A tale of four wonders
Skeptical about Mexico City as a holiday destination? Don’t be. The art, fashion, food and architecture are wonders to be behold, discovers
cooking aprons and pillows in Mexico and beyond. Interest in Mexico City, where she lived much of her life, is rebounding, too.
Still, the sprawling, bustling city had not yet made it on to my own list of the top places in the world I wanted to visit. So when one of my frequent travel buddies suggested we meet up there, I needed some persuading.
‘‘What would we do there?’’ I texted her, unconvinced.
Her response was immediate and definitive: ‘‘Art. Fashion. Food. Architecture.’’ It was hard to argue with that. A month or so later, I found out for myself why Mexico City, whose reputation was once marred by stories of kidnappings and high crime, has increasingly been considered one of the up-and-coming hot travel destinations.
A hipster enclave
A quick – and relatively cheap – Uber ride took us from the airport to an apartment we rented through Airbnb in the bohemian Roma Norte, known for its bars, restaurants, art galleries and boutiques.
With adrenaline pumping at being in a new city, we dropped off our things and hit the streets in search of a latenight snack and some mezcal.
We ended up at a hip, darkly lit mezcaleria a couple of blocks away that could have easily been transposed from the Lower East Side of New York. Skilled mixologists prepared some tasty libations for us. We toasted to our first night in Mexico City. It was an auspicious start.
The next morning, the first item on the agenda was caffeine. Luckily, a cute coffee shop, Buna, was close by. Drip coffee was nowhere to be found here. Rather, stylish baristas handpoured each drink, another sign we were staying smack dab in the middle of a hipster mecca.
For several days, we strolled many of the city’s picturesque neighbourhoods, often stopping to chill out at the serene parks and plazas that make the city feel very European. They were perfect spots for people-watching – and dog-watching, as hired walkers often entertained and hustled to keep track of all of the pets on their leashes.
Condesa, a neighbourhood near our rental with some of the city’s best restaurants and bars, has two particularly lovely parks with canopies of trees and a duck-filled pond.
Then there’s the granddaddy of them all, Chapultepec Park, a massive urban oasis that reminded me of New York’s Central Park. At a large lake there, locals rent orange and blue pedal boats. Throughout the park, numerous stands offer an eclectic mix of tchotchkes and salty snacks.
The park is also home to a castle, once the stamping ground of Mexico’s rulers atop a hill. The hike up is well worth the effort. We ambled up the sloping walkway and arrived at the top just a half-hour before it closed. So we found ourselves speed-walking through its beautifully manicured courtyard, black-and-white checked floors, and rooms with stained glass windows. The castle is a feast for the eyes – and so is the view of the city spread out below. We wished we had more time to explore it – a recurring feeling during the trip.
When it comes to art, Mexico City’s bountiful offerings go well beyond Kahlo and Rivera, though they are a major draw for tourists. And for good reason. I could have spent hours studying and admiring Rivera’s revolutionary murals at the National Palace.
But I quickly found that there is a whole lot more to see beyond that. Of the abundance of art museums, a highlight was the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo, which seemed to be popular with young Mexicans, not surprising since it’s located on a college campus. We were lucky enough to catch an exhibit by British sculptor Anish Kapoor (the artist behind Cloud Gate, the ‘‘bean’’ in
This impressive fountain in the middle of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia is a popular place for kids to play, and a common backdrop for selfies.
A statue in one of the many courtyards of Mexico City’s National Palace, home to the federal executive as well as Diego Rivera’s The History of Mexico mural.