image via trip advisor
today’s guide to mexico city comes from locals elisa iturbe, an architect, and kate newman, a graduate student and design writer. today they show us around the metropolitan capital and share some excellent tips on how to get around this sprawling city. thanks elisa and kate for this comprehensive guide to mexico city!–stephanie
CLICK HERE for the full city guide after the jump!
Getting around: Travel around this sprawling city is far easier than one would think.
Most things in neighborhoods like La Roma and La Condesa are within walking distance, and there is a surprisingly clean and accessible Metro network that reaches much of the city. Along Insurgentes, many choose to take the Metrobus, which avoids traffic in a specially designated bus lane. There are also taxis everywhere, but for safety reasons we recommend finding a taxi sitio or calling to order a cab rather than hailing on the street.
Mexico City is located in the center of the country, with many great towns accessible by bus. Good daytrips or weekend getaways include: Cuernavaca, Puebla, Valle de Bravo, Taxco, San Miguel de Allende, and Tepoztlán.
[all photos by alexandra komisar]
Colonia Condesa attracts chic young Chilangos with its impressive parks, wide boulevards, and great restaurant scene.
Sushi Shalala: The best spot for sushi in Mexico City, located in the heart of La Condesa. Try their local white fish and enjoy the street musicians on calle Tamaulipas.
Flor de Lis: Notorious for its tamales, this unpretentious place with its homey interior is a neighborhood favorite.
El Diez: This Argentine parilla named in honor of soccer god, Diego Maradona, offers reasonably priced steak, empanadas, and pizza by the meter. Choose between their Condesa location and their larger locale in la Roma.
Agapi Mu: This Greek restaurant manages to embrace its theme without being cheesy, even on weekends with their fiesta griega when costumed wait staff perform traditional dance. Find a private table in one of their whitewashed nooks, and enjoy the deliciously authentic food, in particular the figs with pistachio, yogurt, and honey or the more unique chicken and egg soup.
Colegio Superior de Gastronomía: An excellent price for a gourmet meal: for $20 USD, you receive a five-course meal with four drinks: creative starter, build your own salad, substantial main course and rich dessert.
Cupcakes by Tom: This tiny cupcake spot rivals Magnolia in quality, and their nutty chai tea is the perfect complement.
Green Corner: A great little organic shop with a wonderful restaurant. Sit at an outdoor table and enjoy the morning sun with a chai tea and delicious french toast made with homemade bread. The shop has a variety of organic products, many are imported, but they also have a good selection of local dairy products, natural shampoos, soaps, and loose leaf teas.
Orígenes Orgánicos: Scenically located on the Plaza Popocatépetl, this health food store/café offers tasty salads, freshly squeezed juices, vegetarian tarts, as well as shady outdoor tables.
Bó: A small bakery offering perfect baguettes, fruit tartes, and macaroons. It has two locations in Condesa, but the one on Calle Sonora has tables for enjoying some coffee with those heavenly tarts.
Chocolatería Mamá Sarita: This cozy chocolatería serves delicious traditional mexican hot chocolate in giant steaming ceramic mugs. A quiet locale with metallic stars (typical of mexican artesanía) hanging from the ceiling and outside tables where locals end the day, this is a wonderful place to indulge in a thick spicy hot chocolate (accompanied with a giant slice of not-too-sweet chocolate cake) while talking with a friend or reading a book. Open late afternoon/evenings.
Photo Bistrot: As the name suggests, a French bistrot/photo gallery.
Xel-ha: Located in the heart of Condesa, this cantina is known not only for its amazing comida yucateca (food from the state of Yucatán) but for being a favorite hang-out spot of local writers and artists while maintaining a low-key atmosphere.
Rojo Bistro: This French restaurant is cozy, classy, and a bit bohemian all at once. Usually delightfully full, it is great for dining under dim light and over soft chatter.
Charro: On the ceiling of this bar, dried violets form intricate swirls above cocktail sipping clientele. Well-executed Mexican cuisine, with a focus on products from Ensenada.
Bodega de Quesos: An excellent and reasonably priced cheese shop, across from supermarket Superama on Fernando Montes de Oca. Clients form a line on the street, waiting to buy their local or imported cheeses by the kilo. Also sells local whole grain tortillas.
