Souvenir Shopping Guide: 17 Must-Buy Local Products from Mexico City
Both historic and modern day Mexico's are worth each other in terms of cultural and artistic heritage. The country's capital Mexico City is a showroom of what the label "Made in Mexico" stands for in its entirety. Whether it's authentic food, drink or piece of craftsmanship that you're after, you'll find it all here in abundance. To ease your navigation through the many markets around the city, check out this guide and see if there's anything you haven't had previously in mind as a memento to pick up from Mexico on your way home.
Image Courtesy of: Rosa Menkmam
1. Hand-Blown Glass
In Mexico, hand-blown and mouth-blown glass is a revered art form with a long history. No two pieces are ever the same, as each one is made individually. You can choose from a wide variety of hand-blown glass products, such as wine goblets, pitchers, tea glasses, serving bowls, shot glasses, margarita glasses, and many more. These utilitarian art pieces come in many different colors, including the popular, cobalt blue rimmed pieces. If you want more color, check out the confetti glass pieces, which feature several colors in fun patterns. Besides the serving and drink-ware choices, you can find hand-blown glass figurines, as well. The Fondo Nacional para el Fomento de las Artesanias (The National Fund for the Development of the Crafts), also known as FONART, is one of the main retailers for these types of items. There are actually five locations around Mexico City, including the Galería Juárez location in the center of the city near Alameda Park. The address for this store is Juárez 89, and it is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m, Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. It also features some of the most diverse, handcrafted home furnishings and accessories in Mexico City. Blown-glass products start around $15 for a single goblet.
Mexico City shoppers can choose from a wide variety of earrings, necklaces, bracelets and more made by local artisans. The Mexican town of Taxco is famous for its silver work, while natural stones, such as turquoise, jade, amethyst and coral, are mined in many different parts of the Latin country. Pricing for these items will range depending upon the stone and setting. Some items begin at $20 USD, while others will cost hundreds of dollars. The trendy, yet bohemian, Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City features a wide variety of jewelry boutiques, handmade Mexican craft stores, silver shops and art galleries. Considered one of the most fashionable areas in Mexico City, Condesa is similar to Soho in New York City and the Latin Quarter of Paris, and it is popular with artists, students and young business people. One unique jewelry boutique in the area is Entenaya, which features silver pieces combined with turquoise, coral and other semi-precious stones. Other unusual pieces include those made from glass and seeds. This store is located at Montes de Oca 47, and it is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. It does accept credit cards as well. Travelers can check out local sidewalk cafes and stroll along tree-lined avenues in this upscale neighborhood.
3. Día de los Muertos
Typically celebrated on November 1st each year, Día de los Muertos, is a popular Mexican holiday that focuses on remembering loved ones and friends that aren't there no more. On this day, Mexicans traditionally create altars in their homes or cemeteries that are decorated with candles, photos of deceased loved ones, colored paper hangings, pan de muerto (bread of the dead that is slightly sweet and features orange and anise flavors), different food and drinks that the deceased enjoyed, incense, salt and water. The other main decorative features are catrinas (miniature skeleton dolls dressed in clothing) and calaveras (miniature painted skulls). As this holiday is so close to the U.S. Halloween holiday, some of these Mexican decorations may serve a good addition to the celebration. Visit the store, Arte Mexicano Para el Mundo in the Zócalo área. It is located at Monte de Piedad 11 and open on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Día de los Muertos items start around $10 USD, and also include miniature coffins with pop-up skeletons, candles and other items. This store is huge and features three floors of Mexican crafts and arts, such as pottery and papier-mâché dolls. While you’re there, check out the 6th floor cafeteria that features views of Zócalo square, home to the Mexican presidential palace, Aztec ruins and the sinking Metropolitan Cathedral.
4. Tribal Art
Mexico is home to many of the world’s most famous indigenous tribes, including the Mayans, Toltecs and Aztecs. In fact, just outside the city limits is the archaeological site of Teotihuacan, which features the Sun and Moon pyramids, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Avenue of the Dead. Bring home a piece of history and culture with a locally-made copy of pre-Colombian art, such as a mask, statue or a pottery piece. Choose from a wide variety of mythological art pieces, such as a jaguar warrior statue or a mask depicting Quetzalcoatl, the Mesoamerican deity that is depicted as a feathered serpent. Other popular masks and statues include Atlaua, the water god, and Tlaloc, the god of rain, fertility and lightning. In the center of Mexico City, the store Arte Prehispánico is located at Córdoba 148 and it is open from Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. This shop features excellent copies of masks and statues that are as good as those found at any local museum and that start around $35 USD. While you’re there, check out other artisan works of art, such as woven wraps from Chiapas and other reasonably-priced handmade items from existing indigenous tribal members.
