Primo traveling companion K had been begging me for at least a year to give Mexico City another try. I had liked it perfectly well before (probably a whole decade ago), but I had no real reason to go back, especially when I had so many other destinations on my travel wish list. But in recent months, I’d been seeing more and more articles on how exciting the Distrito Federal (DF) was these days, with new restaurants, transformed neighborhoods, updated museums, and many other enticements. Further spurred by a strong exchange rate and a free week before we both headed back to school (work for me and grad school for her), we pulled the trigger and set off for four days in Mexico’s capital city.
The best decision we made was to stay in Colonia Roma Norte, an up-and-coming neighborhood west of the historic center, east of Chapultepec Park and many of the bigger national museums, and adjacent to its similarly bohemian sister, La Condesa. From here, we could take an ambitious walk to the park and museums, catch an easy metro ride into the Centro Histórico, ride the Metrobus south toward Coyoacán, and spend hours roaming Roma itself, a charming mish-mash of bars, shops, restaurants, homes, and small businesses.
We chose the tiny La Valise hotel, which contains only three suites, and we’re sure we got the best one! One level above the street, our elegantly appointed living room overlooked Calle Tonalá; beyond that, we enjoyed a huge, comfortable bedroom, two luxurious bathroom areas, a kitchen, and a patio complete with swing and hammock. The space was incredible – Parisian with Mesoamerican touches – and the service was spectacular. I don’t tend to publicize hotels, but this one might be one of the nicest places I’ve stayed in the world.
La Valise’s location made it even better. We walked almost everywhere and when we couldn’t, we gained access to the metro at Insurgentes, a major intersection of the city as a whole. (Apparently, anyone considered middle class or above disdains the subway system here, but we loved it for the inexpensive fares and, even more, for the rapid transit times compared with the horrific traffic we experienced in a few taxi and Uber rides.)
We spent most of one day in the Centro Histórico, visiting the Parque Alameda Central, various smaller museums (Museo Mural Diego Rivera and Franz Meyer), the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and the Post Office.
We pushed through the crowds and some police barricades in the Zócalo to view the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace, and we escaped the hordes by visiting the Ministry of Education where the Rivera and Siqueiros murals are more abundant and uncrowded than those at the Palace.
Diego Rivera at the Ministry of Education …
and his muralist colleague David Siqueiros’s work at the same Ministry …
Coyoacán, a far-southern neighborhood, filled another half day with its sunny cobblestone streets, shaded plazas and fountains, brightly painted houses and shops, and two big tourist draws, Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul and Leon Trotksy’s house. This “place of coyotes” lies almost 10 km south of the historic center of Mexico City; the small colonial village was swallowed up by the DF in the mid-1800s, but Coyoacán retains its small-town appeal and was palpably more relaxed than the city to the north.
Other favorite stops over the four days here were the Museo de Antropología in Chapultepec Park, El Parnita in Roma Norte for amazing ambience, tacos and tortas, Mercado Roma for wine and food shopping, Cafe Toscano Roma for coffee, and Maximo Bistrot for an excellent dinner. The Calle Alvaro Obregón was made for strolling, and my bet is that the corner vendors were laughing at how many times we traipsed back and forth looking for various shops and eateries over the days we were in the neighborhood!
After a too-long gap in travel to our southern neighbor, it was great to be back in Mexico City. The articles are right; the DF is hopping these days and I’d be ready to go again soon after seeing how easy it was to get there and how much there is to enjoy. Hasta la próxima!