A Weekend in
Camilla Frances shares insider's travel tips for an art and design-filled weekend in the Mexican capital, including the best house museums, flea markets, art 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, shops and markets, the Mexican capital is justly proud of its culinary scene 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
The former home of renowned Mexican photographer, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Grupo Habita's Círculo Mexicano is a 19th-century townhouse in an exceptional location in the city's historic center, overlooking the National Palace.
Where to Stay
The former home of renowned Mexican photographer, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Círculo Mexicano - the latest offering from design-savvy hoteliers, Grupo Habita - 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 airy 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 architecture studio, Ambrosi Etchegaray, with handmade furnishings by La Metropolitana, 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.
Other recommended stays:
Image courtesy Fabián Martínez/Grupo Habita
Where to Eat
Almost every neighborhood in Mexico City has its own 'best' restaurant, so you're bound to eat well wherever you find yourself in the city. But if you don't want to take any chances, here are some of our favorite spots.
Where to Eat and Drink
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 of the best.
Lardo Bakery (Condesa) - the bakery attached to Lardo (see below) serves great pastries, coffee and sourdough bread.
Panaderia Rosetta (Roma) - across the street from the famous Rosetta (see below), little sister Panaderia Rosetta serves great coffee and very indulgent pastries, pancakes and buns.
For Lunch and Dinner:
Rosetta (Roma) - 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 essential.
Lardo (Condesa) - a stylish indoors-outdoors eaterie from the team behind Rosetta; serves seasonal French-Mexican cuisine in a convivial setting with a European feel.
Pujol (Polanco) - 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 (Juárez) - a new take on the comida corrida menu (three-course, fixed price) in an airy, modern setting.
Caracol de Mar (Centro Historico) - recently opened, Caracol de Mar serves authentic Mexican-Peruvian cuisine with a twist and fresh, seasonal ingredients. The ceviche is to die for.
Tetetlán (Jardines del Pedregal) - see 'What Not To Miss'.
Circulo Mexicano (Centro Historico) - the rooftop at Circulo Mexicano (pictured) has knockout views of the city's historic center and an ever-changing menu of delicious cocktails.
Licorería Limantour (Roma) - a fashionable institution on the city's cocktail scene, serving the spectrum to rave reviews.
Fifty Mils @ the Four Seasons (Juárez) - a cosy bar in the elegant Four Seasons, serving experimental cocktails.
La Ópera (Centro Historico) - a storied, nostalgic bar in an ornate setting; come for the interiors, stay for the tequila.
Hanky-Panky (Juárez) - a highly secretive speakeasy style bar with sleek interiors and elaborate cocktails.
King Cole Bar @ St. Regis (Juárez) - classic cocktails in an upscale setting with panoramic views of Reforma Avenue and the Ángel de la Independencia monument.
Image courtesy Fabián Martínez/Grupo Habita
What to See & Do
Mexico City has it all, from the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacán, to more than 150 museums, stunning architecture and thrilling flea markets.
Wandering the streets is an experience in itself, but here's our edit of the best.
What to See and 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 (general interest) 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 (pictured) - 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 do leave yourself plenty of time (at least two to three hours) to see the exhibits you're most interested in; our favorites are the Mexica, Oaxaca and Maya rooms. Famous exhibits include the piedra del sol (Aztec sunstone) and El Paraguas, a towering concrete water feature.
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 iconic multiple-domed facade; the jaw-dropping entrance hall at the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México and the National Palace to see Diego Rivera's famous 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. It's divided into two sections, the old basilica (built c.1695) and the new basilica, designed by Mexican architect Pedro Ramirez Vasquez, who also designed the National Museum of Anthropology.
The Museum of Popular Cultures - not far from Museo Frida Kahlo, this brilliant museum in Coyoacán is dedicated to showcasing the diversity of indigenous and Mexican culture.
Museum of Objects - this well-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 artifacts to stationery and grooming products.
Teotihuacán - only 45 minutes by taxi from the city center, it's worth escaping the hustle 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 and cool.
Other key recommendations:
Franz Mayer Museum (Centro Historico) - see 'For Art Lovers'
Museo Leon Trotsky (Coyoacán)
Floating Gardens of Xochimilco (Xochimilco)
For Art Lovers
Artistic expression was an important political tool during the Mexican Revolution, which sparked an explosion in creativity and storytelling that continues to thrive in Mexico today.
