You may have noticed that your coolest friends are suddenly absent. This is because those in the know are in Ciudad de México, aka CDMX, aka Mexico City. Artists, intellectuals and tastemakers – the modern Frida Kahlos, Diego Riveras and Leon Trotskys – are currently flocking to Mexico’s sprawling capital in search of a vibrant and affordable lifestyle.
In short, there is no busier big city in the world right now. So we asked insiders to share their hottest spots, from restaurants to boutiques, galleries to hotels.
carry to go
“There is so much respect for the culture of craftsmanship here,” said Olivia Villani, a fashion designer, who launched Chava womenswear in 2020 after leaving New York with her Mexican husband, and opened an invitation-only workshop last summer.
“There’s an energy to the city that feels particularly alive right now,” she added.
Her favorite spots include Cicatriz, a funky cafe run by ex-New Yorkers Jake & Scarlett Lindeman (try the roasted carrots) a short walk from the city’s Centro and the laid-back late-night spot Paramo in the artsy Roma district. North. While you’re there, stop by Hugo El Winebar, a new spot specializing in natural wines.
“It’s one of those places where you invariably run into someone you know and end up joining the tables. It’s the best,” she exclaims.
But she also recommends having a cocktail at the bar of the most chic hotel in town, the Four Seasons. “It’s a scene – editors, artists, creatives. I always recommend it to friends visiting the city,” she said.
Wherever you drink, hunt down mezcal made by Yola’s all-female team, or Mexico’s first-ever whiskey, Abasolo; the latter’s open-air distillery, about an hour from CDMX, has just started offering tasting tours to the public.
Stay at the brand new, minimalist seven-bedroom Octavia Casa, a new Condesa hotel from the eponymous womenswear brand, or Casa Teo.
“It’s just above Enrique Olvera’s Ticuchi bar, which serves great food,” she said. “It’s very well located and super beautiful.”
An old gay time
CDMX-born PR powerhouse Adolfo Lopez Serrano Reyes, owner of Base Agecy, lived all over the world before being drawn to her home. Unlike its former home, Berlin, this city retains one more powerful asset than any other: affordability.
“It’s one of the last livable world capitals for artists and creatives,” he said.
It also encourages immigration, which adds texture, richness and often unexpected delights – like Dooriban by Mama Park at Doctores, a restaurant opened by a Mexican-born Korean vet and his partner when the pandemic cut the wings of hospitality. They started cooking kimchi at home, using family recipes, and it was so popular that they just opened a permanent location a few weeks ago.
CDMX has long had a thriving LGBTQ+ scene that shares the same neighborhood as the Korean community, Colonia Juarez, specifically the so-called Zona Rosa.
“He’s been very progressive, historically, including the adoption of marriage equality over a decade ago,” Reyes said.
He recommends checking out the new cafe, bar and plant shop mashup, Cafe Pacifico or dancing at Centro’s La Purísima, “a nearly abandoned queer dive bar featuring religious iconography and provocative neon signs. as decoration.” For more gay fun, there’s the traveling party Pervert and the even hotter Technomen – check their social media for the next date and location.
But at OD on Art, he suggests visiting during the Zona Maco art fair, when the city’s cultural scene is at its liveliest, especially after last year’s pandemic edition. In early February, he will transform the city, along with other pop-ups like his client Salon Cosa, into a shoppable assortment at the best of contemporary design.
State of the art
Estonian-born Age Salajõe co-founded traveling gallery Masa three years ago, and it quickly became CDMX’s coolest cultural asset. It’s the spirit of collaboration that sets Mexico City apart, she said.
“If you have great ideas, people are excited to connect – art, fashion, design – everyone is united,” she said.
Nothing epitomizes this better than the soon-to-open LAGO: OMR Gallery has co-opted the groovy modernist building on a lake in the Chapultepec Forest that was once a beachfront restaurant and will soon be rebooting it as a center for public art, with a cocktail bar, restaurant and workshop space.
Thai-Peruvian-influenced fusion restaurant Choza in Roma Norte is another standout — try the green mango salad; there is a huge collection of vinyl music which forms the backdrop to most parties.
“It doesn’t become a party but you don’t have to go to a club,” Salajõe said. Have “the best comedy breakfast” at Expendio de Maíz Sin Nombre and indulge in classic Italian at the new Polpo, co-owned by Massimo Botttura-trained chef Marco Carboni.
As for shopping, pilgrimage to the micro-boutique by appointment run by curator, writer, and unofficial CDMX cool Pied Piper Su Wu, Casa Ahorita (“The Home of Now-ish”) — check out his Insta for updates.
Came and take it
“The creative arts scene is small, but it’s getting bigger, so you can get big very quickly,” said Mexico City-born photographer Ana Hop.
She suggests taking a snapshot of what’s hot by strolling down Calle Havre, the leafy pedestrian street in the heart of Colonia Juarez that’s lined with trendy restaurants, shops and bars. For example, stop by Mexican-made menswear at Casa Caballeria and grab a snack at all-day Café Nin, run by celebrity chef Elena Reygadas—the croissants are the height of Paris.
She has two new addresses on her must-have list: the wood-fired Mediterranean menu at Taverna and Botanico.
“It’s in a house, so it’s very cozy, not like a huge restaurant — and you can meet people too,” Hop said.
She also devotes herself to breakfasts at Niddo, a Middle Eastern spot that reflects the city’s long-standing diversity: drop by the kitchen to try a punchy shakshuka in the small space.
“Chef Karen is Jewish but was born in Mexico,” she said. “This place is always full.”
Browse a world-class assortment of local and international magazines at Casa Bosques Bookstore, Hop’s favorite haunt. Casa Polanco, which opens in March, will also be a new can’t-miss crashpad: a 19-suite reboot of an aristocratic 1940s mansion at the heart of Tony Polanco.