Vibrant, busy, loud, colorful: Nothing quite compares to the bustling streets of Mexico City, and for food lovers the buzzing metropolis is a dream come true. Eat a world-class meal, then soak up the sights while you build up your appetite. Here’s our itinerary for a perfect weekend in Mexico City.
Fresh Pastries, Modern Museums & A Long, Leisurely Lunch
You’ll start your day at Downtown Habita, an artsy hotel near the historic center of Mexico City. The hotel’s thoughtful interior design blends elements of modern style and local, indigenous culture, all within one of the oldest colonial residences in the area. From murals in the stairwell to the vertical garden in the restaurant, you won’t have to go far to find your trip’s first Instagram.
For breakfast, walk to Pastelería Ideal, a cavernous bakery founded in 1927. In the mornings it is buzzing with delivery people and office assistants filling boxes with traditional Mexican pastries. Grab a tray and pick up a few conchas for breakfast; the sugar-crusted bread is tender and sweet, and it won’t be the last version of this traditional treat you’ll have on your trip. If you’re curious, head upstairs to take a peek at the veritable museum of Mexican wedding, birthday and quinceañera cakes—multi-tiered masterpieces of frosting.
From there, stroll over to the Zócalo (also known as the Plaza de la Constitución), where, you’ll have the surreal experience of gazing at the ruins of prehispanic temples from the 1300s at the Templo Mayor, Museo y Zona Arqueològica while listening to the sounds of modern city traffic all around you. Across the square, stop into the Palacio Nacional to take in epic Diego Rivera murals, painted in the early 1930s, that illustrate the history of Mexico.
By now you’ll have built up an appetite, so be sure to reserve a table at the ultra-popular Contramar restaurant. To eat at Contramar is to understand the tradition of the long, lingering Mexican lunch: The restaurant is only open from noon to 6:30 (peak lunch times) and is generally teeming with stylish business men and women enjoying a convivial lunch hour…make that hours. But beyond the people watching, the real star here is Chef Gabriela Cámara’s fish-focused menu that makes the most of Mexico’s two coastlines with a wide range of seafood. Order the fish with two sauces or the tuna tostadas and whatever else catches your eye—just be sure to save room for the tray of desserts the waiter will bring around at the end of the meal.
Finally, head to the city’s ritzy Polanco district to peep a museum (or two) and eat at another transcendent restaurant. Start with Museo Júmex, an internationally known contemporary art museum. The standout sawtooth structure houses cutting-edge work of Mexican artists such as Gabriel Orozco, as well as other stalwarts of the global art scene like Jeff Koons. Plus, it’s just across the street from the gleaming, Museo Soumaya, an undulating aluminum structure that’s hard to miss.
When you’re ready for dinner, it’s time for Chef Jorge Vallejo’s Quintonil, also in the Polanco neighborhood. This high-end restaurant, named after the Spanish word for amaranth greens, serves locally inspired, innovative meals with an elegant, upscale flair. Vallejo, an alumn of the Mexican fine-dining establishment Pujol, pushes boundaries with a menu that’s constantly being reinvented and his commitment to local, sustainable food means you’ll try plenty of fresh produce you may have never even heard of before.
An Authentic Breakfast, a Market to Explore and European-Inspired Meals to Remember
You only have to walk a few blocks from your hotel to find the mecca of Mexican breakfast: El Cardenal. A busy street entrance gives way to a quiet, elegant second story dining room with stained glass windows. Choose a melt-in-your-mouth pan dulce from the basket of breads the waiter presents, and slather it with nata, the thickened cream that develops when raw milk is boiled. Then, order the chilaquiles verde con pollo—chips, chicken and cheese in a spicy and fresh green sauce that is brought to your table bubbling hot in traditional stoneware.
After breakfast you’re on to another eating adventure: San Juan Market. One of the biggest and most colorful food markets in the city, San Juan Market is a complex maze of Mexican ingredients: Sort through piles of fragrant dried chiles, get lost in the heirloom beans, and discover mind-blowing new fruit such as the tropical, custardy cherimoya, nutty mamey or subtly spiced chicozapote. It’s best to take a market tour with a guide (we recommend a tour from Eat Mexico) who can provide context and hook you up with samples of most foods.
After a day exploring the market, the simple, seasonal fare at Rosetta will make a big impact. Here, internationally trained chef Elena Reygadas sources most of her ingredients from small purveyors across Mexico to create an Italian-inspired menu that draws a well-heeled crowd of locals into the airy, trellised dining room. Settle in for yet another multi-course lunch, this time with standout homemade pastas and unrivaled fresh focaccia, both made in-house. Afterwards, stroll through the leafy streets of the Colonia Roma neighborhood to Parque España where you can watch dog trainers and their dutiful students as you rest on a shaded bench.
When you’re ready, hop into a cab and head to Museo Frida Kahlo, the bright, cobalt-blue house on the outskirts of Mexico City where renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was born, lived and died. Now a museum, it is still scattered with the artists personal belongings and touching mementos of her life, from jewelry and outfits to photos and kitchen tools. It all adds up to a moving house museum in a personal space that’s just as expressive as her world-famous art.
You won’t want to leave Mexico City without a meal from chef Eduardo García. Go for dinner at his rustic, European-influenced Maximo Bistrot Local or, for something more casual, his pizza spot Lalo!, which features a bright mural by Belgian street artist Dave Derop and a long, communal table that sparks conversation between strangers—the perfect way to enjoy your final meal in Mexico City.
I definitely second the motion for Pasillo de Humo. As a Mexico City local, the restaurant is my favorite in the city. Headed up by young genius chef Alam Méndez Florián, combines the traditional recipes he learned from his mother, a Mexican traditional cook, plus years of experience refining techniques in some of the best European restaurant kitchens. The combination makes for exquisite Oaxacan food presented beautifully. Make a reservation and by all means go, whether it’s for breakfast, for comida (Mexico’s main midday meal), or for a late supper.
Great article! I’m from Mexico City and I’ll also recommend the restaurant “Pasillo de Humo” en la Condesa for some excellent Moles Oaxaquenos.
I am mexican and live in Guadalajara (second largest city in the country).My husband and I, love very much spending long weekends in México city and I adore going downtown, it is so incredible.
I am really wonderfully surprised at the way you described what to eat, do and see.You selected some of the most incredible restaurants, we always go to Quintonil and also to Rosetta, but to tell the truth, México city has so many excellent ones that have received many awards like Pujol, that is an experience not to miss, (you will have to make a reservation well in advance). And don’t miss the street food¡
And what to say of the museums? There are hundreds very interesting ones.Thank you so much for highlighting México city. And last, mexican people are very warm and friendly.