Of all the wonderful things to do in Buenos Aires, visiting the city’s bountiful and varied museums are a top draw. That’s why we’re devoting this entire post to 20 museums in Buenos Aires where visitors can see startling modern art, Eva Peron memorabilia, gems from private collections, and much more.We have not listed entry fees in this post. That’s because when we visited these museums the Argentinean economy was in freefall and prices (and exchange rates) were changing very frequently. Note that city museums are free on Wednesdays and many museums have free or reduced-entry days listed on their websites. And national museums are always free.
Top Museums in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is packed with museums of all kinds and even though we’ve spent months exploring the city we have not visited all of them. We did visit the city’s most famous museums and many secondary museums that were also a delight. This post contains details about the 20 museums in Buenos Aires that we personally visited so you can add the ones you like to your own itinerary.
There’s something just plain cool about the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires aka MALBA (in Palermo Chico, half price on Wednesdays) where angular deconstructivist architecture, a chic lobby cafe, and hip offerings in the museum gift shop and bookstore combine with confidently curated art from around Latin America. Inaugurated in 2001 with a donation of 223 pieces, the museum has galleries on three levels for permanent and rotating exhibits. During our visit, we enjoyed a temporary showing of photos of the city taken in the 1930s along with a permanent collection that includes more than 160 works by regional artists including Diego Rivera and Freda Khalo. Many of the explanatory plaques are in English and Spanish.
Museo de Arte ModernoThe Museo de Arte Moderno (in San Telmo, free on Wednesdays) is a government-funded museum that started in 1956 with no permanent location. The first exhibit was displayed on a boat that traveled around to 22 locations in 6 months with the collection onboard. In 1988, the museum moved into its current permanent location in a spacious renovated former tobacco factory that was built in the 1800s. Here you can see a lovely permanent collection and rotating exhibitions of modern art by mostly Argentinean artists, though works by Picasso, Matisse, and other modern art stars are represented as well. During our visit, we enjoyed the enchanting work of Max Gome Canle who played with reality, perception, and the accepted art “rules” (art as the frame, for example). We also loved the interactive work of Mercedes Azpilucueta who was fascinated by the body, permitted movement, not permitted movement, etc., and communicated through video, sound, and static images. We highly recommend taking advantage of the free 1-hour English language tour that’s offered at 11:30 am every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday and allow at least an hour on top of your tour to really appreciate this arresting collection. This museum also has a small café and a bookstore.
Museo Nacional de Bellas ArtesWe consider the excellent Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (in Recoleta, always free) a must-visit for a number of reasons. First, it’s a national museum so it’s always free and this fact means that the collection is accessible to all Argentineans. And what a collection! The large museum, housed in a large and ornate building that was a pump house, has many small galleries and each holds a treasure. Some rooms are full of Argentinean work. Others are full of the work of European masters including Picasso, Degas, Rodin, Modigliani, Cezanne, and many more. Much of the museum’s 12,000 pieces of art (paintings, decorative art, sculptures, fine art, graphic art, religious art, and more) were donated from private collections. Other important pieces, like a Renoir displayed in 1907 in the same year the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City displayed its first Renoir, were purchased by the government. Allow at least an hour to appreciate this eclectic and enjoyable collection.
Colección AmalitaThe wonderful waterfront Colección de Arte Amalita Lacroze de Fortabat (Amalia Collection, in Puerto Madero) is much larger than it appears from the outside. Home to choice pieces from the extensive personal collection of Argentinean collector Amalita Lacroze de Fortabat, who was painted by Andy Warhol, the 3-level museum features a permanent collection where you’ll see lovely work by Rodin, Klimt, Gaugin, and more art world stars. The main gallery displays a revealing and varied collection of the work of Argentinean artists presented by decade through the 19th century. An upstairs sala is reserved for rotating exhibitions. All work is well-lit and explanations in English are provided via QR code.
Museo Casa de YrurtiaAt Museo Casa de Yrurtia (in Belgrano, free on Wednesdays) take in the artistic atmosphere and original antiques in a restored house owned by sculptor Rogelio Yrurtia and his wife, painter Lia Correa Morales. Yrurtia is famous for large-scale sculptures which are installed around Buenos Aires including Canto al Trabjador (Song to the Worker, which can be seen in the San Telmo neighborhood), Justicia (Justice), and others. This small museum is home to sketches and small-scale models created in the early stages of those monumental works some of which are also on display inside and out in the peaceful back garden. One large room is devoted to Lia’s paintings which are lovely but the feeble presentation, sadly, feels like an afterthought.
