weeping angels // dried flowers // marbled tombs // wooden coffins // roaming cats // silky cobwebs
This is the hauntingly beautiful Recoleta Cemetery.
For a huge city that draws millions of tourists a year, this cemetery remains the #1 attraction in all of Buenos Aires. It has to be something special, right? Visiting cemeteries has never been on my list of must-do travel activities, so I was feeling quite skeptical as I set off to find out what’s so special about a cemetery.
As soon as I stepped foot through the impressive white Greek pillars of the front gate, my jaws dropped in amazement. And they stayed that way as I wandered through the rows and rows of tombs. I immediately understood why this cemetery is world famous.
I’ve never seen a cemetery so magnificent and intriguing!
Surrounded by a fortress of a brick wall, the Recoleta Cemetery houses almost 4700 mausoleums. All the most prominent members of Argentine political history are laid to rest here, along with other notable figures, such as Nobel Prize winners, artists, and other intellectuals. No matter who they are, no doubt about it, only the most important and wealthiest get to rest in eternal slumber here.
The entire cemetery is a mish-mash of architectural styles… from simple brick & mortar boxes to polished all-marble structures to complex mini Roman palaces to tiny cathedrals. But all are nothing short of spectacular. This place is an architecture nerd’s dream!
Perhaps I find charm and beauty in rustic simplicity and decay, but personally, I liked the crumbling brick tombs the best.
The most popular tomb here is that of the final resting place of Eva Peron, easily Argentina’s most famous and beloved historical figure ever. When you eventually find it (in a narrow aisle and sandwiched between grander tombs), it’s distinctly unimpressive, and yet, commanding at the same time. Even in death, Eva Peron continues to be very much adored as people from all over the world bring flowers and gather in respectful quiet.
A lot of tombs allow you to peek into the windows and doors, where you can actually see the coffins inside. It’s a little strange to think of bodies lying just a few feet away from you. Only separated by the glass and a wooden coffin.
It’s up to the ancestors of the deceased to maintain the tombs. And sadly, a lot of tombs have fallen into a state of disrepair, with shattered glass and thick layers of cobwebs. It makes me wonder about the story of the person who lays behind the rusted doors. Who was this person who was so important once upon a time, but now whose tomb is left abandoned and allowed to decay?
As sad as it is that some have no one to look after them in death, I thought that only added to the haunting beauty of the cemetery.
It’s a good thing that I visited on the one rare sunny day. Otherwise, on a cold and grey day, my over-active imagination could totally picture the spirits of those long dead swirling about me. Souls that have escaped through the shattered glass and exposed coffins.
The Recoleta Cemetery is truly a “City of the Dead.” – a tiny little city enclosed inside a brick wall whose residents sleep forever in their elaborate houses, watched over by stone angels. The main walkways even have street names, and all lead to a central plaza. I could have spent hours upon hours getting lost through the labyrinth of narrow aisles. It’s strangely peaceful to be away from the living world and wander amongst the dead for a while.
It’s impossible for me to come up with words to describe the beauty of the Recoleta Cemetery. Instead, I will let these pictures do the talking.
Just trust me, put this on your MUST-SEE list when visiting Buenos Aires. I loved it so much that I even returned for a second time before leaving.
- Open daily from 8 am – 6 pm. Admission is free!
- Free English tours are given every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 am, weather permitting.
- Bring mosquito repellent. There are a lot of them in there and they will eat you alive!
You guys, apparently I’m a HUGE fan of cemeteries and I didn’t even know it. Tell me below if there are any other ones in the world that I need to visit!
This post is linked up with Budget Traveler’s Sandbox.