Mexico City

Introduction

Both gritty and glamorous, Mexico City is a glorious tangle of contradictions, a megalopolis whose star is in the ascendant. Forget the capital city's suffering reputation of the 1980s, when a series of crises (earthquakes, explosions, gang-related violence, and so on) encouraged a lot of bad press; today's CDMX (Ciudad de México, née DF, or Federal District) is a creative boomtown with restaurants, art scene, and fashion players that rival the world’s best. Culture aficionados make pilgrimages to witness both traditional draws—the ancient Aztec ruins of the Great Temple; Diego Rivera's magnificent murals—and a slew of new world-class galleries and museums that have positioned the city as an essential stop on the global art circuit. Gourmands, meanwhile, are flocking here to sample Nuevo Mexicano cooking courtesy of star chefs like Martha Ortiz and Enrique Olvera, dedicated to fusing deeply rooted culinary traditions with cutting-edge new techniques. From the pulque cafes to the riotous markets to the chic speakeasy-style bars, stylish chilangos are discovering a renewed passion for their hometown, which is safer, cleaner, and greener than ever before (for proof, witness the popularity of the bike share program). This is Mexico City's moment, and there's never been a better time to go.

Best Time to Go

The city enjoys a temperate climate year-round. Expect hot, dry conditions April to June and chillier nights from October to January. The week before Easter is the perfect time to go for those that want to experience less traffic and fewer crowds.

Airport Info

Mexico City International Airport (MEX) is less than an hour's drive from the city center, depending on traffic. Arrange for a taxi to your hotel at one of the official stands at the airport.

Getting Around

Uber is your best option. The drivers are extremely reliable and accommodating, but don’t expect all drivers to speak English. There’s also the Downtown Tour with Turibus (approximately $10), which allows travelers to hop-on and off in the city’s top destinations from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Buy your ticket onsite, at your hotel, or online.

Can’t Leave Without

1. Visiting the home of two of the city's greatest creative icons, which has since turned into a glorious institution. Located in the burgeoning Coyoacán district, the Museo Frida Kahlo (Londres 247, 52-55/5554-5999; museofridakahlo.org.mx), known as Casa Azul thanks to its cobalt-blue walls, contains many of the most iconic pieces Kahlo created, and offers a fascinating glimpse into her relationship with Diego Rivera. 

2. Sipping mezcal cocktails on the rooftop of Downtown Mexico—a fashionable hotel set on atmospheric Isabel la Católica in a stunning 17th-century mansion. The views over the city are unforgettable. (Isabel La Católica 30; 52-55/5282-2199; downtownmexico.com)

3. Strolling through Chapultepec Park, a massive green space at the heart of the city that always surprises first-time visitors: Not only does it offer a welcome blast of tranquility, but there's also both a castle and world-class museum hidden in the forest.

Deserves the Hype

The Zócalo, Mexico City's main square, is not to be missed. Sure, it's congested, noisy, and a little nuts, but it's also one of the most exhilarating spots in town, ringed with museums, shops, and markets. It's especially magical during the Christmas season.

Local Dish to Try

Tacos al Pastor are made of pork grilled on a revolving spit, pineapple, onions, and cilantro. Try the best of them at Los Panchos (Calle Tolstoi 9; 52-55/5254-5390; lospanchos.mx) or El Huequito (Gante 1; 52-55/5518-3313; elhuequito.com.mx), a hole-in-the-wall near the Alameda Park in downtown.

Local Drink to Sip

Pulque, a centuries-old milky drink made from the fermented sap of the agave plant, is enjoying a revival in the city. Try it at pulquerías around town, from the historic Las Duelistas (Aranda 28; 52-55/1394-0958) to the new, including Pulquería Insurgentes (Av. de los Insurgentes Sur 226; 52-55/5207-0917).

Local Tips

Restaurants start serving lunch around 2:00 p.m.; reservations are a must for dinner; and the weekend fun starts on Thursday—the day most locals like to go out. Nights on the town usually begin with a precopeo (pre-party drink) and last until 2:00 a.m., but don’t be surprised if you’re still dancing at 5:00. Locals love their hangover treatments, and you can find them at almost every restaurant. The general rule of thumb: the spicier, the better. Micheladas (lemon, salsa, salt, soy sauce, beer, with a touch of tomato and clam juice) are a must for the morning after. Or keep it simple with a consomé de pollo (chicken soup). 

Seasonal Highlights

SPRING: Visit the city's famous traditional markets to browse the cornucopia of fresh produce and goods. Mercado de San Juan (Av. Arcos de Belén; 52-55/4335-8057), located in the downtown historic center, is one of the best in town for food-centric travelers, while the Mercado de Jamaica (Guillermo Prieto 45; 52-55/5741-0002; mercadodejamaica.com) is dedicated to floral blooms of every kind.