Museo EvitaMuseo Evita (in Palermo) is a private museum that might also legitimately be called a fawning ode to Eva Peron, wife of former president Juan Peron and an enduring icon to many in Argentina. Located in a stately mansion built at the start of the 20th century, this museum has an intimate feel. As we wandered through opulent rooms and gawked at the diva’s chic belongings, including a collection of gowns, we couldn’t help but note the massive contradiction between their lavish personal possessions and their socialist Peronist politics. Also ironic: this museum charges the most expensive entry fee of any museum we visited in the city and because it’s a private museum prices are never discounted and there are no free days that would allow all Argentineans to visit the museum.
Museo Casa Carlos GardelMuseo Casa Carlos Gardel (in Abasto, free on Wednesdays) lets you inside the home of beloved Argentinean singer, songwriter, dancer, actor, and tango icon Carlos Gardel. Here, a few small downstairs rooms have been filled with personal knick-knacks and lots of black and white photos of the heartthrob who was making his Hollywood debut at the time of his death. Most interesting is a nook where visitors can put on headphones and select from a list of 893 of his songs.
Museo Nacional de Arte DecorativoLocated in a Neoclassical mansion, the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo (in Palermo, always free) is the place for lovers of high design in all forms. When we were there, the handful of ornate first-floor rooms, featuring carved wood ceilings, imposing furniture, and lavish religious art that’s all part of the permanent collection, were packed with examples of Italian design from the ’70s and ’80s including sleek furniture and all manner of gadgets (radios, calculators, etc.) in jarring primary colors. It was hard to know if we should focus on the pop art of the Italian designs or on the El Greco and Manet classics on the walls.
Museo SívoriIn Parque Tres de Febrero, also sometimes called Bosques del Palermo, you’ll find the Museo de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Sívori (Sívori Museum, in Palermo, free on Wednesdays). This small collection, housed in a restored house with modern add-ons jutting out, includes the work of Argentinean artist Eduardo Sívori and the work of other modern artists including sculpture, paintings, and more.
Fundación Proa (in La Boca) offers three levels of exhibits that celebrate contemporary art. When we were there, the whole place was full of interpretations of the theme of labyrinths including a video (with English subtitles), drawings, an actual labyrinth, and more that explored the symbolism, history, and meaning of labyrinths. This museum also has a lovely cafe on the top level with indoor seating and a patio overlooking the old port. And don’t miss the gift shop where you can purchase ice cube trays in the shape of the Malvinas Islands (a winning souvenir) and select from a range of thinky books for adults and for kids.
Spanish art from the middle ages to the early 20th century is celebrated in the Museo de Arte Español Enrique Larreta (in Belgrano, free on Wednesdays). Housed in the home of writer Enrique Larretta, a visit is as much about admiring the house (Moorish influences, elaborate original tile floors, beamed ceilings, carved wood antiques) as the paintings and sculptures on display. There’s also a lovely back garden where large sculptures can be admired and a back room that hosts rotating exhibits.
Museo Histórico Sarmiento
Unless you’re a die-hard fan of Argentine President and champion of education Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the Museo Histórico Sarmiento (in Belgrano, free on Wednesdays), which chronicles Sarmiento’s life from mercurial child to world traveler to journalist to culture-changing politician, might be a bit niche for you.
Buenos Aires MuseoBuenos Aires Museo (in Monserrat, free on Wednesdays) is a celebration of all things Buenos Aires including history, culture, artifacts, and more through the years. Photography tip: head to the roof for the only good vantage point on two large-scale street art murals, called La Memoria y las Mujeres and Mañana Inmenso, which were created by Argentinean artist Mariela Ajras.
Malvinas MuseumBy far, the most politically charged and jingoistic museum in Buenos Aires is the Museo Malvinas y Islas del Atlántico Sur (in Núñez, always free). Created and run by the government, the large 2-level space was inaugurated in a politician-studded affair in 2014 to promote Argentina’s perspective and position when it comes to the 1983 war with England over the Malvinas Islands (aka the Falkland Islands) as well as a large portion of Antarctica. On the ground floor, an enormous timeline of events is presented as proof of the Argentinean government’s claim of sovereignty over the region. Other exhibits memorialize the war and commemorate those who lost their lives during it. As a foreigner, the earnestness and ultimate futility of the government’s insistence that the Malvinas Islands are part of Argentina can feel a bit silly. However, Argentinean visitors to the museum are often dead serious about it.
Museo Histórico NacionalMuseo Histórico Nacional (in San Telmo, always free) occupies a lovely mansion built in 1846. Exhibits pull from a collection of more than 50,000 items, ranging from furniture to weapons to paintings to personal effects of famous Argentineans including a sword that belonged to beloved South American liberator Jose de San Martin, that chronicle the country’s often conflict-filled history.
