It’s hard to pigeonhole the Mexican capital. Brash, bold and more than a little boisterous, this sprawling city hemmed in by a ring of mountains and volcanoes is crammed with contradictions and, much like a rousing mariachi melody or a pulsing reggaeton beat, runs to its own rhythm. Get in line, grab a taco and see what all the fuss is about. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Rebranding the city: Mexico City recently rebranded itself from DF (Distrito Federal) to cdmx (Ciudad de México) and you’ll see sculptures of its new initials dotted across the city.
  2. Shopping on the metro: Mexicans can be incredibly entrepreneurial and, as a result, the entire metro system is one perpetual hustle. You’ll find people selling everything from chewing gum to camera tripods.
  3. Personal security: Mexico City is generally safe thanks to a government clampdown on criminality in the capital. That said, beware of pickpockets and take care using your phone.
  4. Lunch over dinner: Lunch is the main meal of the day and is usually eaten late (at about 15.00). Dinner is lighter and less important, which is why some of the city’s restaurants finish serving late afternoon.
  5. Cash society: Cash is king here and not just when it comes to street-food stalls or taxis: it’s even used on the metro. You can still pay by card in most shops, restaurants and bars but keep some efectivo (cash) on hand.

On sale now – part of the Monocle Travel Guide series

Watch the film

Hotels

Hospitality at its finest

  1. Nima Local House Hotel, Roma Norte

    Home from home

    This historic building once belonged to one of Mexico’s greatest art collectors, Guillermo Tovar y de Teresa. In the rooms you’ll find cosmetics by Persea and artisanal textiles.

  2. Casa Dovela, Condesa

    Apartment living

    This California-style townhouse is a cross between luxury home and boutique hotel, with three spacious apartments.

  3. Las Alcobas, Polanco

    Tastefully appointed

    Las Alcobas delivers quiet luxury with an intimate atmosphere: 31 spacious rooms and four suites with polished wooden furnishings.

Vocabulary

Local lingo

  1. Mande?: What/pardon?
  2. Fresa: Posh person with expensive taste
  3. Qué onda?: How’s it going?
  4. Guëy (wey): Dude/mate/buddy
  5. -ito/a: Diminutive suffix added to most words. For example: Tomamos una cervecita? (Shall we have a cheeky beer?)

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. Bar El Sella, Doctores

    What the doctor ordered

    This classic restaurant is known for its food and merry day-drinking. Order a cazuela (stew) of chorizo bubbling in cider to start and then a chamorro (meltingly tender pork shank), plus guacamole, hot tortillas and salsa for diy tacos.

  2. Amaya, Juárez

    Grape expectations

    Chef Jair Téllez serves classics such as ceviche and sopes (maize patties) with chorizo but his playful dishes are the real draw. Amaya also showcases Bichi, the family’s natural winery in Tecate, and is the place to taste the best vintages from Mexico and Latin American producers.

  3. Kura, Roma Norte

    Extraordinary sushi

    At this izakaya you can enjoy hearty donburi (rice-bowl dishes), ramen good enough to rival Tokyo, yakitori of grilled baby octopus and plates of sashimi. Chef Takeya Matsumoto has many years of experience in Mexico and pays special attention to the sushi.

  4. Pastelería Ideal, Centro Histórico

    Pastry palace

    A bakery that opened its doors in 1927, this is the ideal place to sample the gamut of Mexican pastries. There’s an airy courtyard with stacks of sweet breads in every shape, including orejas (elephant ear-shaped pastries with syrup).

  5. Bósforo, Centro (West)

    Speciality mezcal

    The easygoing staff here pour mezcal varieties you’ve never heard of and will probably never try again: they’re not commercially produced. Ask for a selection of the unmarked bottles and try a flight of three.

Retail

Shop talk

  1. ADN Galería, Polanco

    Mexican modernism

    The foremost vintage design gallery in Mexico City is the work of Paulo Peña and Paulina Hassey. Over the past decade they’ve put together a priceless collection of 20th-century Mexican modernism by surveying the country for unique pieces by the likes of Mathias Goeritz.

  2. Studio David Pompa, Roma Norte

    Lights fantastic

    After a trip to Oaxaca, where he observed artisans working with barro negro (black clay), chilango designer David Pompa had the idea of creating light fixtures made with Mexican materials. Today his studio creates wonderfully rudimentary pendant and standing lights.

  3. Macolen, San Miguel Chapultepec

    Pressing matters

    The old refrigerator shelves holding countless fanzines and artists’ books hint at the previous life of this Risograph printing press and shop: it used to be a convenience store. All the pieces are Riso-printed on site and available in a limited run of 25 copies each.

  4. Maison Manila, Polanco

    Smart stuff

    This young brand is an encouraging sign for Mexican fashion: it has a dependable range with thoughtful but minimal shifts between seasons. Founder Rossana Díaz del Castillo’s driving principle is creating accessible luxury fashion.

Loading...

/

15

15

Live

00:00 01:00

  • The Weekend Edition