Herald favorites: museums in Buenos Aires

From sanitary history to a painter with an eye for the occult, here are the museums not to miss

Water and sanitation museum. Source: Thomas Vedder

The chilly porteño winter is an ideal time to explore the capital’s museums. There are many places to while away a few hours learning about Argentine society’s roots and particular idiosyncrasies. From sprawling, world-famous art galleries to boutique museums in converted houses, here are a few of our favorites.

Major museums

National Fine Art Museum (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes)

Av. del Libertador. 1473; Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m-8 p.m, weekends 10 a.m-8 p.m. Free Entry

It’s easy to lose yourself for hours inside the halls of Bellas Artes, an elegant pink building in Plaza Rubén Dario. The museum is arranged chronologically, beginning with Indigenous Andean artifacts and sculptures from the 14th and 15th century, found during excavation of archeological sites in Salta province. 

It houses countless masterpieces from artists like Picasso, Diego Rivera, Rembrandt, and poignant temporary exhibitions: at the time of writing there’s an exhibit dedicated to León Ferrari. The museum presents the evolution of art in the western canon, from landscape and portrait paintings into often abstract and political postmodernism. 

National Historic Museum (Museo Histórico Nacional)

Defensa 1600; Wednesday-Sunday 11 a.m-7 p.m, Saturday 11 a.m-9.pm. Free Entry

This free museum in Parque Lezama is split into two equally impressive parts. First, explore the history of Argentine independence and the early days of the country. Along the walls are swords, maps, and beautiful artwork tracing the war of independence, the civil war, and the Guerra de la Triple Alianza against Paraguay. Exhibitions showcase 19th-century culture, displaying instruments, games, and original novels. 

The other half of the museum is dedicated to the national pastime of Argentina, football. Starting on the main floor and continuing into the basement, this section of the museum represents the importance of the sport to the formation of Argentine community and identity. There is even an entire exhibition dedicated to the two greatest heroes of the sport, Messi and Maradona, featuring their jerseys. 

Buenos Aires Latin American Art Museum (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires)

Known by its initials, MALBA; Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 3415; Thursday to Monday 12 noon-8 p.m, Wednesday 11 a.m-8 p.m, Closed on Tuesdays

Focusing on Latin American 20th and 21st-century art, MALBA is a must. One of the highlights is the Third-Eye painting by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, the last portrait she painted before her death. Tickets can be reserved online before you visit. You can also find Ninina, a very pleasant cafe with good coffee and lunch options. 

Smaller treasures

Water and Sanitary History Museum (Museo de Agua y de la Historia Sanitaria) 

Riobamba 750; Monday-Friday 9 a.m-1 p.m, 2-5 p.m; Free Entry

Housed inside Palacio de aguas corrientes, a water filtration center built in 1886 following a yellow fever outbreak that killed 14,000 people, this small museum takes you on a tour of a much-overlooked aspect of a large metropolitan city: the filtration and transportation of water. 

This stunning building, which features over 300,000 terracotta tiles, was designed to honor the achievement of those who designed the water sanitation system. The building houses 12 water tanks with a total capacity of 72 million liters. It’s still a functioning water pumping station: the museum is tucked away on the second floor. 

Shadows play inside the Xul Solar museum. Cover image: Water and sanitation museum. All images: Thomas Vedder

Xul Solar Museum

Laprida 1212; Tuesday-Friday 12 noon-8 p.m, Sunday 12 noon-7.pm; AR$700

Even in a country with no shortage of quixotic creators, the painter Xul Solar stands out. Born in Buenos Aires Province as Oscar Solari, he adopted the name Xul Solar, a Latin phrase roughly translating as light of the sun, early in his painting career. 

When walking around his former home, where the museum is located, his affinity for light and the slightly occult is evident. Apart from his stunning and complex paintings, winding staircases, originally designed tarot cards, and his own phonic alphabet are some of the highlights of this museum. Classical music fills the space, reflecting the rhythmic nature of his painting. 

Museum of Buenos Aires (Museo de Buenos Aires)

Defensa 187; Monday-Friday 11 a.m-7 p.m, Weekend 11 a.m-8 p.m, closed Tuesdays; AR$500 Entry

An interactive museum just a few blocks from Plaza de Mayo with a terrace perfect for people-watching. The first floor is a complete history of how Buenos Aires developed into one of the largest cities in the world. On the second floor is an interactive exhibit dedicated to the development of 20th-century pop culture in Buenos Aires. There is even a recreation of a typical 1960s porteño living room, complete with interactive television, phone, and record player.  

Museum of Buenos Aires Terrace

José Hernández Popular Art Museum (Museo de Arte Popular José Hernández)

Av. del Libertador 2373; Monday-Friday 11 a.m-7 p.m, Weekends 11 a.m-8 p.m, Closed on Tuesdays, AR$500 Entry 

Also referred to as the Popular Art Museum, this quaint gem houses two permanent exhibits, one in the entry building and another across the quiet courtyard. These feature contemporary Argentine artists and are an exploration of identity and culture in the 21st century. It houses an original copy and illustrations of the epic poem The Gaucho Martin Fierro by José Hernández. 

Central Bank Museum (Museo del Banco Central

San Martín 216; Monday-Friday 10 a.m-4.pm. Free EntryThis museum takes visitors on a journey through the evolution of the country’s currency. The often volatile nature of money in Argentina gives this museum a particularly timely quality. Starting with the Aztec and Inca and their use of coins as currency known as mita, the six exhibitions in the museums showcase over 20,000 pieces. The museum also features original coins printed for each World Cup, as well as specialty coins for the women’s team and the first all-gay men’s football team in Argentina. As with anything else in Argentina, it would not be complete without football. 


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