Greetings, Internet Stranger! So you want to know how to find the best things to do in Recoleta? Well, it’s pretty easy to do. Recoleta one of the most upscale neighborhoods in all of Buenos Aires. You can have a fabulous day here eating at some excellent restaurants. But any trip to Recoleta must begin with the most exclusive home in the neighborhood…one everyone is just dying to get into.
24 Hours: Things to Do in Recoleta
Where Do I Stay?
When I was finding the best things to do in Recoleta, I stayed in an extremely cheap and clean hotel, but I can’t recommend it because it was so far outside of town. It took an hour for me to get to see anything. That’s why the next time I spend 24 hours in Buenos Aires, I’m going to stay in a more centrally located hotel. I’d pick either the Centro neighborhood downtown or the chicer Recoleta neighborhood.
If you’d like to check out great deals on over 5,000 hotels in Buenos Aires, just click here.
24 Hours Things to Do in Recoleta
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Buenos Aires is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen, especially if you want to tango in the streets all day. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re American, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. Argentinian electrical outlets don’t work with American plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours: Things to Do in Recoleta
Morning: Recoleta Cemetery
Recoleta Cemetery: it’s Buenos Aires’s most popular tourist attraction, it’s the resting place of Evita Peron, aka Madonna, and it is often listed as one of the best cemeteries in the world. There is no excuse for finding the best things to do in Recoleta and not giving this place a stop.
24 HOUR TIP
I think the Cemetery is the most fun to explore on your own, but English language tours are given every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 AM. If you want a map to do a self-guided tour, you can purchase a really good one here for five dollars. I think it’s worth it because the entry to the cemetery is free.
There are so many fun things to do in Recoleta Cemetery, but the most important are…
APPROXIMATELY TOP 5: RECOLETA CEMETERY
1) SEE THIS TRAGICAL GRAVE
This is the tomb of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak. Her mother wanted to show her with her beloved dog. I feel that Recoleta Cemetery has an unusual number of graves with stories about ladies dying tragically, but this one is the saddest because there is a dog involved.
2) SETTLE IN WITH A GOOD MYSTERY NOVEL
I chose Arthur and George by Julian Barnes. There is no better place than Recoleta Cemetery to read about the fine art of…MURDER!
3) GO ON A CAT HUNT
For some reason the cemetery is just full of lazy cats sleeping on tombs. See how many you can find. I will give you a head start.
Be warned that these cats have probably moved since I was last in Recoleta Cemetery.
4) SEE THE WORLD’S MOST HORRIFYING TOMB
My favorite tomb was not Evita’s, which is actually not very exciting looking. Nope, it was this tomb of the decidedly unfamous Rufina Cambaceres.
Senorita Cambaceres “died” suddenly of a heart attack at the age of nineteen. But later when her tomb was opened, people found scratch marks on the ceiling, as if Rufina had tried to climb her way out of the coffin. At this point it was too late to do anything about the mistake because now she was definitely dead after having been maybe buried alive.
People, I really just want to stress that if you ever think I’m dead, please just check several times to make extra sure before burying me. Even ask a doctor or something. I won’t mind!
24 Hours: Things to Do in Recoleta
Afternoon: Explore Recoleta
Recoleta has the four essential elements for a great exploring neighborhood: good shopping, tasty restaurants, lovely parks, and interesting little random buildings. I feel it defeats the whole purpose of exploring for me to tell you exactly what to do because you need to have a Spirit of Adventure, Internet Stranger. But nevertheless, I do have a few tips for you.
APPROXIMATELY TOP 5: Things to do in Recoleta
1) HAVE LUNCH AT RODI BAR
Rodi Bar is the kind of local hangout that every travel writer dreams of finding for lunch. Even though the restaurant has been written up in Lonely Planet, I still didn’t notice any English speakers in the place. The waiters don’t speak English, but if I can get by with my mediocre Spanish, so can you.
I dined on a salad combination plate, which was a great deal and just what I was in the mood for on a hot February day in Buenos Aires. This came with an ensalada rusa, which is Argentinian potato salad with lots of mayo and peas, a fresh carrot salad, and a tomato stuffed with tuna salad. They were all tasty, but the tuna-stuffed tomato is both quite typically Argentinian and refreshingly delicious. Who doesn’t love a fresh tomato in the summer? Sad, lonely people, that’s who.
2) GO SHOPPING AT RECOLETA MALL
If you’re looking to drop major pesos, the classy and well-appointed Recoleta Mall is a great place to start. It’s easy to find because it’s right by the cemetery. I actually don’t like malls much, but there is a movie theater in the basement of this shopping center where you can see a matinee for only seven American dollars. Also it was here that I learned that Spongebob Squarepants is called “Bob Esponja” in Spanish.
3) VISIT THE IGLESIA DEL PILAR.
It is an 18th century Spanish colonial church with a dazzling golden interior. Again, it is very easy to find because it is just next to the cemetery. Keep in mind that this church is NOT off the beaten track, so you might have to punch a couple of fellow tourists in order to be able to get some good snaps of the church interior. It’s totally worth it, though.
I definitely should have pushed that guy with the camera out of the way.
