When I'm trip planning, cemeteries aren't normally the first attractions to hit my itinerary. After all, they're not exactly known for their inviting, upbeat atmosphere. With that said, it's no secret that the best way to get to know a place is to make friendly with the locals, in which case you should set aside time to visit Recoleta Cemetery when you're in Buenos Aires.
El Cementerio de la Recoleta contains more than just a collection of ornate mausoleums; it contains the history of a nation. "In this museum of mortals, the personal ramblings of its inhabitants—famous or obscure—blend inextricably with Argentine history."1 A map of Recoleta Cemetery reads like a who's who of Argentina's elite: writers, politicians, war heroes, and the filthy, stinkin' rich [pardon the pun].
Without a doubt, the best online resource for information about Recoleta Cemetery in English is a site called AfterLife. For anyone with more than a passing interest in the cemetery, this site is the place to go to read about the symbolism, the history, and the many urban legends surrounding the great figures who are buried there, complete with stunning photography.
If you do visit, I suggest that you take a tour of the cemetery rather than just roaming about aimlessly all by your lonesome. While the sculptures and artwork are easily appreciated on their own, a knowledgeable tour guide will really bring the cemetery and its stories to life [sorry, I just can't help myself]. Oh, and please do more than just walk through the gates, make a beeline for Eva Perón's tomb and then leave; the other residents get offended when you do that.
If armchair travel is more your style, you can take a virtual tour using 360 Cities' panoramic shots of the cemetery including president, educator and writer Domingo Faustino Sarmiento's mausoleum, the beloved Evita's tomb, as well as the interior of Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the 18th-century church adjacent to the cemetery.
Here's an example of what you'll see as you roam the "streets" of this 15-acre Buenos Aires necropolis.
[Cenotafio de los Tres Amigos — read about it here.]
Take a look at more photos from my Recoleta Cemetery set on Flickr.