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Where to stay, eat and play in one of Central America’s oldest cities
The spirit of this eccentric city has blossomed recently, with a new wave of local business owners, innovators and Mexican entrepreneurial attitude introducing an irresistible culinary scene, incredible art culture and impressive architectural design — putting one of Central America’s oldest cities firmly back on the map.
Nowadays, the city mixes Aztec ruins with Michelin-star finesse, dotted with many churches, a mighty cathedral, civic palaces and grand plazas.
If that wasn’t enough, the thriving nightlife will keep you out from dusk to dawn, while the mix of museums and galleries on offer will educate and entertain while the sun is out.
Where to stay
From conventional to quirky and everything in between, the city has accommodation ooptions that span the gamut.
Tucked between historic buildings and tree-lined roads in Mexico City’s trendy Condesa neighbourhood, this stylish hotel in the heart of the city fuses the spirit of its bohemian surroundings with a playful yet simple design aesthetic. With 40 rooms and suites, the hotel epitomises the “laid-back luxe” approach to life. Attractively designed in moss green, cream and chocolate brown tones, accompanied by retro lamps, indigenous touches and handwoven rugs, each room comes with an iPod programmed with lounge music, and soft lighting with dimmers. The result is calming, airy spaces, some of which open onto wooden terraces, highlighting stunning views across the cityscape. There are two restaurants onsite; El Patio offering Mexican-French fusion fare and The Terrace, where the highlight is sushi, alongside a health bar and stunning sights over the nearby España Park.
Set in a gorgeous 1928 building, the Condesa DF is filled with custom furniture by Parisian designer India Mahdavi, stone tiles and an abundance of local colour. The feel is modern yet warm, hip but not haughty. According to the design guru, the idea at Condesa DF was to reinterpret the work of revered Mexican architect Luis Barragán, creating tranquil and restful lodgings. Simultaneously donning the neo-classical and the geometric, the building exterior is eclectic yet harmonious while the interior offers a retro Mexican and European personality. Touted as Mexico City’s coolest corner, check in to Condesa DF and experience the neighbourhood’s nightlife, boutique shopping scene and creative outlets.
Minimalist and modern, this city-chic retreat takes a pared-down approach to luxury with all-white interiors and a pool that is sure to make you swoon. Offering 36 rooms and suites ranging from the 22sqm Superior Queen to the 44sqm Deluxe King, Habita has a range of options. We love the Junior Suite, complete with a gorgeous balcony encased by glass, allowing you to use it whatever the weather. The swimming pool is one of the major draws of this fashionable complex — perched on the rooftop, the dark wooden decking and curvy white loungers offer amazing panoramic views of the skyline. There’s a spa on the 5th floor, while the hotel’s restaurant can be found in the lobby, offering Mexican food amongst concrete minimalism and monochrome artwork.
Wrapped in a sheath of glossy glass, Habita sits as a modern phenomenon amongst the surrounding 1950s-era buildings. Perfectly placed in one of the city’s most fashionable districts, the chic and stylish hotel is sandwiched between new and old façades. While the exterior is a work of art in its own right, the interiors are airy and polished, dotted with contemporary art and abstract objects. Known as Mexico City’s most upscale neighbourhood, stay here for high-end everything — fashion, food and beyond.
A hidden gem situated in the stylish Roma district, La Valise oozes charm, culture and creativity. Surrounded by leafy boulevards and decadent early-20th century townhouses, the hotel has been sculpted from stone and ornate ironwork, carving out three beautifully designed suites — the perfect refuge. Each room offers its own personality and style; El Patio is fitted with a timeless design, featuring a hammock and swing set, while La Luna has a giant rotating moon that acts as a dividing door and La Terraza allows you to sleep under the stars with a sliding bed that takes you from indoors to outside.
The artwork and furniture form a cosmopolitan design scheme that mixes European and Mexican styles with a hint of something more surreal. A city-stay experience like no other, this hotel is perfect for those looking for something out of the ordinary.
Where to eat
A vast plate filled with all things tacos, churros, tortas and tasting menus, Mexico City has all culinary crafts and more. It’s densely populated and patchworked with distinct neighbourhoods, each with its own culinary personality. While it would surely take a lifetime to explore the many tasty treats the city has to offer, here are three culinary experiences that define Mexico City’s gastronomic identity.
With iconic status that reaches around the world, chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol offers two very different dining options: a multi-course tasting menu in the formal dining room, and a “taco omakase” experience at the bar, featuring various tacos and an abundance of antojitos. Pujol’s relatively new home can be found in a stunning, mid-century home within the same neighbourhood where it started. With a wood-burning oven wafting smells through the restaurant, make sure you try chef Olvera’s signature sauce Mole Madre.
A protégée of Pujol’s Enrique Olvera, chef Jorge Vallejo comes into his own at this fine-dining restaurant in Polanco. His wife manages all things front-of-house while he whisks up magic in the kitchen. Quintonil is ranked 22nd on the World’s Best Restaurant list and ninth on the 50 Best Latin American Restaurants list. Make sure you try the 10-course tasting menu, showcasing ingredients indigenous to Mexico including corn, beans, squash, chillies and mushrooms.
A true farm-to-table concept in the heart of the city, Maximo Bistro sits in the stunning Roma area and has become a go-to for the breakfasters, brunchers and lunchers, with rumours of its culinary wonders spreading through locals and food-obsessed tourists alike. With bright and light interiors creating the best kind of backdrop, the French and Mexican fused menu focuses on sustainable ingredients and changes frequently. Serving simple, bistro-style dishes, this creative menu impresses all around.
Where to play
Perfectly placed in the centre of all the action, Mexico City’s cultural contribution is nothing short of spectacular. With a range of unique experiences, ancient architecture and religious sites both in and around the city, there is so much to see and do.
Noted as one of the most remarkable cities of the ancient world, Teotihuacán was once home to the legendary Aztec population who lived in the collection of pyramids that still stand today. The two main pyramids — the Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) and the Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon) —dominate what remains of the metropolis. For a small fee you can explore the avenue, climb the two great structures, visit the temple of the feathered serpent, and investigate myths from ancient times. There is also a fascinating museum to expand your knowledge.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Literally translating to the Palace of Fine Arts, this iconic establishment is one of the city’s most popular destinations, with over 10,000 locals and tourists visiting on a weekly basis. With impressive architecture greeting you from the exterior, the interiors offer impressive murals by world-famous Mexican artists, an arts centre and a concert hall. It is home to Diego Rivera’s famous painting El hombre en el cruce de caminos (Man at the Crossroads), originally commissioned for New York’s Rockefeller Centre.
A must on the Mexico City to-do list, Xochimilco has been offering tourist trips in gondola-like trajineras through more than 184km of waters since 1930. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, visit here to explore the colour of the city as you discover either the markets that line the river, or the colourful boats that float you along a walled canal, lined with gardens and curtains of trees. Try and visit during the Day of the Dead season, when the banks are lined with plenty of theatrical productions.
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