The Perfect Weekend Getaway to Mexico City, 2016's Hot Spot
Things to see and do in Mexico City By Yahoo! Travel
Fuente de los Coyotes in Coyoacán, México (Flickr: iivangm)
James Bond loves it, Formula 1 loves it, and it just got the coveted No. 1 spot on the New York Times’s “52 Places to Go in 2016” list — it’s official: Mexico City is hot right now.
After years of suffering through a bad reputation — pollution, overcrowding, and crime — the city has pulled itself up by its bootstraps and become a leader in the arts, gastronomy, and cultural excursions. With 150 museums (many of them either free or costing just a few dollars) and four UNESCO sites, Mexico City is a historical culture lover’s dream. Even better, with a strong dollar (the exchange rate is now around 17 pesos to the dollar), it’s more affordable than, say, a jaunt to Europe — or even Los Angeles. And, as of Jan. 1, U.S.-Mexico aviation restrictions, which capped the number of airlines that could fly on the U.S.-Mexico routes, have eased, and carriers like JetBlue are now doing nonstop flights to the capital, making trips easier than ever.
Related: The Ultimate Mexican Culture Trip
Becca Hensley, a travel writer whose family is from Mexico City, spent many summers in the Coyoacan neighborhood, near where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived. "My mom had vivid memories of seeing him — if not Frida — painting or messing about with paints outside. From our visits, and drawing from my mother’s passion, I developed a love affair with Mexico that never ended," Hensley says. "This isn't a flashy resort. It's a life force, a collage composed of multiple cultures, all melding now as one. Regal, aristocratic European roots combine with ancient people and their multilayered, soulful traditions."/p>
But with a population of 21.2 million people, it’s the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, and can be intimidating. So we’re going to help break it down for you.
One of Hensley's favorite things to do is "visit the Frida Kahlo Museum, then meander to Tostadas Coyoacan, inside the market, at Calle Malintzin, between Aguauo and Allende Streets."
Coyoacan is also on traveler Chadner Navarro's list of favorite neighborhoods. "Coyoacan is a charming colonial district with leafy parks and colorful architecture — perfect for a half-day stroll while enjoying a piping-hot churro from one of the many carts you’ll find on the street."
2. Casa Luis Barragan
Make an appointment at this home (now museum) of one of the world's most influential architects. "Prodigious, ?colorful, reflecting the radiance? of the Mexican people, his organic shapes, textures, and startling hues evoke poetry," Hensley notes.
3. Teotihuacan Pyramids
Teotihuacan Pyramids (Flickr: Jorge Brazil)
If you are in Mexico City, you must visit this meso-American wonder. Go early, ?long before the crowds arrive and, if you're feeling adventurous, take a balloon ride above the ruins. Viator does a decent tour of the site for around $45, which includes hotel pickup as well as an archaeologist-guided tour, but warning: At the end, you will be forced to go to a tourist trap and check out "local artisans" before you eat at a restaurant that gave me food poisoning. Bring snack bars or a packed lunch and wait until you’re back in Mexico City to eat.
4. GO SEE THE BUTTERFLIES!
Every year from November through March, billions of monarch butterflies migrate to the mountains outside Mexico City to mate. It's about a two-hour drive outside the city and involves a horseback ride and hike, but it is worth every second. Right now through the beginning of March is the ideal time to see this spectacle, which is the ultimate bucket-list adventure. It is jaw-dropping, life-changing, and inspiring. If you have a free day, contact the guys at the Muddy Boot to arrange a day or overnight trip.
5. Museo Soumaya
Museo Soumaya (Flickr: Sam Churchill)
The world's richest man, Carlos Slim, is also a generous one. He built this museum in the city not only to house a portion of his artwork, including Rodin's famous Thinker and Michelangelo's Pieta, but also as his gift to the people of Mexico City. Entrance is free, and it is one of the most superb art museums I have ever been in. Period.
6. Parque Chapultepec
One of the largest parks in the Western Hemisphere, this is considered Mexico City's "lungs" and ranks up there with New York City's Central Park as one of the greatest urban parks in the world. It is a pure delight to stroll down the walkways and discover the Chapultepec Castle, the archaeological museum, the modern art museum and the natural history museum. The park is also home to the city's zoo, many entertainers, and a host of bookshops, coffeehouses, and street stalls. You can easily spend a whole day here and still need more time.
