Considered the oldest city in the Americas, founded by Aztecs in the 14th century, Mexico City has reinvented itself again and again over the centuries, while remaining a significant centre of power in the New World through each iteration.
In the 20th Century, the urban population exploded from a mere 500,000 to the current 21 million, making it the largest metropolitan area in the Americas and home to a profound variety of cultural, historic, religious and architectural details. From remnants of the city’s first Aztec inhabitants in the Cuauhtémoc borough to Art Deco design in Condesa, Mexico City’s 16 boroughs have enough variety to cater to all tastes and backgrounds.
Both traditional and contemporary food scenes take from regional cuisine, as rural Mexicans from across the country have moved to the capital. Dishes from Oaxaca, Guerrero, Veracruz, Hidalgo and Puebla can be found in both elevated restaurants and in their homestyle, street-food original versions, but as Mexico City’s tourist traffic increases, it’s not hard to find international dishes either.
For high culture, Mexico City contains more museums than any other city in the world, but street life flourishes as well – whether in the form of authentic “Lucha Libre” masked wrestling competitions in the historic centre, or explosive underground electronic music parties in the Korean-Mexican communities of the Zona Rosa. Mexico City is truly a gateway to experiencing all that the Americas have to offer.
In 2019 Pujol was named the Best Restaurant in North America; somewhat overdue, given the near-20 years chef Enrique Olvera has been elevating traditional dishes using molecular gastronomy techniques. Diners can enjoy a taco tasting menu or mole – a staple no matter the season – aged for 1,000 days.
MERCADO SAN JUAN
Perhaps the best food experience in Mexico City is one that can not be replicated. Head to this market for traditional and gourmet street food from across the Americas. Whether it’s a classic snack like spicy corn on the cob, or something truly exotic – like deep fried insects – this is the market that has it all.
CHURRERIA EL MORO
Although Spaniards may have created the churro it was perfected in Mexico, insists Mexico City’s favourite churreria. Head to this 1930s institution and sink your teeth into a sweet fried stick,covered in cinnamon and sugar – or, dip it first into chocolate: Spanish (thick), Mexican (spicy) or French (sweet).
NIMA LOCAL HOUSE HOTEL
Despite its location in Roma, current hotspot of Mexico City, Nima feels like a peaceful oasis, in part perhaps due to their not admitting children under 15. Filled with local greenery, the French colonial design and minimalist modern interiors offer a tranquil relief from the pace of life outside.
CHAYA BED AND BREAKFAST BOUTIQUE
Traditional with contemporary touches, communal with just enough private space, Chaya is a good choice for an urbanite looking for local flair. In Downtown Mexico City, the renovated ‘20s building overlooks Alameda Park. Mexican breakfast is, of course, included.
GRAN HOTEL CIUDAD DE MEXICO
Luxe, historic and old-fashioned in the best possible way, step back in time to the Porfiriato period when you stay in this Art Nouveau property. Experience door-to-door service as you indulge in the royal treatment, from tour assistance to taxis.
The unique Mexican variety of arena wrestling – which mixes the theatricality of sumo with circus acrobatics, numerous costume changes and a fair share of body slamming – provides visitors with a special window into local culture. Often, the audience can be just as exciting to watch as the wrestlers in the ring.
MERCADO DE LA MERCED
For a taste of just about everything, head to Mexico City’s oldest street market, just off the historic Zocolo, or central city square. Divided into seven sections, it’s easy to get lost between mounds of avocadoes and colossal bouquets of balloons. Check out the food section for cactus pads and authentic Oaxaca cheese.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY
Discover the origins of Mexico by travelling through time to learn about the ancient civilisations of the Mayans and Aztecs that underpin the modern nation. The museum sees itself as “a symbol of identity and a mentor for generations seeking their cultural roots.” mna.inah.gob.mx