The Mexico City street art scene is thriving nowadays, with the rest of the world beginning to take notice. But looking at the country’s history, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Mexico has long been tolerant, if not downright encouraging, of creativity in public spaces. There was the Mexican muralist movement of the 1920’s, of course, in which large murals were commissioned to raise awareness of social issues and help reestablish national identity. But even in the Pre-Hispanic era, the Aztecs were known to cover their buildings and temples in evocative paintings and sculptures.
Many of Mexico City’s modern-day murals continue to conjure up ancient Aztec deities, while others mirror the political and social activism of the muralist movement. Still, there are plenty more abstract, or just plain quirky and cute paintings to be enjoyed around the city. With so many styles to see and with so much to find, hunting for street art in Mexico City never gets boring.
Before you get started, though, understand that Mexico City is massive. You’ll need at least a week or so to explore all the neighborhoods mentioned below. While the Mexican capital’s excellent subway system ensures that you’ll have no problem getting from place to place, visiting all the neighborhoods below will still take awhile.
As always with street art, the works pictured here may no longer be around by the time you arrive, while some amazing new pieces may have popped up in their places. See this article, then, as merely a suggestion and not as a definitive or concrete guide, as it may even already be slightly out of date. But part of the fun of street art, of course, is not just admiring the work, but the hunt itself. You’ll likely come across some of your favorite murals in the city completely by accident.
The Centro neighborhood, which encompasses the popular Centro Histórico district, is one of the best places in the city to see street art. The top spot in the district would have to be along the east/west street of Calle Regina.
You’ll find most of the larger pieces in the western section of the street, as well as the nearby streets which intersect with Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas, south of Alameda Central Park. A lot of the best murals are just in front of outdoor bars and cafes, so this is an ideal place to take it slow, enjoy the art and people watch. And be sure to explore some other nearby streets, as you may come across some good surprises.
Don’t miss a walk behind Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana. There are just a few, yet large and intricate murals here worth checking out. The ‘Mexico’ mural used as the cover image for this article can also be found there.
Either in the morning before 10am, or in the evening after 6 or 7pm, be sure to take a stroll down Av. 20 de Noviembre. This is the street just south of the center of the Zocalo. If the timing is right, you’ll find plenty of murals on the closed shutters of the shops. It’s fun to see how the artists used themes related to the stores they’re displayed on, like paintings of women wearing makeup on the cosmetics shops. This is also a good area to see plenty of murals with Mexico’s iconic skull artwork.
There are also a number of large murals south and southeast of Pino Suárez station that are among the most impressive in the entire city. Either take the metro to Pino Suárez Station directly, or, coming from 20 de Noviembre, head over to Plaza Tlaxacoaque. Continuing east, cross the major street and wander around – there seem to be some on just about every block around here.
Some of these murals take over entire buildings and are likely to make your jaw drop. However, judging by atmosphere alone, this doesn’t seem to be the safest of areas. And after a few minutes of taking photos, I seemed to be getting a little too much attention from the locals and decided to cut my explorations short. But I would still recommend a visit here for at least a quick walk around.
The Doctores neighborhood, just east of Condesa, is a great place to find some of Mexico City’s most outstanding murals. Unfortunately, however, you should be aware that the district typically tops the list of Mexico City neighborhoods to avoid for safety reasons. It turns out, though, that one of the best places to see “street art” in Doctores, if not all of Mexico City, is not really out in the street at all, but on a museum rooftop.
El Museo del Juguete Antiguo, or the Museum of Old Toys, is exactly as its name suggests. Featuring displays of all kinds of vintage toys spread across multiple floors, it’s one of the best destinations in the city for those who like quirky, offbeat museums. What not many people realize, though, is the treasure trove of murals by some of Mexico’s most prominent street artists which take up the entire rooftop, as well as the parking area just outside.
It’s not really promoted within the museum itself and the door to the roof is normally locked. But if you ask at the main desk, someone will guide you up there to have a look around.
All of the photos above were taken on the rooftop of, or just outside El Museo del Juguete Antiguo
El Museo del Juguete Antiguo is most easily accessible from the Obrera or the Niños Héroes metro stations. Outside the museum, there are several other impressive and large murals to discover around the area. As mentioned, Doctores has a bad reputation, so explore at your own risk. Luckily, I did not have any issues during my two visits to the district (one of which was at night to see some Lucha Libre).
Doctores borders both the posh Condesa district as well as Centro. And Niños Héroes station can take you directly to the Tlatelolco, a district featured further down below.
Roma & Condesa
The Condesa and Roma neighborhoods are widely considered to be Mexico City’s most trendy districts. This is where locals and tourists alike come to shop, hang out in cozy cafes, and visit art galleries. Unsurprisingly, the two creative neighborhoods have also become somewhat synonymous with street art.
As Roma and Condesa are situated right next to one another and attract a similar crowd, they’re often mentioned together in the same breath. Feel free to begin hunting for street art in whichever you like, but I think the beautiful Parque México in Condesa makes for a good starting point. You’ll plenty of coffee shops and cafes around the park to fill you up before you set off.
There are a few great murals in and nearby the park by Chris Dyer. The little side streets also have some gems where’d you’d least expect them. And the X Espacio de Arte gallery, while closed during my visit, at least has a cool mural by its entrance that’s easily visible from the street.