Briguette: Fine local chocolatería offering rare flavors like Earl Gray, lavender, and tequila with lime.
Cafés and Bookstores:
Village Café: A refreshing alternative to Starbucks: located next to Sushi Shalala, this café offers juice blends with fresh ingredients like celery and pineapple as well as affordable coffee and a relaxed atmosphere. Second-hand shop located out back. Open until 2 am on weekends.
Café Ocho: El Ocho’s playful exterior can be seen from Parque México, strewn with large bubble lights. Deeming itself an espacio recreativo, El Ocho is illuminated by colored lights and well stocked with board games, beer, and pizza. Try the pizza poblana, made spicy with mole negro.
Orquídeas: This café offers a lovely view of Parque México, a Lebanese menu, and a wide selection of fine teas.
El Péndulo: This bookstore has locations in Polanco and Zona Rosa, but the one in Condesa is our favorite. Great variety of books in English and Spanish, including a wide selection on art and design. Lovely café upstairs with outdoor terrace and occasional live music on weekends.
Conejo Blanco: This airy café on Amsterdam is connected to a design-oriented bookstore and a shop featuring bags and jewelry by local artisans. Occasional book presentations and other cultural events.
Centro de Lectura: Just as it sounds: this mansion on Nuevo Léon is a perfect spot to read, with two levels of quiet rooms and comfortable couches. Entrance is free to the public, but in order to use the internet a cheap membership is required. Occasional talks and book presentations in the evening.
Librería Rosario Castellanos: This bookstore is part of the Fondo de Cultura Econónomica, a decentralized publishing house funded by the Mexican government. It offers a wide variety at reasonable prices in fiction, art and design, and the social sciences. The vast, two-leveled space has a cinema and cultural center, as well as a small café and a central area with comfortable leather seats to pass the afternoon reading.
Drinks and Nightlife:
Condesa DF: This young design hotel has a relaxed rooftop terrace that overlooks the lush treetops of Parque España and serves innovative cocktails to a trendy public. Its interior is no less impressive.
Mojito Room: A dance spot featuring live Cuban music and dance classes by professionals once a week.
Malafama: Malafama, which means “bad reputation” is a spacious bar showing the work of local photographers among rows of pool tables. There is plenty of seating room upstairs: chess and dominoes available at each table, nice cocktails and surprisingly good crepes.
Patanegra: An upbeat bar with dancing upstairs and more low-key drinking downstairs. People come from all over the city to dance on the weekends and its often full to burst. Also offers Oaxaca’s best artisanal mezcal, el Real Minero.
Barneys: A dark but comfortable bar hidden on Calle Fernando Montes de Oca, Barneys offers good music that one can still talk over, mezcal, pizza, and a fun crowd.
La Botica: With two locations in Condesa and one in la Roma, these mezcalerías are always busy. With jukeboxes, artisanal mezcal, and an animated local crowd, you can’t go wrong any day of the week.
Neena: This shop on tree-lined boulevard Mazatlán sells kitschy, colorful products aimed at children and moms. Their bags and home products can be appreciated by a wider audience.
Carmen Rion: Having worked extensively with artisans in Chiapas, Mexican designer Carmen Rion blends traditional textiles and details with contemporary silhouettes, creating unique bags, clothing, and jewelry.
ROMA: Mexican-American designer Daniella Trigo sells vintage running shoes here, as well as her own textile prints.
Studio Roca: An upscale design store, with modern and innovative furniture and lamps. Located on one of Condesa’s most beautiful streets, Avenida Amersterdam.
Milagro: Unique bags in all sizes, as well as jewelry and belts, created by local designer Sandra Gutiérrez.
Shelter: Another boutique for high-end, vintage inspired sneakers, and some clothing.
Parque México: A large green park anchored by two large fountains, filled with winding pathways and sheltered benches. The park is surrounded by Avenida Amersterdam: formerly a horse racetrack, now a wide boulevard lined with quiet cafés and impressive Art Deco homes.
Parque España: Though smaller than Parque México, leafy Parque España has its own charm, dotted with fountains and benches, and surrounded by cute cafés.
