Mexico City Travel Guide

Mexico City Travel Guide

The intoxicating, sprawling buzz of Mexico City has enthralled hedonists, foodies and culture buffs alike for centuries. Step foot in any of the city’s eclectic neighbourhoods to be met with a torrent of rich, cultural encounters and a complex history spanning Spanish colonial times and dating back to the ancient Aztec empire. Revel in Mexico City’s awe-inspiring contradictions; where high culture meets hazy, horn-honking squalor, and where, beneath the dominating shadow of the Catholic Church, you’ll be greeted with an open-minded Gay mecca of a million colours – showcased annually during Latin America’s largest Pride festival. Though long marred with crime and bad traffic, Mexico is continuously reinventing itself, boasting a fusion of boutique hotels, upscale nightlife offerings and a unique urban landscape that blends colonial heritage with modern innovation. For a look at what to do in Mexico City, read on for Mr Hudson’s ultimate Mexico City gay guide.

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The best hotels in Mexico City

Kicking off our Mexico City gay travel guide is a roundup of its top hotels. And, spread across two floors of a 17th century palace in the city’s dynamic Centro Historico, Downtown Mexico is a verified catch. Artfully balancing elegant colonial-era architecture with modern and indigenous design, this hotel will instantly charm guests with its ornate stonework, wrought iron staircase and leafy courtyard garden before treating you to modernist stylings and eye-pleasing geometric patterns within the rooms and the terracotta rooftop terrace complete with sleek concrete pool overlooking the domes and spires of Mexico City’s phenomenal cityscape.

 

Downtown Mexico

Downtown Mexico

Equally as charming with its rich details and dreamy décor is Casa Decu located in the artsy La Condesa neighbourhood. Enter to the sweet smell of florals and complimentary fruits before climbing the statement spiral staircase up to your room. Ornate tiling runs through the hotel, starting in the cosy courtyard area at ground level, leading all the way up to the expansive rooftop on the fifth floor. Between La Condesa and Doctores neighbourhoods, you’ll find the luxury city hideout of Nima Local House Hotel. Simultaneously stylish yet homely, Nima will charm with its warm, knowledgeable staff and elegant stucco interiors which open out onto wrought iron, leaf-fringed balconies.

Claim a piece of prime real estate in the ritzy Polanco district, by booking with Pug Seal Hospitality Boutique, a heritage bed and breakfast located in a 1940s neo-colonial mansion. Crafted by Mexican design studio ROCOCO, Pug Seal’s rooms aim to emote feelings of nostalgia and serenity. And while all rooms are sublime, ranging from junior to master suites and covering all budgets, the Tennyson and Anatole France collections, in particular, are sumptuous as they come. In the same neighbourhood, surrounded by luxurious shops, galleries and fine restaurants, is another of Mexico City’s top hotels; Las Alcobas DF. Voted as one of the best time and time again, as well as running award-winning restaurant Dulce Patria, Las Alcobas can provide private terraces with stellar views.

Las Alcobas | Photo: Dan Moore

Las Alcobas | Photo: Dan Moore

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Recommended hotels in Mexico City
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Walking through the city is an exhibition in itself but a special mention goes to the Luis Barragán House and Studio, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Miguel Hidalgo district

Things to do in Mexico City

Delve into Mexican culture with a visit to key Mexico City points of interest, starting with the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico’s most visited museum. Hidden within the verdant Chapultepec Forest, the extensive museum displays one of the largest collections of archaeological artefacts from pre-Hispanic Mayan civilisations, a great introductory lesson on Mexico’s long, rich history. Art enthusiasts meanwhile won’t want to miss Museo Dolores Olmedo. The museum boasts a fantastic collection of Diego Rivera pieces, as well as a room dedicated to Frida Kahlo’s paintings. For more on Ms Kahlo, visit her one-time residence turned museum, Casa Azul.

Then there’s the stunning urban architecture, without which, a day of Mexico City sightseeing wouldn’t be complete. Walking through the city is an exhibition in itself but a special mention goes to the Luis Barragán House and Studio, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Miguel Hidalgo district, where forward-thinking, pre-bookers can take a guided tour through Barragán’s original residence crammed with his furniture and possessions. The famed architect also happened to be an art collector of taste, procuring masterpieces from the 16th to the 20th century, spanning Rivera, Orozco, Ferreira Covarrubias and even Picasso.

