Hidden not two streets away from the central square is the best hotel in Cordoba, Argentina. Not only will you find total comfort with all the amenities, you’ll also find some of the best food in Argentina, and one of the most unique spas in the world. They claim there are only five similar spas worldwide, and I believe them.
History of Best Hotel and Spa in Cordoba
The history of Azur Real Hotel Boutique begins in 1915 when the home was built for a wealthy family. Shortly after that, the house was taken over by a drugstore which built its laboratory in the basement. Over the years, the building was occupied by several schools including one with Ernesto Che Guevara as a student, a Chinese restaurant, and a blue-collar dance club where Carlos “La Mona” Jimenez performed.
The current owners purchased the building in 2003. They spent four years renovating all the rooms, keeping the original Jesuit theme, but also adding many modern amenities. The Ancient Water Circuit Spa was completed in 2020 after several years of construction.
From the outside, the hotel is a very unassuming building. But pass through the original, early 20th-century doors and you’ll enter a true paradise, quite different from the rest of Cordoba, and the rest of Argentina for that matter. In fact, in all my travels around the world, this is one of my favorite hotels, and that’s a personal, unsolicited opinion. It’s not a perfect hotel, but it will leave you in absolute bliss.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner at Bruma Restaurant
To start with, the meals available at the hotel were better than anything I’d had after a month in Argentina, and for one particular reason – they were super healthy! If I were to describe Argentinian cuisine in general, I would say meat, bread (especially pastries), and cheese. Not a lot of sauces, not a lot of vegetables, and not a lot of healthy options. The food at Azur Real was anything but that.
Bruma Restaurant is not strictly part of the hotel. It’s a separate company but located in the hotel, both working together to offer guests the best meals and experiences possible. The four chefs, led by Bruno Martin, produce some extremely original and delicious dishes.
Let’s start with breakfast, even though that was our last meal at the hotel. The spread was on par with the breakfasts I found in Portugal. Yes, there were delicious local pastries, but there was also plenty of fresh fruit, homemade granola, healthy yogurt, and the option to order a portion of eggs however I wanted them prepared.
Unlike lunch and dinner, I went for a slightly less healthy meal and enjoyed several of the pastries, but along with fresh fruit, ham and cheese, granola, and yogurt.
A Super Healthy Lunch
Lunch was similarly incredible. There were very few options on the menu – which I always say is a good sign. A larger menu just means more ingredients sitting forever in the fridge and freezer. On the menu were less than half a dozen starters and a similar number of entrees.
For a starter, I went with the curry and turmeric pumpkin soup, complete with tofu, coconut, and almond cream. The main course was two types of cannelloni – cauliflower with mushrooms, and oysters with mushrooms. Believe me when I say I’ve never had better cannelloni!
Vanesa chose the caciotta cheese and squid salad with green beans and fine granola as a starter. Her main course was eggplant topped with red beans, cabbage, and tofu.
Omakase – Chef’s Choice for Dinner
The manager of Azur Real had an incredible surprise in store for us for dinner. Quite literally. After our two-hour water circuit in the spa (covered below), we made our way to the restaurant, where Victoria, the restaurant manager, informed us we were to be treated to an Omakase. Based on the Japanese style of serving dinner by the chef’s choice, we would be having a five-course meal, but without knowing what each course would be beforehand.
The first course was the starters – four of them! Instead of the waiter describing each portion, we played a game to guess what the ingredients were. Some were correct, and some were nearly impossible to identify. The first was fried kale flavored with matcha powder! The second was aduki bean paste alfajores (a nice twist on the national pastry). The third was fresh cheese wedges with grapefruit slices. Finally, there was sourdough ride bread with a chamomile-flavored butter spread.
The second course was pickled leeks with winter spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, etc., and a side of beet chips, onion marmalade, and brie.
The main course was steak, but not just any steak. For two years, Vanesa has been tantalizing me with how good the meat was in Argentina. While I admit it was good, it wasn’t great, at least to my own taste buds and preference. On top of that, I’ve never really enjoyed steak. However Bruno prepared it blew my mind. It was so tender and delicious, I would have happily ordered a couple more portions (if we didn’t have two more courses to go).
Course four was a plum topped with strawberry hibiscus yogurt and cilantro, sitting atop an inverted bowl. Bruno personally came out to have us turn the bowl over, in which we found a hidden treat. It was an almond and nut cookie held to the bowl by a pumpkin puree.
For dessert, we were presented with kumquat, carrot and white chocolate ice cream, and a very fine yerba mate granola. The granola was very similar to the welcome presentation in our room, a terrarium that was completely edible.
Dining at Bruma Restaurant
I could go on and on about how incredibly delicious every portion was, and how it was not just my favorite meal in Argentina, but one of the best in all my travels (on par with the Michelin recommend Convento de Belmonte in Portugal or Skepsgossen in Sweden). But don’t take my word for it. Bruma Restaurant is open to everyone, not just hotel guests, so make sure you stop there when visiting Cordoba.
