As kids growing up in Texas, Mexico and Mexican culture always felt as much like home to us as anything American. We were practically weaned on the fantastically spicy food, and our summers were spent in San Miguel de Allende, Cuernavaca, and rented beach houses on the Gulf. Back then you didn’t need a passport to cross the border, and in high school and college we’d constantly crisscross between Austin and Nueva Laredo or Matamoros on weekends.
Getting older, we’ve become increasingly grateful to have been raised with such an ingrained awareness of Mexico’s ancient, complex, incredible culture. Its allure has only grown increasingly magnetic with time. Now that we are spending more of our days in Miami than New York, we are once again geographically too close to ignore its siren call, and are eager to again begin making regular pilgrimages back to this magical country. What better place to start than the capital, Mexico City – one of the biggest and most vibrant metropolises in the world?!
We checked in to the Downtown Mexico hotel, housed in a jaw-dropping 17th century palazzo that has been reimagined with a raw, industrial edge. Located in the Centro Historico, it is the ideal gateway to appreciating Mexican history and grandeur. Like so many of the great houses in Mexico, it is built around a central courtyard – the bottom tier of which has been turned over to Azul Histórico, a restaurant by chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, whom Time Magazine called the ‘prophet and preserver’ of Mexico’s culinary traditions. The food is beyond description – I’ve never had a better mole or elote in my life!
If you were to come to Mexico City but have time to do only one thing, make it a trip to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. Try to go early in the morning on a weekday, when you will have the museum practically to yourself – it’s the best possible way to soak in the Pedro Ramírez Vázquez-designed architecture and the immersive exhibits chronicling the country’s pre-Spanish Mayan and Aztec history.
ABOVE| exploring the museum wearing Stetson hat, Carolina K earrings, Onora Casa necklace, Goodbye Folk vintage shirt, Isabel Marant pants and MSGM shoes
BELOW| among the many unbelievable historical icons on display are the Aztec calendar stone, a boulder carved with an early pre-Columbian ‘diary’, reconstructions of the pyramid of the Aztec ruler Quetzalcóatl and a replica of a Mayan tomb Another crucial stop is Museo Tamayo (below), a brutalist, Aztec-influenced building designed by Abraham Zabludovsky and Teodoro González de León (who also created Mexico City’s muscular yet graceful Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo). Museo Tamayo puts on the best visiting exhibitions in town; when we were there we got to see an exhibition of the architect and sculptor Isamu Noguchi’s work in children’s play-spaces.Of course, a stop-off at Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul is also mandatory!Eating and shopping are my favorite ways to explore a new place. In Mexico City, you’ve got to have at least one lunch at Contramar (the most fabulous seafood in town!), and dinner at Pujol – where chef Enrique Olvera is revolutionizing Mexican cuisine by deconstructing both traditional recipes and street food, plated on contemporary ceramics created by young local designers.
If you are in town on a Sunday, hit the antique market at La Lagunilla; for Mexican handicrafts, look to Mercado de la Ciudadela. For contemporary designers, roam around the Roma neighborhood, and for the best-of-the-best, don’t even dare miss Onora Casa – where historian-turned-designer Maggie Galton collaborates with indigenous artisans to revive local handcraft traditions. I’d book a flight back just on the strength of this store alone!