Architecture and art go hand in hand in Mexico City and the Soumaya Museum personifies this symbiotic relationship, featuring a vast art collection housed within an iconic structure founded by Mexico’s richest man, Carlos Slim. A one-of-a-kind collection containing over 66,000 works from over 30 centuries of art (!), covering Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, 19th and 20th-century Mexican art and a fine repertoire of old and new European masters from Dalí to Murillo, a visit here could easily take all day!

Soumaya Museum | Photo: Roque Estrada

Soumaya Museum | Photo: Roque Estrada

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Once a year, ethereal madness descends on the city in the form of the Día de Los Muertos Parade (Day of the Dead)

What to see in Mexico City

Named the Plaza de las Tres Culturas as a reference to its three historically distinct architectural styles within one square, a visit to this site is one of the top things to do in Mexico City – and completely free. The impressive triad is comprised firstly of pre-Hispanic ancient Aztec ruins of Tenochtitlán city, secondly, of Spanish colonial-era influences demonstrated in the Templo de Santiago, and lastly of modern-day Mexico in the form of the Torre de Tlatelolco. And the best thing is, you can visit all three without even using the subway! Once a year, ethereal madness descends on the city in the form of the Día de Los Muertos Parade (Day of the Dead), a festival that needs no introduction. Although widely appropriated in Halloween costumes worldwide, this festival is the real deal. During this time, it is said that the dead come closer to be with the living and the streets of Mexico City come alive with colourful festivities to honour deceased family members. Despite being about death – with many bars and restaurants erecting ofrendas (remembrance alters) – this holiday period is truly a celebration of life and memory, spiriting the entire city in a fun, carnivalesque atmosphere.

The classy neighbourhoods of La Condesa and its mod little brother Roma, are often considered Mexico City’s trendiest. Here you’ll find plenty of Bohemian boutiques, hip galleries, tree-lined sidewalks, and mouth-puckering mezcalerias. As home to some of the city’s best nightlife, don’t expect too much activity to come from La Condesa much before 9 am, but, an early morning wander through will award you with the quiet serenity of the iconic Parque México as well as a ton of Art Deco street-side masterpieces. When the time comes, an inviting option is to pop into Perfida Bistro Cafe for a leisurely brunch. The University City campus, the base of Mexico’s largest public university, is also a must-see for its sweeping murals from artists such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. As for Roma, hands-down Mexico City’s coolest neighbourhood, come here to find thronging nightlife, contemporary art galleries and quirky cafes on every corner.

Photo: Efrain Hernandez

Photo: Efrain Hernandez

At this point in our Mexico City guide, you’ll realise that Mexico is no stranger to architectural achievement. Another notable national trophy is the Palacio de Bellas Artes, designed by Italian architect, Adamo Boari. Not only famous for its architecture, but this palace is also home to the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes as well as a principal hall for opera performances and various Mexican murals created between 1928 and 1963. These murals include El Hombre controlador del universe by Diego Rivera and Tormento de Cuauhtémoc by Siquieros, among others.

The lungs of the city, Chapultepec Forest, ever popular with Chilangos and travellers alike, is the ultimate place to take a breather from urbanity. One of the Western hemisphere’s largest parks, its trees share their grounds with some of Mexico city’s main attractions, including the Chapultepec Zoo and the Rufino Tamayo Museum. Take a leisurely stroll along the park’s vendor-lined paths, past a series of lakes and monuments, towards key cultural attractions, such as the striking Chapultepec Castle. Once an imperial palace and presidential residence, today the castle is home to the National History Museum, bordered by secret gardens and galleries.

Palacio de Bellas Artes | Photo: Mario Peppino

Palacio de Bellas Artes | Photo: Mario Peppino

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Where to eat in Mexico City

Labelled by UNESCO as ‘Intangible Heritage of Humanity’, Mexico City’s distinct cuisine, filled with myriad flavours and spices, are sure to put a smile on every foodie’s face. Trust us on this one; you’ll want to arrive in Mexico City ravenous, all set to chow down on its chipotle, jalepeño and cilantro infused pleasures. Start with lunch at Agua y Sal, a bright restaurant serving up fantastic ceviche; try the Ceviche Tasting Menu for four of the restaurant’s most exceptional ceviche picks. Prepare for dinner by making reservations at Pujol, ranked 13th on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list 2018. The renowned chef here, Enrique Olvera, uses authentic ingredients in contemporary ways to create acclaimed, modern Mexican cuisine. Another award-winner on the same prestigious list (ranked even higher at 11th) is Quintonil, a restaurant all about fresh seasonal produce and indigenous ingredients, much of which comes from the restaurant’s very own urban orchard.

