With more Michelin-starred restaurants than any city in the world, bar Tokyo, and an abundance of well-maintained museums, galleries and markets, Mexico City is exciting and sophisticated. Camilla Frances shares insider's travel tips for an art and design-filled weekend, including the best house museums, flea markets, galleries and restaurants.




Although often overshadowed by Mexico’s photogenic coastline, picturesque villages and proliferate beach resorts, Mexico City is an exciting, sophisticated destination that should never be overlooked, particularly by those with an interest in art, design or food. With more Michelin-starred restaurants than any city in the world, bar Tokyo, and an abundance of well-maintained museums, galleries and markets, the Mexican capital is justly proud of its cuisine and artistic heritage, which is celebrated at every turn.

Sprawling and chaotic, like many a metropolis, Mexico City is easy to manage when you know where to go; the city is a thrilling patchwork of diverse neighborhoods, from the beautiful Centro Historico, to arty Roma, stylish Condesa, upmarket Polanca and pretty Coyoacán, with its European-style piazzas and colorful churches. You'll never uncover all the city's wonders in one weekend, but these tips will get you off to a good start.

Where to Stay

Circulo Mexicano: The former home of renowned Mexican photographer, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Círculo Mexicano, is a 19th-century townhouse in an exceptional location in the city's historic center, overlooking the National Palace and Zocalo Square. A reinterpretation of Mexico's traditional patio-centric houses, Círculo's 25 rooms all open onto a central courtyard, underneath a large skylight and rooftop pool, and above the excellent Caracol de Mar restaurant (see 'Where to Eat and Drink') and several stylish shops. Designed by local studio, Ambrosi Etchegaray, the decor is elegant, pared-back and texture-rich, with Oaxacan textiles and fine architectural features throughout: exposed stone walls, skylit patios and undulating brick ceilings. Make sure you book one of the suites to experience the hotel at its best - each is wonderfully spacious with a spectacular view of this very special location - and don't miss breakfast or coffee (served in beautiful Oaxacan clay mugs) on the rooftop at sunrise.


Where to Eat

Almost every neighborhood has its own 'best' restaurant, usually hidden behind an ornate wooden door, so you're bound to eat well wherever you find yourself in Mexico city. But if you don't want to take any chances, here's our edit.

Lardo Bakery: The bakery attached to Lardo (see below) serves great pastries, coffee and sourdough bread.

Panaderia Rosetta: Across the street from the famous Rosetta (see below), little sister Panaderia Rosetta serves great coffee and very indulgent pastries, pancakes and buns. 

Rosetta: The brainchild of star chef Elena Reygadas, Rosetta is a regular fixture on the world's best restaurant lists, both for its outstanding Italian-Mexican menu and romantic mansion house setting. Booking is essential. 

Pujol: Another regular on the 'world's best' lists, Pujol serves Mexican food (think mole madre and tostadas with a twist) using the finest ingredients. Booking essential.

Masala y Maíz: A new take on the comida corrida menu (three-course, fixed price) in an airy, modern setting.

Caracol de Mar: Recently opened, Caracol de Mar serves authentic Mexican-Peruvian cuisine with a twist and fresh, seasonal ingredients. The ceviche is to die for.


What to See & Do

Mexico City has it all, from the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacán to more than 150 world-class museums, stunning architecture and thrilling flea markets. Wandering the streets is an experience in itself, but here's our edit of the best things to see and do. For markets, see 'Where to Shop', for galleries see, 'For Art Lovers', and for house museums and architecture, see 'For Design Lovers'.

National Museum of Anthropology: With extensive ethnographic exhibits and the world's largest collection of ancient Mesoamerican art, this beautifully-presented museum is a must-see. It's vast, so leave yourself plenty of time to see the exhibits you're most interested in; our favorites are the Mexica, Oaxaca and Maya rooms. 

Centro Historico: Explore the city's historic center, starting at the main square, Zócalo, and taking in the Spanish colonial architecture and key sights, including: archaeological site, Templo Mayor; the dramatic Metropolitan Cathedral; the Palace of Fine Arts with its multiple-domed facade; the entrance hall at Gran Hotel Ciudad de México and the National Palace to see Diego Rivera's murals, 'The History of Mexico'. Finish (or start) with lunch at Caracol de Mar, a stone's throw from Zócalo Sq. 

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe: One of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world, the basilica is a must-see for its architecture alone.

The Museum of Popular Cultures: Not far from Museo Frida Kahlo, this brilliant museum is dedicated to showcasing the diversity of indigenous and Mexican culture.

Museum of Objects: This impeccably-curated museum in Roma tells the story of 200 years of Mexican life and culture through its collection of some 140,000 objects, ranging from religious artefacts to stationery and grooming products.

Teotihuacán: It's worth escaping the city for a few hours to see the sun rise over the ruins of this ancient Mayan city. Ask your hotel to book a private tour with early entry to beat the crowds, or arrive by 9am to enjoy the site while it's still relatively quiet.


For Art Lovers

From bank notes featuring Frida Kahlo, to public spaces emblazoned with murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco, this is a city where art is power. Artistic expression during the Mexican Revolution sparked an explosion in creativity that continues to thrive in post-revolutionary Mexico. Discover Mexico's fascinating art history, and thriving art scene, at the following spaces:

Museo Frida Kahlo: The queues snake around the street at Frida Kahlo’s La Casa Azul (Blue House), but don’t let this dissuade you; no trip is complete without a visit. The house is a work of art in itself, containing Kahlo's works, portraits and clothes, as well as her collection of folk art. Book ahead, and allow yourself time to explore Coyoacán too; it’s full of lively markets and pretty piazzas.

