Mexico City was added to the global art crawl some time ago, but two new museums have cemented its status as one of the world’s major art metropolises. Carlos Slim’s Museo Soumaya, located in the once moribund Nuevo Polanco, is an architectural marvel by Fernando Romero, containing mostly European masters like Rodin and Tintoretto from the tycoon’s personal collection. The equally striking nearby Museo Jumex, juice heir Eugenio López Alonso’s David Chipperfield–designed contemporary-art museum, is hosting a yearlong exhibition by one of Mexico’s most fêted artists, Damián Ortega. Check into La Valise (from $350; 55-5286-9560), a new boutique hotel with just three suites, located in Roma Norte, dubbed “the new Condesa” for its nuevo bohemian vibe and cool shops.
Once a south-of-the-border Shangri-la for the creative cognoscenti—like socialite Barbara Hutton and John Spencer, Princess Di’s uncle—this Spanish Colonial city (about an hour by bus; $8 each way through estrelladeoro.com.mx) dropped off the international radar in the 1990s. Well-heeled chilangos are still aware of its charms, however, fleeing the city every weekend to take in Cuernavaca’s perpetually mild climate, compact downtown studded with plazas and stately buildings, and profusion of gardens, many sequestered behind towering walls. The raffish bohemianism for which the town was once known is slowly returning, particularly at hangouts like L’Arrosoir d’Arthur, a French-owned bar-restaurant that hosts film screenings and improv nights, and La Comuna, a café popular with the town’s left-leaning intelligentsia, who linger over fair-trade coffee and free Wi-Fi. Don’t miss the Robert Brady Museum, in the heart of Old Town, the private home of an artist, collector, and bon vivant famous for his wild parties. Set among manicured gardens and ivy-covered fortlike walls, the home is as Brady left it, with works from artists like Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo, and décor heavy on animal print, quirky antiques, and vibrant color schemes. Afterward, stroll the Jardín Borda, an oasis within the town walls constructed by silver magnate José de la Borda in the 18th century, with rambling paths, reflecting pools, fountains, and a small museum with rotating art exhibits. Cuernavaca’s most storied hotel, Las Mañanitas (from $307; relaischateaux.com/mananitas), is set among vast gardens—a mosaic of jade-green lawns, tropical flowers, and European plantings—filled with exotic birds like peacocks, cranes, and toucans. You can even get your flora fix at the restaurants: One of the city’s best tables, set in the lush grounds of the Hotel & Spa Hacienda de Cortés, lets you sample the house specialty, sweet spiced mole xico, in the company of jagged amate trees.
2 hours: 30 miles from the capital city of Tlaxcala, Huamantla is the ideal place for hacienda enthusiasts. Visit Hacienda Soltepec (from $178; haciendasoltepec.com), a castlelike former plantation turned hotel and restaurant.
2 hours: A sophisticated weekend bolt-hole for Mexico City’s cashed-up elite, the lakefront town of Valle de Bravo nevertheless manages to retain its small-scale charm. Rent kayaks to explore the lake, then hike up Monte Alto or Divisadero for panoramic views of the valley or join the flock of paragliders floating above the lake.
4 hours: One of Mexico’s government-designated “Pueblos Mágicos,” the small mountain town of Cuetzalan in Puebla’s north features cobblestone streets and a culinary scene that draws on indigenous ingredients and techniques. Be sure to try acamaya, a crustacean similar to crawfish.