The Only Guide You Need to Mexico City
From the best cantinas and design shops to our favorite boutique hotels, here are 27 can't-miss spots in the Mexican capital.
Published Nov 22, 2017 3:10 PM
Beautiful, chaotic, inspiring—the Mexican capital has long been a favorite of artists and creatives, from Calder to Albers. And no wonder: With exciting design, food, and art scenes continuing to heat up, the city is top on our list. Graphic designer and art director Abby Clawson Low shows us her not-to-miss stops and shares her favorite things to do in Mexico City.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Graphic, black-and-white tabletops put the focus on Alejandra Coppel and Alexander Suástegui’s inventive, artful dishes—a creative mash-up of Mexican classics, like the marlin gordita and beef tongue tacos.
Calle Isabel la Católica 30, Centro
One of the top chefs in the country, Ricardo Muñoz Zurita celebrates the unknown cuisines of Mexico. There are three Azul locations in the city, but Azul Histórico is in a magical 17th-century building. Try the guacamole sprinkled with chapulines (small dried grasshoppers!).
Only open for la comida (the big lunch from noon to 6 pm), this popular seafood eatery fills up quickly. Under a ceiling covered in woven palm mats (reminiscent of an oceanside Jalapa), you might spot some of Mexico’s biggest celebs dining on crowd favorites, like the tuna tostadas and grilled red snapper.
This authentic mezcaleria (from the same owners behind the lively La Clandestina bar) offers a highly detailed menu with production methods listed for each mezcal. Order the woodsy-flavored Mezcal Milagrito del Corazón with a side of Oaxacan snacks.
Rosetta is tucked inside a large colonial town house with an arched doorway outlined in vines. Chef Elena Reygadas won the Veuve Clicquot Prize for Latin America’s best female chef and draws a crowd (reserve at least two weeks in advance). Do not leave without tasting the sweet rosemary rolls!
An informal dining space with a long bar and open kitchen make Lardo a great spot for a casual breakfast. Try the black rice in coconut milk with banana and mango, or the scrambled eggs wrapped in fresh herbs.
(shown above and below) Colima 168, Roma Norte
Visit this minimalist cocktail lounge—an enclosed patio of a colonial-style mansion was reimagined by interior designer Alexander Díaz Andersson and architect Franco Ayala—for a Colima bramble cocktail or jalapeño margarita before heading out for dinner.
Venture above the popular lunch-only spot El Parnita to get your nightlife fix at Páramo, a hip bar that opens after its sister restaurant closes. Try the house mezcal and share tacos family-style in either the boisterous terrazzo or one of the quieter, more intimate side rooms.
Reservations are needed for this small, elegant spot from well-known chef Eduardo García. The tasting menu plays to all the senses—striped sea bass with green mole, roasted artichoke, mushroom risotto with huitlacoche—and changes daily.
This recently opened cultural center/library/restaurant/café comes from César Cervantes, owner of the Luis Barragán–designed Casa Pedregal next door—and it’s one of the most beautiful contemporary spaces in the city. On the menu, traditional Mexican meets Mesoamerican dishes, including cheese and nopale tlayudas, oyster and shrimp chilapachole, and (true to form) a must-order Caesar salad.
WHERE TO SHOP
Located in the cool Juarez neighborhood, La Metropolitana is a design collective, showroom, and newly opened storefront all under one roof. (The founders were behind the custom furniture at the Noma pop-up in Tulum.) You’ll find chairs, stools, and tables that combine mid-century Danish with contemporary Mexican styles, while the Lagos del Mundo line of locally handcrafted home accessories has a distinct Japanese feel.
Colima 198A, Roma Norte Come to this well-established vintage shop for the house line of pretty blouses, as well as custom-made leather shoes in various colors and styles (the wait time is three weeks from start to finish and it ships internationally).
La Lagunilla Market
Designers and collectors flock to this world-famous, Sunday-only flea market for art books, vintage Mexican clothing, ephemera, and collectibles. Bring cash and dress in simple clothing.
Av. Álvaro Obregón 186, Bis B, Roma Norte A favorite of local interior designers and stylists for home items and high-end vintage furniture from the 1950s to the ’70s—Clara Porset, Octavio Vidales, and Arturo Pani, among others—Trouvé is a real gem. The owner, Javier Carral, can point you in the direction of some lesser-known places, too.
The Issey Miyake–Maria Cornejo hybrid of Mexican fashion, Carla Fernández blends indigenous craft techniques with contemporary designs. Her shop sells hand-carved wooden bracelets, rebozos (shawls), shirts, ponchos, and jackets—all with a nod to native geometrics, colors, and textures.