7. Lucha Libre
The ultimate in Mexican entertainment, Lucha Libre puts WWE to shame. Matches take place at the Arena Mexico in Mexico City on Tuesday and Friday nights. The matches included a lot of hair-pulling, women in bikinis, screaming, and vows of vengeance. Basically, a bar brawl in Kentucky. But with masks. Check it out here:
El Cardenal (Courtesy El Cardenal)
Sip a margarita and marvel over the perfection of a Oaxaca-style chile relleno in this Parisian-style mansion. According to Navarro, "This chain of restaurants caters to a mix of locals and tourists alike. If you can wait out the patience-defying queues, its three-floor mansion near the Zocalo is great for breakfast (tangy chilaquiles are fantastic, or try the Spanish omelettes with escamoles, or ant roe, if you’re feeling adventurous)."
This place serves up some of the best tacos al pastor and ceviche I've ever had. It's open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, so go for a late lunch and order away. Almost everything on the menu is meant to be shared, so bring some friends — or sit at the bar and make some new ones.
According to Gayot.com: "Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso, disciples of innovative Spanish chef Juan Mari Arzak, collaborated to open this restaurant. Among the best offerings are the raw salmon with 'smoke paper' (made from potato flour) and red and black caviar, marinated in citrus fruits and served with black sesame paste; and squares of grilled tuna served with a sauce of fruits and nuts, essence of tuna and warm watermelon slices." It is heaven on a plate.
Named one of Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants last year by theworlds50best.com, the site notes: "Chef-owner Elena Reygadas trained in New York and London — the latter under the highly respected Italian Giorgio Locatelli — before returning home to Mexico City. Rosetta’s menu has distinct Italian influences (most obviously in its home-made pasta section), but is fundamentally Mexican at heart, with dishes such as sea snails with nasturtium leaves; quail, cereals, alfalfa and smoked milk, or a dessert of roasted figs, orange and hoja santa ice cream.The elegant restaurant is spread through several rooms in an old mansion house in the city’s Roma district, designed by Reygadas' architect husband, and the warmth of its hospitality contributes to a life-affirming dining experience."
Located next door in the same historic building as Rosetta, this new bar has an art gallery on the second floor, a retractable roof in the courtyard, and plenty of specialty cocktails on the menu. It is chic and hip, with huge windows and balconies open onto the street below.
This new cocktail lounge in the Four Seasons hotel, headed by master mixologist Mica Rousseau, is the place to see and be seen. You can sit inside on a plush sofa in a cozy atmosphere, by a fire, or outside in the courtyard surrounded by thousands of twinkling lights. Order from the massive tequila and mezcal list or have Rousseau mix you up one of his creations, like the Louis XIV, with Johnnie Walker Gold, citrus bitters, and chamomile tea; the Bugs Bunny, with Tanqueray gin, carrot juice, and three chiles bitters; or Rousseau’s interpretation of a classic, the Inside Manhattan, with bourboun, vermouth, and Angostura bitters.
"Try tequila's smokier cousin, mezcal, at a traditional cantina," Navarro says. Located in the historic center is El Bosforo, Navarro's favorite dive bar, which specializes in limited-edition bottles of mezcal made by artisanal producers.
Where to Stay: There are, obviously, many places to stay in this fascinating city. I have selected three of my favorites to help slim down your choices.
Four Seasons in Mexico City (Courtesy Four Seasons)
When Madonna, former King Juan Carlos of Spain, or Formula 1 drivers are in town, they stay at this luxury hotel. It may only be a few years old, but, built in a colonial style, it fits right in on the historic Reforma boulevard. As it is a Four Seasons, the rooms are spacious, the beds are some of the most comfortable you’ll ever sleep in, and the service is impeccable — but beyond that, the courtyard is an oasis from the city and the concierges are some of the best I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. The Sunday brunch — with as many as seven hot, fresh buffet tables, where chefs will cook your jumbo shrimp, lobster, scallops, or steak in front of you — is an experience not to be missed. It is also steps away from the Chapultepec Park, the Chapultepec Castle, and the archaeological museum, which houses the Teotihuacan pyramid treasures.
Located in the upscale Condesa neighborhood, this boutique hotel is in a fully renovated 1928 building with high ceilings, huge windows, and a classic interior. It is boutique at its best.
Blending colonial 17th-century grandeur with a raw industrial edge, the Downtown is in the Centro Historico borough of Mexico City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Known as the "Palacio de los Condes de Miravalle," the 17-room hotel blends elements of colonial style with local, indigenous culture. The bar and nightlife scene here is lively and fun … although it can lead to some noise complaints. Bring your earplugs. It's worth it.
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