Back in March, 91 travelled to Mexico City as media partners for Caravana Americana. (You can read more about our favourite Mexican designers at the event in this post.) While we were there, we got to spend a few days exploring this richly diverse city. Steeped in history and culture, but with its finger firmly on the modern design scene pulse, we were wowed by its super stylish shops, beautiful eateries, photogenic streets and cultural venues. Here we highlight a few of the locations we discovered that are a must for your Mexico City itinerary.
Hotel Carlota & Taxonomia – While we sadly didn’t stay at Hotel Carlota, it was a perfect breakfast spot – set amongst the hotel’s striking concrete and glass surroundings, overlooking the centrally-located swimming pool. The urban-chic rooms mix concrete, wood and textiles with subtle pops of colour. The hotel also houses design store Taxonomia, which stocks a mix of clothing, accessories, homeware and cosmetics – with many of the designers we met at Caravana Americana on display.
Barrio Alameda – Barrio Alameda is located within a restored Art Deco building and is a collection of independent shops and food and drink establishments, each within its own unit off the balconies surrounding a central concourse. Greenery was in abundance, indoor planting clearly as popular here as it is in the UK. Not every store was open during our visit, but we enjoyed a browse around Casa Salt, which stocks quirky lifestyle products from Mexican designers. We had fun eating whole grasshoppers (!) on the rooftop at laid-back bar /restaurant La Azotea, and while sadly closed, we peered in through the glasshouse of Decoreria La Suculenta, which we found tucked away in a corner of the rooftop. There is also a spectacular view across the historical centre area, and the Central Alameda Park – the city’s oldest public park.
Chaya B&B – Also situated within Barrio Alameda is a beautiful plant-filled retreat – Chaya B&B. Featured on the 91 blog back in 2016, this place was already on our radar, and it was a pleasure to spend a few moments away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the oasis they have created. It is a photographer’s dream with a mix of leafy tropical plants, cacti and succulents set against bright yellow walls; the city’s historical architecture rising up behind. For a more detailed review and a peek inside the rooms, head to this previous post.
Utilitario Mexicano – A few streets away from one of the city’s main thoroughfares, Insurgentes Sur, is Utilitario Mexicano. Mexico City’s answer to East London’s Labour and Wait. It’s one of those shops where you have to purposefully visit, as its unassuming location means you are unlikely to stumble upon it. The large store stocks a wide range of utilitarian home goods, all 100% Mexican in design – from enamelware to feather dusters to kitchen utensils. All displayed with pleasing symmetry on floor to ceiling peg boards or simple metal shelving. It was impossible to leave without a bag of goodies from this functional yet stylish store.
Querencia – Just around the corner is Querencia, a relatively new lifestyle store, filled with plants, ceramics, jewellery, homewares and a small selection of clothing. With a strong emphasis on the botanical trend, this delightful little shop again proudly stocked designs from Mexican makers, all beautifully merchandised, making you wish you’d brought that extra suitcase! We certainly did not leave empty handed!
Loose Blues – While in the area, it’s worth popping into Loose Blues, a few doors down from Querencia. Vintage clothing and vinyl downstairs, furniture and homewares upstairs with an industrial café sandwiched in between. Both the store upstairs and the restaurant appeared to be a fusion of Mexican and Japanese culture, which you would never has suspected from the outside! A favourite spot for the city’s hipster set.
Cicatriz – Right next door is laid back café/bar Cicatriz, a perfect pitstop for coffee and cake or an early evening glass of wine. Décor is simple with bare plaster walls, concrete floors and exposed beams, with the addition of those ever popular pot plants! We didn’t eat here, but apparently they serve a mean fried chicken sandwich in the evenings!
Casa Gilardi – Celebrated modernist Mexican architect Luis Barragan is well known for his bold use of colour and no trip to Mexico City is complete without viewing at least one of his works. Casa Gilardi was the last house that Barragan designed before his death in 1988. Still occupied by the original owner, you need to arrange a tour to see inside this residence, but it is well worth it for the striking use of colour and modernist design. If you want to take photos in here you need to pay extra to the owner for a photography permit. Without it, you will be kicking yourself as there are photo opportunities around every corner.
Frida Kahlo museum – You can’t talk of Mexico City without mentioning it’s most iconic female: Frida Kahlo. We all recognise her image, but mono-brow and floral headdresses aside, this was one woman who faced adversity head on. Only knowing snippets of her story myself, the museum, which was also Frida’s home, filled in all the blanks and being so close to so much of her personal belongings and the space she inhabited made it a truly moving experience, despite the hustle and bustle of fellow tourists around you. The colourful walls and greenery of the courtyard garden is a more peaceful area to reflect on the story of her life. Be sure to arrive early as there can be long queues for entry.
Casa Bosques – This light and airy store is another one you need to know where to find it. Ringing the buzzer at Cordoba 25, situated in the Roma Norte neighbourhood, will gain you entry. Stairs lead up to this book and magazine store, filled with a range of art, architecture, photography and fashion tomes. They also stock their own range of chocolate, which includes unusual combinations such as ‘Dark chocolate covered cashews spiced with curry.’
A stroll through the quiet neighbourhood of Roma Norte will take you to another of my personal favourites – Happening Store. A lifestyle shop again championing the talents of Mexican designers, stocking a range of clothing and accessories as well as ceramics, jewellery, cosmetics and kids toys. We spent a small fortune in here, although could easily have spent a large fortune! I should mention that in every shop we visited we were met with the warmest of welcomes from the friendly shopkeepers. They were clearly passionate about showcasing great design from their countries creative community which was truly heart-warming.
A final stop for us before dashing to the airport was El Moro. There are a number of these around the city – we visited the Condesa branch and it did not disappoint both in terms of ‘Instagramability’ and the amazing chocolate churros! Their famous blue and white tiles and pale wood furniture are a dream to photograph, and there truly was no better way to round off our trip than with a bag of churros in the sun.
I highly recommend a trip to Mexico City – there is SO much to see and do, our five night trip only scratched the surface of this sprawling city. If you are visiting soon or have been recently I would LOVE to hear what you thought! I do hope I will have the chance to return some day. Thanks again to Caravana Americana for inviting us.
TOP TRAVEL TIP: The best way to travel around Mexico City is by Uber. They are super cheap – a 20 minute car ride costs about £2.50. The traffic can be horrendous though, so give plenty of time for your journey.