We all know Buenos Aires is famous for its cafes, nightlife, tango and soccer. But it’s also a city with a rich history and a thriving arts scene. Dotting Buenos Aires’ barrios is a fascinating collection of museums and galleries that showcase the city’s heritage, historical figures and love of the arts.
The popular barrio of Palermo is home to one of the city’s most popular and most visited museums/galleries, MALBA (malba.org.ar, Figueroa Alcorta 3415). The Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires) is the place to enjoy permanent and temporary exhibitions of 20th-century art. Find permanent collections by Argentines Emilio Pettoruti, Roberto Matta and Jorge de la Vega. These are complemented by traveling exhibitions by internationally famed artists, including Andy Warhol, Mario Testino and Yayoi Kusama. Besides the collections, the exhibitions take place in an impressive building, complete with a cinema, cafe and bookstore. The museum is open daily, except Tuesday. Admission is half-price on Wednesday (free for students and retirees). Just a 15-minute stroll from MALBA is the Museo Evita (museoevita.org, Lafinur 2588). Go here to learn about the life of Argentina’s most-famous First Lady, Eva “Evita” Perón. More than 3,000 objects take visitors on Evita’s journey from child to political activist to actress. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Plan your visit for a sunny day and have lunch at the museum’s courtyard restaurant, Museo Evita Resto.
From Palermo, make your way along Avenida Libertador to Recoleta and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (mnba.gob.ar, Libertador 1473). The National Museum of Fine Arts is home to some 12,000 works, which cover Argentine and 19th-century European art. Spot work by Auguste Rodin, Francisco Goya, Rembrandt and Van Gogh, among other greats. Be sure to check out the open-air sculpture display on the museum’s top-floor terrace. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday and admission is free. The best of the city’s centrally located museums is the Museo del Bicentenario (museobicentenario.gob.ar, Paseo Colón 100). Discover antique artifacts from 1810 to 2010 while exploring the archaeological remains of Buenos Aires. Check out the Ejercicio Plástico, a 360-degree mural by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros. The museum is set in a former customs house, on the grounds of the Casa Rosada. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday and admission is free.
Amid the glass-fronted skyscrapers and swanky apartment towers of Puerto Madero is the Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat (coleccionfortabat.org.ar, Olga Cossettini 141). The gallery showcases 20th-century Argentine art, international art from the 17th century to present day and ancient Egyptian artifacts. The vast majority of objects were donated by Amalia Fortabat, who is one of Argentina’s wealthiest women. See work by Chagall, Dalí, Rodin, Warhol and many more. The roof of the gallery’s modern building opens to allow natural light into the exhibition galleries. It’s open daily, except Monday. Go on Wednesday for half-price admission (free for students and retirees). Guided tours are included with the admission fee.
The next stop is San Telmo, which is home to the excellent MAMBA, aka the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Modern Art Museum). The permanent collection alone displays around 7,000 works of art from Argentina and around the world. International artists worthy of mention include Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. There’s plenty of local art, too, such as a collection of engravings by Antonio Seguí. The exhibitions are set in an old tobacco factory that maintains its original open-brick façade and wrought-iron ornamentations. The museum is open daily, except Monday. Admission is free on Tuesday. Four blocks from here, on the edge of Parque Lezama, is the Museo Histórico Nacional (National Historical Museum) (Defensa 1600). Here, you can discover artifacts relating to Argentina’s Wars of Independence, the May Revolution and prominent military leaders. Highlights include General San Martín’s sword, General Manuel Belgrano’s watch and other military objects. The museum is set in a stunning Italianate mansion, complete with patios and a lookout tower. You can visit this important slice of Argentine history from Wednesday to Sunday and admission is free.
In the southeast corner of the city is the effervescent La Boca, famous for its colorful architecture and impromptu tango shows. It’s also home to one of the city’s best contemporary art galleries, Fundación Proa (proa.org, Don Pedro de Mendoza 1929), spread over three floors of a 19th-century building. The ground floor is dedicated to modern and multimedia displays, the second floor houses an extensive bookstore and the top floor is a cafe with impressive views of the nearby shipyards. The exhibitions are constantly changing, so check the website for details. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Guided tours in English are available upon prior request. Soccer fans visiting Buenos Aires should make the Museo de la Pasión Boquense (museoboquense.com, La Bombonera, Brandsen 905) one of their must-sees. The museum celebrates the passion of Boca Juniors FC, one of Argentina’s biggest soccer clubs. It’s full of everything you’d expect of a sports team’s museum: a hall of fame; a trophy cabinet; displays of team jerseys, past and present; and audio-visual presentations of the club’s heroes, including Diego Maradona, Martín Palermo and Juan Román Riquelme. Visits to the museums can also include the chance to check out the changing rooms, walk on the hallowed playing field and gaze up at the steep-terraced stadium. The museum is open daily, although it’s best to double-check if you plan to visit on a match day.
On the edge of Parque Centenario in Caballito, the Museo Argentino de Ciencas Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia” (Angel Gallardo 470) is the city’s Natural Sciences Museum, home to around a dozen exhibitions of Argentine creatures. Spot huge native dinosaur skeletons and displays of butterflies, insects and centuries-old fossils. Find taxidermy displays of birds, mammals and reptiles. Look for the aquatic displays, which include sharks, stingrays and marine plants. The museum is open daily, except select public holidays, and there’s a nominal admission fee.