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Mexico City’s hippest boutique hotel: Mumedi design museum! Day of the Dead skulls, art exhibits, celebrations.

mexico city big neon rainbow sugar skull, bosque de chapultepec

Hooray for Day of the Dead in Mexico City! 

I couldn’t resist striking a disco pose in front of this massive neon skull that appears to be chomping down on me. (This rainbow display was the Celebrando la Eternidad at Bosque de Chapultepec.)

What a pleasure to finally visit CDMX — and during the most Gothic time of the year, when the dead have returned and every public space is filled with smiling skeletons.

Mumedi Mexican Museum of Design, sugar skull altar

As I predicted, La Ciudad de México was my type of urban destination. I got my fill of Dia de los Muertos, and uncovered vibrant pockets of alternative art and spooky culture.

Buckle up for a visual onslaught of Mexican skeletons, along with my inspiring stay at the Mumedi Mexican Museum of Design!

(Quite a few local children admired my Rocket Dog platform sandals. You can find these and more of their funky shoes below:)

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I’ve stayed in a lot of artistic hotels over the years, but Mumedi’s interiors made my jaw drop. This photo speaks for itself: my room’s soaring design includes exposed brick walls, wood beams and a dramatic circular mirror. 

The building is more than 400 years old, and Mumedi preserves its skeleton. However, the architects added impressive high-tech touches such as blinds that shift with the touch of a button, and a hidden ceiling fan whose wings emerge from the light! 

mumedi mexico city bed, hotel room art hotels

Design Hotel Mumedi is a secret spot within the historic city center. The museum is only steps from Mexico City’s huge Zocalo square, and visitors pass through every day. Yet very few realize that there’s a hip hotel right up the stairs!

Mumedi has six rooms available for guests, and each is decorated differently. I loved the contrast between the centuries-old walls and contemporary furnishings, and whimsical touches such as a silver ducky on the bed.

modern bathroom luxury mexico city hotel

In recent decades, Mexico City has become known for its modern architecture (I’ll show you some of the coolest structures in an upcoming post).

For a design-lover like myself, Mumedi boutique hotel lets you feel as if you’re living in your fantasy home. That free-standing bathtub is goals…

Mumedi Design Hotel, Mexico City

Mumedi, or Museo Mexicano del Diseño, is a renown multidisciplinary space focused on design and creativity. Locals come to see the latest exhibits, and enjoy the modern cafe and restaurant (I’ll show you the delicious meals at the end of this article).

As a hotel guest, I loved having insider access to the museum. Most visitors have no clue that there’s a courtyard in the upper floors, or a row of skull posters visible only to those staying overnight.

b duck exhibition, design museum mexico city

Even if you don’t book a room here, you should pop by Mumedi for the free public displays. I was enthralled by the glass cases filled with quirky textiles, photos, typography, and other design projects.

Mumedi is especially fond of playful pop culture. They recently had a photo exhibition featuring B Duck, the cute Asian avian. (Remember when I found the massive yellow ducky floating in Hong Kong’s harbor?)

mexico city concept store, hipster designer goods

One of the coolest stores I visited in Mexico City was right here, at MumediShop. The concept store is bursting with design objects from around the world, at a variety of price points.

Acting as an incubator, MumediShop puts a strong focus on young, local handmade works — like these quirky wallets above. On the upper levels, I flipped through books about fashion, photo, art and architecture.

mumedi to death with smile day dead skulls design posters

For a nominal fee, you can enter Mumedi’s spacious gallery to see the current exhibition (and access is free to guests staying at the hotel). I was thrilled to catch “To Death With A Smile,” a collection of posters revolving around Day of the Dead themes.

mexican sugar skull necklaces pendants calavera jewelry

The windows displayed gorgeous jewelry by Mexican artisans. The sugar skull earrings and necklaces were exquisitely made, and very tempting…

day of the 
 dead art exhibition posters mumedi

Mumedi put out a call for entries to artists around the world, and more than 5000 submitted poster designs that riffed on the theme of death. It was eye-opening to see the wide variety of interpretations in the 300 finalists. These ranged from a pointillist skull made out of ticking clocks, to a cartoon skeleton musing “Whose day am I going to ruin?”

(I’ll share more from Mumedi at the end of this post, including a peek at their creative menu. Already, I think you can see why I chose to stay at this stylish boutique hotel!)

zocalo skeleton sculpture, skull statue mexico city

Let’s wander outside to hunt for more skulls. Mumedi is steps from the Plaza del Zócalo, the enormous main square of Mexico City. This has been an important gathering spot for residents since the days of the Aztec. 

