Recoleta Neighborhood Walking Tour (Self Guided), Buenos Aires

Recoleta is one of most beautiful neighborhoods of Buenos Aires - it's the city's heart of art and elegance, grace and modernism, culture and leisure. Here you will find lots of things to do like: visiting museums, galleries and cultural centers; relaxing in one of the beautiful parks and plazas; or sampling the delicious local food. And if you travel to Recoleta with kids you will be happy to know that they will be perfectly safe and have a lot of things to see.
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Recoleta Neighborhood Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Recoleta Neighborhood Walking Tour
Guide Location: Argentina » Buenos Aires (See other walking tours in Buenos Aires)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: irenes
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • National Museum of Decorative Arts
  • Floralis Genérica
  • Palais de Glace
  • Centro Cultural Recoleta
  • Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Pilar
  • Recoleta Cemetery
  • Village Recoleta
  • The Isaac Fernández Museum of Spanish American Art
National Museum of Decorative Arts

1) National Museum of Decorative Arts (must see)

The National Museum of Decorative Arts (Spanish: Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo) is a repository of European and Asian sculpture artifacts and paintings. It is housed in a building once owned by the Argentine ambassador to France.

The museum is housed in the ornate neoclassical mansion that once belonged to Matias Erazurriz and his wife Josefina de Alvear whose grandfather Carlos Maria de Alvear was an Argentine independence-era leader. It was designed in 1911 by French architect Rene Sergent and completed in 1916. The couple decorated the building with their vast collection of art and artifacts. Matias Erazurriz donated the building to the government to establish a museum after the death of his wife in 1935 and the present museum opened its doors in 1937. The museum plays host to choral concert performances and houses the Argentine Academy of Letters, an organization established in 1944 for research and development of the Spanish language.

The museum has twelve exhibition halls with nine permanent collections. The 4000 works of art include El Greco’s Jesus Bearing the Cross Uphill, Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Abbe Hurel, the Deer Hunt by Alfred de Dreux, the Eternal Spring sculpture by Auguste Rodin and a vast collection of Asian art including crockery and cutlery, figures, miniature art and tapestry. The collection is also complemented by temporary exhibits, and the museum hosts regular choral concerts as well as classes and seminars.

Why You Should Visit:
If you're curious to see how the Argentine elite lived a century ago, this is your place.
Extensive, interesting in-house collection and very good rotating schedule exhibitions.
Downstairs guided tour is helpful to appreciate the many architectural curiosities but there are also descriptions of each room in English.

Near the front entrance, there is a very good onsite café ('Croque Madame') for tea/coffee and light dining.

Operation hours:
Tue-Sun: 12:30-7pm or 2-7 (times vary)
Floralis Genérica

2) Floralis Genérica (must see)

The environmental kinetic sculpture Floralis Genérica was a gift to the city of Buenos Aires by architect, Eduardo Catalano. It opens every day at 8 a.m. to symbolize hope.

Eduardo Catalano was born in Buenos Aires and commissioned the Lockheed Airplane factory to fabricate the large flower based on his design. It was his gift to the city of his birth. No particular flower is depicted and it is a generic floral design that symbolizes all flowers. It is 23 meters high and stands at the center of a park above a reflecting pool. The paths around the sculpture are designed to give different perspectives of the structure. It has six petals that are 13 meters long and 7 meters wide.

An electrical mechanism automatically opens (morning) and closes (evening) the Floralis Genérica. A red light glows from inside the closed flower. It opens again in the morning depicting renewed hope. The opening process takes 20 minutes. The petals are also closed when strong winds blow as a protective measure. On May 25th, September 21st, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, the petals remain open all night and are illuminated by red floodlights. Green lights illuminate the paths around the sculpture giving it a spectacular effect on these special nights.

Why You Should Visit:
To witness a unique example of what a modern sculpture can contribute to the beauty of a city.
Grand in scale, eloquent in design, photographs well. Lovely open parkland surroundings.

