Behind elegant neo-classical gates in a quiet corner of northern Buenos Aires lies a city in miniature. Avenues of cypress weave past stately yew-lined mausoleums bearing ornate facades of granite and gleaming white marble. Silence hangs like mist in this quiet neighborhood where the dead slumber peacefully and the living tread softly. Created in 1822 to provide an elegant burial site for the wealthy, the powerful and the famous, Cementerio Recoleta is one of Argentinaâ€™s architectural gems. Even the name of the neighborhoodâ€”Recoletaâ€”comes from an old Spanish word meaning â€śto remember.â€ť This country club for the dead is crammed with exquisitely designed headstones and graceful monuments. Of the cemeteryâ€™s most famous residents, one in particular receives most of the attention: Eva â€śEvitaâ€ť Peron. President Juan PerĂłn never intended his wife should to be laid to rest in Recoleta, but itâ€™s hard to imagine a more stylish place to be buried; certainly it is one of the most wonderfully atmospheric and ornate corners of South America.
Beyond the cemetery gates, Recoleta forms part of the Barrio Norte, one of the cityâ€™s most affluent and most-visited suburbs, which is worth a look for its well-appointed European-style homes and beautiful churches. The most famous is the BasĂlica Nuestra SeĂ±ora del Pilar, the second oldest in the city and topped with distinctive cerulean-blue ceramic tiles. The highlight inside is the lavish silver altar, a masterpiece of Baroque art decorated with an Inca sun. The church is just north of the cemetery entrance, and only 500 meters further is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. The most important art gallery in Argentina, this grand edifice houses a significant collection of Argentine art.