Safety note: be aware of pickpockets, and use zippered bags that you keep close to your body. There are plenty of police officers on these streets, so there’s no cause for concern — but always be aware of your surroundings, wherever you travel.

zocalo day of the dead public art installations mexico city

Day of the Dead has its roots in various indigenous rituals across Mexico. This current capital was once called Tenochtitlan, and ruled by the Aztec. Locals believed in Mictecacihuatl, a fearsome goddess of death and the underworld that they appeased through offerings of food and objects.

Quite fittingly, Zocalo continued to honor the dead with an “Altar of Altars” exhibition. The square was decorated with four gigantic “ofrenda,” each representing a different regional or cultural style (the Maya, the Yaqui, Huasteca, and Michoacán).

dia de los muertos exhibits altars historic mexico city

Now that I’ve experienced Dia de los Muertos in Merida with Borderline Projects, I’m keen to see how other parts of Mexico put their own spin on the sugar skull parades.

day dead skeleton offerings ofrenda mexico city

Unlike the horror of Halloween, Mexico’s Day of the Dead is a cheery and colorful occasion. The sugar skulls are painted in rainbow hues, and they’re always grinning widely.

This happy skeleton is accompanied by a bouncing undead dog much like Scraps in The Corpse Bride movie. (Appropriately for Mexico, it appears to be a chihuahua!) 

gothic mexico city fashion blogger mexican goths clothing

The mega-altars were temporarily erected to celebrate Day of the Dead. However, at all times of the year, Mexico City’s Zocalo has public art installations or performances.

You can also walk to nearby historic sights like the National Palace, Cathedral, Palace of the Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes), and Templo Mayor ruins, which I’ll show you in an upcoming story.

Day of the Dead zocalo parade mexico city

If you’re in Mexico City  on November 2, you can join 800,000 people and see one of the world’s largest Day of the Dead parades. The ghostly costumes and floats will make you feel as if you’re crossed over into the realm of the dead, much like in the movie Coco.

sugar skull statues art festival de la flores cdmx

I arrived right after these celebrations, when Centro Historico was getting ready for the Festival de Las Flores. In pre-Hispanic times, locals would make floral offerings to Xiuhtecuhtli (Lord of Flowers) to encourage bountiful crops.

In front of Templo Mayor, I was tickled to see a modern version of a tzompantli. During the Aztec era, the bloody heads of sacrificial victims were mounted onto a rack like this.

mexico city hotel day dead skeletons art

I enjoyed strolling around the historic center of Mexico City and admiring elegant buildings from past centuries. One of my favorites was the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico — you’ve got to pop in to see the Art Nouveau architecture. 

Look who’s peering over the balcony: La Catrina! The “elegant skeleton” was first drawn by Mexican caricaturist José Guadalupe Posada, who poked fun at the wealthy by drawing therm as vain bags of bones. Today, La Catrina Calavera is an icon of Day of the Dead.

gran hotel ciudad de mexico, mexico city art nouveau architecture

Look up and take in the beauty of the Art Nouveau design, which includes a Louis XV chandelier, wrought iron elevators, and Tiffany stained glass windows and ceilings from the workshop of Jacques Graber.

gran hotel ciudad de mexico, mexico city art deco building

No wonder the lady skeleton in a feathered hat and gown feels at home here. The Dia de los Muertos altar in the lobby matched perfectly with the 19th century aristocrat atmosphere.

bread of the dead, paper skeleton statues mexican

Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico brought out smiling paper mache skeletons to illustrate these seasonal rituals. The altar was stacked with enticing ofrenda like pan de muerto (bread of the dead, with bone shaped decor on top), tamales, sugar skulls, and orange marigold flowers.

bruce lee death shrine altar

Mexicans tend to put up photos of their ancestors, and surround them with their favorite things. While strolling around, I came across an altar honoring Bruce Lee! I wonder if they included the Hong Kong martial artist’s favorite food, beef in oyster sauce.

coyoacan flowers elegant buildings rich mexico city

Then, I escaped the congestion of CDMX by taking a 30 minute Uber ride to Coyoacán, a calm borough filled with greenery and residences. Once an Aztec village known as the “place of coyotes,” this is now a peaceful historical area with plenty of parks and plazas for unwinding.