Bosque de Chapultepec: This urban forest spans much of Mexico City. Enjoy a picnic here, or take out a paddleboat on one of several small lakes. Many of the city’s museums can be found here, as can the Castillo de Chapultepec, home to Maximilian I during the Second Mexican Empire, and surprisingly, set of the Capulet mansion in Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo + Juliet.
Zona Rosa has the reputation of being the gay district in the city. Full of shops, bars, and restaurants, our recommendation is to walk around and explore.
Barrio Coreano: A large Korean community resides in Zona Rosa, between calles Florencia, Reforma, Sevilla, and Chapultepec. Explore Korean supermarkets and video stores selling only Korean movies.
El Rincón Ruso: For an authentic Russian experience in the heart of Mexico City, head to the cozy Rincón Ruso, located on calle Belgrado.
Casa Gonzalez: This well-furnished, inexpensive hotel is located on a calm street in the Zona Rosa. Guests can choose to breakfast communally in the formal dining room, or at tables outside in the walled garden.
Our neighborhood! Once a spot for Mexico’s wealthiest, La Roma is still filled with impressive old mansions, many of them a bit run-down but charming nonetheless. Less expensive than La Condesa, bohemian Roma is filled with unique cafés, art galleries, and small parks.
Mikasa: A favorite amongst Mexico’s Asian community, this Japanese supermarket offers a bevy of products imported from Asia, as well as fresh fish and a variety of takeaway. On weekends they offer an outdoor barbecue on their plant-filled patio. Located on calle San Luis Potosí, just around the corner from Monterrey.
Contramar: Popular, high-quality seafood restaurant on the beautiful calle Durango.
Sobrinos: This classy neighborhood spot features gourmet twists on traditional favorites. Try their tortas ahogada de pato and drink a Tlacuache, a delicious organic mezcal. Located right on Orizaba and Álvaro Obregón, in the heart of la Roma.
Delirio: Mexican chef Monica Patiño offers a variety of excellent salads, cakes, and tartes at this rustically stylish deli-café, as well as gourmet items for purchase, all made in Mexico.
Dominique: A small French patisserie with weekend breakfasts. Excellent chocolate brioche!
Mercado Medellín: This large market sells fresh produce and flowers, and has an inexpensive seafood restaurant of good quality.
Tarragona: A relaxed place on Álvaro Obregón with double height ceilings and a very cozy loft. Serves mostly Spanish fare, including a variety of tapas. Choose between indoor and outdoor tables.
Drinks and Nightlife:
Mama Rumba: This is the place where locals go to dance salsa. Live Cuban music and dance classes on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday nights keep the crowd eternally boisterous.
Hotel Brick: One of the newer additions to la Roma, this classy hotel inhabits an old renovated building. Within the hotel is a bar-lounge that bears the same name, a French restaurant named La Moderna, and a “lonchería” with an ample terrace and occasional live violin players. The hotel claims to carry on the traditions of Roma’s historical classiness and is a popular choice among chic locals and well-to-do foreigners alike.
La Nacional: This mezcalería has a wide selection of its signature drink, high ceilings, and charming illumination. Often lively every day of the week, it is a neighborhood favorite. Well located, on Querétaro and Orizaba.
Cantina Covadonga: This cavernous cantina began as a club for Spanish ex-pats, many of whom can still be found having a beer and tapas or playing dominos. Also very popular among the artist community and on any given Thursday you will find a handful of Mexican intelligentsia. Try the pulpo, grilled octopus seasoned with chili.
Cafés and Bookstores:
Café Toscano: Looking onto the Plaza Rio de Janeiro, this airy, high-ceilinged café is a great place for coffee or a crepe. Seating consists of outdoor tables, wooden benches set at a large central table or a comfy white couch. They have a smaller location on Parque México.
Casa Lamm: This cultural center is housed in a large former mansion. It features a bookstore, library, event space, beautiful restaurant and café, as well as degrees in art history and literature. Courses can be taken individually without enrolling into their full program.
Cafetín: This tiny Japanese café offers jasmine tea and very!! inexpensive sushi. Its seating consists mostly of mismatched sofas on the sidewalk. Located on Jalapa, three blocks from Álvaro Obregón.
