it’s actually my fourth time to Mexico, but as Mexico is so big, there is so much to see without ever getting tired of visiting. I remember the first time was when I was pregnant with Maude, which must have been over 23 years ago. Mexico City has definitely changed since then, a thriving city where design and culture just seem to grow with each of my visits.
Maude had just graduated from Uni with a modern language degree and decided to spend the summer in Mexico; we had some flight vouchers to use up since 2020 and Covid prevented travel, so we decided to join her for part of her trip. we arrived in Mexico City late in the evening, staying at Hotel Casa 9. we didn’t know what to expect – usually we book bigger hotels with all the usual facilities of concierge, restaurants, but this was house in a palacio style old house in the Condessa area. as Maude had booked an airbnb with a family, it made sense to choose somewhere close to her. this was a different experience, more like staying in an apartment, but sharing with 3 other people. there is one large enrrance salon, probably triple height with large windows leading onto a balcony overlooking a beautiful tropical garden. the rooms were around the courtyard. it was beautifully designed with retro style furniture and there was a lovely collection of books and an hono bar for coffee and drinks. breakfast was served on the terrace or in the lovely big room; it really suited us because the area is made for walking and taking coffees in all the numerous trendy cafes.
it felt like New York with its juice bars, coffee shops, but the wide boulevard streets were lined with tress and tropical plants – its a suburban area full of locals walking their dogs, so felt very safe. we had fresh juice in Ojo de Agua – sitting on the sidewalk watching life go by – its very different to downtown Mexico with is much more tourist driven. we ate lunch in the Green Corner, which was also a health food shop on Avenida Mazatlan – I was amazed how much stuff you can get in there from the well branded herbal teas, chia seeds, etc… it was especially great for Maude who is vegan. i did notice that now most menus offer at least a few vegan options, and several vegetarian too. i think that worldwide veganism is making its mark, and especially with the younger generation.
We visited 2 museums, the Gallery Museo Tamayo – a wonderful brutalist designed space showing contemporary art and then the Museo de Arte Moderno, which is set in the nearby Chapultepec Park. There is some amazing Mexican art in the Modern Art gallery and just nearby is the circular library, which is hosting the diaries of Frida Kahlo at the moment. You will find that on a sunday, a lot of the museums are free. Palacio de Bellas Artes has some amazing murals, including some famous ones by Diego Rivera. Museo Diego Rivera is a little private gallery that houses the Alameda park mural, which Diego paints 100 characters who represent Mexican society and tells a story of life in the park. All the murals are fascinating to see close up.
We have always visited the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera house, which is now a museum in Coyoacan, but this time we decided to opt for other things, but I would highly recommend them for first time visitors. we did try to get tickets for Luis Barragan museum, but as the tickets are now sold online a week before the day you require, it is so difficult to get tickets for a particular day. we missed buying them by a few seconds, managed to get them in the basket online, but then by the time we put in the credit card, they were all sold out….. next time…. Trotsky’s house and the Anthropology museum are also high on a must see list. we did do a boat trip on Xochimilcho though as the last time we did it, the children were very little. its very touristy, but its still a fun thing to do. Reminding you that Mexico City was once all built on a series of lakes – until the Spanish drained the canals and lakes in the 16C in their search for gold and treasure. I love that families take the boats to have their family get togethers, taking picnics or gathering their food from the passing boats who are cooking up local specialities. you can be serenaded by boats of mariachis – its a colourful bustling hour of fun. something the kids will definitely like.
what you need to work out is distances – Mexico is so big, it can take up to 45 mins to get to say Frida Kahlo museum – Ubers are very efficient, and are very cheap. the local yellow taxis are not that much more, but seem harder to get and apparently as uber drivers are regulated and you don’t give them any cash, its quite a safe way to get around. some of the Ubers we got cost only £2, and to the airport, we were only paying £3 – it all depends on the time of day, the traffic…… so if you are in a certain area, I would explore that area for food and culture, rather than spend another hour crossing town.
There is also a castle in Chapultepec Park which you can climb to the top and apparently have great views of Mexico City. I have never managed to do this. watching the indigenous peoples dance, and perform their ceremonies is very interesting around the main square Downtown and around the Cathedral – you can also see the ruins from cities and temples that have been discovered – one recent find was a circular wall built of skulls – many skulls, probably those who have been sacrificed in the belief that the next morning wouldn’t appear, unless they appease the gods.
We had wonderful food at Azul Condessa, Ave Neuvon Leon – fine Mexican style in a traditional setting. You can watch the tortillas being made at the front of the restaurant. There is also a branch of Azul Historical Downtown, set in a courtyard. Caracol de mar is a modern Mexican restaurant serving mainly seafood and fish, but all beautifully presented. Again set in a courtyard of a historical building, its a pleasant place to sit and all around are little boutique shops. Churreria El Moro is a noisy busy cafe that sells churros and chocolate. its been going since the 1930’s and its definitely a place that the locals queue for their cinnamon churros (long tubes of doughnuts that they dip in a thick chocolate sauce). Restaurant Tetetlan is housed in a horse stable in Jardines del Pedegral, an elegant suburb on the outskirts of town, restored recently by an art collector who still lives in the original adjoining house, which was originally designed by Luis Barragan – the acclaimed Mexican architect famous for colour, light, shape and form. there are a few private houses that you can go and see, we did see one last time we went, and they are worth the visit.
There are lots of interesting restaurants, from local cafes to high end fine dining – some are just great interiors with atmosphere worth popping into and even just getting a coffee and snack. Sanborns de los Azulejos has a great 50’s style interior, they are like mini department stores, but there are a few in Mexico City. La Opera Bar, which is close to the historical centre and Cathedral is housed in a lovely 19C building.
we were only there for a couple of days, but there is always so much to see and do, but like any city, it can be tiring.