I find Mexico City like a glass of mezcal: complex, intriguing, wonderfully different and recognizably distinguishable. The city is a real life “Where’s Waldo?” spread where, at first, you’ll be overwhelmed with all the possible places to uncover but as you narrow down your search, you can find everything from baroque cathedrals, historic palacios, modern architecture, iconic homes, contemporary showrooms, folk and street art, and so much more. If you’re about to book a trip to CDMX, keep reading for an itinerary that’s made for the modern adventurer.
WHERE TO STAY
La Valise: Sometimes, it’s inevitable that you have to work while on vacation. If you’re going to work, why not do it in bed…and outdoors? Yves Naman worked with French designer Emmanuel Picault to transform this 1920s townhouse into a trio of suites: El Patio, La Luna and La Terraza, the latter of which features a mobile bed that can be rolled onto the terrace for some afternoon sun-bathing. Most of the furniture and decor, which feature local artisans and artists, are also for sale. You won’t find modern amenities like a gym, spa or even restaurant here so it’s safe to say that this boutique hotel isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re looking for something different and off the beaten path, this might just be your ideal stay.
Distrito Capital: A member of the Design Hotels collective, this luxury hotel is probably visual relief from the sensorial experience you’re getting outside the hotel with its minimalistic aesthetic. Designed by Diámetro Arquitectos and Joseph Dirand Architecture, the 30-room hotel has a mix of modern furnishings and vintage decor and guests are spoiled with the panoramic views of Mexico City as the hotel is located in the highest area, the Santa Fe neighborhood.
Condesa DF: Another Design Hotels member, this trendy hotel in the Condesa district of Mexico City has a welcomed, tranquil vibe with its bright and airy spaces, treetop canopies, and use of natural materials.
Finally, if money is truly no object when you’re traveling, I’d spring for the Diego Rivera Suite at the InterContinental Presidente Mexico City (in fact, can I just come with you?). The swankiest of all suites anywhere, this $14,000/night (yep, you read that right) guest room claims the top two floors of the hotel and boasts enough space to fit a party. In fact, you could throw a party on the second level which features a dining room and entertaining space (the suite’s one bedroom belongs to the top floor). Other luxurious amenities include a private gym, infinity pool and whirlpool spa.
Other notable hotels: Hotel Habita \\\ Las Alcobas \\\ Casa Goliana
WHERE TO PLAY
Frida Kahlo Museum: It goes without saying that no trip to CDMX is complete without a visit to the homes of iconic painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Their works and materials are displayed as if they had been left in situ, waiting to be used by their masters. As you can see above, ticket lines can run long so you’re better off buying your tickets online to beat the crowd.
Museo Soumaya: Designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, this museum houses over 66,000 artworks ranging from Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica to 19th- and 20th-century Mexican art. It also includes the masters of European and western art. Even if you don’t have the time to explore the museum, it’s well worth it to check out the museum’s unique facade which consists of a skin made with 16,000 steel hexagons, allowing the museum to change in appearance depending on the weather, time, and viewer’s perspective. For those with the time, the museum is free to visit for all.
Other notable museums: Museo Anahuacalli (designed by Diego Rivera and houses his pre-Hispanic art) \\\ Museo de Arte Moderno \\\ Luis Barragán House and Studio
For art buffs, I recommend visiting the Kurimanzutto, an independent art gallery founded by Mónica Manzutto, José Kuri and Gabriel Orozco that supports the up-and-coming generation of Mexican artists. The founders have a propensity to feature “risky” art that creates dialogue, research and criticism.
WHERE TO SHOP
Anfora Mexico: Handmade is best made, in my opinion, and there’s nothing like taking home a piece of ceramic that’s been handcrafted from start to finish. Anfora has a long time history of creating ceramics since the 1920s and also hosts exhibitions around the world. You can check out their showroom or their factory store, both located in CDMX.
Xinú: If you’re like me and you haven’t quite found your signature scent yet, you might discover it at Xinú, a bespoke perfumery line that sensorially highlights the aromatic and botanical scents of the Americas. The perfumes are stored in the brand’s signature glass and wood bottle that’s inspired by the sculptures of Romanian artist Constantin Brâncuși and can be reused as a vase or incense holder.
La Ciudadela: This traditional market is a goldmine for unique Mexican crafts, including handmade dolls, guitars, colorful pouches, bead-, metal- and glassworks, ceramic pottery, and more. Take a piece of Mexico City home with you by shopping local here.
World Design Capital®: Mexico City has been officially named as the next World Design Capital® for 2018 and is also the first North American city to be designated this honor. The year-long program of events will highlight CDMX’s commitment to design as a way to better the city’s economic, social, cultural, and environmental development. Learn more about the program here.
And finally, while I can talk design all day, everyday here on Design Milk, I can’t ignore the current state of affairs in Mexico as it is still rebuilding itself in the wake of the devastating earthquakes that struck the country on September 7 and 19, 2017 (the former considered the strongest earthquake in a century). After you’ve soaked up all the art, architecture and culture that Mexico City has to offer, please consider giving back to the country by donating to local and international organizations that are aiding to relieve and rebuild. I found this round-up that the New York Times created to be particularly helpful.
Mexico City is a large place to discover and uncover, so what are we missing? Add your favorite sites to see below and we’ll check them out!