Habitas Insider's Guide to Mexico City

Our Guide to Mexico City

By Casey Dienel
May 2, 2019

From the moment you arrive in Mexico City, cosmopolitan magic unlike any other place on earth is in the air. Currently undergoing a cultural renaissance, residents of CDMX will be the first to tell you how proud they are to call this densely beautiful place home. Markets teem with fresh nopales, antiques and all the necessities needed to cast a good-luck spell. From tacos to complex guisados, Mexico’s street food culture electrifies with ingredients indigenous to the region, while world-class chefs like Enrique Olivera and Elena Reyes are redefining Mexican cuisine on their terms. Innovation is baked into the city's DNA. Local legends like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are celebrated as fervently as the contemporary local artists breaking new ground at places like Galeria OMR.

Here, food is an art form, many of the museums are free, and getting around is quite affordable, either by metro, Uber or taxi. As with any city this populated—currently tallied at 20 million residents— traffic is to be expected, but the best way to enjoy your time here is to embrace its gentle chaos. With its riot of textures and color, there’s always something to capture the eye.

Here is our insider's guide to some of our favorite stops in Mexico City. Each time we travel here we witness the colors of the past blending with the shape of the future; it’s utterly enchanting. 

ART & CULTURE

MASA Galeria

Av. Paseo de las Palmas 1535  11000

Masa walks the blurry line between art and design. Collectible Design, Experimental Design. With digital, physical, and conceptual presence, MASA challenges convention and presents ideas on a global stage. With an effort to open up conversation and dialogue around material culture, MASA curates exhibitions offering work with integrity, direction, and value. MASA was founded in Mexico City by a collective of creatives -- Hector Esrawe, Cristobal Riestra, Age Salajoe, and Brian Thoreen -- whose backgrounds in art, design, and architecture are reflected in MASA’s presentation of design at its boundaries. 

Galeria OMR

Córdoba 100, Roma Nte., 06700

This contemporary gallery in one to watch in CDMX, located in Colonia Norte. The space is beautiful, and houses work from Julieta Aranda, James Turell, and Jose Davila, to name a few. Artist Yann Gerstberger, inspired by patterns traditional found in Mexican textiles, presents a beautiful exhibit of texture, hand-dyed fibers, and tapestries that evoke worlds straight out of a Jodorowsky picture.

Biblioteca Vasconelos

Mosqueta, Eje 1 Nte. S/N, Buenavista, 06350

Is this one of the most stunning libraries in the world? We like to think so. Situated in Buenavista, geometric towers of glass shelves rise high into the ceiling, this library is a sanctuary of playfully mismatched floors which allow us to get, quite literally, lost amongst the books. The effect is dizzying and hypnotic. 

Casa Barragan

Gral. Francisco Ramírez 12-14, Ampliación Daniel Garza, Amp Daniel Garza, 11840

Architect Luis Barragan, one of the most influential voices of Mexican architecture, is widely recognized for his use of flat planes, shadows, and vibrant colors. At this museum, housed in a building that from the outside feels nondescript, one enters into a dark hallway before being introduced to the saturated pink walls he made famous. Located in the Miguel Hidalgo district, the house was once Barragan’s primary residence and still houses his personal objects. 

TAQUERIAS & STREET FOOD

Jenni The Quesadilla Lady

Colima 112a, Roma Nte., 06700

From a nondescript location on the northwest corner of Colima and Merida, Jenni makes the single best quesadillas in the area. There’s no sign, just a deep griddle churning out pambazos made from blue corn, sopes, and, of course, the heavenly quesadillas. Look out for ones with squash blossom or mushrooms in the filling. You’ll be dreaming of them for years to come. Cash only. 

Taqueria Orinoco

Insurgentes Sur 253, Roma Nte., 06700

If you’re craving tacos after midnight, this bright taqueria in Roma is for you. Don’t be alarmed by the wait; the line moves quickly. Monterrey-style tacos are served on the fly, featuring Northern riffs featuring cuts like rib-eye steak and pastor. The chicharron tacos are totally out of the world, and unlike anything else, you’ll find in the city. 

