On a second trip to Mexico City, I could hardly wait to arrive. There’s an indescribable feeling about a return trip. A certain pull between nostalgia for what was experienced before and a desire to discover what is new. It made traveling to Mexico City a particularly exciting adventure with a long list of things to do.
This time I traveled back to Mexico City or CDMX with one focus — design. Booking in five nights with my cousin, half of the duo who runs the beloved design studio and showroom Love House in Brooklyn, we set out to explore countless galleries and design showrooms. Along the way, we ate our way through the city. And by eating, I mean no stones were left unturned when it came to food. Arriving on the heels of Art Week in Mexico City, there was a certain buzz in the city and we were there to partake.
My first trip to Mexico City was back in 2016, the year the NY Times named it the number one destination in their iconic “52 Places to Go” list. The city won me over — somewhere between walking the lush streets of Condesa and crushing down al pastor tacos at a hole-in-the-wall stand. Since then, Mexico City has become a cultural capital, a hotbed for design. I’m talking about furniture design, traveling art galleries visited only by appointment, and tucked away clothing shops inside homes. A design scene that rivals Manhattan or Tokyo.
The creativity in Mexico City presents this inspiring side of the city. But amidst it all, the roots that make the city so special are still there. Things made from hand, with time and care like those tortillas under a bed of steaming al pastor. It’s a beautiful contrast. An invitation to experience the tradition that has always made Mexico City a rich cultural experience and the creativeness of the city today.
Ready to be start planning? Here’s the Mexico City travel guide for design-lovers.
The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design Lovers
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Travel Logistics for Mexico City
Getting to Mexico City
There are many direct flights into Mexico City International Airport; officially Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez. Major cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles offer direct flights. For budget air, Volaris runs the best deals. I saw some also great flight deals on United and Delta.
Transportation in the City
Uber is your best friend in Mexico City and is countlessly rated as the safest. On arrival, I’d recommend a pre-booked transfer on Mozio if you don’t want to hail a cab. A quick note on Uber at the airport: There was a mixed experience of trying to get an Uber at the airport, and it didn’t work, so my cousin ended up in a cab even though Uber’s website says they pick up at the airport.
Around the city, you can walk through certain neighborhoods like Roma, Condesa, Polanco, and more. Getting from each area, be sure to book an Uber and check the license plate.
Best time to Go
Mexico City is practically a year-round destination. If you like the heat, then the spring to summer months are in your favor (May is the hottest month). Though the rainy season is technically June to September, the rain comes in waves. With mild winters, I love visiting in February and March.
Currency and Money
Mexican Peso is the local currency. You’ll need cash for smaller food stands and leaving some tips at restaurants. I recommend always withdrawing cash out at a local bank. Please note: Do not withdraw money at Santander Banks — we ran into multiple issues where we’d punch in the information, select the amount and it not spit out the money, only to charge our atm’s.
What to Know Before Visiting Mexico City
It’s notorious with CDMX. Over 2o million people live in the city, so be prepared to sit in traffic. We did 5 miles in an hour one day. Here are my tips for avoiding traffic. First, avoid getting in the car at major rush hour times (7-8 am and 4-6:30 pm). It’s best to plan ahead and either get somewhere early or stay in one neighborhood. Even at night, be sure to check the maps to get an idea of how long it will take. Sometimes walking is faster — we did this once or twice to make a reservation.
Get Cellular Data
It’s worth every penny to have a functioning cellphone. You’ll need it for Uber specifically. Verizon offers a $5 a day travel pass in Canada/Mexico and it works great. T-Mobile has free international with some programs but I’ve found consistently it doesn’t work well in Mexico. Alternatively, there are local SIM’s.
Reserve in Advance
The top restaurants all book out months in advance. There’s are about 10 restaurants that seem to be on every traveler’s list and for good reason, making reservations in demand. We made ours almost two months ahead though you could snag some seats around one to two weeks before.
Safety and Precaution
Yes, Mexico City has crime, but similar to any other major city like NYC and SF. Pickpocketing can happen, so keep an eye on your bag and best to keep it in front. There are certain neighborhoods of Mexico City you want to stay clear of, this list does a great job of sharing why. The major areas of which I reference in this guide are places I felt completely safe and recommend. At all times, common sense should be practiced.
Have Travel Insurance
I always recommend leaving the country with travel insurance and trust World Nomads for both medical and travel concerns. Search here for a travel quote:
Where to Stay in Mexico City
In partnership with Kiwi Collection, I had the chance to stay at two different hotels in different neighborhoods. The first was Las Alcobas in Polanco and the second was at the St Regis Mexico City on Paseo de la Reforma. Kiwi Collection does a wonderful job at curating hotels in destinations around the world. I love that when you book with them you receive extra perks on availability like a room upgrade or early check-in. Here is my take on the two:
Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Mexico City
This was actually the second time I stayed at Las Alcobas. Its location in the heart of the chic Polanco neighborhood gives access to museums and top restaurants. The boutique luxury hotel has recently been renovated and I love the modern design they went with in the rooms. This hotel is an intimate stay and I adore the special touches around in-room dining (a must for breakfast!) and turndown service. By the time you leave, you feel like you’re family. The hotel features a wonderful restaurant downstairs called Anatol which you’ll want to try at least once for either lunch or dinner. There is also a spa and gym available.
