The nostalgia industry is big these days. As our lives become increasingly focused on accomplishing tasks by tapping our thumbs against glass screens, more and more people are longing for the physical. It wasn’t too long ago, of course, when all of our possessions could be touched, held or collected – just not downloaded. Tapping into humanity’s innate desire to collect things, special museums dedicated entirely to collections of people’s old stuff have been popping up around the world lately. In Mexico City, for example, a number of these “nostalgia museums” have opened up within the last 15 years alone. During my time in the city, I went around to three quirky museums which all pride themselves on celebrating the ordinary.
Museo del Juguete Antiguo México
The Museo del Juguete Antiguo México, or Old Toy Museum, is home to a whopping collection of over 20,000 toys. And by old, they really mean it, with the oldest one dating back to the 19th century. Most, however, are from around the mid-to-late 20th century, and you’re likely to recognize a fair amount.
Everything in the collection is owned by one man: architect and passionate collector Roberto Shimizu Kinoshita. After amassing his huge collection over the years, he finally decided to put it all in a museum in 2006.
Spanning over four floors, the museum houses old toys and other quirky artifacts from Mexico as well as from places like Japan and the US.
One entire corner of the museum is dedicated to Lucha Libre, the Mexican version of pro wrestling in which (mostly) masked wrestlers do high-flying stunts and flips to “hurt” their opponent. It’s part theater, part acrobatics and part combat sport.
Lucha Libre wrestlers could be compared to comic book superheroes. But rather than remain stuck in a fictional universe, they can be seen doing their thing live and in person at local arenas and festivals. There, street vendors hawk replica masks and other merchandise to enthusiastic buyers, young and old alike. Lucha Libre is a true Mexican folk art, and it’s not surprising to see that it’s spawned so many action figures and comic books over the years.
Wandering through the museum, there’s no way to miss the giant face. In fact, it takes up multiple stories, with the head on one floor and its massive fists down below. It’s become the de facto symbol of the museum, but it’s unclear what it actually is. Apparently, it comes from an old nightclub. Given the style of the museum, it’s easy to imagine the curator jumping at the chance to take it when learning of the opportunity.
Parts of the museum can feel like walking through a stranger’s messy basement, with the lines between museum and “a room full of someone’s old stuff” becoming a little blurred. But after all, the whole museum really is just one family’s old stuff, so the mild chaos is easy to look past.
As mentioned here, the museum also happens to be one of the best places to see street art in Mexico City, with the rooftop and entrance area being regularly painted over by highly acclaimed artists. Just be sure to ask about the rooftop, though, as it’s not normally open unless you do.
Museo del Objeto del Objeto
Situated in an early 20th century Art Nouveau building in the trendy Roma district is the curiously titled Museo del Objeto del Objeto. It’s perhaps best translated as “The Museum of the Purpose of the Object.”
Whereas the Museo del Juguete Antiguo is primarily focused on toys, this one places a special emphasis on old packaging and design. You, will, however, also come across plenty of old toys, in addition to rare stamps, clothing and a wide array of other objects.
The content of the museum changes every few months or so, but one thing remains consistent: all the objects on display belong to the massive collection of wealthy businessman and avid collector, Bruno Newman. Newman makes regular trips to Mexico City’s antique markets and is said to possess over 30,000 knick-knacks of all shapes and sizes.
During my trip to the Museo del Objeto del Objeto, or MODO for short, the theme was Mexican football. I was a little disappointed, as I know absolutely nothing about the local leagues, but I decided to have a look around anyway.
As you would expect, there were a myriad of soccer balls, jerseys and trophies on display. But most interesting, I thought, were the collections of old merchandise. Mexico has actually hosted the World Cup twice: once in the ’70’s and another time in the ’80’s. In addition to objects related to the local clubs, there was plenty of commemorative memorabilia from this era on display. Coincidentally, it’s also just been announced that Mexico will host the tournament again (along with the US and Canada) in 2026.
Don’t miss the display on the wall dedicated to some of MODO’s past exhibitions. There have been themes ranging from Lucha Libre to music to old writing utensils, as well as a whole lot more that I couldn’t make out.
In contrast to the Museo del Juguete Antigo México, you don’t know quite what you’re gonna get with MODO, as there’s no permanent display. But, oddly enough, that concept in itself evokes a sense of nostalgia. It’s almost like those surprise mystery toys at the bottom of the cereal box (a collection of which I wouldn’t be surprised to find here!)
Museo de Arte Popular
While the previous two museums are filled with objects that the average Mexican city-dweller will probably recognize, the Museo de Arte Popular is a little bit different. While the focus remains on everyday objects, this museum celebrates handmade crafts from all throughout Mexico’s culturally diverse local communities.
Overall, the museum features objects like masks and costumes used in indigenous folk rituals, as well as pottery and sculptures. But you’ll also find a whole lot of handicrafts, miniatures and children’s toys.
And by looking closely at the folk art pieces of the Museo de Arte Popular, you’ll notice the clear inspiration for some of the more mass-produced toys on display at the others.
One of my favorite rooms was the one entirely dedicated to Día de los Muertos, or the Mexican “Day of the Dead” paraphernalia. The day is technically a religious holiday, but those iconic skeleton images have made their way into all sorts of things, like toys and puppets, throughout Mexican society.
Elsewhere, wooden animals, tiny instruments and miniature vehicles from various Mexican states can be seen behind the glass cases. While dates aren’t always given, some of the old cars likely belong to an era before Matchbox and Hot Wheels.
The museum opened back in 2006, and has since become well-known throughout the city. Not just for its collection of artifacts, but for the annual “Monumental Alebrije Parade.” The event consists of brightly colored floats of fantastical monsters which are paraded all throughout the city. It takes place at the end of October, so be sure to check it out if you happen to be in town then.
All three museums mentioned here are easily accessible by subway, or even on foot if you’re staying near Roma / Condesa or Centro. Refer to the map at the top of the article to guide you.
Mexico City’s public transportation system is very efficient, so generally speaking, you’ll be fine if you base yourself nearby a metro station. However, the city is so big that it can take awhile to get anywhere. The most strategic area to base yourself in to see the main historical places would be the Centro district.
Other neighborhoods that are popular with foreign visitors are the hip Roma and Condesa districts.
I stayed at a basic, no frills hotel called Hotel Costazul. I would recommend this place to people looking for an affordable private hotel room in a convenient location. Located in Centro, it’s a fairly easy walk to the Zocalo and right by a couple of subway stations.
The best way to get to Mexico City would be to fly. The main Benito Juarez International Airport services flights from all around the world.
Coming from within Mexico, many budget airlines service Toluca International Airport instead. Some cheaper flights from abroad also go to the nearby city of Puebla.