One thing we know about Buenos Aires is that there is no shortage of museums in the city. From art to history to whatever comes in between, you can pretty much find anything to educate yourself for an afternoon in this place.
With such a variety of things to see, it can be quite an overwhelming task to actually decide what to do for the day.
So, we got thinking about some of the most important criteria available to help you decide. Of course, location, price and demographic were all good options, but we thought about it a while longer and then we stopped messing around and decided to investigate the real money maker, the thing that we know our readers love. That’s right: food.
We bet you didn’t realize that some of the coolest, quirkiest and surprisingly fanciest cafes and restaurants in the city are located in its many museums and public buildings – until now, we didn’t either!
Well, fear no more, because we are here to fill you in on some of the best places to kill two birds with one stone the next time you have a free afternoon.
We have coined it ‘Cultural Eating’ (points for more original suggestions), and we suggest you give one of these places a try the next time you want to learn a thing or two while you are munching on your avocado toast.
La Abadia Centre of Art and Latin-American Studies
Located at the corner of Luis María Campos and Gorostiaga, on the cusp of Belgrano and Palermo, everything about this museum screams ‘what a find’. Granted, this is a somewhat upmarket area for starters, so the extravagance of the museum doesn’t seem too out of place. However, the sense of tranquility and antiquity that comes with it requires a moment to adjust.
As soon as you walk through the external walls into the grounds of the renovated abbey, you know that you need to be on your best behavior. While everything is perfect and pristine, the most striking part is just how peaceful it is.
The museum itself used to be the Abbey of San Benito and was once inhabited by Benedictine monks. Now, it is used as a place to offer workshops, films, courses, forums and galleries dedicated to Latin-American Art and Culture, with its 120-person-capacity auditorium, library, five rooms used for exhibitions and, of course, its beautiful paradise of a garden.
If you aren’t too fussed about Latin-American Art and Culture (although it should be said that the exhibitions are definitely worth a look if you have made the journey), you can head straight to the garden to Café BA, a restaurant located on the other side of the green square which is encircled by the abbey.
Once inside, you will feel like part of a private member’s club with an exclusive garden café just for you. Sit inside or outside and enjoy a well-priced lunch or coffee in one of the few truly peaceful locations in the city. This one certainly has our recommendation.
Gorostiaga 1908 esq Luis M. Campos CP 1426 Buenos Aires Argentina | +54 11 4773 9223 | Entry: free
Museum Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 12 pm – 8 pm, Mondays closed Restaurant Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 12 pm – 8 pm, Mondays closed
This one is somewhat of a hidden gem. You have probably seen it on your walks, runs, cycles or loiters around los Bosques del Palermo, but if you have never ventured inside, we suggest you stop the madness and take a look next time you are in the area. Not only is it a bargain ($30 pesos), it is also a lot bigger than it looks and it boasts some truly weird and wonderful pieces that really are worth seeing.
Named after the artist considered as Argentina’s first realist painter, Eduardo Sívori, it houses over 4000 pieces of modern Argentine art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Once you have wondered through the temporary exhibitions within the main two rooms (which are also perfectly air-conditioned, we might add), you will find yourself at the back of the museum where you can walk through the adorable gift shop to get to the café and garden. Although the menu is small, it is perfect for a merienda or a light lunch.
You can sit in the quaintly decorated conservatory or venture outside and sit in the garden if the humidity isn’t too unbearable. Plus, the lemonade is divine.
Av. Infanta Isabel 555, C1268ACK – in front of the Rosedal Bridge | Museum entrance: AR $30 (Wednesday free)
Museum Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday 12 PM – 8 PM, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 10 AM – 8 PM, Mondays closed
Restaurant Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday 10 AM to 7 PM, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 10 AM – 7 PM, Mondays closed
This is another of the lesser-known museums which is certainly worth a visit. General entry to the museum is AR $120, but if you want then you can just head straight to the restaurant for free without visiting the museum.
To get to the restaurant you can either go through the main entrance and walk through the gift shop, or you can enter from around the corner, where you will see the main patio which boasts an art décor theme with black and white square tiles, vintage-style garden furniture and a dash of green vinery to add to the ambience.
As soon as you enter the restaurant you know you are going to have a good feed, as the smell is incredible, and the customers are all beaming.
You can choose to sit inside where you can look into the gift-shop next door or peer out at the patio outside, or you can sit under one of the trees or vines outside and people-watch the passers-by on the corner of the street. Either way, you are almost guaranteed to forget that you are in the grounds of a museum and this is likely to become a favorite tea-time spot.
