How to Spend a Perfect Art and Design Weekend in Mexico City

mexico city's downtown at twilight
The Perfect Art and Design Weekend in Mexico CityTorresigner - Getty Images

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There’s Rome, there’s Paris, there’s New York City… and there’s Mexico City. Which is to say that this historic, cultural capital city rivals its European and North American counterparts in size, depth, and riches. With so much on offer, how does one craft a perfect weekend in Mexico City? With expert advice—for art and design lovers in this case—from insider Audra Kiewiet de Jonge. Having lived and worked as a gallerist in Mexico City for two years, Kiewiet de Jonge founded Art/artefact, an art-forward interior design firm that champions emerging and mid-career artists; she continues to travel regularly to Mexico City.

Kiewiet de Jonge’s first insider tip: Plan your stay by neighborhoods and proximity. “Traffic is a beast, and it can take a long time to get places,” she says. “You’ll spend the entire day in traffic if you don’t plan ahead.” With that in mind, Kiewiet de Jonge lays out a three-neighborhood itinerary that adds up to a perfect, art- and design-filled long weekend in Mexico City.

independence monument mexico city
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Friday Morning: Roma

“Acclimating to the altitude in Mexico City can be considerable,” says Kiewiet de Jonge. “It’s as high as alpine ski resorts in Colorado.” Begin with a day in and around famed Colonia Roma, where a trio of intimate hotels—Nima Local House Hotel, La Valise Mexico City, and Ignacio Guest House—set the scene (and offer the ideal stay) with assured design far from the tourist-luring chains in the city.

Start the day either with pastries and coffee at Panadéria Rosetta (“the best bread in Mexico,” Kiewiet de Jonge says), fantastic chilaquiles at Eno, or the Mediterranean-Mexican plates for breakfast at Delirio Cafe, heralded chef Mónica Patiño’s hotspot (Patiño’s daughter, Micaela Miguel, is her partner here).

Friday Afternoon: Roma

“We lived in Roma for two years,” Kiewiet de Jonge says. “It is a wonderful place to spend time wandering around.” And exploring the shady streets and taking in the colonial architecture so associated with Roma is afternoon enough (as are several excellent galleries and museums), but the neighborhood offers excellent shopping as well. For fashion, begin with designer Carla Fernández’s eponymous boutique: “I love how she uses artisanal materials and handwoven fabrics in her very modern designs,” Kiewiet de Jonge says.

For more Latin American fashion design, swing by the flagship location of Proyecto Republica in a Roma rowhouse. (Bonus: Upstairs at the same address is Escalina—a charming shop, Kiewiet de Jonge says, featuring vintage homewares and contemporary jewelry.) For a peak showroom experience, browse the 20th-century finds at interior design firm Decada MX and for well-curated Mexican handiwork head to Metate (look for Kiewiet de Jonge’s personal favorites: their gallo (rooster) glass pitchers and palm leaf tortilla baskets). Refuel with “tacos to die for” at Páramo.

Friday Evening: Roma

Ready for more Mónica Patiño? Double down by snagging a seat at Casa Virginia for dinner, where seasonal, family-style meals are served up iin the early-20th-century apartments of Spanish businessman Antonio Revuelta Pacheco.

Other dinner options: “Máximo is one of my favorite places,” she says. “So elegant, casual, and personal.”

mexico mexico city city chapultepec castle
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Saturday Morning: Polanco

Begin the day with a drive down Avenida Paseo de la Reforma to the Castillo de Chapultepec in Bosque de Chapultepec (Forest of the Crickets) for great views of the city and a taste of the short (1862-1867) but “aesthetically very influential” French period in Mexico. Set aside two hours for the must-see collection of pre-Columbian Mexican artifacts at Museo Nacional de Antropología here: “The first floor is the showstopper,” Kiewiet de Jonge says.

Saturday Afternoon: Polanco

Plan ahead to book seats at Pujol for lunch. Enrique Olvera’s world-famous three-Michelin star restaurant continues to wow with its inventive Mexican haute cuisine. If you want the whole experience, book far in advance for an early dinner reservation (keep in mind the meal, 9 to 11 courses, will take up to four hours).

For an intriguing contrast to the ancient cultures (and museum design) of the morning, Museo Jumex and Museo Soumaya make a perfect afternoon pair. At Jumex, the eponymous Mexican juice brand’s foundation collection mixes with other important 20th-century and contemporary art as well as world-class rotating exhibitions, Kiewiet de Jonge says. Soumaya is “the lovechild” of Mexican global business magnate Carlos Slim, who played a major role in the space’s design.

For a shopping alternative, Kiewiet de Jonge recommends Bomboti for Mexican-made pieces from furniture and art to kitchenware with an international design orientation and Yakampot for sustainable women’s fashions.

Saturday Evening: Roma

After a day of culture and shopping, return to Roma for the seafood and scene at Mi Compa Chava, located in a former garage. Kiewiet de Jonge says, “The mariscos—shellfish—are off the charts and it’s always hopping (and for good reason!) The last time I was there, mariachi bands were playing on the sidewalk and the crowd was a healthy mix of Mexicans and tourists/foreigners.”

centro historico of mexico city, mexico
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Sunday Morning: Centro Historico

Take in the city’s historic center on foot, beginning at the breathtaking murals at Colegio de San Ildefonso, a former convent from the Spanish period considered the birthplace of Mexican Muralism, Kiewiet de Jonge says. Walk by the Templo Mayor, begun by the Aztecs in 1325 and the most important building in pre-Hispanic Mexico City. Enter the Zócalo—the plaza—to visit the Catedral Metropolitana built on top of the former temple: “The scale of this cathedral is jaw-dropping,” Kiewiet de Jonge says.

palacio de bellas artes plaza
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Sunday Afternoon: Centro Historico

Note, Kiewiet de Jonge says, that lunch in Mexico doesn’t begin to be served until 1:30 or 2 p.m., so plan accordingly for lunch at Ricardo Muñoz Zurita's Azul Historico in the courtyard of the 17th-century Downtown Mexico Hotel. Among the trees hung with candles, enjoy Zurita’s classic Mexican preparations, including a famed mole negro de Oaxaca and cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork).

Up for more walking? Explore the pedestrian street Avenida Francisco I. Madero to Palacio de Bellas Artes to view the murals and current exhibitions (check performances that night to see if it’s worth coming back). Try, Kiewiet de Jonge says, to peek into the theater, where the curtain is made from Tiffany glass. Stroll through the Alameda Central Park, first laid out in 1592. The setting aside of green space within a city’s grid inspired William Cullen Bryant—who visited in the 1840s—to propose something similar, famously, for his home city of New York.

Hungry for more museums? Kiewiet de Jonge recommends Museo de Arte Popular, “an exceptional folk art museum in an Art Deco building with an excellent gift shop of artisan pieces,” and Museo Franz Mayer, a hidden gem in a 16th-century Spanish colonial building originally used to weigh flour. “The personal collection of Franz Mayer, a scholar and collector, is Latin America’s largest collection of decorative arts,” she says.

general views of mexico 2019
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Sunday Evening: Centro Historico

Plan your return trip over churros and hot chocolate (what better farewell?) at Churreria El Moro, which is open 24 hours a day. (Kiewiet de Jonge notes that there’s a newer restaurant in Roma, but the original location in Centro Historico, charmingly authentic, is the insider choice.)

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