Refurbished in 1984, the Alvear, considered among Argentina's top social circles to be the only hotel in Buenos Aires, is the automatic choice for aristocrats, royalty and polo patrons here to spend a fortune on horses. \r\n \r\nPerfectly located on Avenida Alvear, the hotel is, of course, unnecessarily expensive. With a slightly musty smell, bold French carpets and a lobby full of scent and Swiss watch advertisements, you know you are paying for status, not chic-finesse. Think overstated elegance rather than decadent luxury. \r\n \r\nThe hotel is spread over most of this Recoleta block. It's big, but to its credit you wouldn't know it when you walk in because it is divided up into shopping centres, ballrooms and restaurants - Jean Paul Bondoux's La Bourgogne is excellent for dinner. \r\n \r\nApproach the doors and the gendarme-lookalike bell-boys will rush for your bags before showing you to one of the 210 Louis XIV and Louis XVI styled rooms. The spaces are a mishmash of flowery upholstery with antiques in every corner, touch-screen telephones, flat-screen TVs and spa baths to go with the vintage gold taps. \r\n \r\nThe penthouse, at over US$3,500 a night, includes a bed made for Shaquille O'Neil. At around 8 feet, they say you can fit at least six ESPN promotion girls on it. Don't forget to look up the stunning spiral staircase (should you fancy some exercise, the current record for an ascent is a minute and a half).