Why You Should Plan a Trip to Mexico City in 2018

Eclectic neighborhoods, world-class museums and innovative cuisine are a few enticements.

By Gwen Pratesi, ContributorJan. 29, 2018
By Gwen Pratesi, ContributorJan. 29, 2018, at 9:57 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

Why You Should Plan a Trip to Mexico City in 2018

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María) is the largest and oldest cathedral in the Americas, built in 1573-1813, and seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico, seen here with flowers planted on the Zocalo Square.

Peruse impressive museums, follow your taste buds to cutting-edge fine dining establishments and explore fashionable art, food and fashion scenes on a trip to remember.(Getty Images).

Larger than Rome, London and New York City, today's revitalized Mexico City is a dynamic and vibrant destination. With its centuries-old historic landmarks, rich cultural heritage, modern art and architecture and cutting-edge fashion scene, it's no wonder why Mexico City has been named the World Design Capital for 2018.

Mexico City is also an international culinary hot spot. In addition to classic and modern dishes, chefs are combining their inspiration from countries around the world, such as France, Italy, Spain, Israel, Japan and Thailand, with indigenous ingredients to create inventive plates at the city's new dining establishments and food halls. Restaurants such as Pujol, Quintonil and Rosetta have received critical acclaim as some of the world's best restaurants. There's even an emerging Mexican wine scene, in addition to local spirits and artisanal mezcals. From historic districts to the colorful and trendy neighborhoods, Mexico City's diverse enclaves are not-to-be-missed. Here are a few reasons to start planning your next getaway.

The Historic Sites and Museums

Begin your visit with a tour of the central plaza, Plaza de la Constitución, also known as El Zócalo. At the heart of the Historic Center of Mexico City, this expansive plaza was at one time the ceremonial site for the Aztecs. Today, it's where the city celebrates events like the annual Independence Day on Sept.16. Just next to the plaza, you'll find the impressive Aztec ruins of Templo Mayor. The grand temple, constructed in 1325, was one of the principal Aztec temples in the capital city once known as Tenochtitlan. The city and the temple went through a number of significant changes over a period of nearly 200 years until the Spaniards tore down the pyramids and the temple in 1521 to use many of the stones to build the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption, the largest cathedral in Latin America.

Art enthusiasts, especially those interested in the city's famous muralists, will want to tour many of Mexico City's museums. The Antiguo Colegio San Ildefonso was built as a Jesuit seminary in the mid-16th century and is known as the birthplace of the muralist movement and is home to the first mural by Diego Rivera called "La Creación" (The Creation) along with murals by several other well-known artists, including José Clemente Orozco.

Other must-see museums include the Palacio de Belles Artes, renowned for its murals, art and sculpture collections and stunning architecture, and the Modern Art Museum, which maintains one of the most extensive collections of Mexican art. Fans of the distinguished Mexican painter Frida Kahlo flock to the Museo Frida Kahlo, the blue-colored home of the renowned artist's family and where she lived with Diego Rivera. Another stop for Kahlo and Rivera devotees is the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, the former art studio and home of the dynamic couple.

The Lively Neighborhoods

Spend time exploring San Angel's picturesque upscale neighborhood followed by a visit to Plaza San Jacinto. Saturday's market at the plaza is a colorful and animated place to stroll and shop for Mexican arts and crafts. Make reservations for lunch between 3 and 5 p.m., the traditional time for lunch in Mexico City, at the famous San Ángel Inn, which is across the street from Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo. Request a table outdoors in the beautiful courtyard of the historic hacienda-style building to enjoy the ancient trees and beautiful flowers. Once a Carmelite monastery, the building dates back to 1692 and has a long and fascinating history. Dine on Mexican specialties such as Veracruz-style sea bass or crepes filled with the Mexican delicacy, huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn and is referred to as "Mexican truffle."

Polanco, the city's most prestigious neighborhood, is bustling with Mexico City's financial and business districts, high-end shopping areas and boutiques, luxury hotels, upscale restaurants and vibrant nightlife scenes. Two other significant art institutions are in Polanco: Museo Soumaya and Museo Jumex. After spending the day browsing designer shops on Avenida Presidente Masaryk, have dinner at one of the acclaimed fine dining establishments like Enrique Olvera's Pujol. Meanwhile, Dulce Patria – located at the Las Alcobas hotel – serves vibrant and playful takes on modern cuisine, inspired by chef Martha Ortiz Chapa's Mexican culinary roots and artist Frida Kahlo's palate. Before dinner, sample a few Mexican vintages at Vinícola Urbana, a rooftop vineyard in the heart of the city, where you can learn about and taste Mexican wines.

Roma, along with the adjacent neighborhood of Condesa, is recognized as one of the city's major cultural and culinary hubs. The once-wealthy area known a century ago for its stylish mansions is now a hip neighborhood with art nouveau-style buildings and tree-lined boulevards boasting restaurants, bars and galleries. For authentic Mexican cuisine, spend a day with Jorge Fitz and Alberto Estua of Casa Jacaranda. Begin the morning with a tour and shopping for ingredients at the colorful stalls of Mercado de Medellín in Roma Sur, where the food lover can delight in freshly dried chili peppers, prepared mole pastes, marigold-fed chickens, locally grown organic Mexican chocolate and fresh huitlacoche, the prized Mexican truffle. After the market visit, stroll over to Casa Jacaranda for an exciting afternoon of cooking while learning about the history of and tricks to preparing Mexican specialties. Then, enjoy lunch on their upstairs deck overlooking the pretty tree-lined street. Savor Mexican wines and food prepared from scratch such as tamales, mole poblano with chicken, and calabaza en tacha (candied pumpkin) served over local ice cream from the market.

If you're still in the mood for dinner, reserve a spot at Rosetta, another top restaurant located in Roma Norte. For a lighter casual meal, nosh from the stands at one of the new food halls, Comedor de los Milagros, situated across from Mercado de Medellín.

Where to Stay

For an unexpected treat close to the shops and nightlife scene in Roma, stay at Ignacia Guest House. This intimate bed-and-breakfast, behind Casa Jacaranda, has just five rooms and a hidden courtyard where you can savor a quiet breakfast each morning. After a hectic day in this city, this retreat offers the perfect respite to retire to in the evening.

If you prefer a larger luxury hotel with many amenities, there are quite a few properties to pick from, and The St. Regis Mexico City is one of the finest. Located on the main avenue, Paseo de la Reforma, all of this St Regis outpost's rooms and suites have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city. Visit the Remède Spa after a day of sightseeing to experience one of their treatments inspired by ancient Mexican healing traditions and customs.


10 Life-Changing Trips to Cross Off Your List in 2018

Gwen Pratesi, Contributor

Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Finalist in Journalism, award-winning food and travel writer, ...  Read more

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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