Goodbye Folk: Good quality vintage selection of everything: clothing, bags, belts, shoes.
Vintage Ho: Another solid vintage clothing option in La Roma located on Córdoba, near Álvaro Obregón.
Sicario TV: A large, two-level store selling a mix of new clothing and vintage finds, as well as accessories and home items.
Lemur: A well-stocked boutique with clothing by Modern Amusement and other innovative brands.
Chíc by Accident: This store shares its name with French owner Emmanuel Picault’s recent furniture book, published with Phillipe Starck. The store itself features a vast collection of interesting furniture and objets. Adjacent lies Sex by Accident, a similarly themed space concentrating on erotica.
Gurú: A graphic-arts gallery and store selling whimsical posters, notebooks, and the like.
This upscale neighborhood is home to a large Jewish community. Its lovely architecture mixes elements of Baroque with a Mission Revival style.
Gloutonnerie: A hip little restaurant with small (although somewhat pricey) portions, the Gluttonerie offers tasty dishes and decor somewhere between a library and a bar. The music is often electronic with a soft beat.
Oscar Wilde 9: With colorful wallpaper and a menu that changes each week, Oscar Wilde caters to eclectic tastes while always pleasing the palate. Mostly influenced by French, Mediterranean, and Mexican Cuisine, the menu offers exquisitely executed versions of classic dishes with more creative fusions here and there.
Casa Portuguesa: A delicious restaurant right on Polanco’s most beautiful park, Parque Lincoln. The food is authentic and delicious. A bit on the pricier side and reservations are highly recommended. Live Fado on weekends.
Museo Rufino Tamayo: A wonderful contemporary art museum in the heart of the museum district. Excellent and varied exhibits from sculpture to painting to video installation. A tasty café too.
Museo de Antropología: Mexico’s world famous Anthropology Museum is housed in spectacular architecture and contains an enormous collection. Although it is impossible to see everything in one day, it is still well worth the visit.
Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros: Formally the house of the famous muralist, it still houses several of his murals in addition to hosting artists residencies and frequent art events.
Antara: A very swanky outdoor shopping mall with everything from Armani to movie theaters to night clubs and a concert venue. Joy Room is quite the posh night spot.
Avenida Presidente Masaryk: The fifth avenue of Mexico City, this street is spotted with high end stores such as Louis Vitton, Fendi, and several designer wedding dress boutiques.
Drinks and Nightlife:
La Opera: This elegant cantina that has been around since 1900. The velvet drapes, chandeliers, and a dark walnut bar evoke a Mexico from another time. Supposedly a bullet fired by Pancho Villa himself is lodged somewhere in the ceiling. Live mariachis serenade clients slowly sipping tequila. Closes early by Mexico standards, around eleven.
Zinco Jazz Club: A cornerstone of Mexican nightlife, El Zinco is a wonderful jazz club known for bringing musicians from all over the world. The venue is dark and velvety and perfect for intimate musical performances. Live performances usually require a cover upon entry.
Sanborns/ Casa de los Azulejos: The first branch of this citywide department store is worth visiting for the building alone. While its exterior is entirely white and blue tile, the formal dining room features ornately carved arches, peacock murals, and an intricate Moorish fountain. The staircase is home to a mural by José Clemente Orozco himself.
El Cardenal: This family-run restaurant housed in a former mansion offers excellent traditional Mexican food. A good spot to try pre-Hispanic treat escamoles, fried ant larvae (we were skeptical too!).
Café de Tacuba: The popular band takes their name from this restaurant, its walls lined in traditional tile and oil paintings, its space filled with mariachis and waitresses carrying platters of sweet rolls. Delicious!
El Mayor: This restaurant is worth visiting for its pretty rooftop, lined in plants. The view overlooks the ruins of Aztec Templo Mayor and the Zócalo (downtown’s main plaza) with its magnificent cathedral. Choose between the formal restaurant on the left or the low-key café on the right.
Bellas Artes: This museum seems a neoclassical masterpiece with its yellow domed exterior; once inside the style is a more contemporary art deco. Some of Diego Rivera’s best-known murals are housed here, including his El Hombre En El Cruce de Caminos, commissioned for Rockefeller Center but destroyed for its leftist political themes, as well as murals by José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo. Also houses excellent temporal exhibitions, a delicious restaurant, and a must-see concert venue for mostly classical music.