Lafinur 2988, CABA | Museum entrance: AR $120 pesos (free to enter restaurant)
Museum Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 11 AM – 7 PM (Mondays closed)
Restaurant Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9 AM – midnight, Sunday 9 AM – 7 PM
Granted, the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) isn’t exactly a secret, but the restaurant located at the front of the museum is somewhat of a pleasant surprise.
Renovated in 2014, the restaurant of the infamous museum boasts a unique environment that you would only expect to find in a place like the MALBA. Named ‘Ninina’, the restaurant boasts a full-blown (albeit pricey) menu ranging from meriendas and lemonades to burgers and cocktails.
You can opt to sit inside at the canteen-like table and stools, where it is hard to forget that you are in a museum, with the ticket booth and gift shop both in sight; or you can head out onto the patio, which is located at the side of the museum and where you can see the busy street outside as you tuck into your [insert snack from huge range of options here] in the shade.
The best part of this is that you don’t need to fork out for a ticket to the museum to experience the restaurant at the MALBA. Although if you have made the journey then we recommend heading in to this weird and wonderful museum which has always got something interesting to see.
Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 3415 | Museum entrance: AR $120 pesos
Museum Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 12 PM – 8 PM, Wednesday 12 PM – 9 PM, Tuesdays closed
Restaurant Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 8 AM – 10 PM, Saturday and Sunday 9 AM – 10 PM
National Museum of Decorative Art
Cards on the table, this was the most niche of the museums we tried out. It’s located in a beautiful area of the city, on Avenida del Libertador in Recoleta, and the building itself is breath-taking.
One of the many pieces of French architecture in the city, the museum was originally built as a house for two newly-wed prominent members of Argentine high-society at the turn of the 20th century. Shortly after the passing of one half of the couple, it was commissioned to the government and became the National Museum for Decorative Arts in 1937.
Today it houses a range of temporary and permanent exhibitions which can be seen for a small contribution of AR $25. The current temporary exhibit is entitled ‘Dogs Unleashed’ and houses over 200 porcelain dogs from European origin (we told you it was niche). If you wander through the rest of the building, you will find many other beautiful pieces from near and far dating as far back as the 15th century.
Once you have educated yourself on the popular decorations used by high-society folk through the ages, you are bound to have worked up an appetite and this is where the money-maker comes into its own. Outside the main building, as you walk through the main entrance into the grounds, you will see a small restaurant called Croque Madame.
It is located in such a place that you might just feel like you are sitting in your very own fancy garden admiring your very own manor house. Surprisingly, the prices don’t reflect that, and you can actually have quite a good feed for a reasonable amount (a Napolitana Pizza will set you back just under AR $200 pesos).
More than that, the range on the menu is surprisingly eclectic, from your standard café con leche with two medialunas to chicken chop suey and a bottle of Patagonia – meaning you are prepped for basically any occasion in this place.
Av. del Libertador 1902 | Museum entrance AR $25 pesos (free to enter restaurant)
Museum Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 2 PM – 7 PM, Mondays closed
Restaurant Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 10 AM – midnight
Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat Art Collection
We have cheated a bit on this one because technically the restaurant is the same as the National Museum for Decorative Arts. However, we are going with it because the vibe is completely different. As you can imagine, a French manor house in Recoleta brings a whole different ambience than the striking modern twist that the Fortabat Art Collection brings.
Not only that, the whole feeling of Puerto Madero is one of a more corporate kind of sophistication rather than the classic type that you get with Recoleta. Hence, while both restaurants may be called Croque Madame and boast the same menu, the experience is totally different.
Here you can wonder through the two exhibition halls, library and auditorium and admire over 230 pieces of fine art ranging from portraits of the Fortabat family themselves, to international modern at from legends such as Andy Warhol and Salvador Dalí.
Once you have taken in enough culture, you can reward yourself in the best way possible in the restaurant located on the ground floor over-looking the river. Unlike the other restaurants on the list, this one has a fair few to compete with due to its location on the river. However, if you are committed to an afternoon in-keeping with your cultural theme, we’d say stick to Croque Madame while you are reviewing the art collection!
Olga Cossettini 141| Museum entrance: AR $80 pesos (free to enter restaurant)
Museum Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 12 PM to 8 PM, Mondays closed
Restaurant Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 8:30 AM – midnight, Sunday and Monday 8:30 AM – 8 PM