This cool little boutique features a variety of talented emerging Mexican designers’ wares, like modern-meets-tribal cotton fiber necklaces by Caralarga. Other temptations: hand-painted spoons and fruit-pattern tablecloths from Paola Santini Home.
San Ángel Market
This Saturday market in the cobblestone neighborhood of San Ángel offers handmade wooden toys, colorful woven baskets, hand-detailed silver jewelry, and lots more. There are three distinct areas: The park plaza, where artists sell original pieces; Bazaar Sábado, a hacienda–turned–indoor shopping space; and the tianguis (pop-up market) behind Sábado with Mexican artesanías.
(shown above) Colima 264, Roma Norte
David Pompa reinvents folk art materials (think: Talavera and barro negro pendant lamps and glazed clay tiles in triangular shapes). The shop’s unusual Acapulco chair design is more reason to visit. Downstairs, check out Vidrio Soplado el Resplandor for the beautiful blown-glass pieces, including silver- and gold-mirrored spheres (a favorite object in Luis Barragán–designed homes).
Lope de Vega 330, Polanco
Owners Maggie Galton and María Eladia Hagerman launched this wonderful little store in Polanco three years ago. They partner with local artisans and work with various indigenous communities to preserve traditional practices that were disappearing—and make contemporary folk art designs you’ll want to buy in multiples.
Housed on the second level of an old mansion (the first floor has a bakery and patio café), Roma Quince is spread across several rooms, each showcasing Mexican designs, like chunky natural woven rugs and embroidered ikat-style pillows.
Owners Libia Moreno and Enrique Arellano scour mercados and traditional stores around the city to stock their kiosk-style shop, handpicking only the best and most useful items—enamel bowls, brightly colored aluminum cups and pitchers, splatterware, and white powder–coated tortilla presses. Can’t get enough? Visit Super UM, the store’s bigger location, on Calle Marsella in Colonia Juárez.
WHERE TO STAY
(shown above) Tonalá 53, Roma Norte
Intimate and luxurious, with only three suites, La Valise is a romantic stay for couples. (The Terrace Room has a bed that slides out onto a private deck for optimal star viewing.) It was designed by Emmanuel Picault, the brilliant mind behind the visionary shop Chic by Accident, who is considered to be a pioneer of Mexican modernist design.
Camino Real Polanco
Originally constructed for the 1968 Olympics and designed by famous Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, Camino Real is a must-see—starting with the Mathias Goeritz pink sculptural screen outside. For a fun art history lesson, find chief concierge Jorge Ortiz, who has worked at the hotel for more than 30 years and can give guests an inside look at the impressive collection.
Hotel Condesa DF
The namesake hotel of La Condesa—Mexico City’s answer to the East Village—this 40-room property is the perfect HQ for exploring the neighborhood. Set inside a 1928 Neoclassic French-style building, the interiors have a minimal, modern feel. Check out the view from the rooftop bar or have breakfast in the triangular, open-air courtyard, where stark-white shutters double as sculptural works of art.
WHAT TO DO
Canales de Xochimilco
Embarcadero Las Flores Nativitas, Calle Del Mercado No.1, Xochimilco, Barrio Xaltocan
Ride around the canals of Xochimilco on a trajinera (flat-bottom boat), which the driver maneuvers with a pole, gondola-style. There’s a roof for shade, and a table and chairs that run the length of the vessel. (Note to the wise: Hire a boat directly from the pier, not one of the guys riding bicycles; the usual rate is 350 pesos per hour.) You can bring snacks and buy a bucket of beer before departing, or purchase food from other boats out on the water—and even hire a mariachi band to jump aboard!
Casa Luis Barragán
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luis Barragán’s home/studio has long been a pilgrimage for design and architecture enthusiasts. His genius in pairing intense colors (bright citron, charcoal gray, hot pink) against neutral textures; precision in placing windows to guide a beam of light across a room and onto a facing wall; and reverence for material, art, and craft is what makes visiting the casa a near-religious experience for so many.
(shown above and below) Av. Altavista esq. Diego Rivera, San Ángel
This museum is made up of three artist studios: Diego Rivera’s, Frida Kahlo’s, and Mexican painter and architect Juan O’Gorman’s, a close friend of the couple’s who designed the unique, functionalist-style buildings (and added a walking bridge between the duo’s studios as a romantic gesture). Concrete spiral staircases and a cactus “fence” add to the intrigue of peeking inside the creative spaces of these iconic artists. Afterward, head next door to San Angel Inn, a grand old hacienda where the dishware matches the drapes, for some of the best margaritas in the city.