advance. United starts at 30,000 miles each way for a one-way Saver Award or 55,000 miles each way for a one-way standard award.
Aerolineas Argentina also flies here from Miami, and is expected to be joining SkyTeam in 2012, which will open some more redemption options—though most of the stories you hear about their service and timeliness are nightmarish, so it might be better to stick to US carriers!
Though the Buenos Aires scene has pretty good representation of the major chains (which we’ll talk about below), it is also home to some fantastic boutique hotel options, so we’ll list a few of those at the end. If you’re staying for several days, you might also consider renting an apartment through reputable sites such as airbnb.com, bairesapartments.com and apartmentsba.com.
Hilton Buenos Aires: Located in the Puerto Madero District near the Casa Rosada and the busy Microcentro area in the center of the city, this hotel has 418 guest rooms and suites that have 32” LCD televisions, marble bathrooms and walk-in closets. There is an outdoor pool and sundeck. There is also an executive lounge that serves complimentary breakfast and refreshments throughout the day. The hotel’s three dining outlets include a fine-dining restaurant, El Faro, the Mosto Wine Bar and Panadero Take Away. Rates in March start at $209 a room, or 40,000 Hilton HHonors points since it’s a Category 6 property.
Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires: This luxe hotel is housed in a mansion that dates to 1890 and is located in the heritage district of Recoleta. It has 165 rooms and suites, including Palace Suites, which have crystal chandeliers and working fireplaces. All the rooms have LCD televisions and marble bathrooms. Check out the suite TPG got when he stayed here last year. The Ahin Wellness and Spa located within the hotel has an 82-foot swimming pool, whirlpools, saunas and a fitness center. The hotel’s main restaurant, Duhau Restaurante & Vinoteca features sophisticated Argentinean cuisine and over 7,000 bottles of Argentine wine. The lowest rates we could find in March were $550 for a Park Deluxe Room. This is a Category 5 hotel, so free night redemptions require 18,000 Gold Passport points for standard rooms and 27,000 for suites. Just a reminder, the New Chase Hyatt Visa now gives two free award nights after your first purchase and if you’re already a Platinum member when you sign up, you also get two two suite upgrade certificates to use on paid stays up to 7 days, and Diamond members receive their two free award nights in a confirmed suite.
Intercontinental Buenos Aires: Also located in the Microcentro, this property has 309 guestrooms and 10 suites, all renovated in 2008. There is also an executive floor. The hotel’s restaurant Mediterráneo Restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine. The hotel also has an indoor heated pool, sauna, steam room and solarium in addition to its on-site fitness center. Rates in March begin at $170 or 30,000m points a night.
Marriott Plaza Hotel Buenos Aires: Located on the Plaza San Martin in the Retiro district, this hotel is housed in a historic 100-year-old building and has 270 rooms and 48 suites. The guestrooms feature Marriott’s Revive bedding and 32” LCD TV’s. There is also an executive level with a lounge serving complimentary breakfast and evening snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. Rates in March begin at $285 a night. This is a Marriott Category 5 property, and requires 25,000 Marriott Rewards Points (20,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption.
Park Tower: A member of the Luxury Collection, this 23-story hotel has 181 Biedermeier-style rooms and suites with wood furniture and all-Italian marble bathrooms. Rooms range from 592 square feet for a Deluxe Room to over 4,000 square feet for the St. Regis Suite. Hotel guests have access to the Neptune Pool and Fitness Center at the connecting Sheraton Buenos Aires. Butler service is offered for all guests as well. Rates in March start at $295 a night. This is a Category 5 hotel requiring between 12,000- 16,000 Starpoints for a free night, or 4,800 Starpoints + $90.
Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel and Convention Center: Connected to the Park Tower, this 742-room hotel’s accommodations range from Classic, Club to the 1,800-square-foot San Martin Suite. Rooms feature flat screen TV’s and Sheraton’s Sweet Sleeper Bed. The top six floors are the executive levels with access to the Sheraton Club, serving breakfast, afternoon snacks and evening hors d’oeuvres. Hotel guests also have access to the Neptune’s two swimming pools and fitness center. Rates in March start at $205 a night. This is a Category 4 hotel requiring 10,000 Starpoints for a free night, or 4,000 Starpoints + $60.
Sheraton Libertador: This Sheraton is located in downtown Buenos Aires close to the financial and commercial districts. The hotel’s 200 rooms and suites have marble bathrooms, Sweet Sleeper Beds and mini bars. Other facilities include an indoor pool and whirlpool, business center, fitness center with sauna, as well as the Sheraton Club Lounge that offers complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres and beverages. The hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, La Pergola, offers international cuisine. Rates in March start at $189 a night. This is a Category 3 hotel requiring 7,000 Starpoints for a free night, or 2,800 Starpoints + $45.
Some of the city’s trendiest boutique options include Five Cool Rooms and the adorable Home Hotel, the Hot Listed Bo Bo Hotel (short for bourgeois bohemian) and the retro-cool Vitrum all in Palermo. The Art Hotel is a lovely affordable option in bustling Barrio Norte, as is the cE Diseno. The Axel Hotel in San Telmo caters caters to a mostly LGBT clientele, while the Moreno is housed in a 1920’s publishing building and is a bit more staid.
On the luxury sides of the spectrum, there’s a gorgeous Four Seasons in Recoleta, the historic Alvear Palace Hotel where BA’s upper crust still takes afternoon tea, the whimsical Faena Hotel + Universe in Puerto Madero, and perhaps the city’s most exclusive new accommodation, the super tony Algodon Mansion in Recoleta.