The Vivacious Districts of Mexico City
Culturally rich, Mexico City is unlike any city on the planet. With its museums, restaurants, boutiques and an array of annual Mexican festivities, you’re bound to feel richer (in experience, that is) upon your departure. The capital city is one of the largest metropolitan zones in the world, with 16 boroughs an upward of 300 neighborhoods, Mexico City invites visitors to partake in activities in and outside the city limits. When traveling from the airport it’s important to arrange a pickup with your hotel or at the airport, always avoid hailing a ride. Or, for as little as $25–$30 an hour, you can hire a chauffeur.
A two-hour drive from Mexico City (and worth every minute), Iztaccihuatl Volcano is an absolute must-do for scenic hiking. Peaking at 17,000 feet, the third-tallest mountain in Mexico provides spectacular views of the Valley of Mexico as fluctuating scenery keeps hikers on their toes for the upward trek. All-day tours offered by Viator start at $48 per person and include a Mexico City hotel pickup, drop-off and entrance fees. Please note that food is not included in the price. The mysterious Teotihuacan Pyramids are another stunning destination. They stand 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, making them not only accessible but perhaps the most popular Mexican attraction. Little is known of the ancient builders of the pyramids but research suggests the structures were built around 100 BC. Three pyramids stand tall: the Pyramid of the Sun (the third largest in the world), Pyramid of the Moon and Temple of the Feathered Serpent.
Known as one of the biggest squares in the world, Plaza de la Constitución is the prime location for the city’s celebrations throughout the calendar year. Roamers with varying interests can get lost in the streets hopping from boutiques to restaurants until the day’s end. On September 15 and 16, the Mexican Independence Day celebration takes place in Mexico City’s Zócalo. Decorated in early September with patriotic colors and Mexican flags, the yearly ceremony attracts thousands of partiers to honor the country’s independence with parades, fireworks and civic ceremonies.
The Palacio Nacional (National Palace) is a popular destination for passersby looking for tidbits of Mexican history. Located on the eastside of Zócalo, the Palace is recognized as the spot where the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II once stood. Walk through the colonial fortress and soak up the country’s history through Diego Riviera mural painting “Mexico a Traves de los Siglos.” Before venturing out of the neighborhood, head north towards the beautiful Catedral Metropolitana where you’ll find fantastic views of architectural wonder. Outside of Zócalo, visit La Casa Azul or the Frida Kahlo Museum, which stands south of the city center in the suburb Coyoacan.
Many travelers trust that Zócalo is the beating heart of Mexico City, but the locals know better. Within the overabundance of areas, there are three main city sections that twinkle just a little brighter than the rest:
Strolling in Polanco is similar to meandering around the swanky boulevards of Beverly Hills with a dash of sexy colonial Mexican flare. A common habitat for American visitors, Polanco is nothing short of impressively sophisticated, as it’s the home of so many top hotels, restaurants and shopping in Mexico. Locals and visitors alike begin their weekend with a burst of outdoor greenery courtesy of the biggest, most popular park inside city limits. The urban Bosque de Chapultepec is in charge of open-air fun for Saturday go-getters. Go jogging along the park’s trails, fling a Frisbee or groove to live musical entertainment. And located in the burning core of Polanco, the triple threat of Common People isn’t merely a place to see, it’s a place to be seen. It generously offers a restaurant, lounge and a French boutique, and the surrounding area invites wanderers to do just that.
When hunger strikes, the restaurant Pujol is a wonderful option for enjoying a classy dinner. The establishment prides itself in showcasing new dishes made with local ingredients that celebrate the country’s richest flavors. The lunch menu starts at approximately $72 but with many options for varying tastes, such as fish tacos with Valladolid longaniza, black beans, sucking lamb taco, avocado leaf adobo and guacamole. It’s a treat worthy of all your pesos. And you can’t visit Mexico without indulging in the very spirit that has become a part of the locale’s reputation. Tequila, anyone? El Estribo is a countrywide legend providing tequila lovers with more than 300 flavors, easily the grandest selection on Earth. Located within the traditional 16th-century Hacienda de los Morales, the space boasts wooden walls, Mexican antiques and hanging chandeliers. Whether you sip, shoot or mix, make sure to treat yourself to a traditional Mexican beverage during your stay.
