You might think of Paris or New York as the must-visit places to see the world’s top artworks and artists, but don’t rule out Mexico City in the process. The global capital with the most museums, it has a flourishing art scene and a delightfully growing fleet of up-and-coming local artists. With that in mind, we’ve taken the opportunity to round up all the must-see artistic sights for those of you visiting on a tight 24-hour time frame.
Start your day with the excellent (and free) Museo Soumaya. Renowned for its stunning geometrical architecture and glistening hexagonal tiles, this Carlos Slim-owned hotspot houses a vast private art collection and is a must-visit for art fans.
Insider Tip: Take the elevator to the top floor and work your way back down the spiral-structured modern masterpiece of a building, stopping at the floors which take your fancy on the way.
Museo Nacional de Antropología
Perhaps an unconventional recommendation for those with a limited time frame (due to its size), the Museo Nacional de Antropología is nevertheless an absolute must-see for any art lover visiting Mexico City. With a vast collection of excellently curated pre-Hispanic pieces, it’s an excellent place to cram in a few centuries’ worth of art and culture.
Insider Tip: To save time in this overwhelmingly vast museum, just head to the five key exhibits as detailed here.
Museo Rufino Tamayo
If you do decide to skip the internationally renowned Museo Nacional de Antropología, you must instead head to the Museo Rufino Tamayo. An architecturally spectacular contemporary art museum also located in the Bosque de Chapultepec, Museo Rufino Tamayo houses artworks from plenty of international and local modern artists on both a permanent and rotating basis.
Insider Tip: Visit the adjoining coffee shop for a spot of lunch in artsy surroundings, plus the design store. Entry is free on Sundays.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
An iconic landmark of Mexico City, this should be top of any art or architecture fan’s bucket list. Situated just up from the Bosque de Chapultepec, you can either enter the museum or simply mosey around the foyer soaking up the art deco interior and stunning ceiling detailing.
Insider Tip: If you’re there in time for the lunchtime tour of the theatre, you can catch a glimpse at the dazzling hidden jewel of the edifice – the Tiffany’s stained glass stage curtain.
Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo and Museo Dolores Olmedo
Skip the renowned Casa Azul – which is always overcrowded and will take a good chunk of time just to enter – and head instead to the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, where you’ll get two artists for the price of one. This was the house they both lived and worked in at one point or another and was designed with the help of famed architect Juan O’Gorman.
Insider Tip: If you’re interested in both Rivera’s and Kahlo’s work, then stop by Museo Dolores Olmedo too.
Museo Dolores Olmedo, Av México 5843, La Noria, Ciudad de México, México, +52 55 5555 0891
The stand-out of Mexico City’s booming contemporary art gallery scene (which is mainly centred around the Roma, San Miguel Chapultepec and San Rafael nieghbourhoods) is Kurimanzutto. Minimalism dominates the interior, which features an ever-changing roster of international and local contemporary artists at the top of their game.
Insider Tip: This is the gallery that represents Gabriel Orozco, so make sure to head there if you’re a fan of his work in particular.
MUAC and Espacio Escultórico
A highly-recommended art destination by industry insiders, UNAM’s MUAC (Museo Universitario de Arte Contempóraneo) is the perfect place to head for a comprehensive peek into the world of modern art. If that weren’t enough, its location near the Ciudad Universitaria is also beneficial, as you can pop over to the excellent Espacio Escultórico while you’re in the vicinity.
Insider Tip: The Espacio Escultórico has unconventionally early closing times for a Mexico City venue, so keep that in mind to ensure entry.
Another of the top contemporary display spaces in the city, Proyectos Monclova has exhibited artists such as Marie Lund and Eduardo Terrazas, a Mexico local. For a mixture of international and national artists, this is another solid bet if you have limited time in the city.
Insider Tip: While you’re in the area, consider visiting nearby Galería Casa Lamm and perhaps even Garash Galería.
Proyectos Monclova, Colima 55, Roma Nte., Ciudad de México, México +52 55 5525 9715
After contemporary art, Mexico City is arguably best known for its vibrant urban murals that are often political and always exceptional. If you’re looking to hunt down some of the best examples, you could do worse than heading to Colonia Roma and wandering down Calle Zacatecas or scoping out La Romita. Here you can see pieces by numerous up-and-coming artists, like Sofia Castellanos.
Insider Tip: Follow the Street Art Chilango Instagram account to get an up-to-date idea of where to see the coolest street art.
An alternative and more southerly neighbourhood for street art is the quirky artistic hotspot of Coyoacán, where you can see all manner of urban artworks that range from the religious to the patriotic.
Cafés and Restaurants
Mercado de Coyoacán
This is the place to eat if you want to try some authentic Mexican cuisine in the known stomping ground of the arguably most famous Mexican artist of all time, Frida Kahlo. The stand-out dish at this charming marketplace is definitely the tostadas topped with any combination of seafood that your heart desires.
Insider Tip: As a tourist hotspot, you may have to negotiate with ‘tourist prices’. Be wary when purchasing and don’t overpay.
Galería Casa Lamm
As well as being one of the best galleries to check out in the capital, Galería Casa Lamm (which can be found situated in the heart of Colonia Roma) also boasts a perfectly charming central courtyard café where you can enjoy a brief break in your busy day of exploring the artistic attractions.
Insider Tip: They’re known for having pieces of art on sale here, alongside espressos, so go with an open mind and perhaps even an open wallet.
An edgy option for drinks, Bucardón is a late-night spot with an art gallery-cum-hipster feel once inside. Although the drinks aren’t the cheapest you’ll find in Mexico City, they’re not massively overpriced either, and you can enjoy a pleasing mixture of indie pop, rock and electronic tracks while you’re there. From an entryway lined with pieces of art to full-to-bursting bookshelves, Bucardón is an undeniably artsy spot for any art lover in the capital.
Insider Tip: Get there early for a bargain deal on beers and mezcal.
Insider Tip: Some of the city’s most innovative fashion designers, such as Carla Fernández, are known to sell their wares here.
Museo Mexicano del Diseño
While the museum itself is worth a visit, the shop is perhaps the greatest selling point at the MUMEDI. A whopping 80% of the products come from Mexican designers, makers and producers so you can be assured you’re getting something authentic, whether it’s an artsy lamp or a quirky coffee mug.
Insider Tip: Their adjoining café serves delicious food and is highly recommended.
This quirky but pricey design store has most recently stocked up on its Pantone colour products, and you can also find a ton of pieces by independent artists and designers. Notable names to watch out for at Rojo Bermelo include the whimsical fine-line illustrations of Indi Maverick, an up-and-coming local artist, which are printed on cushions and phone cases among other things.
Insider Tip: If you can’t make it in person, they also have an online store.
Rojo Bermelo, Av. Amatlan 105, Condesa, Ciudad de México, México +52 55 6391 6696