Above, The “Top Suite” at Condesa DF
Boutique Hotels are part of what makes any visit to Mexico City so memorable. Of course there are chain hotels – big international chains – but Mexico City is famous for the hundreds of independent hotels that light up nights – even in the most obscure and distant neighborhoods. But in the age of AirBnB and renting out individual couch cushions, some travelers have gotten the hint that sometimes its better to go for the more elegant option. Enter the boutique hotels of Mexico City.
There are, of course, better hotels even in some truly far flung parts of the city. But these six are some of the most intimate and thoughtful – right in the center of the city. Each promises a unique visit – and also a uniquely conceived experience.
For a small hotel to compete with a grand hotel, they need to offer superior service, cleanliness and attention where the big guys cannot. They’ll also offer style and security and the sense, at last, that one is at home in the big city. These are the six you should consider. Booking is available from each of their websites.
La Casona – Colonia Roma Norte
It’s a building that seems to say everything, but with only 29 guest rooms inside, it’s not the Mexico City experience everyone gets to enjoy. Recognized by the National Institute of Fine Arts for its architectural importance, it’s still far enough north in Roma Norte to keep guests close to Paseo de la Reforma and Chapultepec Castle. Rooms are decked out in a classic 19th century style, but attention to detail keeps them ultra clean and accessible.
Habita – Polanco
With everything going against Polanco, from traffic gridlock to inaccessibility, there’s still a lot to be said for the sheer elegance of much of it. Habita is that glorious exception. Renowned – even worldwide – design, here really is almost everything. Minimal, contemporary, and clean, it’s just 32 rooms, Fernando Maya’s restaurant called, fittingly enough, “Lobby” plus breathtaking terrace spaces and of course an ultra cute swimming pool.
Hotel de Cortés – Centro Historico
A true jewel of the Mexican baroque, the Cortés puts guests right on the northern edge of the Alameda Central. It’s a busy area, but the Cortés put up magnificent walls to keep the interior serene and comforting. At just 26 guest rooms, staff are sufficient to make everyone feel great. And the 1620 Restaurant means every one goes to sleep well fed too. This is really one of the great unsung heroes of hotels for people who want access to both Centro Historico and Reforma.
AR 218 – Condesa
Condesa’s answer to elegance – of course it’s going to be sleek, contemporary and ultra-chic. Just 39 guest rooms make AR 218 exclusive (as does the address) but the building is fitted out and guests want for very little. There’s really enough style to make even homely guests feel handsome. And a roof garden (pictured) tops off lower floors where every creature comfort is looked after.
Triangular architecture throws an interesting angle into just about every corner of this unique and thoughtful inn. And there are lots of corners. Getting to know all of them is part of the fun. Outside, of course, you’re ultra well looked after in Condesa’s tony streets, but coming home to a hotel as thoughtfully and carefully planned as this one is one of the pleasures of staying here.
Downtown Mexico – Centro Historico
Still one of the great bargains in Centro Historico, Downtown offers a surprisingly quiet and comfortable set of guest rooms above and always-busy boutique shopping center and restaurant. A striking mix of colonial 17th century industrial architecture, you get lots of gnarly brickwork and the idea that some very young and enthusiastic designers and rehab technicians did a marvelous job. As boutique hotels go, this one ended up with a rooftop bar, swimming pools and guest rooms that look straight out of some futurist design magazine.
Mexico City is vibrant, vast and very important. Not just in terms of the space it occupies and the stone and brick from it’s made from, but Mexico City greeted more than 30 million visitors last year. That’s more than it’s entire metro-population (though not by much). Let’s look at why they came.
Last year, at about this time, The New York Times had named the city the number one travel destination for 2016. Tourism searches on Google showed Mexico City as not just a Latin American Favorite, but in the top five tourist searches in the world. And of course, people have been asking for the last several years if it wasn’t the Next Paris, or the Next New York or the Next SOMETHING.
The City government set itself to the task of figuring out just why people love coming here. These are the top 15 reasons they came up with, and ultimately they’re the reasons that Mexico City is Latin America’s favorite, and maybe your favorite too!
1) 185 museums, nine archaeological sites and four World Heritage sites? The cultural scene is enormous, rich and varied. There’s something for every kind of cultural traveler.
2) Fairs, festivals, conventions, meetings and extravaganzas cover music, food, movies, books, and trade in every kind of human activity, down to the annual clown convention.
3) Blockbuster events? Last year saw a Formula 1 race, an NFL game or two, the Tour de France, and a free Roger Waters concert in the city center.
4) Chosen for the sixth world C40 Mayors Summit in November of 2016, Mexico City is widely perceived as a world leader in combatting climate change.
