10 reasons to visit La Recoleta Cemetery while in Buenos Aires
Are you planning a trip Buenos Aires and looking for places to visit? We are sure that you have heard and read a lot about our city, and that probably one specific place caught your attention: the Recoleta Cemetery.
Why is a cemetery among the top attractions in Buenos Aires not to be missed?
Well, it is not just one more cemetery: it is among the top three in the world. A place full of history, architecture, and symbols that are worth discovering. In this post you we will tell you 10 reasons to visit “La Recoleta Cemetery” in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You could be walking around for hours admiring works of art and listening to history, stories and legends. You will not regret visiting this place!
1.It is located next to “Nuestra Señora de Pilar” church:
Almost 300 years ago, the Recollect friars settled in this area and built a church, “Nuestra Señora del Pilar” (Our Lady of the Pillar). It dates back to 1732, making it one of the oldest churches in the city and one of the few examples of Spanish architecture still to be seen in Buenos Aires.
The church is preserved in a perfect shape, and it is one of the few having one nave. Please, do not miss the amazing altarpieces on both sides of the nave.
On the left side of the atrium, you fill find a mural representing the city in those days.
While living here, the friars had a vegetables garden, that was later transformed in the cemetery of the city.
2. It was the first public cemetery in Buenos Aires.
In 1822, the former garden was turned into the first public cemetery in Buenos Aires. Before that moment, people were buried in churchyards.
We have to consider that, in those years, Recoleta neighbourhood was a place far from the city centre. So after some time, the cemetery had fallen into disrepair. It was about to be closed, but then the authorities decided to renovate it instead. That renovation process took place in 1881. Then another renovation was carried out in 2003, but not as important as the previous one.
Pay attention to the floor when walking in, as you will see those dates marked underneath the entrance gate:
-1882 First Renovation.
-2003 Last renovation.
3.It is one of the most visited local attractions in Buenos Aires.
Known as the “city of the dead” or “city of angels”, Recoleta cemetery has a layout similar to a city. In it you will find one main street, diagonals, narrow corridors and internal passageways.
Vaults, mausoleums and a few graves coexist as witness of the old golden days.
4.The magnificent neoclassical portico gives visitors an excellent welcome.
As you get close to the entrance on Junín street, you will be surprised by a neoclassical portico with Doric columns on which front you can read the phrase “requiescant in pace”, which means “rest in peace”. Different symbols at the top are related to life and death. Just to mention some of them:
-Wreath: It implies permanent memories.
-Snake biting its tail: It makes a circle with its body, the cycle of life, birth and death.
-Inverted torches: Life is sometimes represented with a flame, but –sooner or later- all flames will burn out. It is very common to find them in cemeteries. You will also see them in many vaults. They express that a flame was extinguished.
-Hour glass: Once the sand runs out, nobody will be able to turn it over.
You can find the same symbols on the internal part of the portico, but you will read a different phrase instead: “Expectamus Dominum”, “we expect the Lord”.
5. It is almost an open-air museum.
As soon as you walk a few steps, you will be overwhelmed by the architecture, the works of art, the sculptures.
By the end of the 19th century, many wealthy families lived in the area. They had built wonderful residences in French style, with many of the building materials imported from France, Italy or England. Remember that Buenos Aires was dubbed the Paris of South America. So they wanted to build amazing vaults and mausoleums as final resting places for their family members.
You are going to find excellent examples of art-nouveau, art-deco, gothic revival styles and many more, so it is a kind of summary of architectural styles.
6. It is one of the most important cemeteries in the world.
It is here when we get to usual questions, many people ask: “Why visiting a cemetery?”
Well… as you might have already realized, this is not a common one. Buenos Aires Recoleta Cemetery is usually listed among the most important cemeteries in the world along with Per Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France, and Staglieno cemetery in Genova, Italy. It is set in an area of 5.5 ha (14 acres) and you will find around 4800 vaults and mausoleums.
7. It is an active cemetery.
Even though there are no more available plots, vaults and mausoleums are quite big, so they have a lot of capacity. Some of the structures may seem a little small, but all of them have one or two basements, so it is very common to find that some of the shelves are still to be used. If you get close to a door, you will find the staircase to go the basements. Anyways, you can usually see just one or two funerals during a day.
8. A very important part of Argentine history can be known by walking around this place.
There are more than 4800 vaults and mausoleums, so people can learn a lot about our history:
More than 20 presidents, 25 city mayors, 40 governors, Nobel prizes, writers, politicians, engineers and even a caretaker are buried at Recoleta cemetery.
Besides, many of the designs were done by the most renowned architects and the pieces of arts, by famous artists and sculptors.
For this reason, it is quite common to find school groups visiting the cemetery with their teachers and a tour guide.
9. Some of the mausoleums will leave you speechless:
-Alvear’s family mausoleum
As soon as you cross the entrance, you will find an incredible mausoleum on the left. It is the Alvear’s family mausoleum: the final resting place for three generations. Gral. Carlos María de Alvear, who participated in the wars of Independence. His son, Torcuato de Alvear, was the first city mayor and he was responsible for many of the changes and the renovation process in the city around 1880. Then, Carlos María’s grandson, Marcelo, lawyer, was president from 1922 to 1928.
The granite mausoleum was designed by the architect Alejandro Christophersen, who also designed important residences, churches and temples in the city.
-Paz’ family mausoleum
If you walk a little up to the central area, you will discover a huge structure: the Paz’ family resting place.
Even though you know nothing about the family, it is impossible not to make a stop there. Mr. José C. Paz founded “La Prensa”, a very important local newspaper. The family lived in Retiro neighbourhood, where they owned a huge mansion that today belongs to the Army.
The mausoleum shows several works of art: monumental Carrara marble angels. You will not believe all details represented in them.
This are just some examples, but there is a whole world of history and legends waiting for you!
10.Recoleta Cemetery is the resting place for María Eva Duarte de Perón (known as “Evita”).
Many people visit Recoleta Cemetery, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, only to see this lady’s final resting place. Some visitors think the vault will be on the same level as some of the others that can be seen around, but it is quite simple instead. It is a humble family vault.
María Eva Duarte de Perón was Juan Perón’s second wife, and has become a polytical legend in Argentina. They met in 1944 and were together up to 1952 when she died. She was very young, just 33 years old. After her death, the body was taken to different places and countries before arriving at Recoleta Cemetery. This is the only place in the Cemetery where you will see common people (i.e. not relatives) leaving bunches of flowers at the door as a sign of respect.
We hope that this information about Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, will be useful for your next stay in the city. Now you can understand why so many people visit this cemetery every day. We are glad to provide you with some tips so that you can make the most of your days among us. For that, we have prepared a selection of blog posts with recommendations from our tour guides about art and culture, places to visit, travel advice and much more.
In case you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us, we are just a message away, ready to help you and hoping to see you soon around here to say: “Welcome to Buenos Aires. Enjoy your stay”.