It may seem strange to cite a cemetery as a ‘must see’ on your trip to Buenos Aires. Yet no other necropolis is quite like the Cementerio de La Recoleta, nor tells quite as much of a country’s history. The sprawling Cementerio de La Recoleta holds the ornately carved tombs, chapels and mausoleums of Argentina’s upper classes, from presidents to generals, influential writers, journalists and Eva Duarte de Perón, or ‘Evita.’ It wasn’t always this way. The cemetery started as a simple burial place for slaves and the proletariat, but as the Buenos Aires ruling classes moved northwards away from the Plata River, Recoleta became (and still is) one of the city’s most fashionable addresses, for both the living and the dead. Tombs in the labyrinth-like streets in the Cementerio de La Recoleta reflect the wealth of its surroundings, with grandiose vaults and temples, faux pyramids and beautifully carved statuary from the art nouveau period, when funerary art was at its peak. In 1881 an imposing Doric-columned entrance was added, providing a dramatic threshold to the cemetery. Today many people come to pay respects to the important figures that are laid to rest here. Unsurprisingly, the tomb of Eva Perón (which happens to be one of the plainest tombs of all) is constantly swathed in flowers and messages. Other more ornate tombs to seek out (a map is available at the entrance) include Greek temple-like mausoleum of the Leloir Family, a powerful and ambitious porteño clan. The stirring ‘Pantheon of the Fallen in the 1890 Revolution’ (or the ‘Revolution of the Park’) is a memorial to the victims of the failed civilian uprising against the corrupt government of the time. Given the Cementerio de La Recoleta’s wealth of historical interest, it’s worth contracting a specialist guide for a walking tour. Check at the tourist office or try private outfits such as www.buenostours.com, who offer walks in English. | Since 2006 Holiday Velvet offers Buenos Aires accommodation.