Can you keep a secret? The in-crowd actually can when it comes to this pop-up. The un-talked about yet locally acknowledged Jules Basement speakeasy is one of the top spots in the Polanco scene, and it’s even more of a hidden gem among the seekers of Mexico City nightlife. Literally hidden underground, the sizzling hotspot encourages sophisticated, sultry and enigmatic fun. Perhaps the most-shared nightclub among Polanco residents is Joy Room. Its vibe resembles the best of what you’d find in Los Angeles, New York or Las Vegas. In fact, Joy Room is so similar to the hottest U.S. clubs that you’re likely to see A-list celebs on the dance floor and sipping cocktails with the local elite.
When choosing a place to rest your head in Polanco, the W Hotel is a loyal and trusted friend to foreigners. With prices starting at $250, the sleek and trendy hotel will exude flamboyant class, sizzling elegance and American familiarity during your Capital City stay. The Habita Hotel chain stays busy throughout Mexico and rarely disappoints, and the Polanco location is no exception with its contemporary twist on an old flame. With prices ranging from $185 to $250 per night, the newly renovated 1950s building emits unique grace with a 5th-floor rooftop pool area and deck overlooking a landscape of city lights.
If you’re in the mood to get pampered, check in to the St. Regis Mexico City, a hotel with a reputation that precedes itself. The indoor pool and Remède Spa provide easy excuses to release, relax and indulge amid sleek surroundings during your stay. Prices start at $465 per night, and the staff gives accommodation a whole new meaning by offering a 24-hour concierge service. Los Alcobus Hotel blends warmth and calmness that will relax and release any unwanted tension upon arrival. With rates starting at $270, the 1950s-era building adds a sense of familiarity and charisma, as the décor was wisely crafted by world-renowned design firm Yabu Pushelberg.
If Polanco is the Beverly Hills of Mexico City, then Roma is the fun, hip neighbor Hollywood. As a top destination for travelers, Roma boasts a vibrant array of happening restaurants and bars. Félix lures patrons with its cool environment and larger-than-life sliders, but get there early to snag one of the four outside tables. Alekzander provides European flavor with a dining room of cozy candlelit tables and lively music to set the mood. While the dishes are small in size, they’re big in taste! Opt for the pinchos for a bite-size flavor of heaven or dabble in the mezcal, worm and all. Romita Comedor offers a hangout for hip Mexico City residents. Between the trendy atmosphere, Mexican-enriched menu, talented mixologists and a variety of mezcal behind the bar, you and your crew will leave steadily tipsy and happily full.
After stuffing yourself with delectable eats, make your way to Roma’s always vibrant nightlife starting with a strong, flavored mezcal at La Nacional. The establishment is best known for its beautifully prepared mezcal offerings. Organic, artisanal and flavored creams, such as coconut and caramel, are only some of the tantalizing additions to the indigenous beverage. The Roma district is also home to M.N. Roy, a speakeasy that’s both secretive and seductive. The nightclub attracts an upscale and in-the-know crowd ready to party until dawn, giving locals a reason to dress to impress. One caveat: Don’t show up with fingers crossed hoping to get in, as this is an invitation-only club.
Once known as the city’s most fashionable spot during the 1940s and ’50s, Condesa oozed see and be seen glamour while entertaining and housing the world’s film stars. The expectation of the area has changed in recent years, but remains unique as a district notable for musicians and artists. Young professionals flood the Condesa District looking to dabble in everything from dining and bar hopping to the arts. With perhaps too many options for dining and drinks, the popping neighborhood can offer plenty of trouble to get into upon nightfall.
As a part of the Habita Hotel Group, the Condessa df is arguably the area’s most popular hotel destination, as it’s a serene escape from the constant hustle on the city’s streets. Recognized for dashing décor with splashes of turquoise and wooden designs, the hotel’s most impressive feature is found amongst the tall boys in the terrace bar set high in the treetops. Your love for swank will grow as you partake in the cocktails flowing effortlessly from the talented mixologist. Staying at the Red Tree House in Mexico City is a like experiencing an authentic treat in the hottest areas in the city. With prices starting at $95, you’ll feel right at home with the helpful B&B staff and attractively decked-out rooms. The famed tree in front of the hotel is adorned with red lights, always boasting the establishment’s sense of pride.