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Best of the Best 2007: Hotels: Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

Mike Nolan

Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

In Argentine tango, the caminar es todo, or the “walk is everything.” But at the new Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, the walk is just the beginning. Ascending the sweeping staircase that leads to this hotel in the city’s Recoleta neighborhood is akin to an intoxicating introduction to an alluring and graceful partner.

The Palacio Duhau is one of dozens of mansions that porteño aristocracy (residents of Buenos Aires call themselves porteños, or people of the port) built in Recoleta during the Belle Epoque era, when the tardevictoriano-style structures along the nine-block-long Avenida Alvear helped earn the Argentine capital its designation as the Paris of South America. Purchased and renovated by the Duhau family in the 1930s, the Palacio, like Argentina’s economy, deteriorated over the decades. (The government’s surprise devaluation in 2003 alone dropped the peso’s value by more than one-third.) But in July 2006, Hyatt completed a $75 million renovation of the now-23-room mansion and opened a 17-floor, 142-room tower next door.

The hotel’s Palacio and Posadas buildings connect via the Paseo de las Artes, an underground walkway/ gallery with contemporary art exhibits that change on a monthly basis. Above ground, an extensive terraced garden links the structures. The buildings’ connection also is symbolic, says hotel general manager Christoff Lorvo. “They reflect the joining of the classic and the contemporary, history and modernity, elegance and glamour.”

Set at the top of the Palacio staircase, the Alvear Lobby (named for the Argentine revolutionary hero whose statue stands at the end of the street in the Plazoleta Carlos) features crystal chandeliers and travertine marble floors. Stainless steel banisters and a massive theater scene in oil by Argentina’s most renowned living painter, Guillermo Roux, add a hint of modernity to the lobby, but the emphasis throughout the Palacio is on Argentine traditions. On the fifth floor, the Duhau Suite’s wraparound balcony affords views of the Buenos Aires skyline and of the wooded Recoleta Cemetery, where Eva Perón rests.

If the Palacio represents Buenos Aires’ past, the Posadas building signifies the city’s future. Instead of the formal carpets and silk curtains found in the Palacio, the new building features sleek contemporary furnishings. However, a travertine marble lobby and a restaurant with Ingo Maurer chandeliers hanging from 33-foot-high ceilings indicate that the buildings are connected by more than just a garden and tunnel.

For Lorvo, the Park Hyatt’s symbolism extends beyond decorative details. “The rebirth of this architectural icon,” he explains, “built during Argentina’s most prosperous years, means a lot to this community.” Indeed, with Argentina’s economy growing at an annual rate of 9 percent over the past three years, the revival of the Palacio Duhau could be likened to the return of a familiar dance partner, but one that has learned new steps.

Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
+54.11.5171.1234, www.park.hyatt.com ($410–$4,500)

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