24 hours in mexico city
in 2016 the new york times named mexico city the number one destination in its list of 52 places to go this year. kudos, nyt. seriously, good job. a little late though - i’ve been saying that this whole damn time.
mexico city is…fantastic. there’s no need to find a glossier word. the city is absolutely amazing. and americans are missing it. listen, i can’t lie to you. there are parts of mexico that are unsafe. but you’re a tourist - you’re not going to those places. and even if you were, as long as you aren’t driving on a deserted rural road late at night by yourself tossing c-notes out the window, you’re going to be fine. in the scope of international travel, mexico city is not what you should be afraid of.
in fact, it’s one of the most vibrant and cultural destinations in the world. so what exactly does this city have to offer? here’s my one-day itinerary. (disclaimer: you will be really, really tired if you try to do this all in one day. traffic is no joke in mexico city and even though some of these places are just a few miles apart, you’ll be waiting a long, long time to get there. best to space this out over a few days.)
9am. book a stay in mexico city’s trendy polanco neighborhood. this affluent neighborhood spreads from avenida presidente masaryk, the main artery flanked with high-end shopping, restaurants, and shops. consider the boutique option hotel habita, part of grupo habita (and my favorite boutique mexican hotel brand). grupo habita has three other properties in mexico city, as well. begin your day with breakfast at eno, the brainchild of chef enrique olvera, best known for his other acclaimed polanco restaurant, pujol.
10:30am. have the restaurant call a taxi or an uber and make your way down to the downtown centro historico to catch some of mexico city’s most impressive and historical architecture. (you can also stay at grupo habita’s downtown hotel, as well.) visit the zocalo, or the central plaza, which is ringed with some impressive structures, such as the stunning mexico city metropolitan cathedral. wander past the palacio nacional, the federal treasury, and the nacional monte de piedad. the palacio de bellas artes is another gorgeous building just off the zocalo and is home to large-scale murals painted by mexican artiest, diego rivera. indulge in a hot chocolate and a churro from the nearby restaurant, el moro.
noon. behind the zocalo is the templo mayor, an ancient aztec temple that was uncovered during construction in the 1970s. visit the porrua library here. an upstairs restaurant and cafe affords the best views over the ruins juxtaposed against the spanish architecture. treat yourself to a cold michelada - cerveza with lime juice and assorted sauces, spices, and peppers - and a bowl of fresh guacamole.
1pm. head to chapultepec park, one of the largest parks in the western hemisphere and a green oasis nestled amid the sprawling metropolis. inside the park you will find chapultepec castle, the zoo, the museum of anthropology, and the rufino tamayo museum. the museum of anthropology is an absolute must for any first visit to df (as the city is known to locals; short for distrito federal). it contains significant archaeological and anthropological artifacts from mexico’s pre-columbian heritage.
3pm. from the park make your way to condesa and roma, two up-and-coming, adjacent neighborhoods that are making waves with the chic, younger generation in mexico city. (try this grupo habita hotel.) for foods in roma, the spot to visit is mercado roma, a large indoor market with several vendors selling everything from charcuterie to tacos, sandwiches, and gourmet coffee. free wifi pulls in young professionals from the neighborhood who sit at picnic tables in the back. upstairs you will find a rooftop beer garden, which is a popular spot for happy hour and into the evening. there is also a colorful array of street art in condesa and roma, so be on the lookout for beautiful street murals.
another option is to head to the coyoacan neighborhood, home to the frida kahlo museum (also known as the blue house) and a hot spot for mexican street food.
5pm. return back to your hotel for a much-needed rest. locals eat dinner late in mexico so you’ll have plenty of time to relax. if you’re still feeling energized, purchase tickets to a lucha libre match. lucha libre, or mexican wrestling, is best known for its colorful masks, rapid sequences, and “high-flying” moves; a match is one of the more local experiences you can have in mexico city.
9pm. dinner options in mexico city are dizzying, from fine dining to taco stands. for a refined and decadent experience, visit dulce patria, a restaurant adjacent to the luxury boutique hotel las alcobas. for something a little more whimsical, visit la polar, a restaurant in the san rafael neighborhood that serves traditional cooking, cerveza, and often has live mariachi music.
midnight. if you still have energy after dinner and want to hit the town, visit patrick miller, a high-energy dance club that is popular with both locals and celebrities. dance into the wee hours of the morning before making your way back to your hotel, if you don’t stop for a late-night taco beforehand.
a version of this story appeared in travel weekly**