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Top 10 Hidden Gems in Mexico City

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
When visiting this culturally rich city, there’s always more to discover! Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hidden Gems in Mexico City. For this list, we’re looking at the spots that savvy travellers and locals love in this bustling city, but which you may not have previously heard of.

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Top 10 Hidden Gems in Mexico City

When visiting this culturally rich city, there’s always more to discover! Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hidden Gems in Mexico City.

For this list, we’re looking at the spots that savvy travellers and locals love in this bustling city, but which you may not have previously heard of.

#10: Museo de la Caricatura

Most major cities have a number of popular museums that reflect the history and culture of the area. Between the Anthropology Museum, the Natural History museum, and numerous art museums, Mexico City is no exception, but it also boasts some rather unique institutions for alternatively curious minds. The Museo del Objeto del Objeto (or MODO) is a collection of commercial objects and packaging dating back to 1810. The Museo del Juguete Antiguo Mexicano is jam-packed with the most colorful assortment of antique toys you’ve ever laid eyes on. The crowning jewel of Mexico City’s lesser known museums however, is the Caricature Museum, which celebrates the artwork of Mexican cartoonists.

#9: A Ruin Inside a Subway Station

As civilization progresses forward, the past is often forgotten - or quite literally paved over. Thankfully, Mexico City has made the Aztec culture a priority, and has undertaken archeological efforts within the city itself to uncover and preserve ruins from the past. The Templo Mayor located in the historic center might be the most popular ruin in the city, but when travelling via subway you need to be sure to stop by Pino Suarez Metro Station, where the Ehecatl pyramid was uncovered in 1968. Yes, you heard that correctly, there’s an Aztec ruin in the subway station. It’s only a relatively small altar, but it makes for a fascinating crossroad between the area’s past and present.

#8: The “Water, Origin of Life” Mural

Though he’s arguably been eclipsed by wife Frida Kahlo on the international scale, painter Diego Rivera remains one of the most important and cherished artists in Mexican history. His influential mural paintings can be seen many places around Mexico City, including at Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Palacio Nacional, which is home to his iconic mural depicting a millennia of Mexican history. A mural seen by far too few visitors, however, is “Water: Origin of Life”, which was actually designed to be partially submerged in water as part of a hydraulic complex called the Cárcamo de Dolores, in Chapultepec Park. Now a museum, Cárcamo de Dolores is a must-visit sight that often gets missed.

#7: Parque Nacional Los Dinamos

Apart from the aforementioned (and hugely popular) Chapultepec Park, green spaces aren’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Mexico City. With little name recognition to outsiders, Los Dinamos rarely appears on a list of must-visit attractions in the bustling city, but for outdoorsy travellers looking to balance out all the great eating they’ve been doing in Mexico City, it really shouldn’t be missed. The National Park occupies over 9 square miles of land on the southwestern frontier of the city, and offers space for hiking, cycling, rock climbing, fishing, zip lining, horseback riding and more.

#6: Museo Franz Mayer

Like the Museo de la Caricatura, this private collection-turned-museum is often overshadowed by the more buzzworthy institutions. But what the Franz Mayer Museum lacks in size or international renown, it more than makes up for in quality and beauty. Located in the city’s historic center, in the repurposed San Juan de Dios monastery and hospital, this mostly Mexican collection of decorative arts, accumulated by German stockbroker Franz Mayer during his lifetime, offers a unique look at the finer things in life, dating back centuries. Whatever decorative items you most appreciate, be it silverware, ceramics or furniture, this museum is sure to have some of the finest examples you’ve ever laid eyes on.

#5: Parque Nacional Desierto de los Leones

The Desert of the Lions… now doesn’t that sound like a must-visit destination? Located just outside of Mexico City (near Los Dinamos), this National Park is an oasis of peace and quiet. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s neither a desert, nor does it contain lions - it’s a wild, sparsely populated, forested area where people go to escape the city and reconnect with nature. While this might sound redundant after Los Dinamos, what sets Desierto de Los Leones apart is its history. Located within the park is a 17th century convent, first built in 1606 and then rebuilt in 1722. Walk in the footsteps of the barefoot Carmelite monks and find your own inner peace.

#4: Casa Luis Barragán

Relative to our previous entry and Mexico City’s many historic buildings, the Luis Barragán House and Studio (built in 1948) feels new, but it’s nonetheless captured the attention of architecture and art enthusiasts around the world with its unique design and impressive art collection. Designed by its namesake, Mexican architect Luis Barragán, this house served as his primary residence until his death in 1988. Blending traditional Mexican design with hints of international tastes, the house is also remarkable for its abundance of natural light. From the color schemes and garden to the overarching blend of traditional and modern design, Barragán’s oft-overlooked house simply stuns.

#3: Jardín del Arte

Found in the neighborhood known as Colonia San Rafael, this outdoor market has been showcasing the art of local painters since the 1950s. Mexico City isn’t short on art galleries, but there’s really nothing quite like browsing a wide variety of styles and mediums in the great outdoors. Traditionally, this is where unknown and up-and-coming artists from the area display their work, but over the years, numerous artists from the Garden of Art have gone on to become big names. Who knows, you might just buy something from the next Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera.

#2: Cafebreria El Pendulo

A simple bookstore or cafe couldn’t claim our #2 spot, but El Pendulo is so much more. This multi-level building is beautifully designed, integrating plant life into every available nook and cranny to make the entire space feel like an indoor jungle that just so happens to be full of books. Boasting an impressive collection of literature, music and gifts, El Pendulo becomes a must-visit destination in the city when you add its café, restaurant and bar. In the mood to sip a coffee and read a book? Go for it. Worked up an appetite shopping? They’ve got delicious dishes. Feel like taking the edge off? Why not have a cocktail? This place is almost too perfect.

#1: Isla de las Muñecas

Xochimilco is sort of like the Venice of Mexico City, a series of canals winding their way through the various neighborhoods and chinampas (man-made floating gardens). Xochimilco and its colorful boats are a popular destination for tourists. . . but the mysterious and creepy Island of Dolls? Not so much. According to local legend, the sole inhabitant of this island, Don Julián Santana Barrera, started hanging dolls on the island in an attempt to appease the restless spirit of a young girl whose body washed up on his shores. Since Barrera’s death, it’s become a destination for those looking to add a little (okay, a lot) of spookiness to their trip.


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