Five Star Luxury Accommodations!!!! First Class Service!!! Terms like these are frequently thrown around to describe properties, usually by their own advertising team. This is normally to justify the astronomical price point. I expected The Aubrey to be just another pretender. Look, flat screens and deluxe shampoo bottles. OOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! What I found was something entirely different. I found a place beyond the grandiose adjectives and posturing of many “Five Star” hotels. I found a family, a community, a home. The Aubrey not only exceeded my expectations, but entirely redefined my view of what luxury is and should be. This review is going to be a little different, I’m going to tell you about a place that never should have existed, an endearing 25 year friendship, and a staff that’s so inspirational you feel terrible complaining about anything. This is The Aubrey Boutique Hotel Santiago.
Originally built in 1927, this mansion was home to the famous Domingo Duran Morales family. Vacant and in disrepair, Australian Mark Cigana, saw a diamond in the rough during a vacation. He saw the potential of not only The Aubrey but Bellavista as well. With the help of business partner and best friend, Englishman Will Martin, they opened the first true luxury boutique hotel in Santiago.
The Aubrey is situated at the foot of the stunning Parque San Cristobal in the bohemian Barrio Bellavista. Sitting on the corner of Constitucion and Pio Nono (the two most important bar streets in the city) affords The Aubrey access to several of the city’s most important attractions. La Chascona, former home (and now museum) of Pablo Neruda is a five minute walk away. Great shopping and eating can be found just a ten minute walk away at Patio Bellavista. The entrance to Parque Central, with its stunning views, zoo, and pool is right next door. The Aubrey is as located in one of the most diverse bar scenes in South America.
Another thing that makes The Aubrey’s location so unique is people don’t really know it’s there. I met friends across the street for drinks and they asked where I was staying. I pointed to the hotel and many of them had no idea it was there. The hotels design and color scheme allow it to blend into the hillside with a “camouflage” effect I’ve rarely seen.
The hotel’s location is a bonus for anyone interested in truly immersing themselves in the new Santiago. Barrio Bellavista has risen to prominence in the last ten years. Something the owners of the Aubrey recognized would happen and capitalized on early, creating the best located hotel in the city. You would expect being in such a “party” central location would result in large amounts of noise. Not so.
The Aubrey is like a compound, a retreat if you will. Hidden behind a large gate surrounding the property, you feel isolated from everyday Santiago life, which can be hectic. Aubrey has its own sound, pace, and ambiance. It has a culture that not only promotes relaxation but exploration as well.
I found it impossible not to smile upon entering my room. As a journalist you must remove your emotional attachment from a place to effectively review it. Well, to hell with it. I love the rooms at The Aubrey. Let’s start with the room I stayed in., The Pavilion Room.
The hotel can be divided into three sections, front house, back house, and addition. The Pavilion room is an addition, which is essentially new compared to the rest of the property. Situated above the piano bar, the room offers a good view of the entire property and is centrally located within the “complex”.
The European influence can immediately be felt. Co-owner and chief designer, Mark Cigana, truly integrated traditional western motifs into classic Chilean architecture. My room was very modern and included all of the essentials you would expect in many U.S. and Western European hotels.
The Aubrey commissioned a Chilean architect to renovate and design every room on the property. This adds a unique flare to the property while keeping the original house design intact. Not only were they able to preserve western appeal, but they also added a few cool features. One I really like is the placement of the Jacuzzi within a pseudo “backyard/patio” area. This area is visible through glass, as the entire back wall of the room is glass including the shower, a very fun feature for romantics. Although I loved the room I stayed in, where the property really stands out is the renovated rooms in the main house.
What makes these rooms so special is the fact each one is entirely unique. Stay here 10 times and you won’t stay in the same room if you don’t want. Each room has a specific style and characteristics. Rooms on the higher floors (The Mannarelli and Loft Rooms) tend to have particularly low ceilings and smaller accommodations. At 6″ tall it felt a bit tight for me. The middle floors strike a nice balance. Not too big or too small with a good amount of open space. These rooms aren’t as tightly packed as the higher floors and come highly recommended. The lower room (The Suite in the front house) that I toured was huge and geared toward families, as it can sleep a family of four easily. Prior to renovation this area would have been the living room or entertaining area.
Common areas are relatively straight forward. They are minimally, yet elegantly decorated and furnished with European pieces. The reception area is a bit recessed and feels secluded. This is my only real common area gripe.
The property is laid out over three buildings all connected by stunning staircases and walkways, some new and some original 1920s pieces. The courtyard is stunningly open and ready to receive parties of any size. The Aubrey has two true stars on its property, its pool and its new piano bar.
The pool is an outdoors and heated . Given the temperature in Santiago never reaches Texas temperatures, this is a great feature. While visiting in the middle of winter I noticed several guests taking advantage of its warmth. Guest only need to request the heaters be turned on about twelve hours prior.The pool is actually not in the ground as one would expect. It’s on an elevated section in the back of the property, overlooking the common grounds and in the shadow of the Parque San Cristobal Hill. After taking a late afternoon dip one can head over to The Aubrey’s piano bar.
