Spending an afternoon wandering around a burial ground isn’t really high on my list of fun activities, but I made an exception for La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
And you should too. Because this might just be the most beautiful graveyard in the entire world.
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The high terrain of the Recoleta area first attracted wealthy families trying to escape deadly yellow fever and cholera outbreaks in the late 1870s. They believed that the altitude of the landscape reduced the number of insects that transmitted the diseases. As these powerful families settled into the area, Recoleta, along with the neighbouring barrios of Palermo and Retiro, began to form the most traditional and affluent residential zone in the city.
Today, the elite of Buenos Aires reside there, in some of the city’s most expensive real estate. The area is full of Parisian style homes, family mansions, foreign embassies, luxury hotels, and of course, La Recoleta Cemetery.
Visiting La Recoleta Cemetery
La Recoleta Cemetery was inaugurated on November 17th, 1822. It has approximately 4,700 above ground coffins, crypts and vaults organized by street, on 14 acres of land that used to be the convent garden of the disbanded Recoletas Order of Monks. 94 of these vaults have been declared National Historical Monuments and are protected by the Argentinian State.
Designed by French architect Prosper Catelin, at the request of former President, Bernardino Rivadavia, La Recoleta Cemetery has a mind-boggling display of luxurious family crypts and mausolea. It feels more like a crowded, miniature city than the final resting place of Buenos Aires’ most elite citizens.As you wander through the labyrinth of streets, you’ll be confronted by delicately carved marble and stone angels looking skyward beseechingly, grand cupolas and the forlorn figures of those long ago buried and gone.
It’s eerie and beautiful and majestic and sad all at once, a mournful reminder of Buenos Aires’ long gone Golden Age.
Famous People Buried in La Recoleta Cemetery
La Recoleta Cemetery is full of the remains of rich and famous Argentinians. The incredible crypts hold Nobel Prize winners, former Presidents, and even celebrities.
You’ll find the tombs of former Argentine Presidents Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Bartolomé Mitre, boxer Luis Angel Firpo, and Carlos Saavedra Lamas – the first Latin American Nobel Peace Prize recipient in the Cemetery. It’s definitely fun to wander around looking for recognizable names, but some of the most glorious mausoleums are actually just for really wealthy people with little fame.
The Grave of Eva Peron
Eva Peron is perhaps the most globally famous person to be found at La Recoleta Cemetery. We chanced upon Eva Peron’s mausolem by accident, after wandering up and down the graveyard’s narrow streets for quite some time. You can avoid our confusion, by picking up a map of La Recoleta Cemetery at the entrance.
Eva Peron’s grave is hidden deep within the heart of the Cemetery. It’s surprisingly modest and adorned with fresh flowers. Make no mistake about it though. It’s heavily fortified and she’s buried 5 metres underground to protect her remains.
Address: Calle Junin 1760
Hours: 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day
Admission to La Recoleta Cemetery is free. I recommend you pick up a map of the graveyard near the entrance, as it’s huge and really like a “small city of the dead.” If you’d like to take a guided tour, visit La Recoleta on Tuesdays or Thursdays at 11:00 AM, for free guided tours in English.
If you’re not able to make it to the cemetery during those times, but still want someone to show you around, you can book an affordable guided tour in English or Spanish instead. There are almost 4700 mausoleums in the cemetery, so this is well worth it, especially if you’re into history or architecture.
Getting to La Recoleta Cemetery
There are several subte (metro) stations relatively close to La Recoleta Cemetery. Keep in mind that all entail an additional 15 minute walk or longer to reach the entrance, so plan accordingly. If you’d prefer not to walk, you can take a collectivo or city bus. Make sure you have exact change for the fare.
If you’ve booked the Buenos Aires Hop-on Hop-off bus, you can visit the cemetery by getting off at Stop 24 on Avenue Quintana. Be sure to budget at least an hour to wander around Recoleta Cemetery – it’s huge!
You can stop at any of the following stations. All are about the same walking distance to La Recoleta Cemetery.
Line A: San Martin
Line D: Callao
Line E: Retiro