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The Artsiest Neighborhood in Mexico's Coolest City

European architecture combines with Latin culture in the heart of the city’s flourishing arts scene.

Mercado Roma

Mercado Roma

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Mercado Roma

Trouvé

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Mercado Roma

Iztaccihuatl

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At 573 square miles, the D.F. (Distrito Federal) is one of the planet’s biggest, most eclectic megalopolises. But just southwest of Centro Historico lies Roma, a mural-filled neighborhood a world away from all that chaos. Plant yourself here for a weekend when the art market floods the sidewalks, and you won’t feel like you’ve missed out on the other 571 square miles.

ART
Roma is all about edgy art. Antique bullets and gunpowder, mid-century religious paraphernalia, vintage pharmaceutical packaging—the neighborhood’s MODO Museum is straight-up weird. Its owner spent four decades amassing an enormous 100,000-piece collection of artifacts and oddities that document Mexico’s cultural movements over the last 200 years. Be prepared for fleeting outré pop culture exhibits, like the recent photography show exploring the evolution of the selfie over the last century. 

A short walk away, check out the experimental videos and art installations—including Algorithms, Fear and Social Change—at MUCA Roma, then head to Garash Galeria to see the work of some angst-addled young painters. But don’t overlook the neighborhood heavyweight, Galeria OMR, which showcases emerging Mexican artists in a traditional Roma house. It’s one of the neighborhood’s original galleries and among the most famous in all of the D.F. 

SHOP
Cluttered craft markets are nice—for an hour or so. Local design hounds head to Trouvé to find artwork, vintage furniture, and design pieces and to chat it up with other artists. Modern color-splashed paintings, foyer statement sculptures, and obscure lighting fill the small, dark-walled space. Even if you’re not in the mood to cough up international shipping costs for a weighty sculpture, it’s still worth it to wander the gallery-like space and meet the design-focused locals who hang out there. 

EAT
Mercado Roma is Mexico City’s answer to the San Francisco Ferry Building— only about three times bigger. Opened last summer, the food hall is the best spot to find local vendors with cult status all in one place: José Guadalupe for spicy pozole, Barbacoa del 23 for cactus tacos, and El Moro Churreria for crispy churros. Surrounded by vertical gardens and plants dangling from skylights, you’ll feel as if you’re having lunch in a Yucatan rainforest with other beautiful, stylish, beer-drinking creatures (D.F.’s first beer garden is on the roof). 

DRINK
This isn’t Cabo, and you’re not on spring break. For serious cocktails, hit up Licoreria Limantour, where the drinks are potent works of art—like the colorful Guava Guava Guatemala, made with Guatemalan rum, guava, lemon, and a kick of homemade cinnamon syrup. A brief walk from the center of Roma, this is a great place to meet with new friends over punch bowls of booze. 

STAY
Condesa DF offers a dose of solitude in a 1920s French neoclassical mansion. Loftlike rooms with stark white walls make for a calm refuge, complete with Mexican-made accents. But there’s a yin to that yang: Spaces like the loungey fourth-floor terrace—equipped with daybeds and views of Chapultepec Castle—are lively with minglers into the early hours. $215. 

GET OUT OF TOWN
Work off the carnitas and churros by hiking one of Mexico’s highest mountains. About 40 miles from Roma, you’ll find Iztaccihuatl, a 17,000-foot volcano that’s taller than any peak in the contiguous United States. Get there by taking a bus to Tlalmanalco, then cab it 10 minutes to the trailheads at San Rafael. Unless you’re a pro with expert equipment, you won’t make the summit, but getting even partway is worth it for views of neighboring Popocatépetl volcano.

 

Originally published in the May issue of San Francisco magazine

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