Buenos Aires' beautiful Cementerio de la Recoleta (“Recoleta cemetery”) has charmed and enthralled groups of porteños and tourists alike for decades, but a major change at the famous landmark may make some reconsider a visit.
As reported by Perfil last weekend, the Buenos Aires City government is now charging the visitors who pass through the cemetery’s gates. The new rule kicked in last Monday, April 4, evoking mixed reactions from city workers and tour guides alike.
Patrons visiting with international tourist groups, organised by agencies or independent guides, now pay 1,400 pesos each to enter the attraction. Groups of Argentine tourists pay 700 pesos per person. Visitors must purchase tickets online, either in advance or via a QR code posted at the entrance, using a credit or debit card.
The major change is part of a City Hall plan to improve the infrastructure of the cemeteries in Buenos Aires, according to reports. Following established cemetery regulations, independent Argentine visitors, students, and retired individuals will remain exempt from entrance fees.
The Recoleta Cemetery is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the capital. Visitors wander interconnecting sidewalks and paths, lined on both sides with crypts and statues, through what the Buenos Aires City tourism website calls a “labyrinthine city of the dead.”
According to Perfil, an estimated average of 1,100 daily visitors frequent the attraction Monday through Friday, rising to about 3,000 on weekends and holidays.
Last Thursday afternoon, the area just outside the entrance of the cemetery was crowded with visitors and tour groups, with most purchasing tickets on their smartphones. Maria Belén al Barellos, who works for the Buenos Aires City government, stood directing tourists at one of the cemetery’s exits.
The 27-year-old said that tourist traffic hasn’t changed since the fees were implemented.
“The truth is that it’s very busy, a lot of tourists are coming,” she said. “The people of Buenos Aires are very happy because all the money that we’re collecting is to restore the cemetery.”
But not everyone is so positive. City tour guide Andrea Zunino feels that the cost itself could limit visitors from coming.
“Not to discredit the Recoleta Cemetery, which is considered to be among the most important cemeteries in the world, but 1,400 pesos seems very expensive to me,” she said.
Zunino has been working as a tour guide for 30 years, apart from the years in which tours were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. On Thursday she led a group of students from the Universidad Argentina de la Empresa (Argentine University of Business) through the cemetery, who entered for free, as per the exemption.
She emphasised the importance of free tours, through which tourists can experience culture and sights for little to no cost. Free tours also no longer have gratuitous access to the Recoleta cemetery, potentially dissuading patrons who rely on such tours from visiting the attraction.
The role of Recoleta
Former first lady Eva ‘Evita’ Perón and former presidents Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Raúl Alfonsín are among the Argentine icons that have been laid to rest at the Recoleta Cemetery.
“There are presidents, writers, and so we can recount the history of our country, not just of our city,” Zunino explained. “We can encompass social, political, and economic topics.”
Though it may be too early to tell if the entrance fee will deter visitors, the Recoleta Cemetery will surely remain an integral part of the history and tourism of Buenos Aires.
“It’s educational, it’s didactic,” Zunino added. “All of our history can be found inside.”