SUMMER: Retreat to one of the city's parks for some leafy down time. Apart from Chapultepec Park and the centrally located Alameda, there's Parque Mexico in Condesa (bonus: it doesn't close at 5 p.m. like many of the other parks) and the lesser-visited Tlalpan Forest in the south. This leafy urban park, which is full of great running paths and tracks, has over 600 acres to explore. The destination is also home to a great number of unique flora and fauna. If you're lucky, you might even spot the Sharp-Shinned Hawk. 

FALL: Take a walking or cycling tour through the stylish neighborhoods of Condesa, Polanco, and Roma, the epicenters of shopping, gallery-hopping, and dining. If you are lucky enough to be there on the last week of October or the first week of November, make sure to visit the Day of the Dead altars, which are easy to spot around the city. From November 1 – 2, families come together at cemeteries around the city to celebrate the life of those they’ve lost, honoring the departed with music, flowers, and food. The Dolores Cemetery (Av. Constituyentes S/N, Bosque de Chapultepec Parque Nacional; 52-55/6889-6929) is the largest cemetery in the country, and pays tribute to the heroes of the nation at the Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres.

WINTER: Check out the dazzling Christmas lights display in the Zócalo, then go see a production of The Nutcracker at the Auditorio Nacional (Av. Paseo de la Reforma 50; 52-55/9138-1350; auditorio.com.mx), performed every December by the National Dance Company. Stroll through the Christmas Markets in the Alameda Park, which are full of artisanal decorations and folklore.

Quick Tips

Car Service to Know

Blacklane

Extended Stay

Oasis Collections

Same-Day Dry Cleaning

Dryclean USA
52-55/5282-1844

Tailor to Know

Tomorrowland Tailors
52-55/5202-3140

Hair Stylist to Book

Joss Claude
52-55/5540-3036

City’s Best Spa

Remede Spa at the St Regis
52-55/5228-1828

Best Hotel Gym

Four Seasons
52-55/5230-1818

Personal Shopper

Palacio de Hierro
52-55/5283-7200

Best Souvenir

Alebrije at Fonart
52-55/5546-7163

Best Store for Gifts

Mercado de artesanías de la Ciudadela

Best Coffee

Delirio
52-55/5584-0870

The Fixer to Know

Concierge, St. Regis
52-55/5228-1818
Hotels

W Mexico City

The W brand of “untz-untz” luxury can feel a tad dated, but fashion-forward residents still flock to this industrial-meets-Pop-Art outpost.
Polanco

JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City

This sleek, corporate offering boasts standard five-star luxuries and proximity to the city’s best restaurants and boutiques.
Polanco
FH&R

Distrito Capital

This stylish, minimalist retreat for creative types and visiting boldface names is located in the city’s freshly minted business district.
Santa Fé

The St. Regis Mexico City

With discreetly lavish interiors by Yabu Pushelberg and pulse-raising views of iconic landmarks, this is the choice of politicians, pop stars, and the city’s elite.
Cuauhtémoc
FH&R

Condesa DF

Set on a quiet street in the artsy neighborhood of Condesa, this retreat boasts playful, retro-inspired interiors.
Condesa

Las Alcobas

Few destinations are more reflective of the city’s transformation than this glamorous address.
Polanco

La Valise

A soigné boutique hotel with just three suites, this stay is for those who crave the tranquility of a private home and the conveniences of a hotel.
Roma Norte

Downtown México

Exquisite details, a louche rooftop bar, and an excellent location make the Downtown the highlight of Grupo Habita’s boutique hotel portfolio.
Centro Histórico

Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City

Squarely aimed at the executive class, the 240-room Four Seasons offers a tranquil, quintessentially five-star oasis on bustling Paseo de la Reforma.
Zona Rosa
FH&R

Hotel Habita

Grupo Habita’s flagship property is a study in pared-back, minimalist style.
Polanco
Restaurants

La Bipo

The retro-inspired La Bipo exemplifies what young, cool Mexico City residents desire in their evening dining experiences.
Roma Norte
Mexican

Dulce Patria

Martha Ortiz Chapa is forging a brand-new version of regionally inspired Mexican cooking in her acclaimed Polanco restaurant.
Polanco
Contemporary Mexican

Biko

A beautiful mix of Mexican and Basque cuisine, the cooking here is both playful and deeply serious.
Polanco
Haute Cuisine

Azul Histórico

Diners are treated to reinvented regional specialties in a spectacular courtyard setting.
Polanco
Haute Cuisine

Quintonil 

This creative restaurant from Pujol alum Jorge Vallejo and his wife Alejandra Flores offers some of the most exciting, impressive bites in the city.
Polanco
Contemporary Mexican

Lardo

This delightful, casual Mediterranean restaurant boasts an open kitchen, a convivial bar, and delicious wood-fired pizzas.
Condesa
Mediterranean

Rosetta

Rosetta is the ideal neighborhood go-to, serving simple-yet-spectacular rustic Italian dishes and heavenly baked goods.
Roma Norte
Italian

Contramar

A culinary experience that’s as much about people-watching as dining, Contramar gets the Nuevo Mexican trend just right.
Roma
Seafood

Pujol

The midcentury modern setting offers a stunning backdrop for Olvera’s high-drama dishes.
Polanco
Innovative Mexican

