There are several new hotels marking Mexico City's rise in boutique accommodations, but staying in a sleekly renovated 17th century palace is a novelty we're always happy to indulge in. Transformed in 2012, the DOWNTOWN Mexico is a project by local firm Cherem Arquitectos that builds upon the historic Palacio de los Condes de Miravalle's original structure while lending it a fashionable, bohemian vibe through custom Paul Roco furniture, decorative terra cotta screens, modern in-room tech and a vertical garden in the restaurant area. Whether you rest your head here or not, the rooftop terrace—with its lap pool and views of the Centro Histórico neighborhood—is the perfect place to chill out and soak up some sun.
Burgers don't typically top most Mexico City culinary tours, but Lalo!'s burger isn't your average rendition. Then again, Lalo! isn't your average restaurant. Helmed by Mexican top chef Eduardo García (also behind the city's award-winning Máximo Bistrot), Lalo! channels his casual side, evidenced by a lone communal table and quirky mural by Belgian street artist Bué the Warrior. But it's serious about food, which includes a menu of fresh salads, pizzas and pastas, along with that burger: 180 grams of Wagyu beef covered in provolone cheese, topped with caramelized onions, ketchup and mustard, and served with a side of potato wedges (sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and bird's beak chile—one potent pepper).
At first blush, Taquería El Caifán looks like a Manhattan lunch spot; it's perhaps a little too spacious and sparkly for it to seem like an authentic Mexican taco joint. But don't let its bright interior fool you, because this is where you can get some incredibly delicious tacos al pastor. The sepia-toned pieces of marinated pork come topped with cheese, onions, pineapple and cilantro, which feels complete—but be sure to try the buffet of fresh salsas set up near the front.
The former residence of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Casa Luis Barragán is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will leave your mouth agape. Barragán was a Modernist master of color, light and space, which the house makes clear through its maze of doors, perfectly placed windows and surprisingly bold but purposefully painted walls. "Throughout my work I have always strived to achieve serenity, but one must be on guard not to destroy it by the use of an indiscriminate palette," he said upon accepting the prize. An autobiographical monument of his genius, Casa Luis Barragán is open by appointment only.
The brainchild of American expat Berit Jane Soli-Holt, Hanky Panky is an impeccably appointed speakeasy with an equally well-considered bar program. And it's no wonder; this hidden gem is inspired by Ada Coleman—head bartender in the 1900s at the Savoy Hotel's famed American Bar in London—and her lasting legacy, the Hanky-Panky cocktail (gin, sweet vermouth, Fernet Branca). With hospitality and education at the forefront, space is limited and membership is key, so plan accordingly.
Mexico is steeped in ancient history, and there's no better way to understand its significant heritage than by visiting The National Museum of Anthropology. The institution is home to the most complete Mesoamerican collection, including Aztec treasures like the Statue of Xochipilli (1450-1500 AD) and the Piedra del Sol (the famed Aztec calendar stone, buried until 1790), an impressive replica of the tomb of Mayan king K'inich Janaab' Pakal and masks from Oaxaca's Zapotec civilization—to name a few highlights.
For a sample of Mexico City’s shops in eateries in one convenient location, head to Barrio Alameda, a newly renovated multi-story arcade in Centro Histórico (and a stone's throw from Taquería El Caifán). Here you'll find the outpost of Utilitario Mexicano (whose booth we discovered at design fair Caravana Americana), local skate shop Casa Navaja, Mezcalería Mundana and its artisanal drinks, a yoga studio and more within the airy Art Deco building.
Tucked away from the bustle of Calle Córdoba in the hip Roma neighborhood is conceptual bookshop Casa Bosques Librería. With its calming whitewashed interiors, this is a space designed to let magazines stand out and for you to sit down and enjoy. But the printed page isn't all you'll find here. Created in 2012 by Savvy Studio co-founder Rafael Prieto Carbajal and artist Jorge de la Garza, the shop promotes a number of projects like chocolates, planters, leather goods and more from Mexico's independent design community.
If you're in the mood for a little crate-digging, La Roma Records—whose storefront window boasts a highly impressive sticker collection—is an excellent place to find albums that are imported from all around the world, along with used vinyl that was pressed in Mexico. The latter's Spanish-language song titles add distinct album-art charm and serve as a fun souvenir when you throw it on the decks back home.
Allow a few minutes for a spin through another one of Mexico City's unique establishments, Pasteleria Ideal. Originally built in 1927, this two-story bakery borderlines on ridiculous with its towering quinceañera cakes, thematic jelly treats and layers of ornate icing on everything. The smell of sugar is enough to knock you out, but while your nose may momentarily hate you, your eyes certainly won't. This is a sight to behold.