Most people come to the Recoleta neighborhood to explore the cemetery, but the area around the cemetery is a good place to explore as well. Recoleta is one of the wealthiest areas of Buenos Aires and has many points of interest.
I started at Paseo Chabuca Granda, a plaza opening at the end of Calle Junín. In the center is a huge rubber tree that has sprawling branches held up by several supports. It was one of the more interesting features of the plaza, including a few monuments.
On one end of the plaza is the Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a church completed in 1732. It has a small museum in the old cloisters displaying priceless ecclesiastical art. Admission was ARG$8.
Next to the church is the Centro Cultural Recoleta, a cultural center located in a building complex completed in 1732. It was originally used by the Franciscans. There are usually art exhibitions inside.
On the other end there are a few restaurants catering to tourists. One of them is Café La Biela, a place made famous by race car drivers. I popped inside to check it out but wasn’t impressed with the atmosphere.
A path leading down the hill from Paseo Chabuca Granda goes through Plaza Intendente Torcuato de Alvear. At the bottom of the hill across the street is a monument to Carlos María de Alvear. There are also great views of the buildings that are part of Centro Cultural Recoleta.
Behind the monument to Carlos María de Alvear is the Palais de Glace. It was built in 1910 as an ice skating rink, but it proved to be unpopular. It later turned into an important tango ballroom and then an art gallery. It’s revered by Porteños (citizens of Buenos Aires) for its contribution to tango.
A short walk from the Palais de Glace is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts). It was built in 1870 as a waterworks facility and became the museum in 1932.
There are several plazas in the area, but across from the museum are three small plazas. The first is Plaza Francia. A monument donated by France to Argentina in 1910 stands in the center.
The second is Plaza Mitre. Here, you can find an impressive monument to Bartolomé Mitre erected in 1927. Mitre was president of Argentina from 1862-1868.
And the third is Plaza Evita, with a monument to Eva Perón. It was erected in 1999.
Behind Plaza Evita is a monstrosity of architecture, the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library). It was designed in the 1960s but didn’t open until 1992. As ugly as it is, it shouldn’t be underestimated – it has one of the biggest and most important literary collections in the Americas.
Finally, on the street behind the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes are two more points of interest. The building is Facultad de Derecho – Universidad de Buenos Aires, a law school built in 1945.
Next to it is the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas (United Nations Plaza). In the middle of the plaza is a steel and aluminum sculpture, Floralis Genérica. It represents all flowers native to Argentina. It used to open in the morning and close at night, but it’s currently broken and the government doesn’t have enough money to fix it.