Say Mexico City and most people think overpopulation. Rarely, however, does the name evoke images of vibrant village-like markets and lush urban greenery – but it should. Make sure to dive into the boundless energy of the country’s bustling capital first.
1. Be inspired by the 2018 World Design Capital
This year, all eyes of the design industry are on Mexico City, the very first city from the Americas to receive the title of World Design Capital. The Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura is an excellent starting point, offering an immersion into Mexican design and craft throughout history. Craftsmanship remains equally relevant in the work of contemporary product designers like Ayres and Fabien Cappello, who collaborate with local artisans to produce beautiful objects.
2. Sample modern Mexican cuisine
From cheesy quesadillas to meaty tacos, flavoursome street food awaits on every corner of Mexico City. In recent years, a new generation of chefs has been putting a haute-cuisine spin on local cooking, bringing proudly Mexican dishes and ingredients to the city’s top tables. At the celebrated Pujol, chef Enrique Olvera is serving perfectly buttery charred aubergine tamales (steamed filled corn husks), while the menu at the more casual Pehua includes the likes of duck in spicy chichilo negro sauce from the state of Oaxaca.
3. Tour the art galleries
Gabriel Orozco, Javier Marín and Damián Ortega are only a few of the contemporary Mexican artists who have helped put their country on the map for art aficionados worldwide. Founded by Gabriel Orozco in 1999, Kurimanzutto has become a staple at some of the most renowned art fairs (including Art Basel and Frieze) – the gallery’s permanent home is housed in a leafy 1940s timber yard in San Miguel Chapultepec. Another gallery to watch is OMR, a cutting-edge contemporary art space in the stylish Roma neighbourhood.
4. Shop in fashion-forward boutiques
In a country known for its brightly embroidered textiles and hand-woven wool rugs, it is no surprise that young Mexico-based fashion designers are increasingly turning their back to mass production, creating thoughtful collections from high-quality, natural fabrics. Counting several stockists across Mexico City, Zii Ropa offers limited-edition womenswear pieces that take inspiration from the country’s diversity of landscapes and textures. “Hecho en México” (made in Mexico) is also the guiding principle at Yakampot and menswear brand Hecho.
5. Take a break surrounded by tropical nature
With a sprawling urban forest (Bosque de Chapultepec), an abundance of living-wall-clad architecture and tree-lined avenues, Mexico City is much greener than most people would imagine. The Botanical Gardens at the UNAM campus introduce visitors to the great botanical diversity of Mexico through no less than 1,600 plant species from the country’s forests, jungles and deserts. Finally, at 80 km south of Mexico City – in the peaceful town of Cuernavaca – lies Las Mañanitas, a grand Relais & Châteaux hacienda set amidst verdant exotic gardens through which peacocks and parrots wander.
6. Get lost amidst books
Books and Mexico City go hand in hand. The city has nourished some of the greatest writers, including the Nobel-Prize-winning Octavio Paz and the Chilean-born Roberto Bolaño. Bookworms and architecture lovers alike will be in their element at the futuristic Alberto Kalach-designed Biblioteca Vasconcelos, a vast public library with transparent walls and cantilevered floors. Those wanting to shop for design books from small publishers can easily while away an hour or two at the perfectly curated Casa Bosques bookshop.
7. Dive into colourful pop-up markets
It’s always market day somewhere in the Mexican capital, where buzzing neighbourhood markets pop up on certain days of the week, bringing the entire area around them to life. The roots of Mexico’s so-called tianguis markets go back to Aztec culture – and still today, a stroll around these open-air food and craft bazaars feels like a walk back in time. Favourites include the Tuesday tianguis in the Colonia Escandón, the Friday tianguis in Condesa and the Saturday tianguis in Roma Sur.
8. A museum for every mood
As the city with the most museums in the world, Mexico City has a museum for almost everything imaginable – from vintage toys (Museo del Juguete Antiguo) to simple everyday objects (Museo del Objeto del Objeto). If you’re only planning a short visit to the city, the legendary Casa Azul, the former home of artist Frida Kahlo, offers an unmissable opportunity to marvel both at Kahlo’s work and her personal art collection. Behind the walls of the striking Fernando Romero-designed Museo Soumaya lies an impressive private art collection, featuring artworks by Auguste Rodin and Salvador Dalí.
9. Taste the best mezcal this side of Oaxaca
For decades, tequila was Mexico’s number one drink, but the iconic blue agave liquor is slowly being pushed to the background by its forefather, mezcal. Unlike tequila, mezcal can be made from any type of agave plant native to the state of Oaxaca using indigenous methods. Long known as a peasant drink, mezcal is now making its way into the capital’s trendiest bars, stirred into long drinks or simply served straight up. Try Hanky Panky’s “Fortunight” cocktail with celery, grapes, lime and, of course, mezcal.
10. Discover the art of Lucha Libre
With its name literally translating to freestyle fighting, Lucha Libre is Mexico’s answer to American pro-wrestling – colourful head masks, Spandex costumes and quirky characters included. Arena México hosts twice-weekly Lucha Libre events, on Tuesdays and Fridays, when the long-standing venue turns into a boisterous playground and stage for Mexicans’ best-loved sporting spectacle.