A Perfect Day In Mexico City

From Diego Rivera to Gabriel Orozco, Mexico City has long led Latin America’s contemporary art arena. But over the past 15 years, North America’s largest metropolis has also evolved into a center of art consumption

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Walter Shintani / CON / Getty Images

View of the Soumaya museum during the opening day to public on March 13, 2011 in Mexico City, Mexico.

From Diego Rivera to Gabriel Orozco, Mexico City has long led Latin America’s contemporary art arena. But over the past 15 years, North America’s largest metropolis has also evolved into a center of art consumption. Thanks to world-class private museums such as the Museo Soumaya—owned by billionaire Carlos Slim—and cutting-edge independent galleries, Mexico City is where far-sighted collectors are discovering the next generation of art world up-and-comers.  The most fertile scouting takes place during the annual contemporary art show Zona Maco (zonamaco.com). Running until Apr. 14, the four-day fete will present dozens of global galleries dedicated to the full spectrum of visual arts—from paintings and sculpture to industrial design and video installations. What to do when you’re not checking out the art? Let four Mexico City experts describe their perfect day on the town.

Carmen Cuenca, director, Museo Tamayo

I like to begin my day with exercise and Mexico City has some great areas for a jog. One of my favorites is in El Sope. The run is followed by a glass of juice from the street vendors. I’ll then take a walk through the Bosque de Chapultepec—an upscale, wooded neighborhood. I love El Carcamo de Dolores, a stunning hydraulic structure were Diego Rivera created the underwater mural Agua, el origen de la vida.  Or I’ll visit the Tlaloc Fountain, another Rivera creation designed in the 1950s to depict the Aztec god of rain and water.  My own Museo Tamayo (museotamayo.com) is another stop. Our singular collection of Mexican and Latin American contemporary art is now displayed in a completely renovated building.  I’d follow it up with a look at the National Museum of Anthropology (mna.inah.gob.mx), important for its pre-Columbian displays, followed by a stroll up to the Castillo de Chapultepec (castillodechapultepec.inah.gob.mx), a neo-Gothic castle built in the 1860s.

You can continue on down to Avenida Reforma, the most beautiful street in town, laden with jacarandas and an interesting mix of architecture. It’s one of the longest streets in the world and if you walk far enough, you’ll reach Avenida Juarez, which takes you straight to the city’s historic downtown. I love the Palacio de Bellas Artes (bellasartes.gob.mx)—a beautifully designed performance hall and the city’s most important cultural institution.

By sunset, I like to end up at Merotoro restaurant (merotoro.com) in Condesa. This newish restaurant is operated by the same people behind Contramar and specializes in the surf-and-turf cuisine of Baja California, where chef Jair Tellez is from. The location is great for people watching and they pair their dishes with excellent Mexican wines from the Valle de Guadelupe.

Victor Legoretta, architect

A great Mexico City day always begins with a good Mexican breakfast. I particularly like El Cardenal on Juarez Avenue (restauranteelcardenal.com), which is set in front of the newly remodeled Alameda Park.  I’ll have the traditional revueltos a la cazuela, eggs with wonderfully fresh-baked Mexican Pastries, and hot chocolate.  I’ll also stop by Plaza Juarez, a new square designed by my firm in collaboration with artist Vincente Rojo.  The plaza has more than 1,000 concrete pyramids and is anchored by the new Memory and Tolerance Museum (memoriaytolerancia.org).  On the opposite side of Plaza Alameda is the lovely Franz Mayer Museum (franzmayer.org.mx), which is great for design lovers.

Next I might visit the Palacio de Iturbide Museum, which is set in a beautiful Mexico Baroque building from 1785. Today, the Palacio is home to the Banamex Cultural Foundation (http://fomentoculturalbanamex.org) and hosts excellent rotating exhibitions.  I’ll then head for lunch at the newly opened Azul Histórico (azulhistorico.com) on Isabel la Católica Street. I’ll start with a good green ceviche and then the duck with mole.

In the afternoon I might go to Colonia Roma. This was the high-class neighborhood of the 1950s, and has recently has become a great spot for galleries, boutiques and restaurants. For well designed local fashion, I might then make an appointment at Mike Salas showroom, tel: (52-55) 55 115411, which carries some of the best young contemporary fashion designers in Mexico City. Later, I’ll have dinner at Casa Lamm (casalamm.com.mx).  The restaurant features modern interiors, but is set in a cultural center built back in the early 19th century. If I’m not too tired after dinner, I’ll try some of the quality mescal at the roof bar atop the Hotel CondesaDF (condesadf.com).

Bertha Gonzalez, CEO, Casa Dragones Tequila

I like to have breakfast at Eno on Petrarca Street (eno.com.mx), which is run by local celebrity-chef Enrique Olvera.  I love their fresh bread with Mexican marmalade and great coffee. I’ll then head for Zona Maco for a first-hand look at the artists; the fair’s manageable size makes it approachable even for first-timers.

After walking through the fair, there’s no cooler place for a late lunch than Contramar (contramar.com.mx), which is best known for seafood. It’s only open for lunch and is a real power spot in Mexico City.  Expect to see everyone from the mayor to top gallerists, film producers and business people. I’d start my meal with a glass of Casa Dragones, naturally.

After lunch, I’d make my way to some of many exhibitions hosted by the city’s best contemporary art galleries such as OMR (galeriaomr.com), House of Gaga (houseofgaga.com), Proyectos Monclova (proyectosmonclova.com) and Kurimanzutto (kurimanzutto.com. In the evening, I am usually entertaining friends from all over the world, so we always have big plans and Mexico City is the ultimate late night city. But we like to start off with dinner in Colonia Roma at Maximo Bistrot (maximobistrot.com.mx), a casual-but-chic restaurant serving great local fare from different regions of Mexico.

Spencer Tunick, photographer

The Hotel CondesaDF (condesadf.com) serves a simple yet satisfying breakfast in their central courtyard.  Afterwards, I like to walk through the Zocalo—Mexico City’s historic heart—which is filled with every type of humanity from indigenous people in feathered costumes to young street performers. The square is one of the largest in the world and is anchored by the towering Flag of Mexico, which was first raised in 1821.

I love Mexico’s pre-Columbian history, so I make time for a visit to Teotihuacan (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/414), which is a short drive outside of the city. The 32-square mile site dates back to 200 BC and is home to some of the largest pyramids in all of the Americas.

Back in town, I like to eat lunch at Taqueria El Faraon (elfaraon.mx), which is amazing for traditional tacos. There are branches across the city and you can eat an entire meal for just a few dollars.  After lunch, I’d suggest a dose of architecture with a visit to the Luis Barragan House and Studio (casaluisbarragan.org), a UNESCO World Heritage Site built back in 1948. The house is perhaps the best-preserved example of this architect’s unique Mexican-Modernism.

After architecture comes art, with a visit to the Andres Blaisten Collection (museoblaisten.com), a small, private museum with one of the city’s best collections of Mexican art. Then it’s time for an evening drink back in the Zocalo at the Hotel Majestic (hotelmajestic.com.mx), which is nothing fancy but has an excellent rooftop bar with fantastic views. Finally, I’d end my day over in Colonia Polanco at the Hotel Habita (hotelhabita.com) with dinner and drinks, also served on the rooftop, which is as modern as the Majestic’s is classic. They host some of the city’s best parties, especially during Zona Maco.