San Carlos National Museum in the Palace of the Count of Buenavista

Open - Limited Services / Capacity

the san carlos museum in Mexico City
An outstanding collection in the heart of Mexico City

The San Carlos National Museum (MNSC) opened its doors in 1968 in the former palace of the Count of Buenavista. The museum preserves and exhibits in its galleries the oldest and most important collection of European art in Latin America. In five permanent galleries, the collection presents visitors with works in all major European pictorial styles.

Ranging from the international Gothic of the 14th and 15th centuries to the visual arts movements of the early 20th century, the museum contains strong examples of Gothic, Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-classical, and Romantic works. There are also outstanding selections of Mexican academic works, and European art of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Overall, it’s a charming collection and an easy one to appreciate in an afternoon or so.




Bust portrait of Manuel Tolsá, by Martín Soriano
Bust portrait of Manuel Tolsá, by Martín Soriano, in the Collection of the San Carlos Museum. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Palace of The Count of Buenavista

Likely designed and built by architect, Manuel Tolsá, the San Carlos National Museum is a masterpiece of Neo-Classical design. Built between 1798 and 1805, it’s attributed to Tolsá (1757-1825), although there is a question as to whether he was adapting earlier, and more Baroque designs. Thus, the palace’s many curves do not strictly conform with the NeoClassical exactitude and linearity we expect from Tolsá.

The building was declared a national monument in 1932, but hosted tenants who had included the Basagoiti Zaldo tobacco company, and between 1823 and 1827, the first diplomatic delegation of the United Kingdom to Mexico. In the 20th century, the National Lottery had offices here, and then it was a National Preparatory School, UNAM #4, from 1958 to 1965.

In 1965, the Federal Ministry of Health and Assistance began restoration work intent upon converting the building to a School of Public Health. But in 1968, at a moment of intense museum building in Mexico, the structure was selected to house the collection of European art from the San Carlos Academy. Coincidentally, that was very institution to which the architect Manuel Tolsá had sailed from Cadiz to assume his position as a professor of sculpture all the way back in 1791.

The palace gardens are today known as Parque Tabacalera, immediately behind the north-facing museum.

Admission $ 50.00 pesos, Sundays free admission

Mexico City

Cultural Capital of the Americas