The way to the heart of Mexico City is through your stomach. Boasting several restaurants ranked among the best in the world, the sprawling megalopolis is best experienced through its many flavors. It doesn’t hurt that the exchange rate is about 18.50 pesos to the dollar, enabling budget-conscious travelers to eat like royalty.
A world away from the beaches of Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico’s capital spans a metropolitan area of about 25 million people, all of whom seem to be trying to merge into the same lane of traffic at once. When you finally make it into town, head for the Polanco and Roma neighborhoods to delight your palate at any number of highly rated restaurants.
Famed for its tuna tostadas and other creative seafood, chef Gabriela Cámara’s Contramar is a study in controlled chaos. With the kitchen closing at 6:30 p.m. on weeknights and 8 on Fridays and Saturdays, the staff flits about taking orders and delivering food at a breakneck pace. Waiters carry extra tables and chairs in or out with a practiced precision, noticed but not spoiling the ambiance. They have the routine so down pat that you can be sat, served and out the door in 45 minutes feeling completely satisfied with the experience.
For a slower pace, chef Jorge Vallejo’s Quintonil, Restaurant magazine’s No. 22 restaurant in the world, offers a fixed 11-course tasting menu or a la carte options such as crab tostadas, charred avocado tartare and crispy suckling pig tacos. Lunch can easily last two hours, but it’s your vacation, why not enjoy yourself?
Tucked on a residential street – a source of great annoyance to some of the neighbors, who have posted signs imploring eaters to stay away – chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol is ranked No. 20 in the world Restaurant. The six-course tasting menu begins with a take on street snacks, soft corn cobs served in smoldering embers. From there, each of the next three courses offers sure to please everyone from vegetarians to the most ardent meat eaters. The fifth course features aged mole madre and mole nuevo, a welcome light respite after the indulgence of the earlier courses. After dessert, you won’t have room for it, but you’re getting a churro anyway. Better bring your extra loose pants.
To burn off all those calories, take a stroll in Bosque de Chapultapec, the world’s largest urban park. Or venture farther afield to the Zocalo in the historic center where the Spanish colony was founded. Go further back in time with a tour of the Aztec pyramids at Teotihuacan, about an hour northeast of town. Roaming the vast complex and climbing the pyramids of the Sun and Moon, you’ll get your number of steps in for the day in no time and return to Mexico City hungry for more.
WHERE TO STAY:
Las Alcobas: Las Alcobas offers warm hospitality in an upscale, urban setting. Its envied location along Masaryk Avenue, the heart of the city’s chicest district, is reason enough to stay. Add thoughtful touches such as welcome refreshments and the services of a personal host — a sort of butler who’ll, say, make your airline reservations or prepare a bath ritual — and you’ll never want to leave. Let acclaimed Chef Marta Ortiz nourish you with fresh, flavorful cuisine in signature restaurant Dulce Patria, or savor Chef Justin Ermini’s impeccable farm-to-table concept in Anatol’s casual atmosphere. And don’t forget a healing treatment at the Aurora Spa.
The St. Regis Mexico City: Rising nearly 500 feet from Paseo de la Reforma and with floor-to-ceiling windows, The St. Regis Mexico City is a stunning jewel in an ideal location from which to explore Mexico City. A dedicated St. Regis Butler welcomes you to one of 189 exquisitely appointed guestrooms and suites envisioned by the acclaimed design studio Yabu Pushelberg. Indulge yourself with the Prehistoric Agave Ritual Treatment at the 10,000-square-foot Remède Spa, work out in the St. Regis exercise room or swim laps in the 15th-floor indoor pool. Head to Diana Restaurant for contemporary Mexican cuisine or enjoy the breathtaking view from the King Cole Bar.
Four Seasons Hotel, Mexico, D.F.: Housed in a hacienda-style building with a fountain courtyard, the fully refurbished Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, D.F. is an oasis within the busy city it calls home. The 240-guestroom hotel, near the upscale Polanco neighborhood, features peaceful gardens with a fire pit area and singing birds; book a Premier Room with a balcony or a terrace for even more tranquillity. Slip away to Fifty Mils, one of the top bars in the city, where locals gather for extravagant cocktails in a sophisticated lounge ambience that opens to the central courtyard with dramatic views. You’re within walking distance of Chapultepec Park and Castle and top museums.