The minute I mention I live in Mexico City, I get questions.
Lots and lots of questions. From “how much do you love Mexico?” and “is Mexico City safe?” to even “do you eat tacos every day?“ the questions keep coming.
It’s an understandable question seeing as Mexico City is one of the biggest cities on the planet and it can be overwhelming, even if it isn’t your first time visiting.
Not to get too philosophical but “best” can mean a lot of different things to different people. Around here, we believe a “best” is a place with a combination of culture, local flavor, small businesses, and, of course, great food.
First, Orient Yourself: The Mexico City Neighborhood Lay Out
Look, Mexico City is enormous — the metro area has a population close to 22 million — so you could spend a lifetime exploring. The easiest way to get to know Mexico’s capital is to understand the city’s layout.
Mexico City is formally known as the Distrito Federal and has 16 delegaciones (like boroughs) which are made up of roughly 1,800 colonias (aka neighborhoods). Much like New York City, each Colonia in modern-day Mexico City has its own identity.
The Best Neighborhoods When You Visit Mexico City
From posh neighborhoods to trendy spots and the classic parts of town, there’s a neighborhood in Mexico City for pretty much every kind of traveler. And be it chichi Polanco to artsy Condesa to the spectacular centro histórico, each corner of the CDMX (Ciudad de México) has its own distinct personality.
Here are the Mexico City neighborhoods to visit to get a feel for the city:
Similar to midtown Manhattan, you can get a sense of Mexico City by heading to downtown — aka the historic city center or Centro histórico; a walk through downtown will help you wrap your head around how many people actually live in Mexico City.
The Centro histórico is essentially an outdoor museum with more than 1,500 buildings there classified as historic or artistic monuments, many of which are listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
From the renowned Palacio de Bellas Artes to the historic Casa de Los Azulejos and the gilded golden Palacio Postal, you get a glimpse of the past in every building you pass as you walk from the Alameda Central to El Zócalo. The architecture is grand, the history is obvious, and it’s a must no matter if you’re visiting Mexico City for the first or fourteenth time.
Where To Stay: A design-forward hotel like Downtown Mexico
With its tree-lined streets, architecturally-stunning buildings, and numerous small businesses, Colonia Roma (aka La Roma or just Roma), is the neighborhood in Mexico City that feels the most like Brooklyn.
To be clear, Roma is actually now divided into two small neighborhoods: Roma Norte to the north and Roma Sur to the south. Of the two, Roma Norte is our fave thanks to Art Nouveau and Neoclassical buildings housing hip record shops, quirky bookstores, indie barbers, and a buzzing bar scene.
Where To Stay: Casa Mera 234 or this AirBnB designed by a local designer
Similar to Soho, the neighborhood of Condesa — translating to ‘countess’ because it’s named after one — is comprised of three areas (Colonia Condesa, Colonia Hipódromo, and Colonia Hipódromo Condesa) and channels bohemian chic vibes. The tree-lined streets and slower pace mean Condesa is a quieter part of the city thanks to more foot traffic and less car traffic.
On the weekends you’ll spot local joggers running the Avenida Amsterdam loop with their four-legged friends, couples strolling the streets with coffee in hand shopping local, and friend groups enjoying long lunches at trendy restaurants like Lardo.
Where To Stay: Hotel Condesa DF
Located just north of the sprawling Chapultepec Park (like Mexico City’s Central Park except that it has a castle!), the affluent neighborhood of Polanco is similar to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. You’ll find luxury brand stores like Gucci and Tiffanys, fine dining restaurants like the famed Pujol, and local boutiques. The bar and restaurants in Polanco are as much about the food as they are about the scene as the fresa (Mexican slang to describe upper-class preppy types) crowd likes to see-and-be-seen in this part of the city.
Where To Stay: Four Seasons or Chef Enrique Olvera’s Casa Teo
Much like Williamsburg once was, Juárez is one of the up-and-coming areas of Mexico City that just keeps evolving. Nestled between downtown Mexico City and La Roma, artists, intellectuals and creatives alike keep moving into this neighborhood. Because of this, there are numerous restaurants, niche boutiques, and cafes to work from all of which channel a casual-cool vibe.
Where To Stay: Stara Hamburgo Hotel
Like the Lower East Side, Coyocán is a colorful neighborhood filled with street art. It’s a bit further from the center of the city, but well worth a visit. Fittingly for a cultural center, there are many noteworthy museums in the neighborhood including the Frida Kahlo museum known as the Museo Casa Azul, the Museo Anahuacalli, which has Diego Rivera’s Pre-Hispanic artifacts, and the folk art-centric National Museum of Popular Culture. The main plaza is home to the Jardín Centenario park and the country’s biggest stadium the Estadio Azteca. Oh, and if you’re a movie buff you can catch flicks at the local theatre, Cineteca Nacional, which screens a hit-list of indie films.
Where To Stay: Airbnbs Are Your Best Option!
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