St. Regis Mexico City
The St. Regis Mexico City is a luxury hotel centrally located to districts like Condesa and Roma. As a larger hotel, it has multiple dining options, a pool with city views on the 15th floor, and a large spa. I loved the classic luxury in the suite I stayed in that also came with their signature butler service (awesome perk!). The rooms are comfortable and well-designed. The St. Regis hotels are known for their “signature rituals” like the Bloody Mary cocktail where each hotel does its own take. Be sure to visit King Cole Bar to try their mezcal version and take in the views of the city. If you’re looking for a spa day in CDMX, then I’d come to the Remède spa where you can book a treatment and enjoy the amenities.
Where to Eat in Mexico City
Restaurants to reserve in advance
Arguably my favorite meal in Mexico City is Contramar. So much so, we had to do a “walk-in” to dine once more at the bar. Their tuna tostadas are out of this world and definitely order the whole fish.
This restaurant alone put Mexican cuisine on the fine dining spectrum. By chef Enrique Olvera, this prix fixe meal is an ode to indigenous ingredients and regional dishes.
A beautiful reprieve, this Italian restaurant is a favorite for me when it comes to unique dining. The space is as beautiful as the food tastes. Chef Elena Reygadas is doing something special here.
Hard to categorize Máximo Bistrot, it’s like French cuisine meets Mexican heritage. Listed as one of the top restaurants in Latin America, I’d recommend dinner here. Be sure to order the suckling pig. *No camera on me, photo source here.
Local bites not to miss
Come here for their cochonita pubil tacos. Out of this world and cash only. Be sure to try the housemade salsas as well.
Remember the al pastor tacos I mentioned? These are them. Multiple locations and seriously al pastor will never taste the same again.
Antojitos La Poblanita — Mercado El Chorrito
Sometimes you take a chance and it works out — like the time we grabbed a snack before a tour and it was this food stand inside of a market. Sopes and quesadillas were so good we spoiled our lunch.
Quesadillas Maria Isabel
Recommended by a local, popped in for these delicious fried quesadillas. Quite different from the usual suspects, the warm queso was delicious.
Coffee and pastries
Churrería El Moro
A must visit at least twice during a trip. Come here for churros and multiple locations across the city.
From the chef behind Rosetta Restaurant, her baked goods are a must. Grab a guava pastry “para llevar” (to go). Photo from Rosetta next door.
My favorite for coffee in CDMX. Multiple locations in the city.
Came here twice for a caffeine fill. Great coffee poured here. *didn’t have my camera, this one is sourced from here.
Where to drink
Since we leave our cameras at home most of the time when we go out, I have a few select photos. So here’s a list of my favorite cocktail bars in Mexico City where you can get a range of cocktails from mezcal to gin: Limantour, Jules Basement (speakeasy, reserve in advance), Bar Félix, and Xaman Bar.
Design in Mexico City — Museums, Galleries, & More
Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo
The building alone is stunning and is home to a restaurant and museum focused on contemporary art. Exhibits rotate frequently.
Museo Nacional de Antropología
Another stunning building, this museum is all about history and heritage. Be sure to walk the gardens in the back with archeological ruins.
One of the free museums in CDMX, this fish-like building (the scales), is home to a range of work. My favorite is the Rodin collection on the top level.
With rotating exhibits and known as CDMX’s MoMa, right now it has a special James Turrel exhibit. Be sure to book tickets in advance for certain exhibits.
Galleries, studios, and more
Casa Estudio Luis Barragán
One of the best architecture tours I’ve done in my travels was to the home of Luis Barragán. He is a famed architect and his space and use of shadows and light are stunning. Small group tours are offered in English and must be booked well in advance.
This stunning gallery is home to different modern artwork and is often on rotation. I’d recommend coming here and grabbing a bite to eat across the street at La Ventanita as well.
This concept for an art gallery is beautiful. It’s a traveling gallery for high-end design that pops up in different locations in CDMX. Right now through April 8th, it’s in a former royal home and features work from primarily local artists. By appointment only — find more info on Instagram.
Chic By Accident
If you’re looking to visit a studio that you can shop all things from one-of-a-kind Barragán chairs to handmade ceramics, this studio is it. In the heart of Roma, this design gallery is the place to go to find some beautiful (and not the cheapest) treasures to bring home.
Other places to shop
Other favorites in the city to shop for design, clothing, and home include CASA MIMI for antique art, Trouve a range of goods, AUDETTE for leather goods, MisMezcales for mezcal, and VOID and Hi-Bye for clothing.
Things to Do in Mexico City
Explore Condesa and Roma
One of my favorite things to do in CDMX is just walking through these two neighborhoods. There is so much to see here, from shops to beautiful gardens and parks like Parque España and Parque México.
Hit the Flea Markets
Yes, more shopping. The flea markets here are incredible and the two main ones are Saturday mornings around Jardín Dr. Ignacio Chávez and Sunday mornings at La Lagunilla Flea Market.
See the Sights in Centro Historico
There are many beautiful historical places in the center of CDMX. Be sure to see Casa de Los Azulejos, Palacio de Bellas Artes, and Zócalo – Plaza de la Constitucion. It is good to know that this is not a neighborhood to be in once it is dark.
Take a day trip.
There are many day trips to be had in Mexico City. I always find that I end up staying in the city and wish I had. Some of the top ones include Teotihuacan, Puebla, Cacahuamilpa caves, and the floating gardens of Xochimilco.
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