Please note that the omakase is not a normal menu item. It was prepared specially for us, but you can check with the managers of the hotel and restaurant to see if you can get it. I’m just glad we were treated to it, as it really highlighted the incredible skills of Bruno and his team.
A Water Circuit Spa Unlike Any Other
As I said earlier, I fully believe that the spa at Azur Real should be listed as one of the best spas in the world. It’s certainly one of the most innovative, especially when it comes to indoor spas. Sure, there are more exotic spas in the Maldives, Thailand, and Iceland, but none are as unique as Azur Real. The hotel claims there are only four other similar spas in the world, but for the life of me, I can’t find them online.
The spa took several years to construct, yet the original Jesuit architecture from over a century ago was retained for the design. It’s hard to imagine it used to be the laboratory for a drugstore.
At the spa reception, Amy, the spa manager, greeted us and gave instructions for our evening. Instead of giving us everything at once, she only presented the rules, had us sign a waiver, and then instructed us through the first eight steps.
In total, there are eighteen stages of the water circuit, divided into four sections. Each couple spends roughly half an hour in each section, so you really have privacy in each section. This makes it very unique compared to other popular spas.
Exfoliation and Cleansing
The first two baths are very similar. They’re jet pools with minerals to loosen your dead skin. As instructed, we spent seven minutes in the first bath, and seven in the second. The third station was a basin full of crushed ice, which we used to exfoliate the rest of the dead skin.
The sauna was next. As with all the stations, all you need to do is push a button, and everything is automated. Within a few seconds, the steam began to billow in, accompanied by a subtle eucalyptus smell. After a few minutes, just like in the Nordic countries, we went into the cold pool. I loved it; Vanesa nearly screamed. She jumped out while I enjoyed the frigid water. Then it was on to the massage sauna – two benches to lay on as jets of water moved up and down our bodies.
The final stage of the first section was a hydration station, drinking cool water before moving on to the next set of pools.
The second section is a series of connected pools. Different stations around the pools have jets of water that massage different parts of your body – the feet, the backs of the legs, the back, and the shoulders. Well, the shoulder massage is a waterfall you stand under.
By far my favorite part of the spa was a separate room where you lay on a large granite slab while water rains down on your body. By the time it was over (somewhere between five minutes and several hours), my body was in bliss. I wished I really could stay in that room for hours.
The third and fourth sections of the spa were sensory experiences. The first is a small bath filled with salts to relax in with your ears underwater, just letting yourself relax in the underwater void.
Finally, we made our way into the last room, where we relaxed on undulating stone benches with meditative music in the background, and simple machines creating patterns of light across the ceiling. We were provided with fresh fruit, nuts, and delicious Chai tea.
Those were two of the most relaxing hours I’ve ever spent in a spa, and yet I felt like it went by too fast. I can’t wait to return someday for round two, and Vanesa is already planning to send her family there as well. Just like the restaurant, you don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy the spa. But I would obviously highly recommend staying at the hotel too for the complete package of comfort.
24 Hours at Hotel Boutique
I’ve yet to stay at an all-inclusive resort, and I think it’s strange to spend all your time at a hotel. However, I nearly did just that at Azur Real. Other than a quick trip to reserve a car with Hertz for our trip to the north, Vanesa and I didn’t leave the hotel for nearly 24 hours. Well, technically it was a bit longer after our accommodation for the following night fell through and we stayed in the lounge after checking out to arrange another.
As to the rooms in the best hotel in Cordoba, they are the same high quality as the rest of the hotel. I loved how there was a small lounge room as you entered where you could work at a desk, watch TV, etc, and then the bedroom and bathroom were upstairs. The king-size bed was the most comfortable I’d had in Argentina (reminiscent of my own super-king bed in Scotland), and Vanesa and I were excited to see the jet bath in the bathroom, although that was rather anti-climatic after the water circuit in the spa.
Aside from the spa, Azur Real has several other amenities. There’s a beautiful rooftop terrace where you can relax, enjoy your meals, work, etc. Options include tables, lounge chairs, and a curtained bed. On a raised portion of the terrace is a small pool, and beside that is the gym. Essentially, there really isn’t any reason to leave the hotel, except that Cordoba is a fascinating city and deserves to be explored more.
Azur Real is truly a boutique hotel. It’s not connected to any chain or group and has less than two dozen rooms to stay in. We were quite lucky, as we stayed just before a holiday weekend when every room in the hotel (and every other hotel in the city for that matter) was fully booked.
To my knowledge, Cordoba gets super hot in the summer, so perhaps that’s not the best time to go. But whenever you happen to make it to Argentina, make sure to put Cordoba on your itinerary and then stay at the Azur Real Boutique Hotel. Book the water circuit in the spa, enjoy the delicious food, and see how good the best hotel in Cordoba really is.
Here are some other amazing spa hotels I’ve stayed at around the world.
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