5) The Metrobús system, originally based on one running in Bogota, Colombia, is now the biggest in Latin America. Stretching some 125 kms today, in 2017 no less than 90 Alexander Dennis Enviro500 double-decker buses will begin plying the length of Paseo de la Reforma, as Metrobus Line 7 officially opens.
6. The tourist program Sonrisas por tu ciudad, literally “Smiles for your city,” organized by the Secretary for Tourism, has benefited more than 200,000 people.
7. Mexico City’s Central de Abasto (pictured below), after more than 30 years sells 30,000 tons of merchandise (mostly food) and sells to about 30,000 people every day. It’s the largest shopping area in the world.
8. Mexico City was the first Latin American city to join the Rainbow Cities Network, which coordinates city-level actions to protect LGBTI citizens and residents.
9. Mexico City was chosen as the World Capital of Design for 2018, by the World Design Organization.
10. The Centro Histórico is the largest historical city center in Latin America, with 1,500 buildings designated as having historical, cultural, artistic or architectural value. That’s more than most tour guides can handle, but it’s also home the continent’s biggest Metropolitan Cathedral.
11. Mexico City’s first ever Day of the Dead parade was celebrated by more than 250,000 marchers, band members, onlookers and, yes, zombies.
12. The city’s El Médico en tu Casa program puts a “Doctor in Your Home.” It’s already recognized in America, Asia, and Europe, for bringing health services closer to people who can’t easily visit hospitals or clinics.
13. Mexico City also began the first Specialized Center for the Management of Diabetes anywhere in Latin America.
14. The Ecobici system (pictured below) is the biggest public bike system in Latin America, with 452 cycle stations and about 35 million trips made by 200,ooo riders every year.
15. And finally, the good old underground Metro network is the biggest in Latin America, too. With 12 lines 226 km in total length, about 5 million people ride it every day.
Source: CDMX government, with information from International CDMX and the 4th Governmental Report CDMX, 2016.
Casa Madero may have been the first winery in the Americas, founded way back in 1597, and way up in Coahuila. But Mexico’s predominant “beer culture” has always given wine producers something of a long shadow to grow up in. Aguascalientes, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Chihuahua all produce respectable wines, but it’s been the environs of Ensenada (the Guadalupe Valley, the Santo Tomas Valley, and the Ojos Negros Valley) that have really busted the Mexican wine scene out onto international lists of “respectability.” Some parts Coahuila (the Valley Of Parras, and Cuatro Ciénagas in particular) still hold their own – but most wine enthusiasts agree, Baja’s got the wine to beat.
Mexico exports wine around the world. According to the Mexican Wine Council, about 400 brands of wine are currently being produced in the country, and these increasingly appear on the international lists as being wines to watch (and to taste). But those lists aren’t everything. Even the most sophisticated drinkers know today that plenty is coming each year from Mexican wineries that’s worth taking note of.
Yes, you can still find plenty of good Mexican vintages mixed in with the international offerings on the shelves at Liverpool. But the wine shops below are pretty active at pushing good wines, from Mexico, onto more Mexican tables.
Vinoteca has three locations in and around the city and carries a wide range of Mexican wines, and still more around the country. They do a fair internet trade in wines too, but stopping in lets you pick the brains of their knowledgeable staff.
La Contra, also with shops all over the country, is one of the city’s leading advocates for the Mexican wine industry. With a capital location in Roma, it’s an easy and relaxed place to pick up recommendations, or indeed, to sample some of the best bottles coming in.
Address: Álvaro Obregón 130, local # 10, Colonia Roma Norte
Telephone: 5564 0966
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Á de Acento offers a very well-regarded restaurant, but the gourmet shop offers plenty that’s pure Mexican and well worth a bottle or two. In fact, prices are very reasonable, but there’s also usually something special hidden away in the shelves that inquiring customers will be very pleased to find.
Another in the list of combo restaurant and gourmet shops, Amaya has made a big splash with their list of “vinos raros.” Far from weird, many of them are fabulous. They’re also generally available in the shop, no reservation necessary and many of the best are, in fact, domestically produced!
Don’t expect friendly service. La Europea is still trying to figure out in which decade they’re doing business. But for all the wood-boxed bacalao these people sling during the holidays, they’ve always got a ton of good wine, too. With a good number of branches in and around the city, calling them one of the best wine shops in Mexico might be a stretch, but they do a lot of business, and for that, they always offer a ton of good Mexican wines too.
Si Mon is run by the chefs at Broka Bistrot, practically next door. And the emphasis is on local, good, and even inspiring wines. One of the best things about shopping at a wine bar is after all, that there is usually a bottle open. And for that, including Si Mon in a list of the best wine shops is practically a given.
Main Photo Above: Aborigen Valle Seco, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Courtesy of La Contra