Americans have been flocking to Mexico City in recent years. It became an especially popular remote work destination during the pandemic, and everyone I know who has visited has come back raving about it and said they were eager to return—not once, but many times. As a lover of urban environments, I was eager to figure out why people are so obsessed.
My favorite way to learn a new city is to wander all over it, and Mexico City is a great walking city. There are countless wide verdant boulevards with pedestrian paths full of people, art, and flower stands. There seemed to be a park or public square every few blocks in many areas, and they were lively with music, delicious food, and agua frescas into the wee hours of the night. This, too, is a city that doesn’t sleep.
As soon as I ate my first taco, I felt like I understood what all the fuss was about. The food in CDMX is truly unparalleled, from high-end restaurants like Contramar to hole in the wall torta shops like La Casa del Pavo and countless street vendors. In two weeks, I barely scratched the surface of all the amazing places and things to eat, and I am already building a restaurant list for my next visit (Gaba, Lina, Rosetta, and Maximo are all on it).
There’s no way to sum up Mexico City in a single travel guide, and this is by no means meant to be comprehensive, but read on for a rundown for the best sights, eats, drinks, and places to stay to scratch the surface of this vibrant metropolis.
What to See
Museo Soumaya is Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s gift to Mexico City. The museum’s striking exterior is rivaled only by the artwork inside—roughly 70,000 pieces from Slim’s personal collection, including works by all the big names: da Vinci, van Gogh, Dalí, Matisse, Monet. The top floor is largely devoted to sculptures by August Rodin—one of the biggest collections of his work outside of France and the world’s largest private collection of his art, period. (Slim’s late wife Soumaya Domit Gemayel, for whom the museum is named, was an admirer.) Best of all, the museum is open to the public for free.
Next door to Casa Luis Barragán, the former home and studio of the Pritzker Prize-winning Mexican architect turned museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is Barragán’s lesser known and equally splendid Casa Ortega—the first residence he ever designed. The home and expansive gardens, inspired by the Alhambra in Spain, were built between 1940 and 1943 and inhabited by Barragán for the following five years while he worked on his other property. You can visit Casa Ortega by private tour only (the St. Regis arranged mine) to take in its bold hues (Barragán was privy to millennial pink decades before it was cool), unique use of natural light, and masterful blending of interior and exterior spaces.
Secretariat of Public Education
You’ve undoubtedly heard about the Museo Frida Kahlo, set in the famed Mexican painter’s former home (be sure to book tickets in advance) and maybe even the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Studio House Museum, both of which I highly recommend. But a bit more off the beaten Kahlo-Rivera path are the huge murals Diego painted on the walls of the Ministry of Public Education, beginning in 1923. The building, located in CDMX’s historic center, had a fraction of the tourists clogging Frida’s home and I enjoyed wandering the three-story building for hours. Many of the murals lift up working class and revolutionaries (Frida is just one famous figure you’ll find among the faces) and other poke fun at the bourgeois, including “Night of the Rich,” pictured above.
Where to Eat
Everyone will tell you that you must eat at Pujol, and they are correct. Since opening in 2000, chef Enrique Olvera’s first restaurant has consistently ranked high on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and helped Mexico City become the foodie mecca that it is today. Book a table well in advance and thank yourself later. The menu changes frequently, but you can count on Mole Madre, Mole Nuevo—the restaurant’s signature dish that features two types of mole, one of which has been aged for 2,500 days.
Elly’s bills itself as the place where Mexico City and New York City collide. The brainchild of owner Andrea Herran (of Mexico) and chef Elizabeth Fraser (of New York) is located in an impeccably decorated 1930s two-story Bauhaus townhome with rooms dedicated to different experiences depending on what you’re seeking. There’s a full-service dining room, a cocktail bar, a chef’s table, a wine bar, and a private dining room. But no matter where you sit, the mediterranean-meets-Mexico menu offerings and ’70s vibes (thanks in part to Elly’s impressive record collection) are sure to satisfy.
Ticuchi is another winning spot from Pujol’s Enrique Olvera. The restaurant, located in the revamped former original home of Pujol, is dark and candle-filled, making the space feel more like a speakeasy than an eatery, but don’t let that confuse you—the food is still the draw. Tamales are my favorite Mexican cuisine, so when I saw the gorgeously plump tamal de esquites (corn tamale) on Ticuchi’s Instagram, it was love at first sight—I simply had to eat one. It was easily one of the best tamales of my life, but the charred carrots in mole were just as tasty.
Where to Drink
Churrería El Moro
El Moro is Mexico City’s oldest churreria, founded in 1935. There are now over 10 locations throughout the city, but the original spot in the historic center feels like stepping back in time. Expect a line, but know that the hot chocolate and churros will be worth the wait. Choose from a variety of flavors for the former: Mexico (traditional and light), Spanish (sweet and thick), bitter, vanilla, or dairy-free. On one visit (yes, I went multiple times), I enjoyed my cup with a churro ice cream sandwich, filled with horchata-flavored ice cream. Wowza.
You’ll likely drink a lot of mezcal in CDMX. My favorite spot was La Botica, which has locations throughout the city. As one of the oldest mezcalerias in the city, La Botica has been mastering the distilled beverage since long before it was trendy, and boasts a menu that includes more than 50 types, many from small and independent distilleries.
Soho House Mexico City
Last fall, Soho House opened its first location in Latin America, Soho House Mexico City. Based in a beautiful Baroque mansion in Colonia Juárez, the 25,000-square-foot members’ club and hotel features multiple bars and lounges, including the Pool House, which overlooks Soho House’s largest pool in the Americas, a tequila bar, and a vinyl listening room.
Where to Stay
The St. Regis Mexico City
I’ve stayed in a lot of nice hotels, but I’ve never felt as pampered as I did while staying at the St. Regis Mexico City. The level of service was unparalleled—seriously, the room came with a 24/7 butler service. (They’ll even unpack and pack your bag for you—it doesn’t get more luxe than that!) My room was huge and richly decorated, but the highlight was the floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing Paseo de la Reforma, some 20 floors below. I also had the infinity pool and jacuzzi to myself most days—ideal for winding down after a long day of wandering around the city. And because I booked the room through American Express’s Fine Hotel + Resorts program, I enjoyed an array of perks including 12 P.M. check-in and 4 P.M. check-out, a complimentary room upgrade and WiFi, daily breakfast, and a $100 food and beverage credit.
Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City
There are few things I love more than staying at a Four Seasons. The plush beds, the signature scents, the impressively large breakfast buffets, and at the Mexico City location, a lush interior courtyard that’s perfect for escaping the chaos of the buzzing city beyond its walls. There’s also a charming tiled outdoor pool, several restaurants offering cuisines from different parts of the world, and inventive cocktails courtesy of the mixologists at Fifty Mils, one of the World’s 50 Best Bars.
Andaz Mexico City Condesa
Stepping into the Andaz Mexico City Condesa feels more like entering a hip club than a hotel. The hot-pink escalators, geometric wood walls, modern-meets-art deco details, and bright pops of color make this space stand out. But my favorite part of staying here was the wealth of amenities. There’s a spa, a rooftop pool with an incredible view, a matcha cafe, a dog-friendly beer garden, and a Tulum-inspired rooftop terrace with a menu featuring Baja and Yucatan-inspired dishes (the smoked marlin tostadas were a winner).
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Kayla Webley Adler is the Deputy Editor of ELLE magazine. She writes and edits cover stories, profiles, and narrative features on politics, culture, crime, and social trends. Previously, she worked as the Features Director at Marie Claire magazine and as a Staff Writer at TIME magazine.