The Zócalo

Photo: Robin Bennefield
The Zócalo, Mexico City’s main square, at night.

In a country that’s been getting a bad travel rap, Mexico City stands devoid of travel warnings, rich with cultural heritage, an impressive arts scene and cutting-edge cuisine. It checks all the boxes for the urban traveler seeking a cosmopolitan mix of stylish hotels, trendy neighborhoods and new foodie pursuits.

Just a 4 or 5 hour flight from the East Coast or West Coast, the city boasts over 170 museums, a burgeoning high-end shopping district, the oldest park in North America and one of the largest public squares in the world. So, if you go, put away any pre-conceived notions, pack some patience to navigate the city’s traffic-jammed streets and start by hitting these Mexico City hot spots.

STAY

Four Seasons in Mexico City

Photo: Robin Bennefield
The courtyard at the Four Seasons in Mexico City.

Four Seasons, Mexico, D.F.
Paseo de la Reforma No. 500, Col. Juarez

It’s only fitting that the Four Seasons is situated on Mexico City’s grandest boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma, known as the city’s Champs d’Elyssee, steps away from an iconic statute of the Greek goddess Diana. The hotel is just as grand. But its courtyard is the real showstopper, a well-manicured oasis inhabited by sculpted wizards and punctuated by a fountain that glows with fire by night.

If staying at the Four Seasons seems a little pricey, just visit for one of the best brunches in the city. Taste the chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican breakfast of fried tortillas and chicken in a red or green salsa served with crema and refried beans. El Bar is also worth a visit for a primer on Mexico’s tequilas from its expert bartenders.

Live Aqua Hotel & Spa
Av. Paseo de los Tamarindos No.98, Col. Bosques de las Lomas

If the Four Seasons represents Mexico City’s Old World charm, the Live Aqua Hotel & Spa represents its hip modern future. You can customize your room to your tastes by choosing the perfect pillow on the pillow menu or adjusting your room’s scent with a fragrance from the aromatherapy menu. When you want to venture out of your custom retreat, hang with the hipster crowd in La Condesa, nearby.

DO

La Roma

Colonia Roma in Mexico City

Photo: Robin Bennefield
Gurú, an art gallery and design shop in La Roma.

Another trendy outpost in Mexico City is La Roma, a neighborhood that proudly displays pre-revolution architecture from the 1900s. It’s home to an eclectic art and design scene represented by Museo del Objeto and Gurú, an art gallery and quirky design shop. If you are into those creepily cute Day of the Dead skeletals, Gurú has a small collection of paintings and sculpted pieces, “Muerte Chiquita,” on display through Dec. 12. The Museo del Objeto takes you through the history of Rock and Roll in Mexico — from an obsession with Elvis through Mexican rock bands that incorporated Lucha Libre wrestling masks in their stage shows. The standing collection features found pop culture objects, political posters and photography.

Bazar del Sabado

Bazar del Sabado in Mexico City

Photo: Robin Bennefield
Frida Kahlo and Day of the Dead skeletons decorate matchboxes at Bazar del Sabado.

Head south of the city center to quietly quaint San Ángel for some of the best shopping Mexico City has to offer, especially if you are in the market for authentic Mexican handicrafts. The Saturday market, or Bazar del Sabado, spreads from an indoor warren of stalls selling intricate jewelry, handmade shoes and crafts to outdoor stands lined with colorful, quirky wares like Frida Kahlo lighters and matchboxes to Day of the Dead aprons and pillows. Artists display their latest paintings for sale in the plaza.

EAT

Rosetta in Mexico City

Photo: Robin Bennefield
Rosetta, one of Mexico City’s hottest restaurants, serves fresh Italian fare.

Rosetta
Colima 166, Col. Roma

While Mexican food reigns supreme in Mexico City, other cuisines shine in the hands of Mexican chefs here, too. At Rosetta, celebrity chef Elena Reygadas delivers fresh Italian fare like a delicate beef Carpaccio and a flavorful pappardelle, along with baskets and baskets of bread made on the premises. The setting isn’t bad either, a lovely old mansion built in 1905, bathed in natural light.

Paxia
Av. De la Paz 47, Col. San Ángel

The other big culinary name in town is Daniel Ovadía, the creative mind behind Paxia, where modern Mexican cuisine is on hyper drive. He’s turning traditional Mexican food on its head and showcasing it in innovative ways.  Take, for instance, a tiny quesadilla encased in a beautifully painted chocolate shell that melts when warm spicy mole is poured on top, or the torta ahodada, his take on a messy street sandwich served with a plastic glove and bib. But it’s not just about the artful presentation; the food definitely gets the most applause.

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Robin BennefieldRobin Bennefield is a freelance writer, digital media producer and author of the travel blog, Robins Have Wings. She has climbed a volcano in Nicaragua, shopped for knock-off designer handbags...

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