How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Mexico City
Five essential taco stands, 11 outstanding cocktail bars, and that’s just for starters…
Eight hundred revelers have gathered at the Andaz Mexico City Condesa on the opening night of Zona Maco, an annual arts show hailed as one of the largest and most important in Latin America. The event is serving a dual purpose as the big debut for the new hotel, and a see-and-be-seen soirée that includes rooftop cocktails, a courtyard fashion show, tequila tastings, and immersive galleries and exhibitions.
The party, along with its thumping EDM music, extends deep into the morning hours — a perfect encapsulation of the thriving arts, culture and culinary scene travelers will encounter upon visiting Mexico City. The hotel is making a play to be at the beating heart of it all in CDMX (Ciudad de México), as the property pays homage to its famed architectural roots while showcasing some of the best and brightest of the capital’s contemporary contributors.
Whether you spend a night, a weekend or a month in Mexico City, you’ll find a metropolis pulsing with energy. There’s that vibrant creative scene alongside a boundless collection of bustling restaurants and bars, all mixed in with the street eats, museums and unmistakable flair for which the city has long been known.
Maybe Mexico City’s arts scene wasn’t on your radar at all. If you’re like me, maybe you came to the city for the tacos and the cocktails, but left with a newfound appreciation for everything else on offer. Or maybe you’re the opposite. Either way, CDMX’s powerful allure is sure to leave its mark. Here’s how to do it right.
How to Get to Mexico City
Mexico City is well connected to most major airports in the U.S. Upon arrival at Mexico City International Airport, a trip into town can take as little as 30 minutes, though more likely around an hour depending on traffic. For a simple, safe ride, prepay for a taxi from the ground transportation area as you make your exit; taxis should cost between $20 and $25 depending on your exact destination and current peso exchange rates.
Where to Stay
Located just three blocks from the treasured Parque Mexico in the Condesa district, Andaz Mexico City Condesa opened for business this January. The hotel is housed within an Art Deco wonder known as Conjunto Aristos, a one-time government building designed in the late 1950s by José Luis Benlliure Galán, one of the architects behind the city’s new Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe. “This is a heritage building, it’s an icon in the city,” says Constanze Martens, one half of the design duo tasked with transforming what was a glorious, if outdated, office space into a stylish, high-end hotel.
The Andaz splits its historic home with another new hotel entrant, the Mondrian Mexico City Condesa, and together the two comprise the i421 Live District. The properties share a glitzy lobby, entrance and courtyard, and guests of both are able to use the amenities of the other.
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The hotel lives up to its artistic and architectural heritage by stocking seemingly every nook and cranny of its public spaces with paintings, sculptures and eye-catching design. That includes a partnership with Galería Hilario Galguera to display a rotating selection of its featured artists and works. The property is also one of the of the most pet-friendly I’ve ever encountered: think dog toys and pet beds on demand, a menu of designer pet food you can order via room service, and an indoor-outdoor hangout hub known as Wooftop, with plenty of options to keep you and the canine child entertained.
For a different vibe, or to extend your stay, consider La Valise CDMX, a micro-boutique hotel that will put you in the midst of Mexico City’s trendiest neighborhood and make you feel like a local with a chic, lavish studio that’s the envy of all of your friends and neighbors. The quaint and quiet tree-lined streets of Roma await right outside your front door, with an endless string of buzzy bars, busy restaurants, and can’t-miss cafes and shops.
This Small Luxury Hotels of the World property currently has just three suites, though that total is set to expand to nine; it is in the midst of incorporating the adjacent structure into the fold while adding amenities such as a spa and an indoor pool. One current option that’s also set to be replicated in the new suites is La Terraza, a room featuring a king-size bed built onto a track system that enables you to roll it out onto its namesake terrace for al fresco sleeping or lounging.
La Valise doesn’t have an on-site restaurant though it does bring in room service breakfasts for guests, and has an in-house concierge to offer assistance throughout your stay. Whether you need a bottle of mezcal delivered or recommendations for where to find the best nearby tacos or pozole, they’ll have you covered.
What to Do
Go where the locals go to wile away a sunny afternoon by spending a few hours in Bosque de Chapultepec. The massive green space is more than double the size of Central Park, and has been a prized all-purpose hub for centuries stretching back to the region’s pre-Columbian era.
