The Mexico City Guide
It feels like Mexico City is going through a major moment, where all the things that used to make it such a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, are just that much better now. We’ve always loved the tacos and the incredible street food that you can find on practically any corner, but now chefs like Enrique Olvera at Pujol and Jorge Vallejo at Quintonil are deconstructing classic recipes and taking them to the next level. Then there’s the art scene, where it’s no longer just about iconic 20th-century artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, but about new, world-class art institutions like the Soumaya, and the Museo Jumex that have both landed in the last five years. Even tequila has possibly been outdone by hundreds of boutique mezcal brands that spring up on an almost monthly basis. The list goes on. Basically, Mexico City, or CDMX—as it’s now known—just got a whole lot awesomer.
Downtown MexicoIsabel La Católica #30, Centro Histórico, Cuauhtémoc | +52.55.5130.6830
The Mexican boutique hotel company Grupo Habita really does have its fingers on the pulse when it comes to opening in the right neighborhoods. Their design hotels seem to pop up just seconds before another area hits the big time. In this case, it's the city's downtown, or "Centro," which has undergone a massive re-haul in the past decade—thanks in part to Mexican multi-billionaire Carlos Slim—and is now suddenly the place everyone wants to be. Downtown is located in a 17th-century palace, with a classic colonial courtyard, a 1940's mural by Rafael Gonzalez Lozano, and 17 pared-down bedrooms with high vaulted ceilings, traditional terracotta-tiled floors, and many original architectural details. With a rooftop pool and bar overlooking the other ornate colonial rooftops of the Centro, it's a pretty ideal oasis from the bustling streets. The Downtown shares the palace with several small, independent boutiques, the traditional Mexican restaurant Azul Historico, and a hostel named Downtown Beds.
Las AlcobasAvenida Presidente Masaryk 390A, Polanco | +52.55.3300.3900
At this 35 room boutique hotel, the international design firm Yabu Pushelberg has done an outstanding job of tastefully incorporating Mexican motifs into a contemporary setting, beginning with a stunning spiral rosewood staircase leading from reception into the hotel's breakfast room and spa. Each of the rooms and apartment-like suites feature this same attention to detail when it comes to decor, with custom-made furnishings, luxurious marble bathrooms, and floor-to-ceiling windows throughout. In keeping with the hotel's recurring theme of tastefully incorporating Mexican tropes, the spa features a menu of massages and treatments featuring indigenous ingredients and ancient practices. In addition to that, it's also home to two great restaurants, Anatol and Dulce Patria, which is among the best city restaurants serving up contemporary Mexican cuisine.
Four Seasons Mexico CityPaseo de la Reforma 500, Cuauhtemoc | +52.55.5230.1818
You pretty much know what to expect from a Four Seasons anywhere in the world, which is top-notch service, beautifully appointed, if slightly trad, interiors, and all the hotel amenities you could ask for. This Four Seasons is no exception, and its location in a stunning colonial-style building right on Paseo de la Reforma adds plenty of local charm. There are 240 individually decorated rooms, featuring tastefully chosen Mexican art and design items. Plus, the gorgeously landscaped patio—a common feature in colonial architecture—is where you'll want to spend most of your time in the hotel, either in the pool or having breakfast al fresco. For families traveling with kids, this is probably the best bet, with child-proofed rooms on request, age-appropriate toys, and games provided on arrival, and chauffeur services and city tours to book directly from the concierge.
St. Regis Mexico CityPaseo de la Reforma 439, Cuauhtemoc | +52.55.5228.1818
This is one of the more recently opened hotels in the city, and definitely among the splashiest: For starters, it's one of the few skyscrapers down one of the city's main arteries, Paseo de la Reforma, which means the city views from the inside the hotel are pretty phenomenal. We also hear service is on point, beginning with a glass of champagne at check-in, and traditional butler service throughout your stay. Rooms are beautifully appointed in plush, contemporary furnishings in a subtle palette of greys and pastels. Plus, the Remede Spa is where locals in the know book in for a pamper, and the adjoining pool boasts amazing views. It's basically exactly what you'd expect from a St. Regis anywhere in the world, the only disadvantage being that it lacks a sense of local quirk and color (though there's plenty of that outside the glass doors).
Camino RealMariano Escobedo 700, Polanco | +52.55.5263.8888
The Camino Real is Mexico's own premier hotel chain, though the sprawling Polanco branch's main appeal is it's vintage, '70s charm. Built in 1968 by Ricardo Legorreta, arguably one of Mexico's most influential architects, the whole point of a stay here is experiencing Mexican modernism at its best. That translates into expansive spaces, bold geometric patterns, and big, bright splashes of color. Art lovers might enjoy the hotel's collection too, which includes an Isamu Noguchi-designed fountain in the entrance and works by Rufino Tamayo, Pedro Friedeberg, Jose Covarrubias, and more. And while the rooms may be past their prime decor-wise—aka stuck in the '70s—the hotel boasts plenty of other amenities like the nicely secluded courtyard pool, adjoining gym, and a choice of trendy restaurants in-house. Location is also key, as the hotel is connected to Polanco, one of the city's most walkable neighborhoods, and Avenida Reforma, the scenic, neoclassical avenue that leads right into downtown.
CondesaDFAv. Veracruz 102, Condesa | +52.55.5241.2600
In the last 20 years, the Condesa neighborhood has had a major revamp, where independent businesses and young professionals have taken up residence in beautiful old Neoclassical and Art Deco buildings from the last century, and the India Mahdavi-designed CondesaDF is pretty much the neighborhood's crown jewel. The rooms are known to be minimal—bordering on sparse—making the real highlight outside the bedroom doors. There's a rooftop bar serving up some of the city's best sushi, not to mention stunning views of Chapultepec park, and the downstairs open-air dining room is great for a quick bite or drink. There's also a tiny Hammam spa for a dose of relaxation after a long day exploring the nearby independent shops, cafes, restaurants, and galleries.
Hotel HabitaAv. Presidente Masaryk 201, Polanco | +52.55.5282.3100
Back in 2000 when it opened, the Enrique Norten-designed, glass-enclosed, Hotel Habita was Mexico City's very first design hotel, and even today it remains among a very few. Located on Masaryk, one of the city's main high-end shopping drags, the minimalist decor, white-washed industrial interiors and roof deck pool still lure locals for the bar scene, and foreigners for the perfectly comfortable—if a little sparse—industrial rooms. While owner Carlos Couturier has gone on to open several more scene-stealing hotels in the city and further afield, the rooftop pool and bar at the hotel remain a night-time fixture.