Right now things are happening in Mexico City! We felt it in the energy which in some parts of town reminded us of New York. Since I was last here about 10 years ago the historical centre has been restored and become more accessible but even back then gentrification had already started in the Condesa neighbourhood which now has enough cool cafes and bars to compete with Brooklyn.
But don't imagine that the city has lost any of its Mexican flavour. To get in the swing of things we spent our first evening at a Lucha Libre wrestling match. It's a popular night out for families and groups of friends who wear masks of their favourite wrestlers bought from the souvenir stalls outside. Taking a selfie with the ring in the background whilst wearing a 'Demonio Rojo' mask is definitely de rigueur (on your phone as cameras aren't allowed).
Here are some other recommendations for making the most of your visit: Book tickets in advance for Casa Azul, the Frida Kahlo museum. We unfortunately didn't and on Saturday afternoon the queue was so long we wouldn't have made it through the doors by closing time. The museum is located in Coyoacan, a bohemian area worth exploring further. The market is particularly nice and we can recommend La Bipo for Mezcal cocktails that won't blow your budget or the more traditional San Angel Inn with a relaxed hacienda setting.
Stay at Downtown, a 17-bedroom boutique hotel in the historic centre. The hotel opened 3 years ago in one of the very few 17th century buildings still standing. It's an amazing building, restored to combine many original features with very progressive design. The bedrooms are quiet and serene however you don't have to venture far to socialise. There is a great bar up top and it's the only hotel in the centre with a rooftop pool. Located 5 minutes from the enormous Zocalo square, you are surrounded by historic buildings including the National Palace where you can see the huge historical murals painted by Diego Rivera, the opulent Palace of Fine Arts and the ruins of Templo Mayor from Tenochtitlan, the old Aztec capital city from the days of Cortez.
Image: Undine Pröhl
Buy some Mexican design. I loved La Lonja, a monthly market that moves between unique locations. Upcoming designers sell fashion, jewellery and furniture and I found it nearly impossible to walk past the stand of Malte Taller with its modern take on Peltre, traditional enamel kitchenware. I never knew how badly I needed cups decorated with skeletons! Another good place for Mexican-made goods is the selection of shops on the mezzanine floor at Downtown hotel which sell everything from handmade chocolates to craft and stylish souvenirs. And Azul Historico in the courtyard within the hotel is a great place to try Mexican cuisine.
Have brunch - or dinner - in Condesa, one of the loveliest areas in the city. For brunch two good options are Mague, a bakery with an extensive menu on the corner of Parque Mexico and the restaurant at Condesa df hotel. Afterwards stroll through the parks and enjoy the Art Deco architecture in the surrounding streets. At night you will find anything from cheap taco places to trendy restaurants that easily compete internationally. For modern Mexican food try Lardo, a busy eatery which would be equally at home in New York.
Mexico City has a lot of museums however if you only see one, make it the Anthropology Museum. The collection is overwhelmingly big but beautifully laid out following the timeline from indigenous cultures to the arrival of the armadas and conquistadors in their search for gold. You walk away with a much better understanding of the famous cultures like the Mayas and Aztecs. The museum is located in Chapultepec park which is dotted with museums and even a colonial castle.
Have a long lunch. Chilangos (the nickname for Mexico City residents) still practise the art of long lunches, especially on Fridays. Contramar in Roma is a fantastic seafood restaurant (try the ceviche and tostadas with scallops). We joined some friends and friends-of-friends for a big lunch and the restaurant was packed from the moment we got there well into the afternoon (6pm!) when we left. The waiters never stop, the small sharing plates keep coming and the drinks flow freely.
Get around - by metro, metro bus, city bus and on foot of course. The metro is very efficient and only costs the equivalent of $0.40 no matter how far you go. Using taxis can be a bit of a jungle, you either have to know the approximate fare if the taxi does not have a meter or if it does, hope that it hasn't been tuned to run at double speed. The locals seem to have more faith in Uber for this reason.
Mexico City has a population of 21 million. It's as noisy and colourful as you would expect but surprisingly approachable and easy to navigate if you stick to the more central areas. And importantly we felt safe everywhere we went. It's a fascinating destination on its own with something to please everybody - foodies, culture vultures and shoppers - but with everything Mexico has to offer it would be a shame not to visit other locations and we will share a few suggestions soon...