Cultivated from a cacao tree, the first known culinary use of chocolate occurred in Mexico. In fact, the origination of the word “cacao” traces back to the Olmec tribe, which lived in the modern areas of Chiapas, Veracruz and Tabasco. All the ancient Mexican tribes incorporated chocolate in their daily lives and spiritual rituals, as cacao was known as the “gods’ food.” For example, the Mayas included chocolate in their elaborate wedding ceremonies, burial ceremonies and tombs, while the Aztecs took the cacao to new culinary, ritualistic and monetary levels. Modern Mexican chocolate typically refers to foamy chocolate drinks or cinnamon-scented round, flat disks of chocolate. It is one of the main ingredients in the famous Mexican dish, mole, as well. Travelers can bring home a taste of Mexico with rich, Mexican hot chocolate mixes, blocks of hard chocolate for baking or drinks, or even chocolate bars flavored with chiles. Shop for your ideal Mexican chocolate, as well as other traditional Mexican sweets, such as cajeta, at Dulcería de Celaya. This sweet boutique is located in the Centro area of Mexico City at 5 de Mayo 39. It was founded in 1874 and also has a branch in the La Roma neighborhood. It is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Candy starts as low as $1 USD for small pieces.
Tequila is the traditional national drink of Mexico, and no trip to the country is complete without tasting it. This popular liquor is made from the Mexican-grown agave plant. Visitors can choose from a wide variety of tequila types, brands and price ranges, while in Mexico City. There are five main types of tequila, including Blanco or Plata (silver or white), Oro (gold), Reposado (rested), Añejo (aged or vintage) and Extra Añejo (extra aged). In Mexico, you can also find flavored tequilas and dessert tequilas, such as Dobel, which is creamy, sweet and coffee-flavored. Whether you are looking for a cost-efficient tequila or an expensive, top-shelf tequila, such as Patron or Don Julio, La Divina has them all. While there are several locations of this upscale liquor store around Mexico City, one of the biggest stores is in the ritzy neighborhood of Polanco. The address is Newton 136, and it is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Sunday. La Divina features more than 200 types of tequila, as well as many gift packages. Medium-quality tequilas there start around $15 USD a bottle.
7. Huipil Clothing
Literally meaning “blouse” or “dress,” huipil clothing has been worn by indigenous Mexican women since pre-Hispanic times. This type of clothing actually originates in the Chiapas region, but you can now find it all over Mexico City in a wide variety of locations, from street markets to upscale boutiques. The traditional version is a loose-fitting, flowing white blouse or dress that features hand-embroidered flower patterns around the neckline. However, modern versions come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and the more elaborate, the more expensive. Visit the Mercado de la Merced near the Zócalo to find huipils for women, men and children. This popular market is the biggest in Mexico City, and it is housed in several modern buildings. One of the main entrances is east of the Zócalo, on Circunvalación between Adolfo Gurrión and General Anaya. It’s open every day from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. and you can find a wide variety of vendors that sell huipils, starting around $15 USD apiece. You can also find many other items sold at this market, including fresh Mexican chiles, rebozos, handmade jewelry and embroidered purses. Visit the nearby Templo Mayor, the ancient Aztec temple that is dedicated to the Aztec deities, Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, and Tlaloc, the god of rain and agriculture.
8. Mexican Art
Mexico City was and is a hotspot for folk artists and painters, and many local art galleries featuring colorful originals and prints from the famed duo of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, as well as modern artists. While you will want to check out some of the city’s most famous museums, such as the Diego Rivera Mural Museum, the Leon Trotsky Museum, and Frida Kahlo’s home in the Coyoacan area of Mexico City, you can bring home a masterpiece of your own as well. Check out the Jardin del Arte (Garden of Art), located between Sullivan and Villalongín near the popular Sullivan Park. This outdoor market occurs every Sunday behind the Monumento a la Madre (Monument to Mothers) in the San Rafael neighborhood. It features the works of between 350 and 400 different local artists, and is the largest outdoor art gallery in the world. Choose from a wide variety of art, from paintings of ink, oil and watercolors, etchings, sculptures and photography. Art prices range from $5 USD to $500 USD, depending on the size of the piece and the artist. The market is conveniently located near the center of Mexico City and is a sight that shouldn’t be missed on your trip.
