With its juxtaposition of centuries-old history and a modernity that includes buzzy restaurants and bars and an ever-growing contemporary fashion and arts scene, Mexico City ranks as one of the world’s most fascinating metropolises. Founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1521 on the location where the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan once stood, it’s among the largest cities globally. It’s also a center of business, with international trade topping $30 billion. Sharply designed high-rise buildings exist alongside 15th- and 16th-century landmarks and food stalls hawking tamales, tacos and other local specialties. Then there are the verdant parks, most notably Chapultepec, Latin America’s largest and twice as big as Central Park. The Mexican capital is a destination where the past and present collide in a way that captures visitors time and time again.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Mexico City’s center is home to more than 1,500 buildings of historical significance. If you want to understand the city’s past as the old capital of the Aztecs and what has transpired since, here is where you start. Zócalo, the largest square in Latin America, is the beating heart, anchored by the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace. It’s an area ripe for discovery and best explored by walking.
Located in the vibrant Polanco neighborhood next to picturesque Lincoln Park, Casa Polanco is situated in a 1940s neoclassical mansion that feels more like a home than a hotel. With just 19 rooms, it has an eye on design and was restored with its historical details by the celebrated local architect Claudio Gantous. Amenities include an intimate spa, library and park-facing terrace. Don’t miss the museum-quality collection of contemporary Mexican art on display throughout the property and the delicious house-made spread at breakfast.
Ranked on the list of The World’s 50 Best Bars, Handshake is a stunner of a speakeasy with an art deco aesthetic and sophisticated, old-world feel. All the cocktails are creative and delicious, but if you must pick one, the bestseller Mexi-Thai, crafted with coconut tequila, lime distillate, tomato cordial and basil oil, is a must. The menu also features an impressive collection of rare vintage spirits—imbibe on them on their own or in a drink. A 70-year-old amaro, anyone?
Founded by the Mexican billionaire and philanthropist Carlos Slim, the Soumaya Museum houses more than 66,000 works of art spanning 30 centuries. Standouts include pieces by Mexican superstar artists such as Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo and the largest collection of Auguste Rodin casts of sculptures outside France. Picasso, da Vinci, Matisse and van Gogh are also among the artists on display. The silver hexagon-lined building is part of the attraction and a fine example of notable architecture.
There’s a reason why Nicos has been around for more than 60 years and continues to be a local favorite that’s packed night after night: The food that emerges from the kitchen is authentic Mexican fare at its best and pays homage to traditional recipes that have been forgotten in the wake of new food trends. Chef Gerardo Vazquez Lugo relies on small producers to supply the ingredients for his outstanding dishes. Stars include a classic Baja ceviche, the pork-belly and watercress taco and the trio of gorditas served with handmade salsas.