Discovering Mexico City

Punta Mita, Mexico
Punta Mita, Mexico // Photo by axl5188/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma has many monuments dedicated to people and events in Mexico’s history.Pictured: Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma has many monuments dedicated to people and events in Mexico’s history.

“Once the dust of Mexico settles on your heart, you can never go home again.” Travel writer Neill James nailed that sentiment back in the 1940s, and 75 years later it still rings true. Few other countries are as romantic, intoxicating and enamoring as Mexico, and within the country itself Mexico City is the perfect setting for a traveler’s love affair. Luxury Travel Advisor is just back, physically, from Mexico City, though our heart is still lost somewhere in its busy, buzzing center. 

Often glossed over by the American traveler, Mexico City is the “it” destination for most affluent Latin American globetrotters. With dining that is on par with Rome, Paris and Tokyo (so says Forbes), world-class entertainment and historic heritage, Mexico City is poised to rub elbows with international jet-set destinations that have been luring the American elite for years, especially the chic, well-heeled and sexy young traveler who is looking to travel a little differently from Mom and Dad. 

Your first step when booking your trip to Mexico City is to check in with Grupo Habita hotels, a collection of 13 luxury, ultra boutique hotels across North America, the majority of which are in Mexico. Grupo Habita has four hotels in Mexico City, but the best of the best is Downtown Mexico, a member of Design Hotels and Small Luxury Hotels of the World. 

The historic 17th-century palace-turned-hotel is smack-dab in the center of Mexico City’s Centro Historico. Make a right out of the building and you walk directly into the city’s gorgeous Zocalo, or central plaza, home to the cathedral, the National Palace and the Federal District buildings. 
Inside the hotel, the design is minimalist chic (think exposed stone, muted colors and lofty ceilings). The rooms are a mix of slate grays, browns and a pop of bold orange. IPod docking stations rest in the headboard of the bed frame, and flat-screen TVs are mounted on the walls. Downtown has just 17 rooms, all surrounding an inner courtyard. Tip: For your VIP guests book the Independence Suite, which is the most requested and premium room at the hotel. We hear the best rooms for views are Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 14, all of which have both street and patio views. Of these, 4, 5 and 14 also have bathtubs. For bookings, reach out to Sales Manager Carl Duverger ([email protected]; 011-52-55-5280-1813). 

Pictured: Downtown Mexico’s lobby and breakfast patio let you enjoy the hotel’s colonial architecture.

Inside the palace guests can wind their way from room to room on the mezzanine level to discover different shops, including two Mexican restaurants, one tapas restaurant, an artisanal Mexican chocolate shop, a mescal bar, art galleries, a jewelry shop and more. 

The center of the hotel is home to the restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tip: Try the enchiladas divorciadas, which we absolutely loved. We also hear that the duck with red fruit and tortilla soup are two of the chef’s specialties. The intimate restaurant has just 28 seats. For reservations, contact Food and Beverage Manager Daniel Thomas ([email protected]; 011-52-55-5130-6830). 

Perhaps the best part of the hotel is its rooftop scene, which, as any young traveler knows, is key to a sexy hotel stay. By day, the terrace plays host to the bikini-clad as jetsetters sun themselves poolside on yellow chaise lounges, or soak in the Jacuzzi. As night rolls in, a crowd of 20- and 30-somethings don little black dresses and designer watches to sip potent elixirs and take in views across the rooftops of Mexico City’s historic buildings. We hear the rooftop bar’s signature drink is the Downtown Martini. (The Pibirita Margarita packs quite a punch, as well.) 

Elements of colonial style meet local, indigenous culture in Downtown Mexico’s interiors.Pictured: Elements of colonial style meet local, indigenous culture in Downtown Mexico’s interiors.

Need something truly extra special? Reach out to Front Desk Manager Casandra Chavez 
([email protected]; 011-52-55-5130-6830). She is on-hand to craft over-the-top experiences like hot air balloon rides, a visit to the Teotihuacan pyramids or a night out to watch Mexican wrestling. 