Mexico is the birthplace of vanilla, and Mexican vanilla is considered to be the king of vanilla extracts. It is rich and smooth, and features a spicy element. The Totonac of the Veracruz are the first known cultivators of vanilla, which is actually the only edible fruit of the orchid flower. Bakers know that vanilla is one of the most essential cooking ingredients, and there is no substitute for it. Real vanilla is complex, as is made up of more than 250 components. While you can find Mexican vanilla all over Mexico City, many tourist areas feature synthetic vanilla extract, which is not as good as the real thing. Shop like the locals and visit the upscale grocery store, Comercial Mexicana Sumesa in the Polanco neighborhood. This store is located at Virgilio no. 15 Col. Polanco Deleg. Miguel Hidalgo, and is open every day from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. It features a wide variety of vanillas, that range in price from $5 USD to $40 USD, depending on the brand and size. Choose from simple bottles, or elaborate containers that feature silver plated labels and may be considered works of art themselves. Bring home a bottle for yourself and your favorite baker friends.
As Mexico is a devoutly Catholic nation, visitors will most likely visit many ornate cathedrals during their visits. Depictions of the Last Supper, as well as rosaries are found in most traditional Mexican homes, as well. Bring home a piece of Mexico with your own decorative cross. You can find Mexican crosses in a wide variety of sizes and materials, including hand-painted talavera, wood and metals. These beautiful wall hangings can brighten any room of the house, as well as add color and character to decorative space. Visit the Mercado de La Ciudadela to find a Mexican cross that fits into your decorating theme. This quaint market is located on Balderas, between Reforma and Chapultepec. It features hundreds of authentic Mexican arts and crafts, including crosses that start around $10 USD. It’s open every day of the week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and many vendors there accept credit cards as well. While you’re there, check out the Escuela Nacional de Artes, across the street from the market. It’s only a 10-minute walk from the Alemeda, and you can find other unique items there, including talavera pottery, tile-framed mirrors, hammocks and leather products. What's good is that whenever you need a break from all the shopping, you can have a picnic at the nearby scenic park.
The Mayans and Aztecs contributed many things to modern society, such as their timekeeping devices. Calendars and the significance of the day and the astrological elements were extremely important to both of these indigenous cultures. In fact, calendars were also used as divination tools. In both indigenous cultures, babies were often named after the deity that ruled that day on the calendar. While visitors may not believe in these systems, they can still commemorate the year 2012 with a Mayan calendar. You can also add to your outdoor patio art with an Aztec calendar. Choose from many different sizes, as well as plain clay versions or brightly-painted colored calendars. Get a calendar that is simply a calendar, or choose an ashtray or clock calendar. Find what you’re looking for at the popular, Mercado Insurgentes, located in the Zona Rosa (pink zone) at Londres and Avenue Florencia. This crafts market features a wide variety of handmade items, and it is open from Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Calendars start out around $15 USD. While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the numerous jewelry stores, art galleries and boutiques. Zona Rosa also features many trendy sidewalk cafes and nightclubs.
12. Mexican Coffee
The tropical jungles of Chiapas and Oaxaca in Mexico have the ideal growing environments for a coffee bean. In fact, Mexico exports a wide variety of gourmet coffees that range in flavors and robustness. One of the most popular coffee drinks in Mexico is called café de olla. This coffee is made with cinnamon sticks and is naturally sweet. While you’re in Mexico City, you’ll want to visit at least one café to try out a cup of Mexican coffee, and you may even want to bring home a bag of coffee beans to treat your friends and family. Check out one of the most unique places in Mexico City, the Cafebrería El Péndulo, located in the Condesa neighborhood. This favorite local spot is a café, bar and bookstore in one. It also has a small venue where local bands play a wide variety of music in the evenings. Enjoy a cup of coffee or a cappuccino with a slice of cake or other Mexican pastries. The address is Avenue Nuevo Leon 115, and it even has valet parking. It is open from Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. until 12 a.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. until 12 a.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. You can buy bags of coffee beans to go, starting at around $8 USD. Don’t have time to go to a café? - Pick up a bag of gourmet coffee at upscale liquor stores, such as La Divina and La Navel.
Mexico is renowned for its handmade textiles created by local artisans. You can choose from napkins, placemats, tablecloths, baby blankets, pillow cases and other types of textiles made from cotton, linen, gauze and lace. Whether you prefer intricate designs or simple patterns, you can find them all in Mexico City. You can also choose from solid white materials or colored versions. Most Mexican textiles reflect the pre-Hispanic artful traditions of dyeing, spinning, embroidery and weaving. These ancient techniques can be found in the modern marketplace all around the city. One of the best locations to find textiles is the store, Las Fábricas de Mexico, located in the Zócalo area. The address is Pino Suárez 17, and it is open Monday from Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Las Fábricas de Mexico features a majority of cotton items that start around $25 USD for smaller items. Large items, such as tablecloths, may cost as much as $200 USD, depending on the pattern. Visitors can also find embroidered clothing, such as huipil shirts, and cotton underwear at this shop. While you’re in the area, check out nearby street markets for other textile items as well.