Torre Latinoamericana: This skyscraper used to be the tallest in Latin America. Famous for surviving the 1985 earthquake unscathed, the tower offers a wonderful view of Mexico City. Only 40 pesos to get to the top.
Palacio Nacional: Find the world-renowned murals of Diego Rivera on the interior walls of the Palacio Nacional. These murals not only dramatically portray Mexico’s tumultuous history, but are central to an understanding of Mexican art.
Franz Mayer: The Museo Franz Mayer is Mexico City’s museum of decorative arts and design. Housed in a beautiful historic building with delightful stone courtyards, going to this museum is always a peaceful experience. The collection is very strong in ceramics and also includes silver, furniture, textiles, sculpture, and painting. Located in the historic center, it is also close to many other attractions.
Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso: A beautiful colonial building covered in murals. Rotating exhibitions range from art and architecture to history or film.
Teatro de la Ciudad: A beautifully restored event venue in the heart of El Centro.
La Casa Azul: Museo Frida Khalo: The house in which Frida and Diego Rivera used to live has now been converted into a museum. There is not an extensive display of their art, but the furniture and the gardens are well-preserved. A good activity when making a day-trip to Coyoacán.
Los Danzantes: One of a few locations in Mexico, this well-designed space offers excellent innovative dishes prepared with local ingredients, as well as high-quality mezcal of their own label.
Sunday market: Famous for its Sunday markets, Coyoacán offers all sorts of artesanías, churros, ice cream, and street performers.
La Bipolar: A cantina owned by the famous Diego Luna, the theme is a mix of old and new Mexico. Offers creative cocktails and well-prepared Mexican fare.
UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
Café Azul y Oro: UNAM students are lucky to have such a fine “cafeteria” on their campus, named for the colors of the university. Reasonably priced and innovative: the best is the crunchy duck ravioli bathed in mole negro, served with blackberries.
MUAC + store: UNAM’s Museum of Contemporary Art features extensive well-curated exhibits. Its store has a great selection of design and art books, as well as interesting bags, jewelry, and house wares. Its relatively new building by the famous mexican architect Teodoro González de León is worth seeing.
Sala Nezahualcóyotl: The seat of the Orquesta Filarmónica de la UNAM, the Sala Nezahualcóyotl is the place in Mexico City to enjoy a classical music concert. The Sala is also in heart of UNAM’s cultural zone, where there are constant performances ranging from ballet to theater. It is also just across the plaza from the MUAC and the award-winning university cafeteria, Azul y Oro.
Bazar del Sábado (Saturday Art Market): located in Plaza San Jacinto, this market is beloved for its location among colonial buildings and its contemporary folk art for sale.
Museo Carrillo Gil: A great contemporary art museum housed within a 50s-era functionalist building.
Cluny: A classic restaurant in San Angel. The food is prepared in a French style, although the rather experimental crepes are a must. If it doesn’t suite your fancy, myriads of restaurants line the same street.
San Pedro de los Pinos
SOMA: An experimental art space founded by a collective of some of Mexico’s greatest contemporary artists. Lectures and drinks every Wednesday, as well as occasional parties and performances.
San Pedro de los Pinos Market: Famous for its seafood and located in the heart of the neighborhood.
Other Attractions throughout the City:
Polyforum Siqueiros: With 2,400 square meters of murals on its exterior, this cultural space is an important landmark. As the name would suggest, the Polyforum includes a theater space, galleries, and a museum space. Easy access from the Insurgentes Metrobus line.
Biblioteca Vasconcelos: Mexico City’s most stunning library. Designed by Alberto Kalach and landscaped by Entorno, the atrium holds a famous sculpture by Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco. Spotted by many private balconies and with access to the gardens, it is a wonderful place to pass the day reading. Access by metro or metrobus, both stations called Buenavista.
Estadio Azteca: Mexico City’s soccer stadium, fitting over 114,000 people is worth seeing for its sheer size. Catch a game of futbol and witness Latin American soccer fever first hand.
Museo Universitario del Chopo: Another great contemporary art museum, by Mexican architect Enrique Norten.