The faint of heart have no business in Mexico City rush hour. Since this is a vacation, and I have nowhere to be until my stomach calls for dinner, I forego my Uber. There’s no better way to understand a city for who it is than on foot. There’s no better way to greet the locals than eye to eye. I want to meet the muse who influenced Frida Kahlo, Luis Barragán and so many more: Mexico City.
Mexico City is like a shot of Mezcal, no chaser. It can be jarring at first: it is, after all, a city of almost 9 million people and a mosaic of vibrantly painted buildings, where bakeries exhale the scent of fresh pan dulce, and there are always voices cheering from a nearby soccer bar. But quickly it takes hold with a warmth that you can melt into, a friendliness that holds your hand, and energy that makes you want to dance through the streets.
The capital has experienced a growth spurt. It has become a hub for a new wave of artists, culinary visionaries crafting their dreams on to your plate, and home to ex-pats seeking to taste urban life but with affordable rent. This is why you have to go now: to experience the city in this stage of magical transition, steeped in a rich history with a new generation at the helms. I know I won’t be the first traveler to return and try to sell you on Mexico City but if I’ve piqued your interest even just a bit, bookmark the following list of must-hit spots. You won’t regret it.
A Girl’s Gotta Eat
If you’ve heard of Contramar before it’s because it’s really that good. It’s the seafood experience of a lifetime. My must-order: the Paloma cocktail to drink and the red and green snapper to eat. Lunch is especially beautiful here, as everything is pooled in bright light from the floor to ceiling windows.
For fine dining in a quaint space, book a dinner at Máximo Bistrot. Plates piled with hand-made pasta and cocktails garnished with care make for a romantic evening. The menu changes daily based on what the markets had to offer so it’s always a bespoke meal.
Por Siempre Vegana
I may not be vegan, but I can stand by the fact that these are some of the best street tacos you will ever try. Rich in flavor, and color, this is the perfect spot for a light snack or late-night bite.
Even just peeking through the doorway of Rosetta is a moving experience. Offering dishes of seasonal Mexican ingredients is the basis of their philosophy, but the dining is hardly basic. Paired with the ambiance of the space—the restaurant is housed in a mansion in the stylish Roma neighborhood—Rosetta oozes romance. If you can’t get on the list, head a few doors down to her little sister spot Panadería Rosetta for fresh from the oven goodies.
This lesser-known Luis Barragán masterpiece is a residential home run by the art organization Tetetlán. Book a tour of this private residence via email for an intimate tour of the architectural gem which has been restored to its original glory, and learn about the man behind the structure.
Walk Santa Maria de la Ribera
This quickly changing neighborhood is one of the most sought out in the country, and when you meander its streets you’ll understand why. Colonial structures add a whimsical backdrop to your morning stroll.
Frida Kahlo Museum
Frida Kahlo’s iconic Blue House is one of the most tourist-y destinations in the city and for good reason. You’ll be blown away by how much you can feel her presence in every room. Buy your tickets ahead, they book out quickly!
“Mexico City is like a shot of Mezcal, no chaser.”
Shop Like a Local
If you seek curated vintage this is the spot for you. This shop is so popular, they have two locations to house all their designer finds.
While you’re waiting for your Casa Pedegral tour to start, ask the staff at Tetetlán if they’ll show you the secret ceramics room. It’s full of shelves and shelves of jugs and plate sets stacked high, all hand made by local artisans.
Mercado de la Ciudadela
For traditional mementos, head to Mercado de la Ciudadela. The folk art of the region and its artisans will warm your heart, and make your suitcases heavy (worth it).