Casa Museo Ricardo Rojas
Casa Museo Ricardo Rojas (in Recoleta, always free) is located in the home where writer/journalist Richardo Rojas lived with his wife. One of the things Rojas is remembered for is the creation of a theory about melding cultures and his home reflects that. Pay attention to the carved stone facades and pillars which are decorated with iconography from various cultures. Inside, elements of decor come from around the world and his library has a cut stone wall and niches in the Incan style, a Mayan glyph, Spanish tile, and imagery from various other cultures.
Museo Xul SolarWe were charmed by the whimsical, slightly dark work on display in the sleek Museo Xul Solar (in Recoleta, reduced entry price on Tuesdays) which opened in 1993 and is run by the widow of Argentinean painter and creator Alejandro Xul Solar. It’s hard to strictly classify Solar’s work. It’s certainly modern with geometric shapes and bright colors, but it’s also a bit sci-fi with fantastical imagery and imagination allowed to run amok. Solar was prolific until his death in 1963 and throughout his career, he became friends with other noted artists including writer Jorge Luis Borges (even illustrating some of Borges’ work). In addition to his paintings, Solar also created two languages (including a monosyllabic language with no grammar) and modified chess into something he called pan-chess. He also invented a puppet show for adults and a game based on Tarot. Examples of all of this varied work are well-displayed and well-lit in a split-level concrete building that’s been recognized for its architectural style.
Museo de la Passion BoqueneseIn a country where futbol (soccer) is king, you don’t have to be a fan of the sport to visit Museo de la Passion Boquenese. Located in the storied Bombanera soccer stadium in the La Boca neighborhood, this museum is a wealth of information about the decades-long history of the Boca Jr. team and its importance in the culture of Buenos Aires and of the country. Icons of the sport are celebrated, moments of sporting joy and triumph are relived, and, of course, there’s a store where you can buy a jersey and other memorabilia. Note: when we were there, they’d suspended visits to the stadium itself which are normally offered as an add-on to your museum visit.
One that got away: Museo del Agua y del Historia Sanitaria is a fancy name for a grand building that is, essentially, a toilet museum. And, yes, we wanted to see it. However, this museum requires a guided tour reservation and we never got it together.
Museums worth the trip
These museums are a good excuse to make a day trip to the San Isidro area of the city. They’re located about a mile apart and we recommend strolling between them to get a sense of this residential suburb o the city.
Museo PueyrredónRevolutionary hero Juan Martín de Pueyrredón is celebrated in the Museo Pueyrredón (in San Isidro, always free) where a small historic home owned by his wife Calixta Telechea has been restored and filled with everyday items, portraits, and more. Original structural elements are also still present (don’t miss the great tile floors) and the nearly waterfront structure, which is a National Monument, is surrounded by a huge established garden. Pueyrredón died in this house which was then inherited by his son.
Villa OcampoVilla Ocampo (in San Isidro) is part museum but also part voyeuristic peak into intellectual high society–like a combination of The Great Gatsby and the Algonquin Round Table set in Argentina. Built as the Ocampo family home, this is where Victoria Ocampo grew up and lived until her death. The mansion, built in a variety of European architectural styles, also served as the headquarters for her literary magazine Sur which helped solidify Victoria’s standing as an intellect and feminist which attracted famous guests including Indira Gandhi, Stravinsky, Camus, Graeme Greene, Pablo Neruda, and others. In 1973, six years before her death, Victoria gave Villa Ocampo to UNESCO which still owns and maintains the villa, though it’s not a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We booked a pricey 30-minute tour of the villa (led by a very bored Spanish-speaking guide) during which we walked through rooms past framed pictures of famous guests and the piano once played by Stravinsky. Later we noticed that many other visitors seemed to be wandering around the villa unguided. The patio cafe at the villa serves sweets, coffee, beer, wine, and small plates at normal prices and is a good place to relax and refuel.
Getting around Buenos Aires:The capital of Argentina is a sprawling city and you’ll likely need to do a bit of running around to see, do, and eat what you want (including the suggestions in this post). Luckily, Buenos Aires has very good and very economical public transportation systems including buses that travel practically everywhere, a subway system, and an above-ground train system. All operate using a SUBE card which you can purchase at many shops. Some shops can also put money onto your SUBE card and you can also do that at subway stations (when there’s an attendant at the booth). When we were in the city, metered taxis were generally plentiful (and we only had one driver who was using a doctored meter). Uber was also available as was the Cabify app which taps into local taxis.
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