Restaurante Nicos

Av. Cuitláhuac 3102, Claveria, 02080

Come for the guacamole and caesar salad, prepared tableside by the expert waitstaff, and stay for the cafe de olla service, where coffee beans are ground to order and served with sugar and spices in a gorgeous clay pot. To eat here is to experience a celebration of Mexico’s most profound culinary heritage, from the local sourcing of the nixtamal used to make heavenly tortillas and tamales to the laid-back yet attentive service. Go for lunch, if you can, and enjoy one of the city’s finest vantage points for people-watching.

Fonda Margarita

Adolfo Prieto 1364 B, Tlacoquemecatl del Valle, 03100

The ideal hangover remedy can be found here, at this breakfast-only outpost. Order the frijoles con negros, the kind of only-in-Mexico dish dreams are made of, where black beans are cooked in lard and mixed with scrambled egg. Beat the crowds by getting an early start, and keep an eye out for Margarita, who can be seen manning the clay pots of pasilla-rich guisado simmering over coals. Get here early, as food sometimes runs out by 10 am. Cash only.

El Hidalguense

Campeche 155, Roma Sur, 06760

We have just two words for you: lamb barbacoa. Not just any barbacoa. This gem serves up the very best barbacoa around. This family-owned spot is located in La Roma and only open on weekends. Lamb is slow-roasted, Hidalgo-style, overnight in a pit fired by aged oak. Once the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, the lamb is served in tacos alongside a consomme so richly complex you might consider packing your things and moving to Mexico City permanently. Aim to get there early, as food is served first come, first serve. Once they’ve run out, they close for the day. Cash only. 

THE CLASSICS

Rosetta - Restaurant & Panaderia

Colima 166, Roma Nte., 06700

In the morning, kick things off at the restaurant’s sister bakery, then return for a life-affirming dinner. Chef Elena Reygadas takes Mexican pastry classics and serves them with unexpected twists, such as the cardamom bun or warm pastelitos de guayaba, a danish with an irresistible guava filling. Inside the restaurant, hand-painted vines and wildflowers grow up the walls in a romantic setting. Make a stop here for dishes with an Italian flavor filtered through the lens of Mexico’s incredible seasonal produce. Reserve ahead of time for dinner. 

Contramar

Alle de Durango 200, Roma Nte., 06700

Pull up a seat, order a round of Palomas and tuna tostadas, and treat yourself to some of the city’s most excellent seafood, located in Condesa. Everything from the ceviche to the red-and-green grilled snapper is made with the highest caliber of ingredients, all created under the steady guidance of chef Gabriela Camara. The best time to go is at lunch before the crowds descend at dinnertime. Reservations are encouraged. 

Maximo Bistrot

Tonalá 133, Roma Nte., 06700

A refined Mexican twist on French dishes can be found at this cozy, serene bistro in the Cuauhtemoc District. Farm-to-table is the name of the game here, and the best of Mexico’s abundant produce makes delightfully unexpected appearances throughout the menu. Chef Eduardo Garcia is one of Mexico’s most prominent chefs, and before opening this restaurant was chef de cuisine at Pujol. His cooking is thoughtful, balanced, and immensely beautiful. If they’re serving papparadelle that day, you’d be wise to order it. Pro tip: be sure to hit up Lalo!, their space across the street, for one of the best brunches in town.

Pujol

Tennyson 133, Polanco, Polanco IV Secc, 11550

For a unique journey through the future of Mexican cuisine, look no further. Enrique Olivera, chef and founder of Pujol, is credited for shedding light on the innovation inherent to Mexican cooking. Similar to the way’s Rene Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen has brought attention to the beauty of Scandinavian cuisine, Pujol tells of Mexico’s gastronomic legacy on the plate. The food here is a work of art. Expect a tasting menu of astounding ambition yet comforting flavor profiles, and mole served in multiple iterations on the same plate, all incorporating ingredients indigenous to Mexico. Blink, and you’ll miss the fantastic taco omakase served only at the bar. Reserve ahead of time. 

