Ah, Mexico City, La Ciudad de Mexico, CDMX – you’ve heard a lot about it lately. Indeed, the New York Times named it 2016’s hottest destination…anywhere.
It is all true, every bit, everything you’ve heard (unless you heard it from the Trump administration). Mexico City is impossibly exciting, a boundless playground for foodies, artists, and history buffs. Like no other place in the world, and yet warmly familiar to anyone versed in the frenetic energy of a really big, busy capital. The old world rubs seductively against the new across all 573 square miles. But with all the urban sprawl, and so much to see, where to even begin?
At your hotel, of course. And we instantly fell in love with the incomparable Grupo Habita property Downtown Mexico. Located in the city’s Centro Historico (historic center, if you hadn’t already figured that out), the exceedingly atmospheric hotel is as charming as it is chic; and you can walk to many of the most imperative sights, as well as the best shopping, restaurants and nightlife. Through the front entrance’s formidable wood and cast-iron-gate doors lies a majestic, moodily lit interior, from where a poignant Manuel Rodriguez Lozano mural gazes skyward on a far wall. There’s a MAC store. And this is just the lobby.
We started with lunch at the hotel’s Azul Historico restaurant, which serves up negro mole and other authentic Mexican fare to packed tables under a canopy of hanging candles and manicured trees.
Not far from the hotel, the landmark Palacio Bellas Artes (just one of 132 museums in town), features stunning works from Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and their most notable contemporaries. Another short walk takes you to the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, where his vibrant masterpiece, Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park, is strikingly on display. Swing by the Latin American Tower (again, just around the corner from the hotel) where a quick zip up to the 44th floor gets you some of the most spectacular views of Mexico City – and on a clear day, the pyramids resting on its perimeters.
You don’t have to go far to land in La Ciadudela, a glorious traditional craft market selling blankets, tapestries, rugs, bags, silver – something authentic to bring home and treasure forever. (“Remember, we got this in Mexico City?”)
For dinner – which happens late here (hot tip: if there’s a restaurant you can’t get into, try showing up around 7pm before the rush begins) – make a point of booking a table at Puntarena, which just happens to the right next door to the hotel. One of the city’s best seafood spots, it has a living wall, and a romantic garden patio.
Finish the evening at Downtown Mexico’s roof deck, open only to guests. Cocktail service runs late on weekdays, and on weekends a thumping dance party eventually ensues. Sip mezcal margaritas overlooking a glowing Calle Isabel la Catolica below, or take your drinks by the pool.
In the morning, after enjoying your coffee and chilaquiles on the terrace, hop a taxi to the nearby neighborhoods of Condesa, Polanco, and Roma. In Condesa, try Elena Reygadas’ Lardo, a lovely fusion of Mexican and Italian cuisines open for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Tall sliding glass doors open up onto the charming neighborhood streets, and its handsome bar fills quickly with what appears to be stylish friends and friends of friends. The neighborhood gem serves scrumptious fresh pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and home-made charcuterie – a bit of Europa in Mexico.
While in the area, browse local Condesa shops, like VOID, an über-hip vintage boutique with a neon sign over its entrance that says: “Come in, we’re closed.” The shop features rarefied vintage from names like Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, and Dior. They also have a curated collection of army jackets and band tees.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, catch a Lucha Libre match at Arena Mexico. This traditional but wildly theatrical form of Mexican wrestling, where men and women dress head-to-toe in flashy costumes and stretchy face masks while stomping, flinging, and rocketing each other in and out of the ring, is an absolute hilarious spectacle. The show, the vendors, the fans – all of it feels like a rite-of-passage into the heart of Mexican popular culture. And culture, after all, is exactly what we came all this way to see.
And speaking of culture, you can’t leave Mexico City, of course, without a night of serious tequila imbibing. In the historic center, La Casa de Las Sirenas is a restaurant-bar with (we’re not kidding) over 250 labels of the indigenous spirit on display. The Cantina de Tio Pepe is another local gem in the same area – actually an English-inspired pub that opened in 1870 and has been a go-to for political discourse and a classy tipple ever since.
Five More Things We Loved About the Downtown Mexico Hotel
Moments after walking through the hotel gates, we were gobsmacked by the atmosphere. Hanging candles, lush greenery, two fabulous restaurants, and a lovely coffee bar and bakery. What a first impression!
Every room comes replete with luxe amenities: rainwater showers, doors that open to private balconies, super comfortable beds, and bets of all, thoughtfully stocked mini bars.
Fancy a dip? Sure you do. And the rooftop pool is the perfect place for it. Plus, the rooftop bar serves up delicious mezcal margs as well as wonderful bubbly libations.
Café con leche. Each morning we awoke at a very vacation-esque hour and stepped out to breakfast on the charming terrace. Nibble on sweet breads, yogurt, granola, or chilaquiles before starting the day’s adventures.
More pillows please? From laundry service to in-room massages to a glass of wine while you wait for your in-room massage to begin…for a big city hotel, they know a lot about personal pampering.