According to official numbers, there are 160 museums in Buenos Aires. Not only that, but 59 percent of those are completely free and can be found in 30 of the 48 barrios that make up the city. There’s a little for everybody, from giant powerhouses like MALBA, Bellas Artes and the CCK to some very, very specific ones like the Puppet Museum, the Armenian Genocide Museum, and the Scale Museum (yes, as in the scales that measure and weigh stuff).
Most of them are sights to behold, be it because of the exhibits they display or in some cases because of the amazing buildings in which they’re set, but we’ve decided to look at some of the lesser-known ones, with the caveat that they have something that makes them extraordinary. They have to really stand out in some way, shape or form.
So here goes.
Palacio de Aguas Corrientes
So let’s start at the very top with quite possibly the most impressive building not only for a museum but overall in this city. Probably every person that has ever walked by Avenida Cordoba between Riobamba and Ayacucho has stopped to marvel at this breathtaking structure and asked the same question, possibly out loud: what the hell is that place, exactly?
The answer is water. Well, actually the Water Company Palace. And inside it, the Museum of Water and Sanitary History. Yeah, I know, it kind of sucks. You were probably expecting some sort of royalty or some twisted story about a some millionaire going crazy. But no. It’s just… water. There’s even some offices of AYSA, the state-run water company, working their day jobs, to make things even duller. But, don’t worry, there is still a lot of cool stuff inside, like for example, this.
The place dates back to 1897 and was built to hold enormous tanks of water for the bouyant city back in the day. Its exterior was made with 130 thousand enameled bricks and 300,000 pieces of ceramics imported from Belgium and England. So yes, it’s pretty much a tour worth taking just to get inside this amazing piece of architecture. There’s also a historic toilet collection inside… So… that’s two reasons, I guess?
Palacio de Aguas Corrientes – Riobamba 750
Visiting hours: Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo
Speaking of WTF buildings… This house belonged to Josefina de Alvear and Matías Errázuriz Ortúzar, a pretty wealthy couple (#obvi) that lived during the gilded age of Buenos Aires. It was designed back in 1911 and was furnished with stuff that the couple had bought after spending ten years in Europe. And by “stuff,” I mean a painting by El Greco, a sculpture by Auguste Rodin, and a bronze watch that belonged to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. You know… Stuff.
In 1936 the house was purchased by the government and a year later it became the museum, which has probably not changed much in the 80 years since (except for the Croque Madame restaurant just before you go inside, which I’m almost certain wasn’t there). Stepping inside is like going back in time, with over 6,000 pieces from centuries XVI to XIX (yes, I just wrote them in Roman numbers, to get you in the mood. You’re welcome.)
Extra tip: Do not, by any means, miss the backyard, which has a breathtaking swan fountain made to evoke Versailles. Yep, fancy stuff all over.
Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo – Av. del Libertador 1902
Visiting hours: Tuesday through Sunday, from 12:30 PM to 7:00 PM
Parque de la Memoria
Opened in 2001, this incredible place sits in front of the Rio de la Plata, very close to Aeroparque airport and the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) campus. It’s a very peaceful and serene location, ideal for its original purpose: “To make the current and future generations who visit it become aware of the horrors committed by the government and understand the need to ensure that similar events never happen again.”
The place was created in 1998 and opened its doors in 2001, thanks to the work of several human rights organizations, Congress, representatives of the Buenos Aires City government, and the UBA. It comprises 14 acres of land, 17 open space sculptures and the most important thing of all: a massive concrete monument that lists all of the people that were disappeared and/or murdered by state-sponsored terrorism perpetrated by the Argentine government during the 1969-1973 and 1976-1983 dictatorships.
It also has a more traditional museum space, home of rotating art exhibits related to human rights.
The place is quite humbling and the guided tours are a must to understand not only the park itself but this horrific piece of history. It’s completely free.
Parque de la Memoria – Av. Costanera Norte Rafael Obligado 6745
Visiting hours: Everyday, 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Museo de la Inmigración
This massive building in Retiro was the home to the Hotel de los Inmigrantes, a structure built at the beginning of the 20th century close to the city’s docks to welcome, shelter, and relocate immigrants that would arrive in droves, mainly from Europe. The hotel stopped working in 1953 but its rich history and structure have been for the most part kept intact, including books that documented all of the arrivals, as well as photographs, films and relics.
Where else could you casually bump into Albert Einstein’s immigration documents from that time he came to Argentina?
The place is divided into two areas. One dedicated to immigrant history, which was created in 1974, and one focusing on contemporary art, which was created in 2012 and has been home to exhibitions from some of the most renowned artists in the world. It’s currently being curated by Universidad Tres de Febrero, which has several other cultural offers all around the city. Check their website for more.