Folk Art Museum: A wonderful museum in an Art Deco building dedicated to the spectrum of indigenous Mexican art and handicrafts. This includes everything from pottery and textiles to bizarre objects and artefacts - think dioramas, skulls and skeletons, mythical creatures and piñatas.

Museo Casa Del Risco: The beautiful 18th-century home of Mexican politician, Don Isidro Fabela (1882-1964), is now an Historical Monument and full of Fabela's collection of sculpture, furniture and applied arts. It's also home to the Fuente del Risco, an 'ultra Baroque' fountain decorated with porcelain, mirror and mother-of-pearl shells. 

Museum of Modern Art: sitting within the largest urban park in Latin America, this 1960s building is designed around a golden dome and holds an impressive collection of modern and contemporary Mexican art.

Franz Mayer Museum: In a beautiful 18th-century building, the former San Juan de Dios monastery and hospital, lies Latin America's largest collection of decorative arts, including fine artworks, ceramics, books and furniture.

Palace of Fine Arts: The iconic Palacio de Bellas Artes, with its multiple iron and Marroti domes, is a must-visit, both for its Neoclassical and Art Nouveau inspired architecture and the spaces within. These include some of Mexico's most famous murals, the National Museum of Architecture and the National Theater.


For Design Lovers

A paradise for design lovers, Mexico City is full of house museums. Properties designed by Pritzker Prize-winner, Luis Barragán, in particular, are scattered across the city. A self-taught architect whose work was inspired by Le Corbusier, and North African and Mediterranean architecture, Barragán's influence was profound. The following houses can be visited, but some are still homes so do book in advance.

Casa Luis BarragánLuis Barragán's own home, studio and gardens, which are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The extraordinary space is a great introduction to Barragán's work and tours are guided by hugely knowledgable architecture students. Tickets go on sale every Tuesday, for the following week, but be quick!

Convento de las Capuchinas: Gloriously simple, Barragán designed this modernist church for Capuchin nuns in 1953. Soft light diffuses through stained-glass, made by German-Mexican artist Mathias Goeritz, while a yolk-yellow frame lattice is reflected in a black-stone pond. Visits can be booked on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call: 55-5573-2395.

Cuadra San Cristóbal Los Clubes: Approximately 25km outside the city lies a breathtaking private estate and equestrian complex, where Barragan played with form, light, color and sound, layering brightly-hued walls against open courtyards and a dramatic waterfall. Email to arrange a visit.

Casa GilardiBarragán's final project, Casa Gilardi, is still a private home and a striking example of his evolving style. Designed around a jacaranda tree and central courtyard, the showstopper is the golden corridor leading to a swimming pool with bright blue and red walls emerging from the water.

Casa Ortega: Less famous than Barragán's other works, but no less impressive, Casa Ortega was the first house the architect designed and lived in. Full of beautiful furniture, rich colors and Barragán's visual surprises, it's often described as his 'best kept secret'. Don't miss it - tours can be arranged via appointment.

Casa Pedregal: see 'What Not To Miss'.


Where to Shop

There's a market for everything in Mexico City, but knowing when and where to shop is essential. Here are our picks of the best markets for crafts, antiques, flowers and food, plus our favorite boutiques for handicrafts and textiles.

Tianguis La Lagunilla: A Mexico City institution; browse on a Sunday for art, antiques and mid-century furniture.

Mercado San Juan: A daily food market in Centro Historico, including a few stalls selling good Oaxacan homewares. 

Mercado de CoyoacánAn anything-goes daily market that's good for a browse on the way to Museo Frida Kahlo.

La Ciudadela: A good craft market with more than 300 vendors selling handicrafts and homewares from all over Mexico.

El Bazar Sábado: An upmarket bazaar in pretty San Angel, selling clothes, homewares and furniture from a large cohort of contemporary Mexican vendors.

Mercado Jamaica: Another Mexico City institution, people have been flocking to this lively 24-hour flower market, just south of Centro Historico, since the 1950s.

Onora: A great boutique and design studio collaborating with artisans across Mexico to produce high quality ceramics, textiles and homewares using traditional techniques. 

Tetetlan @ Casa Pedregalsee 'What Not to Miss'.


What Not to Miss

When Luis Barragan designed the iconic Casa Pedregal in an upmarket suburb of Mexico City it was seen as something of an experiment. The site was, after all, a rocky inhospitable landscape due to petrified lava from the eruption of the Xitle volcano some 1,600 years earlier. Embracing the challenge, Barragan designed a masterpiece - a pink modernist mansion - that rises from its volcanic base in spectacular fashion. A private home that can be visited by appointment, the house is vast, yet warm, with beautiful interiors: impossibly high ceilings, thick wooden beams, important mid-century furniture and a charming pink-tiled kitchen.

Casa Pedregal and its gardens are well worth a visit, but the coexistence of a brilliant shop and restaurant, Tetetlán, makes for a truly enjoyable few hours. Tetetlan is special, with a double-height atrium surrounded by craggy stone walls and a glass floor exposing volcanic lava stones underfoot. Within this cavernous space - which serves excellent modern Mexican cuisine - there are also two great shops selling the best of Mexican homewares, textiles and ceramics.

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