10 Places to See and Shop for Art in Mexico City
Mexico City overflows with impressive architecture, street art and, of course, color. Whether you’re looking to be inspired by the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, or you want to add to your own art collection, don’t miss these galleries, museums and markets around the city.
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Paseo de La Reforma
Everywhere you look, you’ll find art in Mexico City, especially if you go in the fall around Dia de los Muertos. Every year, hundreds of massive, wildly colorful sculptures of alebrijes—mythical creatures—parade through Distrito Federal in October. Walk down Paseo de la Reforma in the weeks after the parade to see the alebrijes on display and get a good look at them up close. At night, street food and craft vendors flock here.
Jardín del Arte Sullivan
Every Sunday, artists set up shop—rather, easel—at the Jardin del Arte Sullivan, forming a large open-air art market in the Colonia San Rafael neighborhood. It’s been a tradition since the 1950s, when artists who couldn’t get into prestigious galleries started setting up in the streets outside them to try to sell their works.
You’ll often see much of the same at handicraft markets around Mexico City—same colorful skulls, tapestries, bowls, masks and even the same paintings. At Fonart stores, run by the government agency National Fund for the Development of Handcrafts, you’ll find a more curated selection, and of higher quality. Here, everything is guaranteed to be made from by local artists paid a fair, living wage.
Museo de Arte Popular
Mexico City’s Museo de Arte Popular houses a large and colorful collection of folk art and crafts—much like you’ll find at the craft markets dotting the city. But here, you can learn about the history behind these masks, skeleton sculptures, carvings, ceramics, tapestries and more. The museum is based in the city’s former fire department headquarters, a gorgeous example of 1920s art deco.
Mexico City has no shortage of churches and cathedrals, many of which are works of art in themselves even without considering the artifacts within. One in particular you cannot miss is Catedral Metropolitana—its size is rivaled only by its full name which, translated, is the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. It was built in the 16th Century atop a sacred Aztec site, ruins of which are visible right next to the cathedral. Set aside time to wander the plaza outside the cathedral, the Zocalo, which serves as the city’s main square. It was once the ceremonial center of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, and you will often see performers, art installations and musicians here, as well as vendors selling crafts.
You’ll find the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Xochimilco, a stone house built in the 1600s. During her life, Olmedo amassed a large collection of paintings by Diego Rivera—close to 150—and Frida Kahlo, along with hundreds of sculptures, carvings and artifacts, ranging from pre-Hispanic times to contemporary art. From the piers of Xochimilco, jump in a colorful trajinera, a long, narrow boat, to tour the lush canals along the southern edge of Mexico City. If you dare, go all the way to Isla de las Munecas, or Island of the Dolls, where a former resident strung up hundreds of dolls in the trees either to honor or scare away the spirit of a girl he believed had drowned in the canal.
Plaza San Jacinto
Spilling out from the Bazar Sabado, you’ll find rows and rows of paintings from local artists lining park and plaza fences as far as you can see. If you’re hoping to head home with a new piece for your collection, set aside at least several hours to explore. Don’t miss the covered stalls, where you’ll find handmade bags, toys, jewelry, soap and colorful, painted ceramic skulls.
Frida Kahlo Museum
Get a glimpse of the lives of Frida Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera, at La Casa Azul, the blue house where Kahlo lived from birth to death. No trip to Mexico City is complete without a visit here, where you’ll find works from both artists as well as a peek at their own collections of ancient artifacts. Expect crowds: This is one of the busiest museums in Mexico City.
On Saturdays, the San Angel neighborhood explodes with color. The mansion that hosts the Saturday craft market Bazar Sabado teems with artisan crafts and gourmet foods. Here, you’ll find high-end teas, cacao, spices, and mezcal mixed in among the colorful fabric flowers, mosaic fountain pens, jewelry, sculptures, and more. In the center of the building, you’ll find an open-air restaurant that serves up gourmet quesadillas. Don’t skip the calabaza (squash blossom) quesadillas if they’re on the specials menu.
El Palacio de Bellas Artes
Mexico City’s fine arts museum, Palacio de Bellas Artes, is a piece of art in itself. Its art deco interior is nothing short of grand, and the building houses murals from some of Mexico’s most famous artists, including Diego Rivera’s "El hombre en el cruce de caminos" ("Man at the crossroads"). Rivera originally painted the mural on commission for New York’s Rockefeller Center, but the Rockefellers ordered it destroyed because of its anti-capitalist themes. Rivera re-created the mural for Palacio Bellas Artes in 1934. Catch a performance at the theater here to steal a glimpse at the stained glass curtain Tiffany & Co. created in 1912, painting the Valley of Mexico from roughly a million shards of colored glass.