With that said, I personally did not find the Condesa or Roma districts to be the graffiti hotspots they’re hyped up to be. There’s possibly a lot that I missed, but I spent the better part of a day exploring both main and side streets in each neighborhood. The pictures here cover pretty much everything that I found. If you have any suggestions for where to go, please leave a comment.
Heading into the Roma district, one of the best places to check out would be Calle Zacatecas and some of its parallel streets. Don’t forget to look both down and up, as even some of the district’s largest murals aren’t always easy to spot at first!
There are also a number of murals in the park called Jardín Pushkin. Most of them seem to be fairly new and part of the local hidroARTE project, which provides space for street artists to paint water-themed murals throughout the city (see more below). You can also find a few interesting pieces nearby the Museo del Objeto (Object Museum).
Paseo de la Reforma is the long, skyscraper laden street known for its Statue of Cuauhtémoc and Angel of Independence monuments. It’s even often nicknamed the “5th Avenue” of Mexico City. While wealthy business districts aren’t usually the best places to discover street art, the area around Reforma Avenue has a number of surprises along its numerous side streets. Just don’t expect to find much on the main avenue itself.
Walking northeast (from the direction of Chapultepec Park), turn left on Río Neva street and you’ll soon find the Jardín del Arte. The interior functions as a park and art market on Sundays, but the barrier around it is entirely covered in colorful murals.
And fairly close by is the large blue mural (pictured bottom right) which is just by the bus stop near the intersection between Paseo de la Reforma and Insurgentes Sur.
Heading further down the main avenue, there are a whole bunch of murals on a side street nearby Le Meridien Hotel. After exploring the area, cross Reforma Avenue and head east a little bit on Donato Guerra. Here you’ll come across murals on both sides of Hotel Reforma Avenue. One of them is by the artist Saner, one of Mexico City’s most prolific street artists.
Getting closer to Centro Histórico’s main park, Alameda Central, you’ll find a massive blue mural on the side of a building on Av. Juarez. But don’t forget to look back to see the other giant piece of the creepy looking girl!
Tlatelolco was formerly the second city of the Aztecs after Tenochtitlan, now buried beneath Centro Histórico. In fact, Tlatelolco is also home to some fantastic ruins which easily rival those of Templo Mayor. But during your visit to see the ancient temples, you can easily kill two birds with one stone, as there are some great murals located just nearby.
The ruins of Tlatelolco are in a place called Square of the Three Cultures, or Plaza de Las Tres Culturas (just outside Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco). From Tlatelolco Station, head east, then south onto a street called Prol. Lerdo.
The highlight of the public art on display in Tlatelolco are the three massive murals by artist Nicandro Puente. You’ll find one on Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas street before you arrive at the ruins (pictured top right). And you’ll find two more awe-inspiring works at the edge of Jardín La Pera, or the Pera Garden.
Supposedly, these murals are dedicated to the devastation and aftermath of the huge earthquake which struck Mexico City back in 1985.
Heading further into the middle of the garden, you’ll come across a series of more recent works which, oddly, all feature the logo of the Converse shoe company. These works are all part of an ongoing project in Mexico City called hidroARTE. Sponsored by Converse and Comex, the goal of the project is to get aspiring artists to contribute to Mexico City’s artistic landscape by also creating works with a social message.
The common theme these murals have in common is water. The aim is to promote the importance of clean water and care for the environment. Unsurprisingly, Aztec deities such as Tlaloc, the god of rain and water, can be seen depicted in many of the works. The hidroARTE project is not just limited to Tlatelolco, but spread throughout the city, with new dedicated areas for street art popping up all the time. As shown above, some of the other locations include the Roma district.
The project’s concept is reminiscent of the old-school murals that were common after the Mexican Revolution. Their goal was to promote environmental and social issues to the general public, many of whom were illiterate. While literacy is not an issue in Mexico today, there’s no denying that public art remains an excellent means of mass communication, even in our modern era of endless social media noise.
For a city that’s both as large and creative as Mexico City, this article is in no way a conclusive list. Some other neighborhoods that are known for their street art, which I didn’t end up getting the chance to visit, include Xochimilco and the area around UNAM, or the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Another supposedly famous street art area is the trendy southern district of Coyoacán. I actually visited the neighborhood on two separate occasions and did plenty of walking around, but hardly found a thing. Considering how big Coyoacán is, though, there must be some amazing pieces somewhere that eluded me.
Again, if you have any tips, we’d love to hear from you!
Mexico City’s public transportation system is excellent, and is arguably the best in all of North America. There are three main ways to get around: subway, regular public bus and metrobus.
You can get nearly everywhere, including all the places mentioned in this article, using the subway alone. Regardless of how far you go, tickets cost a flat fee of 5 pesos.
The metrobus is a red-colored bus line which runs along its own dedicated lanes on certain parts of the city. If your destination is serviced by these buses, it can be a quick way to get around. The buses require buying their own special card, however, so they’re not the best value if you’re riding once or twice.
Normal public buses are everywhere in Mexico City, and a quick Google search will direct you to the nearest bus stop you need. The buses are somewhat unreliable, though, and sometimes simply won’t come to your stop with zero explanation given.
Uber also works very well in the city, and is a great way to reach the airport.
If you base yourself somewhere in the Centro district, many significant historical sites will likely be within walking distance.
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. And Centro is also one of the best places for street art as well.
The most popular districts for foreign visitors would probably be the hip Roma and Condesa neighborhoods, which are home to a plethora of AirBnb’s.
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.