Around Nicole W. Kelly’s Napa studio hang paper mache skeletons, photos of embroidered textiles, and portraits of Frida Kahlo. A California transplant originally from the Black Forest region of Germany, Nicole’s journey into fashion has meandered frequently into Mexico, where she’s studied business, design, and the pulsating streets of its capital city.
Her brand YOLOTLI, which means heart in the indigenous language Nahuatl, was conceived in 2012 offering handmade heirloom-quality fashion for kids. It has since expanded to an accessory line for adults and a small line of handmade women’s wear. Her approach to design is deeply inspired by Mexico, so we asked her to inspire us with a tour of Mexico City. Here she takes us to some of her favorite places.
Bienvenidos a México – A guide to Mexico City
I fell in love with Mexico during a one year study abroad exchange program I attended at Tecnológico de Monterrey, in the north of Mexico, fourteen years ago. A long winter break between semesters gave me the opportunity to pack up my backpack and travel across this huge country and one of our many stops was Mexico City, or D.F. as it used to be called.
Thinking back to a time without proper access to internet, smart phones and Uber I remember feeling overwhelmed. The city felt enormous, but somehow we managed to see a lot in a short week by all methods available: riding the metro, taking peseros (little buses that cost a few pesos and connect to areas of the city where the metro doesn’t go), and hopping in the legendary vocho taxis (old VW bugs).
Since then I’ve visited and traveled the country and the city numerous times, and have lived and worked in Mexico City on different assignments, the last two visits being a five-month residency at the fashion house Carla Fernández.
One of my first stops when in Mexico City is always the Centro Histórico. The historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it is one of the most captivating and busiest areas in the city, with street vendors and stores filled with curiosities everywhere. Take the metro directly to the Zócalo, the main square and heart of the city. From there it is easy to walk everywhere, starting right at the monumental Catedral Metropolitana and the Templo Mayor next door. The cathedral is breathtaking and I usually step inside just to take a break. From the cathedral it’s just a quick walk over to the partially excavated Templo Mayor, one of the main temples from the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán, now known as Mexico City.
Just around the corner from the cathedral is the famous Palacio Nacional, home to the presidential offices and the most famous Diego Rivera murals, which paint the history of Mexico.
A few blocks west from Palacio Nacional, off of 16 de Septiembre on Isabel la Católica, is the Hotel Downtown. Through the enormous wooden doors is a high-end boutique hotel filled with restaurant and stores, and a living wall that spans over three floors. I generally prefer to eat street food when in Mexico but for a sit-down lunch or dinner, Azul Histórico right at the entrance offers beautiful ambience and traditional Mexican cuisine.
Next door is Puntanera, a seafood restaurant with a little store in the entrance area where homemade whole wheat bread and delicious pastries make it impossible to walk by. Find a spicy cold chocolate drink at Que Bo on the second floor and across the courtyard one of my favorite shopping destinations for contemporary Mexican fashion, the Carla Fernandez boutique.
“Leaving the historic downtown area, I often stroll along Avenida 5 de Mayo towards Palacio de Bellas Artes and take my obligatory photos of the blue and white tiled facade of Casa de los Azulejos, the House of Tiles. ”
One of my favorite stops in that area is the Museo de Arte Popular, which showcases a big variety of Mexico’s folk art and handcrafts, and has a beautiful gift shop right next to the entrance.
Speaking of museums… there are so many great museums in this city but if I had to pick a few I would make sure to visit the Museo Nacional de Antropología, the Frida Kahlo Museum and MUAC, the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s own Contemporary Museum with an incredible collection of national and international contemporary art.
The Frida Kahlo Museum, La Casa Azul, where Frida was born and died, is in the picturesque Colonia Coyoacán.
“Once in Coyoacán, stroll around the streets of this historic neighborhood and stop at the legendary Café El Jarocho. There is always a long line out and around the building, but the coffee is worth the wait.”
For shopping and dining, two of my all time favorite neighborhoods are Colonia Condesa and Colonia Roma.
Book lovers, head to El Péndulo on Avenida Alvaro Obregón, where shelves filled with books stretch over three stories and you can enjoy a snack or a fresh cup of coffee while reading.