MARKETS

Mercado el 100

Calle Orizaba S/N, Cuauhtémoc, Roma Sur

This open-air market embodies the very best of Mexican cuisine, and at this one, everything is sourced within a 100-mile-radius and directly supports local farmers and vendors. Drop by for the insanely fresh produce, everything from raw cacao to fruits rarely seen in traditional shopping markets, and be sure to pick up a few delicious mole blends to taste Mexico back home with you. If you see the stall with rabbit tacos, get in line ASAP.  

Mercado de Cayoacan

Ignacio Allende s/n, Del Carmen, 04100

Make like Frida Kahlo and many artists before here by venturing to the massive two-story market in Cayoacan. To understand CDMX’s cultural DNA the bustling markets are the ticket. Stalls offer Mexican arts and crafts, delicious snacks, and a window into the diversity of Mexico’s beautiful produce. We love their smoothies and fresh-squeezed juices, and just a stone’s throw away you’ll find the famed Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s childhood home and museum. Buy your tickets ahead of time and scoot over there after wandering through the Mercado.

Mercado Sonora

Fray Servando Teresa de Mier 419, Merced Balbuena, 15810

Lovingly referred to as the witchcraft market, this is where all the locals go for help in the esoteric realm. To immerse yourself fully, explore the interior corridors filled with everything from love potions to herbal remedies for the common cold or stress. There are colorful candles and soaps to attend to pretty much any ailment or need you could think of, and plenty of healers on hand to assist you with tarot or spiritual cleansing rituals. 

La Langunilla

López Rayón 46, Lagunilla, Centro, 06000

Since Mexico’s pre-hispanic history, the Aztecs gathered to sell and trade their used items in open markets called tiangunis, or flea markets. The public market is divided into three parts, each of which is excellent. Come here for a superb selection of mid-century furniture, home goods, vintage clothing, and jewelry. There are a few vinyl stalls worth checking out, incredible poster art and musical instruments. As an aside, the best way to peruse the scene is with an icy cold michelada in one hand. Open Sundays. 

MEZCAL & COCKTAILS

Bósforo

Luís Moya 31, Centro Histórico 06000,

Tucked away in Centro Historico lies this dark and bustling dive bar with one of the more extensive selections of mezcal in the city. Many of the bottles are unlabeled, but the staff is more than happy to walk you through the story of each one. Pro tip: help yourself to the unbelievably delicious roast peanuts. The perfect companion snack. Order a quesadilla at the bar and the restaurant next door will deliver it to you. 

Felina Bar

Calle Ometusco 87, Hipódromo, 06100

The secret’s out: Condesa is hip. But there’s something about Felina that feels hidden away and special. Rum is the thing to order here, but the mezcal selection is impressive, and the bartenders make artful cocktails with creative pairings and infusions. It’s a great spot to grab a drink before heading out for the evening. 

El Palenquito

Av. Álvaro Obregón 39, Roma Nte., 06700

Immerse yourself in the full mezcalaría experience at this welcoming bar. Order a few different kinds of mezcal served alongside wedges of orange so you can taste the full range of the agave the owners source primarily from small-producers in Oaxaca. Don’t forget to try their chapulinas, or fried grasshoppers, which are the ideal salty accompaniment to the smoky spirit. 

Salon Covadonga

Puebla 121, Roma Nte., 06700

This cantina in Roma Norte is like stepping back in time into a dive that’s been left pretty much as-is for the last fifty years. During the day, old men frequent the space to play dominoes and watch the latest fútbol game on the television, but by 7 pm the speed picks up around the bar, where the beer and mezcal are plentiful. Spanish-style favorites are on offer here, and they’re all homey and inviting, but the octopus with potatoes is a particular delight.