Since shedding the unsafe image that largely dominated Western views of the capital city 10 years ago, Mexico City has quickly and rightfully earned its place as a truly world-class city in 2016. With enough cultural pit stops and fascinating history to warrant weeks on end spent discovering this metropolis, you’ll come for the sights but stay for the incredible street food, lively drinking culture and warm local hospitality.
Undeniably large but not at all monolithic, the city’s safe, efficient (and extremely inexpensive, thanks to the strength of the US dollar) Uber system is the best way to get from A to B, and soak up the city’s tree-lined avenues and lush, jungle-like parks along the way.
Lunch at Contramar.
Visit the Frida Kahlo Museum. As one of the most prolific Mexican painters in contemporary history, the museum, a.k.a. La Casa Azul, is also the home in which Kahlo was born, died and lived for the majority of her relatively short life. It’s easy to see why this is an essential stop on many tourists’ visits: the museum is replete with paintings, talismans and objets d’art that offer a fascinating glimpse into the artist’s vibrant, bohemian life.
Come face-to-face with history at the Leon Trotsky Museum. After an ill-fated affair with Frida Kahlo while seeking refuge in La Casa Azul, Trotsky moved and spent the last few remaining years of his life just a few blocks away. Although decidedly less beautiful than Kahlo’s living quarters due to the need to build the house into a protective fortress, it’s fascinating to see the bullet holes that line the walls from his first assassination attempt, and hear the grisly tale of deception of the second. The museum offers free, guided tours, which are excellent.
Diego Rivera Murals
Visit a lesser-known art hub at the Diego Rivera Murals in the Ministry of Education. Tucked away from the hustle and chaos of the Centro Historico is a beautiful government building whose hallway-lined courtyards house many of the famed Mexican painter’s murals from early on in his career. Admission is free.
Make like Juliet Capulet in the Chapultepec Castle. Perched atop Chapultepec Hill in a park that is twice the size of Manhattan’s Central Park is the Castillo, the only royal castle in North America that was lived in by a sovereign, Emperor Maximilian I, during the 19th century. It’s worth the trek to the top for the beautiful architecture and sweeping views of the city and its surrounding mountains. If you’re a fan of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet, you’re in luck: the castle was used as a location for the Capulet Mansion, which can be seen throughout the film.
The Chapultepec Castle.
Contramar, Colonia Roma
Widely considered the place to get seafood in Mexico City, it’s easy to see why – the famed tuna tostadas are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and the service is exceptional. Do as the locals do: make late lunch reservations around 3pm and plan on spending at least a few hours drinking and eating. Order the fig tart if you have room for dessert.
Mercado Roma, Colonia Roma
For an upscale market experience, Mercado Roma offers enough sights and smells to whet the palette of even the most discriminating of taste buds. Try a torta de bacalao (fried fish sandwich) with chiles gueros, or grab a paleta (Mexican ice pop) for a cool treat.
L: Paletas at Mercado Roma, R: Street tacos at their finest.
Rosetta, Colonia Roma
If you find yourself needing a taco break, the Italian food at Rosetta is one of the best places to find fantastic handmade pasta, salt-crusted fish and burrata in the city. Housed in an old Beaux Arts mansion, make a reservation for the downstairs area, which has a sweeping skylight and wall-lined frescoes.
For a truly authentic experience, make like the locals do and order from one of the many taco stands or carts that line any given city street. A word of warning, though: picante, or spicy, is very spicy – ease into the hot sauce until you’ve safely navigated your limits.
Romita Comedor, Colonia Roma
Set on the top floor of an old mansion, a trip to Romita Comedor is worth it, if only to feel like you’re dining in the world’s most chic terrarium. With a black and white-tiled floor, lofty balcony enclosure and wall-hanging plants, this trendy restaurant is a sight to behold both by day and night.
San Angel Inn, Colonia San Angel
Set in an old inn with a stunning, vine-adorned courtyard, the white-jacketed waiters and upscale clientele give off the distinct feeling you’ve stepped into an old-world Beverly Hills-style movie set. Order a margarita; you won’t regret it.
L: San Angel Inn, R: Romita Comedor.
Blanco Colima, Colonia Roma
Situated in the other half of the old urban mansion that houses Rosetta in the heart of the trendy Roma Norte neighborhood, Blanco Colima’s al fresco dining feel makes for a stunning setting to grab a cocktail.
For a cold and energizing respite from the sticky Mexican heat, try a carajillo, a drink that is part-espresso, part-vanilla and citrus liqueur. A popular drink amongst locals, it comes either shaken or stirred – but we recommend the former for a frothy treat.
A carajillo, in deconstructed form, with Licor 43.
A color envy-inducing house in Coyoacan.