I’m wearing Bayer platform sandals by Rocketdog and a bucket hat by Lack of Color.

frida kahlo museum sign logo, blue house coyoacan mx

One of Coyoacan’s best-known attractions is the Frida Kahlo museum, aka the Blue House. The Mexican artist was born and died in her family home, which now houses some of her most important works. (There was a huge line-up for the Museo Frida Kahlo, so we decided to skip it.)

rainbow candy sugar skulls, mexican decorated Calavera de Azúcar

We took our time to browse Coyoacan’s many handicraft and food markets. I was drawn to these calavera de azúcar, or handmade sugar skulls decorated with vibrant colors.

These sweets represent those who have departed — small skulls for children, and larger ones for adults. During dia de los muertos, their spirits return to enjoy the offerings on the altar.

mexican paper mache skeletons day of the dead

Even in pre-Columbian times, people incorporated imagery of skulls and skeletons in their art. (I’ll show you these symbols at the Anthropology Museum later on.)

mexico skull skeleton earrings, dia de los muertos jewellery

Today, you can find skull-themed everything in Mexico City. Skull earrings, skeleton decor, spooky shirts… It’s a Goth shopping dream.

la catrina dolls, elegant skeleton figurines mexico

Perhaps you can pick up a hand-painted Catrina or sugar skull as a keepsake.

skeleton mannequins funny mexican dia de los muertos

At this time of year in Mexico, you’ll feel like there is no separation between the living and dead. These skeletons look quite content as hat models.

designer leather jackets sugar skulls back

These leather jackets with Mexican textiles, fringe and sugar skulls on the back… yes.

day of the dead christmas sweater skull xmas feliz navidad shirt

I found a “Feliz Navidarks” Christmas shirt from a store called Cuidado con el Perro. Couldn’t resist this funny Santa Skeleton top.

celebrando la eternidad chapultepec, big light up skull mexico city

My “sugar skull hunt” culminated with the ultimate find: this towering, lit-up calavera for Celebrando La Eternidad. It guards Bosque de Chapultepec, one of city’s largest parks and an important eco space. This lush public area was once also a retreat for Aztec rulers.

kawaii cute sugar skull art baby skeletons

In the weeks surrounding Day of the Dead, the Bosque has a number of events to celebrate eternity. These including light projections on the lake, and ancient dances by performers in skull facepaint.

instagrammable spots mexico city biggest rainbow sugar skull calavera

I think the psychedelic skull is ready to have a disco party! His jaws are framed by humongous orange marigolds, or Cempasuchil flowers of the dead.

mumedi cafe & shop, healthy hipster cafes mexico city

Every evening, I was glad to return to my home base at Mumedi. I felt re-energized at their chic restaurant, with its friendly staff and walls covered in quirky posters.

plantain enchilada, cool hip brunch spots mexico city

I looked forward to a leisurely breakfast every morning at Mumedi’s cafe and restaurant. You could choose from a Continental or Mexican set — I especially loved the plantain enchilada with red sauce, and chicken or egg chilaquiles with green sauce. Each platter came with fresh fruit, juice, coffee (they have almond milk), and a black bean dip with tortilla.

blue tortilla tacos, bone marrow mexican food

Mumedi serves creative lunch and dinner dishes as well, and is open late. Their “food design” is cleverly presented yet full of traditional flavor, with fresh and healthy ingredients.

Case in point: the marrow and beef tacos on blue tortillas, a green mole steak, and “avocado” pannecotta (the seed is actually made of cocoa!)

mexico city contemporary avantgarde art museums exhibits galleries

Mumedi’s To Death With a Smile exhibit is showing until January 31, and I hope you get a chance to see it. It’s fascinating how artists from all over approach death in serious, comedic, and meaningful ways. (You can check Mumedi’s calendar of events for upcoming shows.)

mumedi hotel review interiors suite

And don’t forget that there’s a hidden gem upstairs — Mumedi’s dreamy design hotel. If you’re traveling with a group of friends, you could book this suite with two bedrooms and a spacious lounge area.

architecture design hotels mexico city

Shout-out to the fantastic staff, who were always eager to help and left delicious baked snacks and chocolates by my pillow every night.

day of the dead skull artwork posters mexico city

Gracias Mumedi for the inspiring stay — my Mexico City trip wouldn’t have been so wonderful otherwise.

Pass it along: Mumedi’s museum / shop / cafe / hotel are a must-see in CDMX. (Photos by me and Julie Hunter of Flash Fiction Kitchen.)

places celebrate day dead mexico city halloween

Have you ever seen so many skeletons in one destination? Well, there are more to come… I have Day of the Dead stories galore to share with you, from my Yucatan travels with Borderline Projects x Morbid Anatomy!

If you missed my first Dia de los Muertos post, see it here — I danced with the dead in a Merida cemetery, and encountered the supernatural…

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