Try to visit in the morning as the sun rises to see the petals open up.
Palais de Glace

3) Palais de Glace

The Palais de Glace is a National Historic Monument in Buenos Aires where art exhibitions are held. When it was built, the intention was to use it as a skating rink.

J.L.Ruiz Basadre designed the Palais de Glace and construction was completed in 1911. The style of the building was French style Belle Epoque. It had a large ice skating rink and also housed a social club at the time. The popular of ice skating declined in the twenties and that of the Tango increased. The rink was converted into a dance floor and many well known tango dancers performed at the venue. In the 30s, the building housed the National Office of Fine Arts and later the offices of the television station, Canal Siete. Since 1960, the Palais de Glace has become a popular exhibition space that has hosted an array of art exhibitions and musical performances.

The initial design consisted of a circular ice rink that was located in the center of the structure. Theater style boxes and rooms for social gatherings surrounded the rink. The refrigeration plant was in the basement. The first floor had a balcony, an organ and a café. In 1931, the interiors were remodeled to make way for exhibition space by architect Alejandro Bustillo and three large murals covered the interior walls. The building has a single large skylight on a domed roof to allow natural light directly on the former ice rink. Free guided tours take visitors around the Palais de Glace today.
Centro Cultural Recoleta

4) Centro Cultural Recoleta (must see)

The Centro Cultural Recoleta is an arts and cultural venue in Buenos Aires managed by an organization called the Friends of the Centro Cultural Recoleta under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture. It is housed in a historical building that was once a Franciscan Convent.

The building where the cultural centre is located was originally donated to the Franciscans in 1716. The blueprints of the construction were drawn by Jesuit architects Juan Krauss and Juan Wolf, while the design of the façade and interiors are attributed to Andrés Blanqui.

The building, finished in 1732, is one of the oldest in the city. With the arrival of the May Revolution and the declaration of independence during the first part of the 19th century, the building changed purposes. Manuel Belgrano founded a drawing school there, and since the 1870s it served as a shelter for the destitute. Torcuato de Alvear, first mayor of Buenos Aires, beautified Recoleta as well as the cultural centre; Juan Antonio Buschiazzo gave it an Italian style and created the chapel currently used as an auditorium.

Today, the Centro Cultural Recoleta holds sculptures and exhibitions, as well as concerts and artistic presentations and workshops of diverse types. In 2006 it held the wildly successful 'onedotzero' festival attracting over 20,000 people in 3 days for installations, live performances, screenings and music.

Why You Should Visit:
Dozens of exhibitions running at the same time, from modern to avant-garde (including a variety of areas for paintings, sculpture, drawings, photography, etc.), and mostly by Argentines – a nice change from other museums where the European-ish flavor dominates. Most of the time, two or three of the exhibitions are just amazing. For a free entrance place, it's all in all quite marvelous.

Great place to go on the weekends, as there's always something interesting to do/try/see/experience. Events mostly happen during the evening-night time.

Operation Hours:
Tue-Fri: 1:30pm-10pm; Sat-Sun: 11:30am-10pm
Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Pilar

5) Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Pilar (must see)

The Iglesia del Pilar is the second-oldest and most visited church in Buenos Aires. Dating back to the 18th Century, it is a typical building of the colonial period. Pilar Church is very simple and small – it is painted all in white and is designed in rounded lines. Inside you will find several chapels with beautiful carvings. Dedicated to the Lady of Pilar, the church was designed and constructed by architect Andres Blanqui and inaugurated in 1732.

Why You Should Visit:
Lovely, tiny church, with pretty architecture – and a nice break from the heat outside.
There's lots of gold-leaf used inside to good effect and a gold Madonna on the altar which is the focal point.
On weekends the plaza in front fills with craft, art, and food stalls and becomes a popular marketplace.

