While mostly known for its soccer, historical cafes, red meat, tango, and fabulous wine, Buenos Aires is also a city with a thriving arts and culture scene. Throughout most of the barrios (neighborhoods) of Buenos Aires you will find museums large and small dotting the streets, demonstrating the appreciation that the locals have for the creative arts.
Museo Xul Solar
This museum is dedicated to Argentine Renaissance man and eccentric Xul Solar. He used to live in a small apartment above what is now the museum with his wife and rented the downstairs to save up to create a museum of his own someday; a goal he achieved and one that has become an award-winning piece of art in itself. A friend of famous Argentinian writer Jorge Louis Borges, Xul Solar (his chosen name, which means Solar Light), was an intellectual and artistic polyglot with an incredibly trippy imagination.
The museum presents most of Solar’s mind-bending art, along with letters, tarot cards, masks, personal belongings, an extensive library and some of his own games and inventions. Through his paintings and sculptures, Solar played with dystopian societies and alternate universes, where floating cities, mysterious snakes and strange winged animals were his playthings.
If you only have time for one art contemporary museum in Buenos Aires, go to MALBA. It is housed in an ultra-modern building surrounded by gorgeous ambassadors' mansions and is known for its permanent collection of famed contemporary Latin American artists like Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Fernando Botero, Antonio Berni, and Tarsila do Amaral. There are also solid temporary exhibits in a constant rotation that can include international, modern, or contemporary artists. End the day with a coffee and a pastry at the bakery on-site to take some time to people watch and process all of the amazing art you just saw.
Usina del Arte
Housed inside a brick electrical plant in La Boca, Usina del Arte is an exhibition space as well as a popular and casual concert venue. The program constantly changes, so check the website for details about the latest exhibition. In the past there have been programs specifically for kids, gastronomy, interactive exhibitions, or something as traditional as the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, so check the website for details about the latest exhibition.
Museo del Titere
Although it's been around since 1985, this charming museum is sadly often overlooked. It has a collection of 400 vintage, hand-crafted puppets from around the world that sit eerily on display in this San Telmo building. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the puppet shows that are put on, and there are workshops for those who are really into puppeteering and theater.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
This museum houses the largest public art collection in all of Latin America. Located in the upscale Recoleta neighborhood, the fine arts museum is home to a massive collection of 19th-century European art that includes over 700 major works by artists like Goya, Van Gogh, and Toulouse Lautrec. There are free tours in English a few times per week, although you'll be able to see everything on your own if you navigate the museum strategically. Make sure not to miss the 19th-century European art wing on the first floor, widely regarded as the most important collection in South America.
Planetario Galileo Galilei
For travelers used to the stars in the northern hemisphere, this planetarium offers an all-new celestial experience. Shaped just like the planet Jupiter, this aesthetically pleasing space museum is located in the beautiful parks of Palermo. Be sure to check out the 360-degree space show while you're there.
This 20-year-old private contemporary art museum is known for showing exhibitions of artists who've made advancements politically, socially, or technologically—for example, Ai Weiwei showed here in 2017 and Kazimir Malevich in 2016. It does not have a permanent collection, but rotates installations that use innovative technologies and performance art. With 48 hours' notice museum staff will be able to hook you up with a guided tour in English, but it’s not necessary. The museum is small and easy to wrap your head around without a translator.
Museo de la Balanza
Taking a turn for the somewhat random here, this is a weirdly yet undeniably intriguing display of over 1,000 weighing scales from around the world. Founder Bernardo Fernández has a collection that includes a 500-year-old bronze stick from India that was used both to prod elephants as well as weigh opium, to a scale that measures the weight of trucks. Even more impressive, all of the scales still function perfectly.
You probably wildly underestimate how important Eva “Evita” Perón is to the average Argentine. The “Don’t Cry for me, Argentina” song? That was her. Take a glimpse into the life of one of the most beloved figures in Argentina’s history at this museum which opened in 2002 on the 50th anniversary of her death. It houses a huge collection of her personal belongings including clothing and letters.
MNAD (Museum of Decorative Arts)
Get fancy and dive into what life, architecture, and design looked like for high-society Buenos Aires during the beginning of the 20th century. Quite fittingly, the museum is located in ritzy Recoleta in the actual palace of Josefina Alvear and Matías Errázuriz Ortúzar, an aristocratic Argentine family. The 1911 mansion was designed by René Sergent, the same guy who built the famous Trianon Palace Hotel in Versailles.
The World Tango Museum (El Museo Mundial del Tango)
Above the famous and historic Cafe Tortoni is The World Tango Museum, sponsored by the National Academy of Tango. It covers history of tango, so visitors can follow the development of this musical style, from the times when tango could not even be spoken of to the present day. This museum celebrates the glory of tango, including nods to the greats De Caro, Gardel, Contursi, Discépolo, Pugliese, Goyeneche, Mores, and of course Piazzolla.