4) EAT THE WORLD’S BEST ICE CREAM
The absolute best thing you can do for yourself while exploring Recoleta is get a scoop of ice cream at Un’Altra Volta. Buenos Aires is justly famous for its ice cream restaurants and you can’t go wrong with a creamy scoop of dairy deliciousness from this place.
UAV is a popular chain and there are several branches in Recoleta alone. I went to the one on Av. Quintana 502, which is also right by the cemetery. When I was there, the staff spoke excellent English and even got kind of annoyed with me for trying to order in Spanish, so don’t be surprised if this happens to you! It’s worth taking a little attitude to get your mitts on that ice cream.
24 HOUR TREAT
Un’Altra Volta has seven different kinds of dulce de leche ice cream alone, so I don’t know how you could choose another kind. I got the Dulce de Leche Volta, which has almonds and hazelnuts in it. I’m sure if there’s a special paradise for Nut Lovers, this is the ice cream that they serve. Now that I reflect on it, it’s probably not a good idea to tell people that you want to go to Nut Lovers Paradise, though. They might get the wrong idea.
5) EXPLORE THE PLAZA FRANCIA PARKS
The Plaza Francia is surrounded by several lovely parks, all within walking distance of your next destination, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. However, after a busy day of exploring graves, shopping, and eating ice cream, you will probably want to sit down and relax. Just pick a park bench and settle in with a book until you feel up for heading to the museum. If you’re willing to do a little climbing, you can also find some gorgeous views of Buenos Aires.
Keep in mind that male Portenos are quite friendly, so if you sit alone as a solo female for an extended period of time, you are likely to get approached by a dude. I always find that a combination of not looking at the guy directly and waving my hand in a dismissive fashion will get him to leave.
24 Hours: Things to do in Recoleta
Early Evening: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Argentinians do not start eating dinner until 8 o’clock in the PM, which can be frustrating for people like yours truly who prefer to dine sharply at 7. That’s why it’s so great that the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, located conveniently close to where we will be dining this evening, stays open until 8!
The MNBA, which could also stand for the Men’s National Basketball Association, is like the love child of the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and the Fortabat Museum in Puerto Madero. It has a good combination of European 19th and 20th century art, as well as Argentinian art, from all the centuries.
The most interesting thing about the whole “Two Art Collections in One” deal that the museum has going for it is that you get to compare Argentinian practitioners of a particular school of art with their European counterparts. So this is an example of Argentine naturalism:
And this is an example of French naturalism, by Manet:
I see one difference right away, which is that the lady in the French painting isn’t wearing any clothes.
And here is an example of Argentine symbolism, by Malharro:
Whereas here is some German symbolism by von Stuck:
Once again, in the European painting, the lady isn’t wearing any clothes. I win at art criticism!
24 Hours: Things to Do in Recoleta
Evening: Dinner at Sottovoce
No list of the best things to do in Recoleta is complete without dinner. Sottovoce is an excellent Italian restaurant near the MNBA. It might seem silly to eat Italian food in Argentina, but keep in mind that Buenos Aires has a large Italian population, so dining on Italian is a very sensible choice.
Sottovoce is very popular, so my best advice for getting in without a reservation is to show up at 8 PM proper on a weeknight for dinner. For Portenos, this is too early to be having dinner. You will probably get seated right away.
24 HOUR TIP
You’ve probably noticed if you’ve eaten at any nice restaurants in Buenos Aires that there is a “cubierto” charge added to your bill. This has nothing to do with a tip. It is a charge added automatically for the water and bread that comes with your meal. It is not at all possible to get it taken off the bill if you don’t want the bread. Just suck it up and pay, Internet Stranger! Fortunately the cubierto at Sottovoce includes a variety of tasty Italian breads with rich bean dip, so there’s no need to complain.
I began with a glass of Malbec and a fresh caprese salad because I was determined to take advantage of being able to eat ripe tomatoes in February as often as possible.
24 HOUR TREAT
I continued with the fusilli Sottovoce, which is made with lots of cheese and a sauce thick with my old friend, the fresh tomato. The sauce was delicious, but the handmade fusilli was the most exciting part for me. There is really nothing better than fresh pasta. I was almost as excited by looking at all the different twists and turns in the fusilli as I was by eating it.
For dessert, I had the gelato Sottovoce, which is a sweet-but-not-too-sweet almond gelato. There I was, back in Nut Lovers Paradise! It was a perfect light end to the meal.
After dinner, you can easily catch a cab on the well-lit Avenida del Libertador and head back to your hotel.
Further Reading: Things to Do in Recoleta
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Buenos Aires? I’m happy to make some suggestions for reading for your day of the best things to do in Recoleta. I like Lonely Planet’s guide to Buenos Aires, each chapter is divided into neighborhoods, which makes planning easier.
Since we’ve been talking about Eva Peron today, why not read more about her. Why don’t you start with Eva Peron: In My Own Words? This book may or may not have been written by Mrs. Peron, but it’s a great read nonetheless.
If you’d rather read a non-fiction account of her life, try Evita by Nicholas Fraser. This book will tell you how Evita went from rags to riches to legend. The book is even more interesting if you play the soundtrack to Evita in the background the whole time.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Buenos Aires. If you have more time, add on these other 24 Hour itineraries for an even better time in Argentina.