Visiting Mexico City: Part Two takes us to some of the most interesting parts of the city: Chapultepec, Polanco, Zona Rosa and Colonias Condesa and Roma.
Chapultepec Park, the “Central Park” of Mexico City, and its ritzy neighbor Polanco also deserve a day or two of exploration. The castle at the top of the hill overlooking the park and the city is where Emperor Maximilian and his crazy wife Carlota lived in the 1860s, and where they now have historical exhibits on display. You can spend hours walking through the park, past the lakes and ponds or sitting and having an agua fresca while watching the people go by. Do not miss the Anthropology Museum, worth at least a good portion of your day. And include the Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art, which has an amazing restaurant for lunch in the park!
I am not a huge shopper so the shopping aspect of Polanco is lost on me. For those that are fans of shopping, Polanco is where you will find the likes of Tiffany, Vuitton, Cartier, Crate & Barrel, Saks and others. It is also where many of the city’s finest restaurants are located; world-famous spots such as Pujol and Biko. The big-name luxury hotels are also here, but there are also some cute boutique hotels and B&Bs available as well, if a chain hotel is not your style. Near the Crate & Barrel you will find the Jumex Museum, a new addition to the contemporary art scene and the Aquarium. Take a picture of the outside of the over-the-top Soumaya museum, but unless you have extra time, the museum itself is not worth the effort.
The Zona Rosa, or Pink Zone, used to be the place to be in the 70s and 80s but has become a little seedier in the last few years. It is the new gay area of the city and on Saturdays they have an amazing antique market all through the streets of the zone. You can walk to the Zona Rosa from Polanco through Chapultepec Park and if you love history, the Hotel Geneve is a great option. This 100-year hotel has welcomed many famous guests, including Porfirio Diaz and Winston Churchill. They also welcomed me last year for one night and my stay was charming. Great bar!
In colonias Condesa and Roma, think man-buns, beards, Trotsky spectacles and lots of people walking dogs. The oh-so-hip colonias (neighborhoods) of Condesa and neighboring Roma are reminiscent of the West Village and Soho areas of Manhattan or Williamsburg in Brooklyn. There seems to be a park every few blocks and boutiques, restaurants, cafes and cute hotels line the streets. This area is super-walkable and safe at all hours.
I like to choose my Condesa-Roma day on a day when I am resting from a big walking or museum day. I dally over cups of espresso, reading my book and again, lots of people watching. There is a great bookstore called the Pendulum that has a coffee shop, tables and comfy chair for reading. They are even open on Sundays.
I carefully plan my lunches and dinners as the restaurants in this zone are some of the finest and most coveted in the city. Maximo Bistrot and Rosetta are my two favorites and prior reservations are a must. I like Maximo best for lunch – they have the same menu but it is less crowded and more relaxed.
There is a great bar in Roma called Lilit and in Condesa, the rooftop of the new Parque Mexico hotel is a great place to meet before dinner. Have a special vodka at Specia and, if you stay to eat, the whole duck is their specialty. The Red Tree House is a great B&B but really hard to get into because it is so popular. I have stayed at Condesa D.F. a few times and like it a lot and will be trying the Hotel Parque Mexico on my next visit.
Finally, don’t leave without doing a taco or street food tour. The best one I have found is Eat Mexico, founded by Lesley Tellez, an expert on street food in Mexico City. The tour in the Roma-Condesa area is great and additional tours in the food markets in the city also are offered. If you have the chance, do not miss this one.