For Art (and Craft) 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 was an important political tool during the Mexican Revolution, and this sparked an explosion in creativity and storytelling that continues to thrive in post-revolutionary Mexico. Discover more about the country's fascinating art history, and explore its exciting contemporary art scene, by visiting the following spaces:
Museo Frida Kahlo (Coyoacán) - the queues snake around the street at Frida Kahlo’s iconic La Casa Azul (Blue House), but don’t let this dissuade you; no trip to Mexico City is complete without visiting Kahlo’s home (pictured). The house is a work of art in itself and contains many of Kahlo's works and portraits, as well as her collection of folk art and the personal items that tell her story. Book ahead, and allow yourself time to explore Coyoacán too; it’s full of lively markets and pretty piazzas.
Folk Art Museum (Centro Historico) - a wonderful museum in an Art Deco building dedicated to the spectrum of indigenous Mexican folk art and handicrafts. This includes everything from pottery and textiles to bizarre objects and artefacts - think dioramas, skulls and skeletons, mythical creatures and piñatas. Learn about the history and anthropology of Mexican craft through the museum's varied and ever-changing exhibitions.
Museo Casa Del Risco (San Ángel) - 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 iconic Fuente del Risco, an 'ultra Baroque' fountain decorated with pieces of porcelain, mirror and mother-of-pearl shells.
Museum of Modern Art (Chapultepec Park) - 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.
Museo Tamayo (Chapultepec Park) - founded by Mexican artist, Ruffino Tamayo, who donated both his own art and large collection, this striking concrete and marble building showcases both Mexican and international contemporary art.
Franz Mayer Museum (Centro Historico) - 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 (Centro Historico) - 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. And while you're in Centro, pay a visit to the National Palace to see Diego Rivera's vast masterpiece, 'The History of Mexico'.
Other key recommendations:
Sculpture garden, University Museum of Contemporary Art
For Design Lovers
A paradise for design and architecture lovers, Mexico City is full of house museums: houses belonging to, or designed by, important artists, architects and collectors. Here are our favorites.
Tips for Design Lovers
A paradise for design and architecture lovers, Mexico City is full of 'house museums': houses belonging to, or designed by, important artists, architects and collectors. Many of these are still private homes, but visits can be arranged by appointment.
A must-see for those with an interest in mid-century design and architecture, the properties designed by legendary Pritzker Prize-winner, Luis Barragán (1902-1988), are scattered across the city. A self-taught architect whose work was inspired by Le Corbusier, North African and Mediterranean architecture, and his own spirituality, Barragán's influence was profound. His modernist work, while sometimes austere, is sumptuously rich in color and texture. The following houses can be visited, but some are still private homes so do book in advance.
Casa Luis Barragán - Luis 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 - they sell out rapidly.
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 (pictured) - 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 Gilardi - Barragán'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 characteristic visual surprises, it's easy to see why 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'.
Other key recommendations:
Robert Brady Museum - the home of maverick American artist and collector, Robert Brady, just outside Mexico City. Once part of the monastery within the Recinto de la Catedral, it houses his eclectic collection of artefacts from all over the world.
Temporarily closed at the time of writing (April 2022), the Museo Dolores Olmedo is a must-visit when it reopens. The former home, in Xochimilco, of art collector Dolores Olmedo (a close friend of Diego Rivera), the 16th-century stone hacienda showcases her collection, while the gardens are famous for their roaming peacocks and hairless Mexican dogs.
Ago Projects - an exciting contemporary design gallery, showcasing the work of a diverse group of Mexican, and international, interior, furniture and product designers.
Biblioteca Vasconcelos - an extraordinary library, designed by Alberto Kalach (2007), covering nearly 40,000 square meters.
Image courtesy Mark Luscombe-Whyte.
Where to Shop
There's a market for almost everything in Mexico City, but knowing where and when to shop is key. Here are our picks of the best markets for crafts, antiques, flowers and food, along with our favorite boutiques for handicrafts and textiles.
Where to Shop
There's a market for almost 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 Coyoacán - an anything-goes daily market that's good for a browse on the way to Museo Frida Kahlo.
La Ciudadela - a good craft market with 300+ vendors selling handicrafts and homewares from all over Mexico.
El Bazar Sábado - an upmarket bazaar in the pretty San Angel neighborhood, 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 Pedregal - see '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 the eruption of the Xitle volcano.
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 - the tour is immersive and relaxed, with visitors given plenty of time to wander at leisure - but the coexistence of a brilliant shop and restaurant, Tetetlán, makes for a truly enjoyable few hours.
Tetetlán is special, with a double-height atrium surrounded by craggy stone walls and a glass floor exposing volcanic lava stones underfoot. An encyclopaedic private collection of design and reference books line the walls and there are a network of smaller cave-like spots for intimate dining. Within this cavernous space - which serves excellent modern Mexican cuisine - there are also two great shops selling the best of Mexican homewares, ceramics and textiles.