You could spend your entire time in Mexico City just focused on museums, galleries, and cultural institutions. There is an incredible offering for a variety of tastes. I’ll be highlighting the ones that I went to as well as the ones I wanted to go to but didn’t have the time. It’s worth noting that the museums in Polanco are surrounded by Chapultepec Park, which is worth exploring. You can also buy souvenirs and food at the many vendors outside the museums and throughout the park.
Exit through the gift shop. Exit through the gift shop. We all know this game, but I was impressed with a number of the gifts shops that offered a well-curated selection of artisanal and locally made products, such as homewares, books, jewellery, ceramics, apparel, and accessories. This is worth mentioning because so many gift shops are full of poorly made, overly priced products that are thrown away. I am a proponent of buying things that remind me of my trip and bring me joy when I use them back home. I was happy to see some of the shops focused on quality goods over cheap and over-priced knock-offs.
- Avoid going on holidays, if you can. If you can’t, get there early to avoid the lines.
- Most museums are closed on Mondays, so plan accordingly.
- Bring cash; pesos are always best.
- Check the times; some museums are open late, so I recommend staggering your visits to avoid crowds.
- Group museums by neighbourhood.
Museum of Anthropology – This is an entire day affair; it is a beautiful museum with a well-organized timeline of artifacts spanning thousands of years. Get there when it opens and bring cash (pesos). When you get tired take a break in the cafe, they have a beautiful courtyard with a delicious menu to refuel for the rest of the day.
Museum Tamayo – Built for the Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo in the 1980s, this is a stunning modernist building. The architecture is beautiful inside and out. It is a quieter museum, but worth the time to go through and experience the space. The exhibits focus on Mexican and international contemporary artists. Stop at this gift shop for a great selection of books (architecture, design, and cities) and locally made products. Lastly, the patio and restaurant are a hidden gem, enjoy the terrace with some wine and sun.
Museo Jumex – Is one of my favourite museums because of the contemporary and off-beat exhibits they have. There is an effort to focus on Mexican art along with other Latin American artists, which I appreciate. The architecture is also worth-seeing, take your time to walk through the building inside/outside. Pit-stop at the gift shop for a great selection of books, both Spanish and English, and then refuel at cafe Eno.
Museo de Arte Moderno & Museo Soumaya
Museum of Popular Art – This is one of my favourite museums. It is airy and whimsical, but it does an incredible job of going over the different types of popular art found in Mexico clearly explaining the links between the objects and the daily lives of Mexicans. When you see items for sale on the streets or in markets they suddenly have meaning and depth, making them even more valuable. If you want to buy souvenirs avoid the gift shop, instead head over to Mercado Ciudadela for a more authentic market experience, without the marked up prices. After your tour through the museum you may be hungry, so walk up to El Pascadito’s for some tacos.
Palacio Belle Artes is a cultural institution housing permanent and temporary art and design exhibitions, concerts, and beautiful architecture. The current exhibit is a Kandinsky Retrospective, showcasing the artist’s evolution over time. Even if you don’t go inside the exterior is worth the visit alone, along with the adjacent plaza. Get there early to avoid the lines and bring cash.
Diego Riveria Mural Museum, Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, Museo de Nacional de Arte and Museo de Templo Major.
Museo Frida Kahlo “Blue House”. Although I love Frida Kahlo and her art, I felt that her house was a bit overrated. It felt overwhelmingly busy and challenging to navigate through. The space I liked the most was outside in the courtyard, surrounded by trees and plants providing respite from the mid-day heat. I think you should go and see it for yourself, but be prepared for a place that feels too commercialized and far from what the artist would have wanted.
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