Maximo Bistrot

A sophisticated, cozy neighborhood favorite serving innovative, market-driven riffs on rustic regional dishes.
Roma Norte
Market-Driven Cuisine
Bars + Lounges

Area

The rooftop top lounge is an excellent spot for a sunset cocktail or two—not least for the fantastic views.
Polanco
Rooftop Lounge

Bosforo

Head to this intimate, convivial dive bar for the comprehensive selection of artisanal mezcal and tequila.
Centro
Mezcal Bar

Jules Basement

M.N. ROY’s sister speakeasy-style bar is a great place to sip a cocktail while listening to blues- and-funk-inspired tunes.
Polanco
Speakeasy

M.N. ROY

One of the hottest, most exclusive tickets in town, this late-night club attracts a glamorous crowd in a sexy space.
Roma
Club

Baltra Bar

This cozy, intimate bar inspired by Charles Darwin’s trip to the eponymous island in the Galapagos serves some of the city’s most interesting cocktails.
Condesa
Cocktail Bar

Bar La Opera

First opened in 1895, the gorgeously ornate red velvet and carved-wood cantina is the perfect spot for an authentic, old school taste of Mexico City.
Centro Histórico
Cocktail Bar

Dixon

This sophisticated, midcentury modern bar is a trip back to the 1970s.
Polanco
Lounge

Hanky Panky

Mexico City’s most exclusive bar doesn’t list an address and requires a reservation.
Roma
Speakeasy

Limantour

This Art Deco-inspired hotspot gets every aspect of the artisanal-cocktail trend right.
Polanco
Craft Cocktails

Downtown México

This rooftop terrace has a cool, laid-back vibe and breathtaking views of Centro Histórico.
Centro Histórico
Rooftop Bar
Shopping

Sabrá Dios

This boutique specializes in Mexico’s small mezcal producers and features a range of styles distilled throughout Mexico.
Condesa
Mezcal

Common People

This three-story concept shop unfolds into a series of expertly curated niches filled with covetable contemporary homewares, jewelry, and fashions.
Polanco
Concept Shop

180° Degrees Shop

Look for the jaunty black-and-white awning that marks this fun concept store offering casual clothing, shoes, and accessories from Mexican and international designers.
Roma Norte
Menswear

Dulcería El Secreto

This artisanal candy shop in Polanco gives traditional Mexican confections a home as colorful and sweet as the treats it sells.
Polanco
Artisanal Candies

Casa Bosques

This lovely bookstore specializes in art, design, fashion, and architecture publications—especially those by independent Mexican publishers.
Roma Norte
Independent Books

Roma Quince

Set in a swoonworthy casona in Roma, this concept store offers a variety of unique treasures from local designers.
Roma
Concept Shop

Sangre de mi Sangre

Designer and founder Mariana Villarreal creates pieces that range from the delicate to the divine.
Roma
Jewelry

Onora

This beautifully curated store hosts a variety of exquisite handcrafted goods for the home.
Polanco
Home + Design

Pirwi

This furniture cooperative from a group of young design talents deals in exquisite sustainable, retro-inspired pieces.
Polanco
Furniture + Design

Cañamiel

Discover what Latin American designers have to offer in this eclectic concept store located in the heart of Polanco.
Polanco
Concept Shop
Things To Do

Palacio de Bellas Artes

This magnificent opera house, completed in 1934, hosts a wide range of permanent and temporary fine art exhibitions.
Centro Histórico
Cultural Center

Markets

Mexico City is full of bustling markets, but the Mercado de San Juan and Mercado Roma offer two of the best (and pleasantly contrasting) experiences.
Various
Browsing

Teotihuacan

Only 25 miles outside of Mexico City sits a Mesoamerican settlement that at one time was the largest metropolis in the pre-Columbian Americas.
Municipio de Teotihuacan
Archeological Site

Xochimilco

This World Heritage Site, what’s left of an extensive canal and lake system built during pre-Hispanic times, is worthwhile detour on a beautiful day.
Xochimilco
Gardens

Plaza Carso

This huge development in Nuevo Polanco includes excellent cafes, shops, and restaurants, and two of the most spectacular museums in the city.
Nuevo Polanco
Mixed-Use Development

Museo del Templo Mayor

The ruins of the Great Temple, once the center of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, offer a thought-provoking lesson on the rise and fall of empires.
Centro Histórico
Historical Site

Kurimanzutto

One of the most important contemporary-art spaces in the country, this acclaimed gallery represents the work of Mexico’s rising art-world stars.
San Miguel Chapultepec
Art Gallery

Local Design Museums

Brush up on Mexico's homegrown design heroes at several institutions around town.
Museums

Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL)

The imposing Neoclassical façade of the Museo Nacional de Arte is impressive enough, but what is kept inside is truly jaw-dropping.
Centro Histórico
Fine Art

Chapultepec Park

The 1600-acre Bosque Chapultepec is the metropolis's answer to Central Park, a vast green space at the heart of the city with leafy rambles and noteworthy stops.
Bosque de Chapultepec
Park + Museums