Visiting La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

Welcome to Recoleta Cemetery, the final resting place of some of Argentina’s most prominent figures and a top destination for tourists and locals alike. If you are visiting Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery is a must.

Recoleta Cemetery Buenos Aires offers a unique insight into the country’s history and culture. Whether you’re interested in architecture, or simply want to pay your respects to legendary figures such as Eva Perón, Recoleta Cemetery is worth a visit.

So grab your camera and join us on a journey through this popular attraction in the heart of Buenos Aires.

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A Brief History of Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery front gates with sun streaming through them

La Recoleta Cemetery (Cementerio de la Recoleta in Spanish) is the most famous cemetery in Buenos Aires Argentina, located in the Recoleta neighbourhood of the city.

It was the first public cemetery in the city, established in 1822 and designed by engineer Próspero Catelin. It is the final resting place for many wealthy and well-known Argentinians. 

The Buenos Aires cemetery was originally intended to be a public burial ground, but it quickly became a fashionable place for wealthy families to bury their loved ones.

As a result, many of the tombs are ornate and lavish, with intricate carvings and sculptures as families tried to out-do each other.

The most famous tomb at Recoleta belongs to Eva Perón, also known as Evita. She was the wife of Argentine President Juan Perón and an important political figure in her own right.

Her tomb is the most visited in the cemetery, attracting tourists from all over the world.

In addition to its historical significance, Recoleta Cemetery is also known for its beautiful architecture and peaceful atmosphere. Visitors can wander through its many paths and admire the impressive mausoleums while paying their respects to those who have passed on.

Today, Recoleta Cemetery is the number one attraction for visitors to Buenos Aires. It is also an important cultural landmark and serves as a reminder of Argentina’s rich history and heritage.

Why Visiting Recoleta is Worth Your Time

While it may seem strange to visit a cemetery as a tourist attraction, Recoleta is not your average burial ground.

It is home to some of the most ornate and prestigious mausoleums in all of Argentina, with intricate sculptures and marble architecture that will leave you in awe. It is regularly called “the most beautiful cemetery in the world”.

Not only is the cemetery visually impressive, but it also holds historical significance because of the notable figures from Argentine history that are buried here. Walking through the rows of mausoleums feels like taking a step back in time.

But Recoleta isn’t just for history buffs or those interested in architecture – it’s also a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The peaceful atmosphere makes it a great place to reflect or simply take a leisurely stroll among the beautifully manicured gardens.

Visiting Recoleta cemetery truly offers something for everyone – whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply seeking some tranquility amidst the chaos of Buenos Aires.

So why not add this unique destination to your travel itinerary? You won’t be disappointed!

Best Way to Visit Recoleta Cemetery

It’s really easy to visit Recoleta Cemetery by simply turning up and paying the entrance fee, but I recommend doing a tour. This will be the way to make the most out of your time in the cemetery.

With over 5000 mausoleums, it would be easy to just wander through and admire them. They are beautiful, and it is nice to just stroll and look. But what you won’t get are the stories behind some of the tombs, and this was the most interesting part. The stories really bring the visit to life.

If you speak Spanish, free guided tours take place at 11am and 2pm Tuesday to Friday, and at 11am and 3pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

For English, I recommend the Recoleta Cemetery tour that we did with Buenos Aires Free Walks. Our guide was really knowledgable and it was clear she loved the history of the cemetery and the stories surrounding the tombs – sometimes it was even the lack of stories that was fascinating.

It wasn’t free, but it was only $10USD (February 2023). On top of that we paid our own entry into the cemetery which was around $7USD. Click here to book your tour.

What to Expect During Your Visit

Even if you do a tour through the cemetery, you will probably want to take some more time to explore on your own afterwards. Here is what you need to know.

The Layout and Architecture of the Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery was once the church yard of the neighbouring Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar. You can visit the church too while you are in the area.

The layout of Recoleta Cemetery was designed by Próspero Catelin to be an intricate maze full of narrow alleyways lined with towering mausoleums and tombs. The entrance leads you down a path to a central point where the other alleyways fan out like a star

The buildings are made of different materials such as marble, granite, and bronze with elaborate sculptures depicting religious scenes or symbols adorning them.

Visitors will find a range of architectural styles, from gothic to baroque, art nouveau to art deco.

Some tombs are old and in disrepair, others new with a modern design. Some are simple yet elegant while others are grandiose displays of wealth and power.

Most of the tombs belong to a family rather than an individual. There will usually be many family members buried in the chambers below the ground.

Looking inside the tombs, it is common to see coffins and other funereal items. Occasionally there will be statues and other monuments inside too.

The outsides are often adorned with plaques and statues, sometimes religious, other times something to commemorate the people buried inside. These items are usually added later by the family members of the deceased.

Walking through these alleys feels like walking through art galleries filled with these sculptures and details at every turn. You can spend hours admiring each tomb as they all have their unique characteristics that make them stand out from one another.

Notable Tombs and Mausoleums

There are more than 90 national historical monuments amongst the tombs of Recoleta Cemetery, and we heard stories of around ten of them on our tour. Here are just a few to whet your appetite.