Featuring a very talented Chilean pianist several times a week, The Aubrey’s bar is fully stocked and open to the public. This is one of the most impressive lounge spaces in Santiago and I have no doubt it will soon become a favorite of locals looking for more a more upscale ambiance than Bellavista normally offers. Even if you don’t stay at the property stop by and have a glass of wine. If you’re looking for a place to host a charity event, reception, or reunion, definitely give the piano bar a look.
One additional feature that I love are the fresh flowers on the property. Every single flower and plant you see is alive and fresh. No plastic here. I had the opportunity to meet their florist. A true artist. I notice and appreciate little things like this. This attention to detail is another example of The Aubrey going above and beyond for their guests.
Although a quite impressive property it’s not the best in the world. What puts it in the top five places I’ve stayed in the world, is the outstanding staff that Mark and Will lead., Everyone working at The Aubrey, from the gate guard to the maids, stands out at what they do. With the intimate size and setting of The Aubrey, you can’t help but get to know the staff. I arrived on a Thursday morning. Check in was fast and convenient and my bags were immediately carried from my taxi into the hotel by Viktor, the day security man. After I was settled into my room the power went out. Apparently this is very rare for Santiago.
During my time in Southeast Asia this happened regularly so I wasn’t too stressed. This being a luxury property I figured less progressively minded clients may raise a fuss so I decided to go to the lobby and see how the staff would react to them. I happened upon a scene I didn’t expect, elegant candles lighting the lobby and an invitation to have a seat and chat. I did. The staff took extra care to ensure all guest were informed about the situation (a transformer exploded due to a storm and knocked out power to an entire section of the city) and that they were comfortable. Everyone was impressively calm and accommodating. This set the tone for a good three days.
The ownership deserves high marks for hiring staff from such diverse backgrounds. The head of the reception area, Larissa, is from Bosnia. One of the desk clerks was from Argentina, and one VERY special employee is from Somalia. Let me take a second to tell you about his woman.
Rachel is one of those people you MUST meet. She is the hostess of the hotel breakfast and tea hour. Her beautiful singing and positivity fill the room with love and compassion. It’s not until you hear her story that you truly realize how remarkable she is and how caring The Aubrey owners are. I won’t tell the story here but go to The Aubrey if for nothing else but to meet this woman.
Usually I don’t have much to say about hotel ownership. Often, they are some faceless corporate types that could care less about their customers. Not true here. Will Martin of Britain and Mark Cigana of Australia make up a true fire and ice team. Will is the brains and Mark is the heart. When you speak to them separately, it’s hard to imagine these two as friends, let alone business partners because they are VERY different. The first time I met Mark, he was bounding through the reception area cracking jokes and laughing while the power was out. I had no idea he was the owner because of his report with his staff. He has a flare for the dramatics and a style as unique as his laugh.
Will, on the other hand, displays an air of professionalism and power. He speaks with a deliberate voice and often measures his words carefully, for maximum impact. During my interview with both of them I determined that Will keeps The Aubrey grounded, while Mark pushes it to its creative potential. What you end up with are two passionate owners that care about their customers more than themselves and whom take the well being of their employees to heart. They are businessmen that truly see people as people rather than dollar signs. But above all else, they are travelers and know what we want.
Who it’s for and who it’s now
The Aubrey, like most hotels, isn’t for everyone. While speaking with the owners they seemed to bemoan how much their property cost simply because, “We wanted to create a place where we would travel. A place where people can relax and enjoy their time without spending too much money. We’re travelers too.” Unfortunately when you spend several million on a property the price point tends to creep up. With that said, I believe The Aubrey provides an excellent travel bargain for its service.
- Families (The Suite is excellent for families and the pool will certainly impress no matter when you visit)
- Couples (Pavilion rooms with the Jacuzzi are perfect for newlyweds. Quiet, intimate, and secluded)
- Business travelers (very quiet and close to central Santiago. Also very easy to hail a cab. The biggest drawback is that their Wi-Fi is unreliable. Although an effort was made to fix it at great expense, my entire stay was marred by bad Wi-Fi. Not sure if this is a hotel problem or a internet company problem. I can attest to the fact ownership tried to fix the issue and was blown off by the company. I was there.)
- Healthy Elder Travelers (the silence and relaxed ambiance will definitely appeal to older guests)
Not Recommend for:
- Wheelchair bound travelers and those who can’t climb stairs (simply put, The Aubrey just isn’t built to accommodate wheelchair travelers. Lots of stairs. This is no different than many renovated properties)
- Hard Partiers looking for a hotel party atmosphere (although the Piano Bar is a great place to pregame)
- Loud people (the tranquility really relies on the discretion of guest as well)
- Backpackers/Budget Travelers (as a budget travel writer also I can’t say any hotel is worth a budget crash)
The Aubrey stands out in Santiago as an example of what quality customer service can achieve. When a hotel puts the customer first great things happen. Aided by forward thinking ownership and an outstanding location, The Aubrey sets itself apart from other boutique hotels. Their blend of modern and traditional architecture, attention to detail, and service makes The Aubrey a must stay for any traveler looking for a unique experience.
Brought to you by:
Constitucion 299, Providencia, Santiago, Chile
Total Number of Rooms and Suites: 15
Published Rates: $240 to $550