Inside Washington's embassies is a world of fun - and free - stuff to do

By New York Times Time of article published Nov 30, 2018

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There are close to 200 embassies and diplomatic missions in Washington and many people don't know that you can lunch at the French Embassy or a tango concert at the Embassy of Argentina.

The annual EU Open House and Passport D.C.'s "Around the World Embassy Tour" draw long lines for tours, but in many cases, you don't have to wait until May to experience these international destinations firsthand.

Embassies across Washington court curious visitors throughout the year with exhibits, concerts, cooking classes and even family story times.

Navigating the world of embassy events can be tricky, however. Some countries, such as Britain, rarely open their doors to the public. Smaller nations can be more outgoing.

Whether you're trying to broaden a child's international outlook or take in art from around the globe, embassies and their cultural centers are an amazing resource. 

Below is a selection of embassies that open their doors for exhibits, concerts and special events on a monthly or even daily basis. 

Most events and exhibitions are free.

Each embassy handles events differently - some require RSVPs, some are drop-in - so check the embassy's website before showing up.

1. Argentina

Sultry tango music is the soundtrack, as the Embassy of Argentina draws crowds for free concerts featuring tango orchestras. The annual D.C. Tango Festival, held in the spring, brings milongas, or tango dance parties, as well as lessons for those who want to learn before joining in on the fun. 
Outside of Argentina's national dance, the embassy hosts rotating exhibitions in its galleries.

2. Austria

The airy auditorium inside the Embassy of Austria is the setting for numerous cultural events, organized by the Austrian Cultural Forum. 

3. Canada

Its small art gallery is open to the public on weekdays. Previous exhibitions have included works by Inuit artists and photographs of famous Canadians taken by Bryan Adams. (Yes, that Bryan Adams.) 

4. France

It's best known for regular, free screenings of French films; other programming includes concerts, wine tastings and, last summer, packed World Cup viewing parties that ended in a champagne-drenched celebration.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the embassy, though, is Le Cafe Descartes, a cafeteria and restaurant open to anyone who fills out a form on its website. The kitchen is run by Mark Courseille, a native of Bordeaux who served as pastry chef at Citronelle and Et Voila! 

5. Haiti

The Embassy of Haiti is regularly open to the public and is one of the most welcoming spots on Embassy Row. Free tours of its art collection are available (reservations are needed only for groups), and on Friday evenings, there's an open invitation to happy hour.

6. Sweden

The House of Sweden helped redefine embassy events in Washington, booking fashion shows, Eurovision parties, movie nights and Scandinavian indie-rock and hip-hop acts that appealed to a hipster audience instead of the diplomatic community. 
On Saturdays and Sundays, Sweden opens its Room for Children, a space filled with toys, games and books for kids up to 10 years old. t. NW.

7. Mexican Cultural Institute

From 1921 to 1989, the Embassy of Mexico occupied a landmark Beaux-Arts mansion. When it moved to another building, it converted its historical home into the Mexican Cultural Institute, preserving the epic and colourful mural painted by Roberto Cueva del Rio. The busy calendar of events includes concerts on the first Thursday of the month; movie screenings; seminars with Mexican artists and musicians; and contemporary art exhibitions.

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