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Updated September 2023

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.

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

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 New York, 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 creativity of the city today.

Ready to start planning? Here’s the Mexico City travel guide for design lovers.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels in Mexico City:

  1. Casa Polanco, for the best luxury hotel
  2. Las Alcobas, for the best Polanco hotel
  3. St. Regis Mexico City, for the best Reforma hotel
  4. La Valise, for the best design hotel
  5. Hotel Carlota, for the best budget-friendly hotel

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design Lovers


Google Maps for All Places Mentioned

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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. I use Skyscanner to find the best flight routes and deals.

Best Time to Visit Mexico City

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.

Transportation in Mexico 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.

Currency and Money in Mexico City

The 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.

Travel Tip: Do not withdraw money at Santander Banks. We ran into multiple issues where we’d punch in the information, select the amount and it would not spit out the money, only to charge our ATM’s.

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.


What to Know Before Visiting Mexico City

Traffic in Mexico City

It’s notorious with CDMX. Over 20 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 Restaurants in Advance

The top restaurants all book out months in advance. There 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. For more on where to eat in Mexico city, read my guide to the best restaurants in Mexico City.

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. I share more about my impressions of the city’s safety in this piece, A Different Side to Mexico City.

Consider Travel Insurance

It’s a good idea to have travel insurance in case something goes wrong. I trust World Nomads.


Where to Stay in Mexico City

For this trip, 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. Here is my take on the two:

Las Alcobas (Polanco)

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. Book the best rates here.

Address: Av. Pdte. Masaryk 390, Polanco, Polanco III Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11560 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

St. Regis Mexico City (Reforma)

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. Book the best rates here.

Address: Av. P.º de la Reforma 439, Cuauhtémoc, 06500 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

Other Mexico City Hotels to Consider

For a complete overview of where to stay, read my guide to the best hotels in Mexico City.


Where to Eat in Mexico City

Mexico City has one of the most vibrant culinary scenes in the world. Here are some of my favorites. For an expanded list of where to eat in Mexico City, read my guide to the best restaurants in Mexico City!

Restaurants to Reserve in Advance

Contramar

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers.Contramar

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.

Pujol

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers.Pujol

Pujol 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.

Rosetta

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

A beautiful reprieve, this Italian restaurant is a favorite for me when it comes to unique dining. The space at Rosetta is as beautiful as the food tastes. Chef Elena Reygadas is doing something special here.

Máximo Bistrot

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers
Image Source

It’s 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.

Local Bites Not to Miss

El Turix

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

Come to El Turix for their cochonita pubil tacos. Out of this world and cash only. Be sure to try the housemade salsas as well.

El Huequito

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

Remember the al pastor tacos I mentioned? These are them. El Huequito has multiple locations and, seriously, al pastor will never taste the same again.

Antojitos La Poblanita (Mercado El Chorrito)

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

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

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

Recommended by a local, popped into Quesadillas Maria for these delicious fried quesadillas. Quite different from the usual suspects, the warm queso was delicious.

Coffee and Pastries

Churrería El Moro

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

El Moro is a must-visit at least twice during a trip. Come here for churros and multiple locations across the city.

Panadería Rosetta

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

From the chef behind Rosetta Restaurant, her baked goods at Panadería Rosetta are a must. Grab a guava pastry “para llevar” (to go). Photo from Rosetta next door.

Chiquitito Café

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

Chiquitito is my favorite for coffee in CDMX. Multiple locations in the city.

Qūentin Café

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

I came to Qūentin 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:


Design in Mexico City: Museums, Galleries, & More

Museums

Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

The building alone at Museo Tamayo is stunning and is home to a restaurant and museum focused on contemporary art. Exhibits rotate frequently.

Museo Nacional de Antropología

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

Another stunning building, the Museo Nacional de Antropología is all about history and heritage. Be sure to walk the gardens in the back with archeological ruins.

Museo Soumaya

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

One of the free museums in CDMX and housed in a fish-like building (the scales), the Museo Soumaya is home to a range of work. My favorite is the Rodin collection on the top level.

Museo Jumex

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

Known as CDMX’s MoMa, the Museo Jumex has rotating exhibits. Be sure to book tickets in advance for certain exhibits.

Galleries, Studios, and More

Casa Estudio Luis Barragán

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

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.

kurimanzutto

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

The stunning kurimanzutto 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.

MASA

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

MASA’s concept for an art gallery is beautiful. It’s a traveling gallery for high-end design that pops up in different locations in CDMX. By appointment only.

Chic By Accident

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

If you’re looking to visit a studio that you can shop all things from one-of-a-kind Barragán chairs to handmade ceramics, Chic By Accident 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:


Things to Do in Mexico City

Explore Condesa and Roma

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

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

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

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

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

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

The Mexico City Travel Guide for Design-Lovers

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.

Looking to Book a Guided Day Trip or Tour? See Here:

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PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


Xx,
Jessica

5 Comments

  1. Hey Jessica! Long time fan over here, so excited about the timing of this MX city guide because my girlfriends and I are headed there in a month. Excited to try these spots out!

  2. Hi Jessica! LOVE that you put these in a google map for us, I do that too for all my destinations. 🙂 Is there a way to download the map to add it to ours or save the map to an existing one? thank you!

    • Jessica Wright Reply

      Hey Bree! I’m not entirely sure, I think you can save them or favorite it to your maps?

  3. Alex Trebek Reply

    Hello, My Name is Alex Trebek,
    We are planning a trip to Mexico very soon and your blog has been a huge help to answer some of my questions and concerns.

    Quick question, what is the restaurant ( patio with wood, hanging chandeliers, and greenery) that appears in the first picture of this post? I couldn’t find the name.

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