A number of the city’s finest museums and attractions can also be found in the park. If you had to pick just two, make them the National Anthropology Museum and the grand, hilltop Chapultepec Castle. A ticket to either costs just 90 pesos, or about $5, while offering unparalleled introductions to different aspects of Mexican history and culture.
The Frida Kahlo Museum, Palace of Fine Arts and Monument to the Revolution are three other popular spots to explore in town. The Centro Historico neighborhood contains many of the city’s oldest and most well-known sites. Right at its heart is Zócalo, the historic city square that has served as a ceremonial and gathering site dating to the Aztecs. On one side of the plaza you’ll find the Metropolitan Cathedral and on another the National Palace.
Farther afield is the aforementioned Basilica de Santa María de Guadalupe, one of the most visited sites of its kind in the world, encompassing an enormous campus of multiple shrines and chapels. Walking tours are a prime way to explore Mexico City and to get a feel for both its historical roots and its modern presence. Pick a neighborhood and have at it; beyond Centro Historico, La Condesa, Roma and Polanco are all great districts to stroll.
Where to Eat and Drink
A reasonable list of taco recommendations could include dozens of candidates without breaking a sweat, though you certainly would by visiting them all. You have but a weekend. A narrowed down list of go-tos therefore includes El Huequito, known for its al pastor tacos; Taqueria Orinoco, which has multiple city locations and is known for its chicharron tacos, frijoles and potatoes; Tortas al Fuego for its tortas and tacos; and street cart extraordinaire Tacos El Gato Volador, for birria and other likely late-night options. Visit some of the city’s sprawling all-purpose markets to sample from its food vendors as well, including Mercado de la Merced and Mercado Sonora, each of which has a long strip of stalls towards the back; in the former, try Tacos MC Teo, where tortillas come loaded with papas fritas (French fries) and grilled green onions.
When it comes time for a sit down meal, no restaurant is more recommended by locals and visitors alike than Contramar. Open from noon to 8 p.m., the seafood restaurant attracts an endless crowd, so make a reservation or be prepared to wait. Palapa Cantina Caribeña combines Caribbean and Colombian flavors in a festive setting that transports diners to the beach, while guests transform the bar into a dance party come evening. Pigeon offers Mediterranean plates paired with a strong wine list, with food that punches above the weight of its casual, if sultry, environs (it’s powered by the culinary team behind Meroma, one of the city’s most innovative fine-dining institutions). El Hidalguense specializes in barbacoa and is particularly busy in the morning and during the weekend for brunch.
Come thirsty to Mexico City, as the city’s cocktail scene has become a major player on the world stage. Hanky Panky began life as a private member’s club before emerging as one of the hottest cocktail bars on the planet. The semi-speakeasy space is hidden away behind a taco shop; upon entering, expect to find a convivial atmosphere, expert hospitality and innovative drinks paying homage to their global bar family. Licorería Limantour is the bar that set the city’s cocktail scene soaring to new heights, and remains an innovator, with the current menu honing in on overlooked Oaxacan ingredients. Reservations are required for Handshake Speakeasy, another bar pushing the city forward in terms of craft technique and flavor combinations, and when one speakeasy isn’t enough, the new Handshake Compromiso is a basement speakeasy-within-a-speakeasy.
Still thirsty? Good. Dimly lit Tlecan is a go-to for sampling an eclectic and far-reaching range of agave spirits. The small space’s stone bar top and walls, along with its sparse design, set an appropriate tone. Rayo is a watering hole you’ll find above Fónico restaurant with a large, open-air terrace and a showy, mirror-backed bar. The emphasis here is on Mexican spirits — not only mezcal and tequila, but also gin and rum, mixed into flashy, IG-ready drinks. There’s also Brujas, a neighborhood spot relished as a place to unwind while still enjoying creative, well-made libations; Casa Prunes, found within a converted multi-story house, which helps it feel like you’re attending a dinner party with friends, and features an elaborate cocktail program replete with re-distillation and fermentation techniques; and one of the city’s original standouts, Fifty Mils.
If you’re less interested in bar hopping than posting up at a neighborhood spot, try Cafe Ocampo (in Colonia Cuauhtémoc) or Cafe de Nadie (in Roma Norte), as well as Baltra Bar, where you won’t want to miss its weekly martini nights. Another reason to visit the latter? It’s just down the block from your hotel, Andaz.
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