An Art Lover’s Guide to Mexico City in 24 Hours

Explore cutting-edge contemporary art at the Museo Tamayo
Explore cutting-edge contemporary art at the Museo Tamayo | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 20+ / Alamy
Sam Murray

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You’re a brave soul if you think you can tackle the art of Mexico City in a day. This is, after all, a sprawling, tumultuous capital with a gallery collection to rival any in the world. To get the most out of your time here, you’ll need dogged determination, a pair of comfy shoes and a well-planned itinerary.

Want to discover the best of Mexico City without doing the planning? Join Culture Trip’s expertly curated five-day tour of the capital. Led by a Local Insider, you’ll visit Frida Kahlo’s house-museum, float down the canals of Xochimilco and watch the high-flying action of the Lucha Libre.

Morning: architecture and modern art

1. Casa Estudio Luis Barragán

Art Gallery, Architectural Landmark

The pink and orange exterior walls of the concrete Casa Estudio Luis Barragán building
© John Mitchell / Alamy

Begin with an exploration of the celebrated Mexican architect Luis Barragán. His house-studio, where he lived until his death in 1988, is now a museum – and the star attraction is the building itself. It’s a clean-lined concrete construction that plays with light and color; an essential introduction to the Pritzker Prize winner. Entrance is only permitted by taking the one-hour-ish guided tour – tickets are limited, so book early.

2. kurimanzutto

Art Gallery

A sliding wooden door at kurimanzutto, leading to a minimalist gallery space
© Paul Barbera / Alamy
It’s then a 10-minute stroll to kurimanzutto, a contemporary art gallery exhibiting works by international and local creatives. It had a nomadic start to life – the team would host pop-up exhibitions in unexpected places: a shipping container, supermarket parking lot and a restaurant among them. This permanent address has retained that free-flowing spirit, displaying creations by an eclectic mix of boundary-pushers.

You have two choices for your art-filled afternoon, both of which include titans of the Mexican art world. Your first is an exploration of two museums, the Museo Tamayo and the Museo Nacional de Antropología, considered among the finest in the country. Your second is to head south to the Coyoacán neigborhood to visit the former home of painter Frida Kahlo, now a museum dedicated to her life and work, followed by a tour of a local market selling artisanal products.

Afternoon option one: contemporary and ancient art

3. Museo Tamayo

Museum

A family walk underneath a paragraph suspended in the air at the Museo Tamayo
© Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 18+ / Alamy

A 10-minute Uber ride from kurimanzutto is the Museo Tamayo, a rather imposing concrete block inspired by the pyramids of pre-Hispanic cultures. It houses the collection of Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo and his wife Olga, including pieces by Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore. Also look out for the temporary exhibitions – open-air jazz, expert-led lectures and guided tours are among the possibilities.

4. Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museum

Tourists look at a 3D model of a pre-Hispanic city at the Museo Nacional de Antropología
© Renato Granieri / Alamy
It’s a pleasant 10-minute stroll through leafy Bosque de Chapultepec – the largest green space in Mexico City – to the Museo Nacional de Antropología. It’s the largest museum in the country, showcasing archaeological and ethnographical artefacts from the pre-Hispanic cultures of Mexico. There are 23 permanent exhibition halls here, so don’t expect to cover the whole museum in one viewing. Instead, pick two or three rooms to explore. If there’s one exhibit you should see, though, it’s the Aztec Sun Stone – a 25,000kg (55,000lb) circular sculpture discovered in the Zócalo, the central square in Mexico City.

Afternoon option two: Frida Kahlo and an artisanal market

5. Casa Azul – the Frida Kahlo Museum

Museum

The paintbrushes and paint of Frida Kahlo fill a dark-wood table at Casa Azul
© drsalim / Alamy Stock Photo
A 15-minute cab ride south of kurimanzutto is Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s family home and now a museum showcasing her paintings and personal belongings. You can tour the residence itself, snooping around the living rooms, kitchen, studio and gardens. Arrive on the last Wednesday of the month and you can explore accompanied by an actor in full Frida garb. Whatever day you visit, though, it’s likely to be busy. Book your tickets well in advance.

6. Mercado de Coyoacán

Market, Mexican

A young waiter at a food stall in Mercado de Coyoacán waits under a sign saying desayunos
© Neil Setchfield / Alamy
Next, take a three-block stroll down Ignacio Allende street to Mercado de Coyoacán, a busy covered market where Frida did her weekly shop. Cut down the alleys and explore the colorful displays – you’ll find bright textiles, vibrant calaveras (skulls) and woven baskets. This is also a food market, so stop at one of the many stalls for a pick-me-up. Tostadas Coyoacán does a mean trade in generously topped, crunchy tortillas.

Evening: street art and interior design

7. Self-guided street art tour of La Romita

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark

A colorful street-art mural of three human figures in La Romita
© Cathyrose Melloan / Alamy

Hop in a cab – or call an Uber – and head to Roma, the trendy colonia (neighborhood) depicted in Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar winner of the same name. The walls here are a canvas for some of the top urban artists in the world, plus the best local talent. An aimless wander will undoubtedly reveal some incredible murals, but for a more targeted exploration head to La Romita, a small neighborhood and hotbed for street art.

8. Hotel Casa Awolly

Boutique Hotel, Independent Hotel

End your arty day in Mexico City digging into gallery-worthy dishes at the Hotel Casa Awolly restaurant. The menu revolves around corn, chili and produce from the Mexican Pacific, but just as delightful is the interior design. The boutique hotel is wonderfully kitsch, the work of Belgian-born, Mexico-based star designer Dirk Jan Kinet. Finish the evening at the pergola-shaded rooftop bar, sipping some of the finest cocktails in the capital.

This is an updated article originally by Lauren Cocking.

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