About La Recoleta Cemetery
La Recoleta Cemetery (Cementerio de la Recoleta) is a world renowned cemetery in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires.
History of La Recoleta
Franciscan monks first arrived in this area, then on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, in the early 18th century, and a cemetery was building around their convent and church. The order was disbanded in 1822, but the cemetery was converted into Buenos Aires’ first public cemetery.
The layout seen today was designed by a French engineer called Próspero Catelin in 1822, and resembles a city more than a burial ground with its impressive neo-classical gates opening up to winding tree-lined streets.
The site extends over 14 acres today, and contains 4691 vaults, all of which are above ground. 94 of these have been declared National Historic Monuments – they vary in architectural style from Baroque and Neo-Gothic to Art Deco and Art Nouveau, depending on when they were built.
Opulent and grand, La Recoleta Cemetery is characterized by a range of ornately decorated mausoleums, many of which are made of marble and adorned with statues. In fact, this over ground burial system is due to the fact that is anything buried underneath La Recoleta Cemetery’s marshy earth is likely to rise back to the surface.
La Recoleta Cemetery sees presidents and wealthy businessmen rub shoulders with poets, writers and boxers. Look out for presidents such as Raul Alfonsin, Arturo Umberto Illia, Hipólito Yrigoyen and Nicolás Avellaneda, one of Napoleon’s grandchildren Isabel Walewski Colonna and the boxer, Luis Ángel Firpo. It’s most famous resident is Eva Perón or “Evita”, who is buried in a black marble mausoleum owned by her family and listed under her maiden name “Maria Eva Duarte”.
La Recoleta today
The cemetery is one of Buenos Aires’ top attractions: you’ll want to pick up a map at the entrance and then spend several hours losing yourself in the maze of graveyards. There’s a wide variety of Argentina’s history on display and many of the country’s most famous and notable figures were laid to rest in La Recoleta.
You can peek into the crypts and explore pretty fully, but do so respectfully – it’s still an active graveyard.
Sometimes the sheer size of La Recoleta can feel overwhelming – hiring a guide is recommended, especially if you want to have a fuller picture of Argentina’s history, the architecture of the cemetery, and stories about some of the less well known residents who were buried here. Free guided tours in English run on Tuesdays and Thursdays – check online before going for precise times.
Getting to La Recoleta
The cemetery is in La Recoleta, in Barrio Norte, about 4km north of Plaza de Mayo. The nearest underground station is Las Heras, a 5 minute walk away. Buses also run frequently, and stop on Avenida Pueyrredon – you’ll want the 62, 92 or 93.
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