Eva Perón’s Tomb

Tomb of Eva Perón in Recoleta Cemetery

Eva Perón was a beloved figure in Argentina during her time as First Lady. When she died of cancer at the young age of 33 in 1952, it sent shockwaves throughout the country.

Her body was initially embalmed and on display, but throughout the turbulent years following her death, her body went missing.

Twenty years later it was found and finally laid to rest, not with her husband, but in her family mausoleum here at Recoleta.

So you won’t find a tomb with Perón written all over it, instead look for the “Familia Duarte” tomb. What you will find is a fairly modest black tomb belonging to her family.

It’s only the small plaque on the side that identifies it as the final resting place of Eva Perón. If it wasn’t for the flowers adorning it, it would be very easy to miss.

The Tomb of Rufina Cambaceres

Another of the notable Recoleta Cemetery burials is that of Rufina Cambaceres, who reportedly died twice.

According to legend, she was accidentally buried alive after suffering from catalepsy and woke up inside her coffin before ultimately passing away.

Her mother had insisted on a quick burial in their family tomb, so felt bad when it was discovered she was not dead. She built a life-size statue of Rufina, with her hand on a door handle as a tribute.

The Tomb of Salvador María del Carril and Tiburcia Domínguez

I love the mausoleum topped with statues of a husband and wife who are facing away from each other. It was an arranged marriage, and the wife liked to spend money – a lot of money!

The husband put an ad in the local paper and told all the shop owners of the city not to sell her anything and if they did he wouldn’t be paying for it.

As you can imagine, she was not happy. They then lived together for 20 years without speaking.

When he died, she went on to live it up for 15 years before she died. She asked to be buried in the family mausoleum, but only consented to having her statue added if it was done with her back towards her husband – she didn’t want to see him again even in death!

Other Famous Figures Buried in Recoleta Cemetery

After Eva Perón, the most popular tombs belong to former presidents Sarmiento and Raúl Alfonsín.

There are also tombs for boxer Luis Angel Firpo, and Carlos Saavedra Lamas – the first Nobel Peace Prize recipient from Latin America.

Also look out for the tomb of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak where she is shown with her dog Sabú, and that of Benjamin Breitman, the only obvious Jewish tomb in the cemetery.

Tips for Visiting Recoleta Cemetery

Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your visit to Recoleta Cemetery.

Purchase your Recoleta Cemetery tickets from the gate on arrival. Argentinians can enter for free, but foreign visitors need to pay a small fee.

On my visit in February 2023, the Recoleta Cemetery price was 2030 pesos – but prices change quickly in Argentina, so expect it to be more than this. Payment is by card only.

Best Times to Visit

If you are doing a tour you may not have a choice about when to visit Recoleta Cemetery, but you may like to take these tips into consideration when choosing to come earlier or stay longer.

Recoleta Cemetery is open from 8am until 6pm every day. For the least amount of people (although it is large enough to cope with quite a few) I recommend coming early in the morning.

People from Buenos Aires are not early risers, and most tours are either late morning or in the afternoon, so this would be the quietest.

If you are looking for the best time to take photos, I suggest trying to come in the middle of the day. As you can see by my photos, there are lots of shadows as the sun gets lower. Of course this is irrelevant if it’s not a sunny day.

How Long to Plan for Your Visit

You could spend all day here and still not see everything, but I would recommend allowing 2-3 hours for a decent look around.

The guided tours tend to be 90 minutes to 2 hours and you will probably want a little more time to explore by yourself.

There are no time limits, so you really can be here all day if you want to. There is no food available inside though, you will need to bring your own lunch! There are toilets in the cemetery.

Beyond the Cemetery: Exploring the Recoleta Neighbourhood

Recoleta is a vibrant neighbourhood located in the heart of Buenos Aires. Known for its rich history, exquisite architecture, and cultural landmarks, it’s well worth a wander.

This area boasts some of the city’s most impressive museums, such as the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA).

Recoleta is known for its European and art deco architectural styles, with grand, ornate buildings lining its tree-lined streets.

Some of these mansions are huge, and it’s difficult to believe just one family lived in them. Now that’s rare, and they tend to be owned by companies, countries (for embassies) or other organisations.

Right outside the gates of Recoleta Cemetery is a park area bordered by dozens of restaurants. Visitors can enjoy a variety of dining options, from traditional Argentine cuisine to international fare.

Unsurprisingly, they are very touristy, but since Argentina tends to be cheap, it’s a convenient place to get a meal either before or after your visit.

To learn more about the Recoleta area, take the free walking tour through Retiro & Recoleta, also offered by Buenos Aires Free Walks.

It doesn’t cover the cemetery itself, but does end in the plaza outside the gates. We did this tour in the morning, had lunch nearby and then did the afternoon cemetery tour. It was a good combination.

Looking for more things to do in Argentina? Try these posts
11 Things to Know Before You Go to Argentina
Visiting Iguazu Falls
Money in Argentina – It’s Complicated

TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS

Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs

Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.

Hire a rental carRentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.

Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.

Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.

Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.

Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.

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