We spent a long weekend recently in Mexico City, or, as locals refer to this alpha city, the Distrito Federal (the D.F.) It's one of the world's great urban expanses - with over 20 million people residing across a rolling span of regions and neighborhoods. There's sophisticated Polanco, quiet and dreamy Coyoacán, a historic center designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1987, and endless diverse pockets between and beyond. Just know, there's more to this city than can be experienced in a single trip, or two, or five. To give you a jumpstart here are just a handful of favorites.
Pujol & Maximo Bistrot
These two restaurants are considered tops. That said, if you want reservations at either, you'll have to begin preparations weeks in advance. Either contact the restaurants directly, or work with a hotel concierge to help facilitate a booking at the time you make your hotel reservation.
This well-edited vintage shop showcases genuinely lovely art, objects, and furniture - much of which you can find only in Mexico. Leave a little extra room in your suitcase for a potential score.
Álvaro Obregón 186 Bis. | Roma
The perfect spot for lunch or an afternoon cerveza. Chef Mōnica Patiño’s casual, counter-service eatery highlights a mix of influences - there’s a menu of European-style sandwiches, a deli case filled with platters of herb-roasted tomatoes and hummus, and an array of sweets and cheeses. A jar of marinated chiles punctuates each table. Don't ignore it; the chile oil is incredible on just about everything. Pick up a bottle of rompope - a rich, cinnamon-spiked, housemade liquer - on your way out.
Monterrey 116-b, esq. Álvaro Obregón | Roma
Stop into this shop across from Delirio (above) to browse a thoughtful collection of rare, antique, and out-of-print books. Many have beautiful, faded covers, rarely seen fonts, and patina that comes only with age. Don’t skip the cooking and art sections.
Monterrey #111 | Roma
T 52 64 14 75
This tiny shop sells an impressive global selection of artisan beers. Swing by to prepare for an afternoon picnic or evening in.
Querétaro, esq. Orizaba | Roma
This is Chef Martha Ortiz’s modern Polanco restaurant. The room is lively, elegant, and unapologetically feminine; the food features a traditional Mexican palette of ingredients channeled through Martha’s playful point of view. She has a thing for narrative, elaborate, eye-catching presentations, and the selection of cocktails and aguas frescas is irresistible. If you love horchata, don’t miss this one—ours was pistachio-laced. The service, under Chef Ortiz’s watchful eye, is precise but also friendly.
Anatole France 100 | Polanco
Galería López Quiroga
This small gallery—which houses primarily sculptural ceramics and abstract paintings and prints—features solely the work of Mexican artists. The building itself has a vintage-modern feel and beautiful light, and there’s a small library of art journals near the entryway worth browsing. Drop by if you’re in the vicinity of Polanco.
Aristóteles 169 | Polanco
Toward the front of this Sunday antiques market you’ll find stall upon stall of vintage trinkets, fashion, jewelry, kitchen items, and more. It’s a picturesque tableau to browse, and the vendors are generally laid-back, helpful, and not at all pushy. There’s also a section of standard, "new" flea-market wares we suggest bypassing.
Barrio de Tepito | Allende
Just outside Polanco, Eno is a warm and low-key eatery and bakery, serving a nice selection of breakfast—chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, and the like. There are fresh lunch options, too, as well as killer chocolate chip cookies. If you’re craving a crusty loaf, you can find that here as well.
Francisco Petrarca 258 | Polanco
Nestled near an upper-story window inside Common People—an epic and quirky concept shop that sells everything from Vivienne Westwood dresses to kids’ toys—you’ll find this cozy, gorgeous, Austro-Hungarian inspired café. Settle in for an espresso and square of fruit tart.
Emilio Castelar 149 | Polanco
Duck into this standing-room-only joint for authentic tacos. At the counter, you’ll choose among the wide variety of filling options (a few of which are veg-friendly or vegan). We particularly dug the calabazitas (squash and zucchini). Don’t forget to help yourself to the salsa and pickled chiles and onions that add a fresh, acidic kick. If it's bustling, politely elbow in and shout your order - one taco at a time.
Amsterdam 135 | Condesa
La Casa Azul
The villa where the magnificent Frida Kahlo grew up and, in later years, worked and lived with Diego Rivera. It feels intimate to view the objects Frida surrounded herself with, and her tubes of paint as she left them. Make sure you see the long, wood-fired hearth in the kitchen. Then take a walk along the tree-lined streets of Coyoacán. You can always hop the (relatively) nearby subway to get back to the city center.
Londres 247, Del Carmen | Coyoacán
Our favorite driver: Julio Camacho R.
If you like to cover a lot of ground over the course of a day, hiring a driver is one way to go. English isn't Julio's strong suit, but he's reliable, good-natured, and knows Mexico City well. If you can plot a destination on a map, he can likely get you there. His driving style is efficient, but never scary. You can hire him hourly, or for the day. For example he can drive you to La Lagunilla, and wait for you, then take you to your next destination.
Julio's number (be prepare to communicate in Spanish over the phone): 04455 3569 4532
Mexico City has amazing museums and galleries, the Museo Nacional de Antropología is a favorite and worth a long afternoon. And, although we didn't make it to Kurimanzutto Gallery this time, it is on our list. We like strolling neighborhoods like Condesa, Roma, Coyoachan, and Polanco on foot - and getting around via subway is doable, and even preferable to braving city street traffic during rush hours.
For more Mexico City intel and hotel options, poke around these guides: Monocle and Mr and Mrs Smith. Those both have a range of hotel suggestions, and Tablet is a good source for finding boutique and design-minded hotels as well.