The historic cloisters are open at set times (check info board outside) and you will be asked for a small per-person donation to enter.
Recoleta Cemetery

6) Recoleta Cemetery (must see)

Set in five and a half acres of land, the Recoleta Cemetery is referred to as the City of the Dead. Many of the gravestones and vaults are works of art and 94 have been declared as National Historic Monuments.

In the 18th century, the monks of the order of Recoletos built the church of Our Lady of Pilar. In 1822 the garden of the church was converted into a public cemetery by architect and civil engineer, Prospero Catelin. The entrance is through neoclassical styled gates with Doric columns. It hosts over 4600 graves and some of them are elaborate marble mausoleums. The layout is like a city with blocks, stone streets and small plazas. In 1881, the streets and the chapel were renovated and extensive maintenance of the sculptures and statues were carried out.

The Recoleta Cemetery is the final resting place of most Argentine Presidents and eminent personalities like Eva Peron, poet, Carlos Guido y Spano, the first Latin American Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Carlos Saavedra Lamas and writer, Victoria Ocampo. Entrance to the cemetery is free and guided tours are conducted in English on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Visitors can purchase maps and take a self-guided tour around the graves and mausoleums of eminent Argentines.

Why You Should Visit:
To experience an interesting mix of mausoleums (some well cared for, others not so much), trees, statues, stray cats and walkways.
Well worth the time, if only to see the somewhat strange above-ground tombs with clearly visible very old coffins.

If you're lucky, a local tour guide will offer an hour-long English-speaking tour for 'free' (tips only).
There is no fee to enter the cemetery itself. The toilets are near the gate, just to the left after entering.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-5:30pm
Village Recoleta

7) Village Recoleta

The Recoleta Village is a popular theater and shopping complex in Buneos Aires. It is located near the embassies, the Barrio Norte, a wealthy neighborhood with upscale shops and restaurants.

The Recoleta Village is located opposite the walls of the Recoleta Cemetery. The theaters screen Hollywood blockbusters and films from Brazil, France and Spain. It has a quaint front plaza, a fountain and plenty of benches for tired shoppers to rest their feet. The ground floor houses restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating where customers can enjoy a snack or meal while watching the world go by.

The lobby of the building has a magnificent staircase that leads to the theaters. The lobby has a Cupside book store which is a branch of a popular book store chain in Buenos Aires. There are also pizzerias, cafes and bar type restaurants with indoor seating across the Cupside store. Movie tickets are sold upstairs and there are music shops and fast food restaurants include McDonalds on the upper floor. The theater sections offers a variety of viewing opportunities with 16 screens showing diverse movies in the upper three floors of the building. Popcorn, candy and other snacks enjoyed by movie goers are available on both floors. Village Recoleta is a popular Buenos Aires destination for movie goers and discriminating shoppers.
The Isaac Fernández Museum of Spanish American Art

8) The Isaac Fernández Museum of Spanish American Art

The collection of Ibero American art displayed in the Isaac Fernandez Blanco Museum is regarded as the most valuable in South America and the World. It first had the collection of Isaac Fernandez Blanco and was later enriched by donations by wealthy Argentines and collections of Ibero American art.

The Issaac Fernandez Blanco Museum of Spanish American Art is housed in a neo classical style mansion surrounded by a garden inspired by the parks in Spain. It was the home of the renowned French Argentine architect, Martin Noel who designed and constructed the building between 1914 and 1922. Isaac Fernandez Blanco was an engineer and collector of Ibero American Art. He was an expert violinist and started collecting stringed instruments at first and later was inspired to collect and preserve Ibero American artwork. The collections were first displayed in his house which he sold in 1922 to the City of Buenos Aires. Noel sold his house to the city in 1936 and the Ibero American Museum shifted to its present venue in 1947.

Notable works displayed at the museum are Peruvian silverware and handicrafts, Brazilian furniture, works from the Cuzco School of art that flourished in the colonial period, Jesuit statuary and Quito icons, hand fans and tortoise shell combs worn by ladies during the colonial era. There are also reproductions of rooms from houses in colonial Argentina.

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