If international cuisine is what you crave, Tori Tori is a fantastic choice. This Japanese restaurant is housed in a stunning building with unique architecture and design that is worth a visit alone. Alternatively, Rosetta is an elegant Italian restaurant in a lovely converted mansion, where Italian-trained chef, Elena Reygades, creates her own twists on authentic recipes.

Agua y Sal | Photo: Dan Moore

Agua y Sal | Photo: Dan Moore

Photo: Rubén Calvo

Photo: Rubén Calvo

Shopping in Mexico City

HECHO is a new Mexican men’s accessory brand specialising in pareos, totes and slip-on shoes, all locally made, and said to be inspired by ‘Modernist and Functionalist Mexican architectural design’. Be one of the first to get in on the up-and-coming line. Casablanca Atelier is another upscale men’s store featuring top-of-the-line accessories and a luxe barbershop.

If you have your eye on furniture shopping while in Mexico City, don’t miss a stop to MOB, a premier design house with contemporary Mexican pieces and accessories. Alternatively, Atelier Central boasts striking furniture made from organic materials.

The Saturday Bazar, a part open-air flea market, is the best place to pick up local handicrafts from Mexican artisans. From woodwork to textiles, you’ll find it all while ambling around the myriad of stalls in Centro de San Angel.

MOB

MOB

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For a much-needed hit of mezcal, Mexico City has a plethora of cocktail bars that can arrange a fix.

Mexico City nightlife

Fast gaining a reputation for one of the best queer travel destinations, there is no shortage of LGBT nightlife in Mexico City, particularly in the charmingly named Zona Rosa (or Pink Zone). Although having faded slightly since its dazzling heyday, the area’s numerous gay bars and clubs still draw a nice crowd of revellers. Close by, the more low-key districts of Roma and La Condesa may be preferred for chic early evening drinks. Both areas are filled with fancy LGBT-friendly bars and lively cafés frequented by gorgeous clientele in lush green surroundings.

For a much-needed hit of mezcal, Mexico City has a plethora of cocktail bars that can arrange a fix. Contemporary speakeasy Jules Basement is a great first choice, where customers holding a reservation can enter through the sliding refrigerator door down into a low-lit basement to enjoy sublime drinks and intimate conversation. For something a little more frisky but just as mysterious, the Hanky Panky Cocktail Bar will not disappoint. Secretively located in Colonia Juarez, this speakeasy cocktail bar is accessible through a cute, boldly painted restaurant where a staff member will then flip open a false wall to let you in. With its luxurious leather chairs pulled up to the marble bar as well as booths and a private room, it’s little wonder that customers are asked to keep schtum about its whereabouts.

Jules Basement

Jules Basement

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Those staying in swanky Polanco until late will want to get acquainted with Guilt, a somewhat posh gay club playing electronic house

Reminiscent of a French New Orleans bordello, the Maison Artemisia is another exceptional cocktail joint, enchanting patrons with plush velvet furnishings and a candle-lit bar that serves up absinthe the traditional way; dripped onto a sugar cube by meticulous bartenders. As well as a fine cocktail list, their in-house vermouth is definitely a talking point. Up on the terrace rooftops of Polanco’s Habita Hotel is a classy little rooftop bar known as Area. Boasting a breath-taking view of the Mexico City skyline and a pool, Area is a great place to come before sundown, coupling sunbathing with cocktails. When darkness falls, you may want to stick around for its transformation into an upscale ‘Electronic Bar’ where the city’s elite congregate to enjoy fine drinks in the flickering light of a 12-foot fireplace.

Those staying in swanky Polanco until late will want to get acquainted with Guilt, a somewhat posh gay club playing electronic house, pop and retro hits to a fun crowd in smoky settings. Only open on Saturdays, the awesome music at Guilt makes up for the pricing and the smoke! Wrapping up our Mexico City gay nightlife guide is pop-up gay night VD+, hosted at various locations around the city and offering sexy go-go dancers, drag performances and motifs to awaken the senses. Check their Facebook page for events you won’t want to miss!

Jules Basement

Jules Basement

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