Worn by Mexican women of all classes by the end of the 18th century, rebozos are beautiful accessories that can be used as shawls or scarves. They come in a wide variety of sizes, materials, colors and prints. These intricate pieces are descendants of the Aztec carrying cloth, and modern indigenous women also use them to carry their infants, while the first lady of Mexico always wears one during the famous Mexican independence day speech held on the balcony of the Presidential Palace each year. While visitors can find dozens of shops and market vendors that offer rebozos, the Museo Nacional de Artes e Industrias Populares carries one of the best selections of rebozos in all of Mexico City. Two of the most popular styles, the Santa Maria and the Tenancingo, can be found at this store. It is located in the Zócalo area, also known as the textile district. The address is Avenida Juarez 44, and it is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Prices vary, depending on the style and material. For example, Tenancingo rebozos start at around $30 USD, while Santa Maria rebozos start around $80 USD. Silk rebozos typically start around $165 USD.
15. Talavera Pottery
Talavera is glazed, decoratively-painted Mexican earthenware that is a blend of Spanish and pre-Hispanic designs, colors and pieces, including decorative figurines and functional pieces, such as pot holders, serving dishes, vases, spoon rests, and flower pots. It is primarily made in the town of Puebla, which is also known as the “City of Tiles” because it has the colorful tile work on many of the buildings. Talavera was introduced to Mexico by Colonial-period Spanish guild artists. Talavera is referred to as “majolica” in Spain, which is typically characterized by the polychromatic, traditional blue and white designs. However, Mexicans put a classic twist on it by introducing bright, colorful animal and floral motifs. Bring home this aspect of Mexican décor with a small talavera piece of your own. Find an item that fits your home and décor at the store, Artesanos de Mexico, located in the center of the city. The actual address is Londres 117, and the store is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Talavera pieces start around $15 USD, and you can also choose from other decorative pieces, such as masks and painted trays.
Featuring a sweet, coffee-flavor, Kalúha is also a native Mexican product. This rum-based liqueur made from Arabica coffee beans and sugar, is the perfect after-dinner drink and makes a great addition to your own home bar or as a gift for friends. While it is made in the Mexican state of Veracruz, visitors can buy it all over Mexico. Making Kalúha is actually a seven-year process that involves growing, harvesting, drying and aging, distilling, and roasting and blending. Kalúha is served in a wide variety of cocktails, such as the popular Kalúha and coffee drink, Kalúha on the rocks, Kalúha and ginger ale, the Black Russian, and the espresso martini. Kalúha comes in several varieties, including the original version, Kalúha Especial, and flavored versions, such as French vanilla, mocha, and peppermint mocha. The original version starts out around $15 USD per bottle. Find your next bottle at one of Mexico City’s finest liquor stores, La Naval. There are many locations of La Naval around the city, but one of the biggest is located near the center of the city at Avenue Insurgentes Sur 373. This store is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Sunday.
17. Sports Clothing
Fútbol is the national pastime in Mexico, and there are many great rivalries within the Mexico league, as well as between local teams in Mexico City. The jersey or shirt of his favorite team is in the closet of every Mexican boy and man. Mexico City has several popular local teams, including the UNAM Pumas and America. Most Mexicans follow international soccer, as well, and you’ll see the jerseys from teams from the Italian league, British league and Spanish league all around the capital city. While many markets feature knockoff versions of these jerseys, you can get the real thing at the popular Mexican sporting goods store, Marti. This specialist sports store has outlets all around Mexico, including several large locations in Mexico City. One of the biggest stores is in Plaza Interlomas, located at Vialidad de la Barranca No. 6. This sports-fan emporium features a wide variety of international and national soccer jerseys, as well as mountain climbing and ski equipment. It is open every day from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Most soccer jerseys start around $70 USD, but Marti often features sales and volume deals. Don’t forget to pick up the national Mexican team league jersey while you’re there.
Mexico City Walking Tours
It would be a pity to leave Mexico City without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Mexico City, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.9 km
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.9 km
Zona Rosa, or The Pink Zone is one of the Mexico City's famous neighborhoods. It is located near the historic center of the city. The neighborhood was called the Pink Zone because of the pink tiles that are prevalent here. The area offers amazing Beaux-Art architecture, the city's best handicraft markets and antique shops. Take this walking tour to discover the beauties that Zona Rosa has to offer.
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 km
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 km
Mexico City is a populous, high-altitude capital of Mexico, renowned for its wealth of history and tradition. The local landmarks are numerous and include, among others, the Baroque-style Catedral Metropolitana de México of the Spanish conquistadors and the Palacio Nacional, home to the historic murals by Diego Rivera. All of these are found in and near Plaza de la Constitución, the enormous main square of the city commonly referred to as the Zócalo. To see what else is there in the Historic Center of Mexico City, follow this self-guided tour and explore.
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 km
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 km