Without a doubt, this is the city's most elegant district. The opulence of the houses and manors symbolizes the splendor of the Argentine aristocracy. The area is a meeting point for tourists and locals with an interest in international design and aesthetics. During the day, take a stroll through the gardens of Plaza Francia, which fills each weekend with dancers, living statues, street artists and astrologers. At the adjacent Buenos Aires Design, the traveler can find souvenirs and a plethora of fine restaurants. Other areas of interest located around Plaza Francia include the Centro Cultural Recoleta, the Palais de Glace, and the famous "City of the Dead."
The district owes its name to the Convet of the Recoletos Descalzos –"barefoot" missionaries– (founded on 1716), community of the Recoletos Friars. These monks constructed their monastery on an already existing small farm, which name had been given after the abundance of a particular kind of tree in that zone: "the Ombúes" (This small farm was located within the land map distributed by Don Juan de Garay in 1583).
Despite the fact that, nowadays, the Baroque Church located here owns the name "of the Recoletos", the church was actually consecrated to the Virgin of Pilar. It was an Aragonese salesman –also kind of a smuggler– with the name of Narbona who, after being interested in the project of the Recoletos Priests, joined in the efforts and proposed the construction of the Church. The church was finished in October the 12th, year 1732, and not only the ecclesiastics authorities, but civilian and military as well, showed up there to celebrate the opening. At that period of time, of course there were no other buildings which could cast a shadow over that new temple in the hill, and it was unthinkable that, over the years, the place would become one of the best places in Buenos Aires, providing some of the best bars, restaurants, and hotels for the tourism –or locals– to enjoy.
The Church displays a number of beautiful sacred images –like the one of San Pedro de Arcántara (Alonso Can), the crucifixion of Christ, and an antique silver frontal of colonial manufacture. In their vaults rest the remains of numerous personalities, deceased before the later existence of a law against burying people inside temples. The Recoleta Cemetery was born along with the Temple as a holy ground. During the governing time of Rivadavia, the cemetery was expropriated and transformed into the Cemetery of the North, already being recognized with the name of "Recoleta". Many great personalities of our country are buried there (less Rivadavia, who gave it birth, and the Zavaleta Dean who consecrated it). Due to the appearance of a salting tub and a lamb slaughter house, the land, earlier known for its country houses, changed to an area of ranches, which were located along the river. It is said that with the swellings came camalotes –an american aquatic plant– and hiding yaguaretes –a kind of crocodile. Towards 1770, the planing of the rural properties at the north of the present San Martín park was regularized. It was designed in a 45′ angle respect to the original plan laid by Juan de Garay in the South District. It was then an area of small farms united by an irregular road called Long Street (presently Quintana Avenue). The river reached the edge of the ravine, covering the lands where nowadays stands the National Museum of Bellas Artes. On the 30th March of 1830 was created the Parish under the invocation of their Patroness Saint. The annexed convent had many different uses despite the original: jail of political detainees, quarter, asylum and hospital; its last destiny was –and is– that one of a shelter for the elder.The area of Reoleta was populated as a result of the epidemics in 1871 (of rage and yellow fever) that affected the richest families, forcing them to retire from their residences in the south towards the northern sectors. The definitive consolidation has its fact in the work of the intendant Torcuato de Alvear, who constructed the Alvear Avenue, quickly filled with sumptuous palaces. Using the ground of the excavations of Puerto Madero they were able to fill up the lowlands, building parks and greens and transforming the swamps in the most elegant zone of the city.