Known as Distrito Mexico, or D.F. for short, Mexico City
is the first port of call for many visitors arriving in the
country. Disorientated and overwhelmed by the noise, bustle
and congestion, all too often the lively capital is forsaken
in a hurry for the idyllic beaches and colonial towns. If
you're after authentic souvenirs, superb crafts and high quality
jewellery at unbelievable prices you'd be best advised to
linger awhile. There's barely a thing made even in the remotest
region of Mexico which can't be bought in a market or mall
in the country's commercial hub.
Markets of Mexico
Every town in Mexico has at least one market, whether it's
a permanent covered fixture or a weekly affair taking over
the zocolo or main square. Mexico City, however, has at least
one in every district.
Make sure you check out:
A great place to purchase Mexican handicrafts, where you can
watch artisans who hail from all over the country weave their
magic from guitar-makers from Paracho in the state of Michuacan
to nimble-fingered Indian women covering wax masks with an
array of tiny beads. Tin toys and boxes, woodcarvings, rugs,
serapes, papier-mâché ornaments and ceramics
the variety of merchandise seems as endless as the aisles
of colourful stalls as far as the eye can see.
El Bazaar Sabador
This Saturday market takes place between 10am and 7pm in.
Originally conceived as a three month pre-Christmas bazaar
in 1960 by four talented local artists, El Bazar Sabador was
so successful that each Saturday, the courtyard of the atmospheric
17th century house on Plaza San Jacinto, San Angel, has been
transformed into a thriving marketplace of quality craft items.
This is a classy, high-quality market and the 'stalls' are
set up more like fancy boutiques selling crafts, jewellery,
clothes, wooden masks, beads, bark paintings, embroidery,
candles, wall hangings and sculptures. In order to become
a member an artist or craftsman's work must display an adherence
to the colour and tradition of Mexican culture.
San Angel itself is an upmarket enclave of cobbled streets
and colonial style churches. The square outside is filled
with artists hoping to offload their latest canvases and paintings
of the city to the steady stream of tourists who've come specially
for the famous Saturday market.
Coyoacan Weekend Craft Fair
80 years ago Coyoacan ('Place of the Coyotes') was a picturesque
little town where newly weds from Mexico City used to spend
their honeymoons. Though since embraced by the boundaries
of the capital, it remains one of the artiest districts and
holds three popular markets throughout the week: the daily
market on Allende, the weekend Bazar Artesanal de Coyoacan
on the west side of Plaza Hidalgo and an informal arts and
hippy wear market in the Jardin del Centenario, also at weekends.
The Mecado Insurgentes, aka Mercado Zona Rosa or Mercado
Londres (since it is located on Avenida Londres in the Zona
Rosa district) sells an enormous variety of Taxco silver,
along with other traditional Mexican crafts. The alleyways
between the stalls of this covered market are narrow, and
you're beset on all sides by rows of glinting trinkets and
vendors calling after you to inspect their wares.
Though many of the pieces are hand crafted with delicate
designs, here the price is usually determined by the weight
of the item (unlike in shops, where greater emphasis is placed
on the workmanship). Finest quality silver is stamped with
the mark .925, which means they contain 92.5% of the precious
metal. Buyers should beware not to mistake poor quality plate
or alpaca (a locally available alloy of copper, nickel and
zinc that looks like silver but costs just half the price)
for the genuine article.
Emilia Castillo Silversmith
Mexican silver is some of the best in the world, and visitors
to the country can pick up ornate trinkets of finest quality
metal for a fraction of what they would cost elsewhere. The
town of Taxco, about two hours drive from Mexico City, is
the center of the silver industry but as is the case with
most native crafts you can find some beautiful works even
if you don't plan on venturing outside of the Capital.
The Mexico City shop of Emilia Castillo, one of Mexico's
most respected silversmiths, is adjoined to the Hotel Camino
Real in the plush Polanco area of the city. The Taxco-based
designer is the daughter of Alberto Castillo who trained with
William Spratling, the American entrepreneur who revived Taxco's
ailing silver trade in the early 20th century. Growing up
around her father's workshop, Emilia took to tinkering with
silver like many girls play with dolls.
Emilia draws inspiration for her pieces from everything around
her, especially the animal and insect kingdoms, and finds
silver the most versatile medium of artistic expression. More
than just jewellery, she tried to imbue the items she designs
with functionality: she has a range of kitchenware, utensils,
racks and ceramics onto which have been fused delicate designs
in molten silver.
Emilia has been a household name in the United States for
over 10 years, ever since her line was picked up by department
store Neiman Marcus. When she was just 5 years old, her now-grown-up
daughter Alejandra began draw pictures for Emilia to turn
into pieces of silver art, and before long she too had an
immensely popular line.
Leibinitz No. 100 Local 1,2 y 3
Col. Nueva Anzures
11590 Mexico, DF
Tel: 55 31 88 73
Monte de Piedad (National Pawnshop)
Probably the oldest pawn shop in the Americas, Monte de Piedad
was founded in 1775 and has 50 branches throughout Mexico.
The national headquarters in Mexico City is located in a historic
building near the Zocolo, in the heart of the Centro Historico.
People from all sectors of society come to this respectable,
government-run institution to offer some household item, trinket
or heirloom as collateral against a loan of ready cash. Monte
de Piedad takes anything - including washing machines, cars
and even houses - as long as it has a street value of more
than US$3. A loan will then be issued for 50% of the item's
95% of pawned possessions are redeemed, but whatever remains
in the vast storerooms is put up for sale. The showrooms at
the flagship branch hold antiques, jewellery and crafts, while
cars, electrical goods and miscellaneous goods are sold elsewhere.
Monte de Piedad is a far cry from the usual pawn-shop perception
of a dingy hovel run by old men who run their hands together
in glee at the thought of getting their paws on some widow's
valuable: as well as providing credit to the poor through
the public sector, donates all proceeds are donated to NGOs
working with the poor, the elderly and orphans.
Monte de Piedad
Monte de Piedad No 7
The Zona Rosa is a triangle of streets named after European
cities, situated west of the Zocolo and south of the Paseo
de la Reforma. During daylight hours it remains the favourite
shopping destination that it has been for decades, and many
visitors to the city base themselves here, near the hub of
Our crew stayed at Hotel Premier, just a few blocks from
the Zona Rosa.
Atenas No. 72
Mexico 6 D.F.
Tel: 011 52 55 66 27 00
Fax: 011 52 57 03 33 04
Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, and
you'd have a hard time exploring every nook and cranny without
use of a car. Our crew rented a vehicle from Holiday Autos.
Holiday Autos website
Tel: 0870 400 4447
Even so, driving in Mexico is not for the fainthearted, and
there is a good bus and underground metro network which will
take you to the most popular tourist destinations.