In 2020, the “City of Palaces”—named for its beautiful 18th-century architecture—will welcome not one, but two Kimpton hotels. Former residential and retail buildings are currently being transformed into our first boutique hotels in Mexico. They’re both set to debut in the upscale Polanco neighborhood, which is often compared to Beverly Hills thanks to its pretty streets, collection of high-end shops, award-winning restaurants and top art museums. Because it’s never too early to start planning your first, second or third trip to Mexico’s vibrant capital, here are some of our favorite things to do and areas to explore.
Neighborhood Spotlight: Polanco
Let’s start with the Polanco neighborhood. While the main boulevard of Avenida Presidente Masaryk is lined with international brands, you can still have a more local shopping experience thanks to indie spots like LAGO DF, which carries made-in-Mexico textiles, furniture and fashion.
As for where to eat, don’t miss lunch at Comedor Jacinta, which grinds its own corn for the tortillas it makes in-house. For dinner, Quintonil—run by Jorge Vallejo, an alum of nearby and famed Pujol—sets an elegant stage for artfully plated modern Mexican dishes. If a hole-in-the-wall experience is more your speed, order up the tacos made with cochinita pibil (flavor-packed, slow-roasted pork) any time of day at the classic El Turix.
There’s the Insta-worthy and free Museo Soumaya, whose curvaceous exterior is made from thousands of shimmering aluminum panels, and neighboring Museo Jumex, which hosts rotating exhibits of contemporary art.
Mexico City’s frenetic local food markets and sidewalk vendors can be overwhelming to navigate solo. Take the guesswork out by signing up for an expert-led tour through Eat Mexico or Eat Like a Local, which guarantees that you’ll get to taste the very best. A street food excursion may include snacks ranging from squash-blossom burritos to meat-filled cemita sandwiches, while a half-day spent exploring the historic Mercado Merced will provide just the foundation you need to tackle another market on your own.
With all that eating, you’ll probably want to spend time walking it off—and luckily, the city isn’t as much of a concrete jungle as it may seem. There are a surprising number of leafy parks, the biggest of which is Bosque de Chapultepec, where you can visit an 18th-century castle, see thousands of ancient artifacts at the Museum of Anthropology, take in contemporary art at the Museo Rufino Tamayo, and rent a pedal boat to ride in the lake. A stroll around jacaranda-lined Condesa and nearby Roma will likely bring you to Parque España or Parque México. On weekends especially, expect to find the benches filled with families and young romance.
Follow in the Footsteps of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
There are a number of ways to experience the lives and works of Mexico City’s most famous artistic couple. South of the city in the charming and historic neighborhood of Coyoacán, Kahlo’s home and studio—where she both grew up and died—has been painstakingly preserved as the Museo Frida Kahlo. You’ll know it when you see its shocking blue walls, which earned it the nickname of Casa Azul.
In nearby San Angel, you can see where they lived in separate yet connected homes at El Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Near the Zócalo, or main square, the Palacio de Bellas Artes and Palacio Nacional both have walls covered in murals by Rivera. And though it’s slightly off the beaten path in the south, the Museo Dolores Olmedo is home to what’s been called the most important collection of Rivera and Kahlo’s paintings.
This only scratches the surface of what Mexico City has to offer—but it should be enough to convince you that a trip to Mexico’s capital is definitely in order.