Mexico City, the capital of our neighbor to the south, has been having a moment lately—and for good reason. The massive city—home to 22 million people in the greater metropolitan area—offers an endless supply of dining options (from upscale cuisine to the see-and-be-seen scene), gorgeous historical colonial architecture, and excellent museums, a combination of culture that creates a European-style experience without the jet lag (or the exchange rate). The city was even just awarded the title of design capital of the world for 2018 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (which means shopping options abound, too). The key is to pace yourself—a handful of days is not nearly enough time to completely take in the destination, so zero in on a few key sites and save the rest for a future getaway. Here's where we suggest you start.
WHERE TO STAY
W Hotel Mexico City
The recently renovated W encompasses many of the draws of Mexico City, all in one place. The decor features contemporary Mexican art (much of it hidden in unexpected spots so guests continue to discover mini installations throughout their stay), the lobby boasts a lively bar scene, and the house restaurant is helmed by celebrity chef José Andrés. Oh, and views of the city and surrounding mountains from floor-to-ceiling windows aren't too shabby, either. Situated in the posh Polanco neighborhood, it also puts you within walking distance of the city's high-end shopping district in addition to Chapultepec Park, which is something of a museum hub. Campos Elíseos 252, Polanco IV Secc, 11560 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Every inch of Hotel Carlota—from the mid-century modern concrete-and-iron design to the open-air courtyard with a glass-walled lap pool—is dripping with cool. The rooms themselves are simple (though continuing the theme, each has a unique art installation), but why sit in your suite when you can pull up a chair on the deck, grab a cocktail, and watch the street style waltzing into the hotel's restaurant, Carlota, or the amazingly curated store, Taxonamía, both of which flank the courtyard. Río Amazonas 73, Cuauhtémoc, 06500 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
WHERE TO EAT
The second restaurant from famed chef Elena Reygadas dishes out family-style takes on the fresh pasta, house-made charcuterie, and wood-oven breads that built her reputation in Mexico City. Agustín Melgar 6, Cuauhtemoc, Condesa, 06140 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Regularly spotted on the "World's 50 Best Restaurants" list, this fine dining establishment on the main drag of Polanco offers a fusion of Basque and Mexican cuisines created by chefs Gerard Bellver, Mikel Alonso, and Bruno Oteiza. Expect Mexican flavors delivered with European presentation, and bring your appetite—the tasting menu is where Biko really shines. Plaza Zentro, Presidente Masaryk 407, Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco, 11550 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
At the new casual spot from chef Jair Te?llez, the focus is on all-natural, organic, and biodynamic wines from Mexico and Latin America paired with creative Mexican dishes that are heavy on the Baja, California-style cooking that made Te?llez one of the star chefs of the city. Calle Gral. Prim 95, Juárez, 06600 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Before heading out for a morning stroll through Chapultepec Park, start the day with an indulgent breakfast at this elegant restaurant, offering classic Mexican dishes like chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. The best part? The tiered tables guarantee every seat in the house gets a breathtaking view of the nearby lake. El Lago Mayor 2da. Sección del Bosque de Chapultepec, Miguel Hidalgo, Molino del Rey, 11040 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
WHERE TO SHOP
La Ciudadela Market
A one-stop-shop for all your traditional Mexican souvenir needs, this market offers numerous options for Day of the Dead statues, embroidered peasant tops, and brightly patterned textiles. Av Balderas s/n, Cuauhtémoc, Centro, 06040 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
This local designer has garnered international acclaim for her practice of working with indigenous communities throughout Mexico to incorporate their artisan textiles and techniques into wearable designs for the more cosmopolitan crowd. Avenida Álvaro Obregón 200, Cuauhtemoc, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico; Piso 2, Calle Isabel la Catolica 30, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
From structured tops and jumpsuits to whimsical cocktail dresses, you'd be hard-pressed not to fall in love with a piece (or two, or three…) from this Peruvian designer based in the Polanco neighborhood. Emilio Castelar #185, Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco, Polanco III Secc, 11560 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Whether it's men's clothing, women's accessories, or one of the rotating art installations, something is bound to catch your eye at this multi-floor, multi-brand store housed in a 1940s Colonial-style mansion. Consider it Mexico City's version of London's Dover Street Market and Paris's Colette. Emilio Castelar 149, Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco, Polanco III Secc, 11560 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Housewares and textiles (think ceramic plates and candlesticks, throw pillows, and table runners) brought to you by American Maggie Galton and Mexican Maria Eladia Hagerman, who zero in on intricate details of artisan crafts throughout Mexico then work with the artists to develop more refined versions that add a dash of cool—not kitsch—to your home. Lope de Vega 330, Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco V Seccion, 11560 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
WHAT TO DO
Museo Frida Kahlo
Housed in Kahlo's striking cobalt blue abode (hence the nickname Casa Azul), this museumprovides a window into the life of the famed Mexican artist. Highlights include her studio and bedroom, which show how she painted while dealing with various debilitating physical issues throughout her life, as well as rooms filled with her signature outfits and self-portraits. Finish the visit with a stroll through the rest of the neighborhood that is full of equally vibrant houses in keeping with the rich artistic history of the area. Londres 247, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Bosque de Chapultepec—which literally translates to Chapultepec forest—is the largest city park in the western hemisphere. And within its 1,695 acres are enough art installations and museums to keep you entertained for at least couple of days. The famed Museo National de Anthropologia,Museo de Arte Moderno, and Museo Tamayo, a contemporary art museum, are all clustered together on the eastern side near the Castillo de Chapultepec, which was once an imperial palace and presidential residence. But don't leave the western side uncharted. There, you'll stumble upon the Ca?rcamo de Dolores, which houses the original underwater mural "Agua, el origen de la vida" by famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
This fine arts museum, commissioned by President Porfirio Di?az at the turn of the 20th century, is best known for its murals by Diego Rivera, Siqueiros, and others, but the architecture itself is worth the trip. The exterior was designed by Italian architect Adamo Boari, known for neoclassical and art nouveu styles, but a decades-long pause on construction lead to the interior being finished in 1932 by Mexican architect Federico Mariscal, who delivered a completely mismatched art-deco aesthetic. Av. Juárez, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06050 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Mexico City's massive size—571 square miles with 22 million people in the greater metropolitan area—can be hard to digest. For a better understanding of the history of the area and how it developed, pop by this interactive museum designed for tourists and locals (even city planning officials!) alike. The experience starts with a projector presentation on a to-scale model of the entire city that's reminiscent of an Olympics Opening Ceremony production, and finishes in a room filled with interactive stations to teach visitors about modern life in the capital. Jose Mariano Jiménez 13, Cuauhtemoc, Centro, 06080 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Catedral Metropolitina de Mexico
If you haven't started to pick up on the European vibes of the destination just yet, step foot in this church. Built in sections starting in 1573 and inspired by Gothic cathedrals in Spain, the building stands on sacred Aztec ground located in the Zócalo plaza in the center of the city. Plaza de la Constitución S/N, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.