On the Town

Mexico City is a destination for the urban, international elite. But as a city with around 16 boroughs, more than 300 neighborhoods and 20 million people (that are actually documented), planning an itinerary is nothing short of daunting. We reached out to Journey Mexico to help us make sense of the sprawling city landscape. 

Journey Mexico, founded by U.S. native Zachary Rabinor, is an exclusive operation that can cater to a wealth of interests and experiences in Mexico, from beaches and wellness to native crafts, adventure, food and wine, and archaeology. The company is able to set up private tours, as well as group experiences, family vacations and honeymoons. Rabinor is all about insider access, luxury and personalization. Journey Mexico is in touch with the country’s hottest restaurants, bars, street food vendors and anything else you can think of when crafting a perfect vacation south of the border. Seriously, anything. In addition to the popular destinations like Cancun, Acapulco and Los Cabos, Journey Mexico takes travelers to the lesser-known regions such as Copper Canyon, Oaxaca, the Pacific Coast and Chiapas. 

Working with Journey Mexico is a seamless process that helps you discover “what do you like?” We were posed this very question by Rabinor when we met to put together our itinerary. So…what do we like? Like the typical millennial luxury traveler, we like local experiences, insider access, cultural immersion and a whole lot of luxury. Fortunately, Journey Mexico specializes in just that. 

We were met at the Benito Juarez International Airport (just 30 minutes from the Downtown hotel) by our private guide, Juan Carlos, who whisked us off to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, a local treasure and a true Mexico City landmark. Juan Carlos is a walking encyclopedia of Mexico City history and his energy thrives at the museum. Note: Journey Mexico is able to arrange private tours of the museum after hours, when it is usually closed to the public.

Rooms at Downtown Mexico are designed in minimalist chic fashion, with traditional tiled floors, muted colors and lofty ceilings.Pictured: Rooms at Downtown Mexico are designed in minimalist chic fashion, with traditional tiled floors, muted colors and lofty ceilings.

After a brief siesta back at the hotel, we were met by our private driver who escorted us to dinner at Dulce Patria, a hot and trendy restaurant in Mexico City’s Polanco neighborhood. Gastronomy has been a growing tourism niche in Mexico for the last few years, which has resulted in the opening of dozens of restaurants across the city. In fact, Mexican cuisine was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Not too shabby. 

With food still on the mind, we were sure to arrange a walking tour of Mexico City’s street food. Juan Carlos took us through the streets of the Coyoacan neighborhood (home to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s Casa Azul—a must for any first-timer to Mexico City). We wound our way through Coyoacan’s streets, sampling everything from tacos and quesadillas to churros and Mexican hot chocolate. Note: Contrary to popular belief, it is safe to eat street food in Mexico City. It is the water that causes issues for travelers, so be sure to always drink bottled water. 

Other hot spots to hit in Mexico City are the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which is the premiere opera house in Mexico; San Angel, a neighborhood filled with colonial era homes and haciendas; and Avenida Presidente Masaryk, a street in Polanco with high-end boutiques and restaurants. Other attractions include four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 175 museums, more than 100 art galleries, 1,500 restaurants…and the list goes on. 

Outside the city, first-timers will not want to miss Teotihuacan, an archaeological site that has some of the world’s largest pyramid structures. 

Mexico City is decidedly Latin, with a distinct European flare. There’s no such thing as just one trip to Mexico City. Niell James says so, and so do we.

Advisor Insight:

“I love the intimate ambiance of Las Alcobas hotel and its ideal location right in the heart of Polanco, and the variety of bars, restaurants, shops and nightlife on Calle Mazyrk,” says Zachary Rabinor of Journey Mexico. “Returning to the Four Seasons feels like home. They never fail to welcome me back by name and their service is legendary. The central courtyard is truly an oasis in the hustle and bustle of Avenida Reforma. The list of restaurants is staggering. That said, I love El Fogoncito for some of the best tacos in Mexico. Café Tacuba serves up some of the best Mexican specialties in the heart of Centro Historico. You can’t beat Martha Ortiz’s Dulce Patria for creative, contemporary delicious Mexican delicacies.”