Believe it or not, there is a bigger cemetery than the one in Recoleta. It is not in the dead center of Buenos Aires City but in the quiet neighborhood of Chacarita, which is nestled between Colegiales, Palermo, Villa Crespo La Paternal and Villa Ortuzar.
Due to its proximity to the hip nightlife district of Palermo Hollywood, Chacarita is on the up and up. More restaurants, cafes and nightlife options are opening up in the area. Also an influence on the area is the presence of the TV Studio Ideas Del Sur (Olleros 3551), where some of the countries most popular TV shows are produced, led by famous TV Personality and media producer Marcelo Tinelli. Just as Villa Crespo is often called “Palermo Queens”, Chacarita is starting to be informally called “Palermo Dead” (due to the cemetery). While “Palermo Queens” was an invention of real estate companies to sell Villa Crespo as Palermo, “Palermo Dead” for Chacarita seems to be a more informal name to highlight the influx of production companies, gourmet restaurants and stylish stores sprouting up in Chacarita. Another informal name is “Chacalermo”.
An introduction to Chacarita
Chacarita is situated in the north-central region of Buenos Aires Capital Federal and is most commonly known for its namesake cemetery that occupies almost half of the barrios territory. The history of the barrio can be traced back to the early 1600s when, alike Agronomia and Colegiales, the land was occupied by a Jesuit order. After the Jesuit’s expulsion in 1767, the land was acquired by the Crown and used as a summer retreat by students of Colegio San Ignacio. The barrio takes its name from the diminutive of the word chácara, the small farms belonging to the Jesuits.
The image of Chacarita began to change in 1871 following an outbreak of yellow fever in the city. With a necessity to increase the capacity of the city’s current burial grounds, Chacarita was chosen as the location for a new cemetery. A cholera epidemic between 1867 and 1868 meant other city cemeteries were no longer big enough and Recoleta Cemetery opposed the burial epidemic victims. Chacarita Cemetery was inaugurated on April 14th 1871 and the first to be buried was a bricklayer named Manual Rodriguez.
Around the same time, the barrio also opened an important trade link with Buenos Aires Province. From 1880, the Lacroze brothers operated the Tramway Rural, horse-drawn trams travelling to Pilar. The line was extended to Zarate in 1888. Today, Chacarita’s train station, Federico Lacroze, remains an important link between the city and province.
Things to see, do or both
By far the most dominating landmark in Chacarita is Cementerio de la Chacarita. Spread over 95-hectares, it is almost twenty times larger than the cemetery in Recoleta. If you have a fondness for looking at graves then it is definitely worth a look. Unlike its Recoleta counterpart, everyone is welcome here, from street urchins to Carlos Gardel. Inside, there are designated sections to Argentine artists and literati. Besides relatives of its inhabitant and the odd Goth, the cemetery is less touristy than in Recoleta. However, on the anniversary of Carlos Gardel’s birthday fans come to celebrate the tango singing legend.
To the right of the entrance to the cemetery, stretching between Avenida Federico Lacroze and Dorrego, is Parque de los Andes. Opened to the public in 1941, the park provides a meeting point for the residents of Chacarita and a place to breath for tourists that manage to escape the colossal burial ground. Every Saturday and Sunday there is a small artisanal fair.
If you walk north for four blocks along Avenida Jorge Newberry from Parque de los Andes you will arrive at Teatro Gargantua, a neighborhood theatre putting on musical, comedy and other theatrical productions. Two blocks from here is the Espacio Cultural Carlos Gardel (Olleros 3640), a cultural space open for art exhibitions, tango classes, musical performances and theatre productions.
As a foreigner in Buenos Aires you might become concerned with the lack of quality fruit and vegetables on offer in the supermarkets. If so then head to El Galpon (Federico Lacroze 4171) on a Wednesday or Saturday, a farmers’ market offering a range of fresh produce, much of which is grown organically.
Nightlife and restaurants
Casa Felix. Closed-door restaurants are nothing new in the city but Casa Felix is certainly one worth visiting. Book in advance then show up on time and take part in a culinary journey, beginning with cocktails in the garden and moving into an intimate dining room for a 5-course tasting menu with optional wine pairing.
Le Ble Exposed wooden beams and rustic furniture make Le Ble every bit the French-styled bistro that it aims to be; the freshly baked bread and croissants, baguettes, quiches and gourmet soup and salads are not bad, either. There are two locations; Dorrego 999 and Federico Lacroze 899, with the latter being right on the border of Chacarita and Colegiales.
Full City Coffee House (Jorge Newberry 3663). One block from Teatro Gargantua, Full City, with its peaceful open-air patio, is a great place to stop for a coffee whilst exploring Chacarita. Owned by Victoria Angarita, the daughter of a barista specialist, the café is proud of being 100% Colombian.
Albamonte (Corrientes 6735). A 60-year-old Buenos Aires classic where the waiters memorize your orders, and tables are adorned with white table cloths and perfectly folded napkins. The menu consists of traditional porteño fare like pasta, milanesa, pizza and a good wine selection.
When in the neighborhood, some other decent places for food and drink are the bar notable Ocho Esquinas (Forest 1186), pizzeria La Mezzetta (Alvarez Thomas 1311), and Gambrinus (Federico Lacroze 3779), a German-styled restaurant and ceveceria.
Why it’s hot / Why it’s not
Being just outside of the common Buenos Aires tourist trail, a big plus of staying in Chacarita is its affordability. With the Urquiza and San Martin train lines, and B line of the Subte all running to/from Estacion Federico Lacroze, the barrio is also well connected to the city center and northern suburbs.
The area where Chacarita becomes Colegiales is one of the most peaceful areas in Buenos Aires where the wind feels fresher and kids play at will on street corners. However, between the train station and Fraga street is a small slum so choose wisely when searching for accommodation.
Although slightly off the beaten track, the northeastern corner of the barrio is just a stone’s throw from the Mercado de las Pulgas and the bars of Palermo Hollywood. Consequently, if you decide to live here you’ll be able to pick up some unique furniture for your apartment and, for the large part, be within walking distance of an extremely popular nightlife district in Palermo Hollywood.