l’a travels | mexico city

Mexico City travel guide from l'aviva home

Our city ‘cheat sheets’ are versions of the notes I send to friends when they are going to a city I know and love. x laura aviva

Updated: November 2021

CAFÉ NIN (formally a Panadería Rosetta) in Juárez. Chef Elena Reygadas nails baked goods and beyond. Running alongside the tiny two-storied space is a very pretty serene patio corridor, which is a great place to sit and linger—and there’s now seating outside in front, too. There’s also a PANADERÍA ROSETTA in Roma Norte.
LALO! A single long communal table occupies the entire room. The vibe is playful and happy, and everything on the menu hits the mark. (Most especially the chilaquiles and the house-made panes.) Chef Eduardo ‘Lalo’ Garcia also has other restaurants around town, including MÁXIMO BISTRO and HAVRE 77 .

MOLINO EL PUJOL, Enrique Olvera’s tortilleria (with a limited menu of all-corn-all-the-time based snacks), and SAINT PANADERÍA for baked goods next door.

Market eating is also a great bet. There are many (see notes further on), but I especially love the ease of MERCADO MEDELLÍN in Roma, where there’s a food court, and multiple stands with a range of good coffee options.

For street eats, keep an eye out for vendors selling tacos de canasta (basket tacos). Here, and with any street eats, the goal is to find stands that have long lines and ideally a range of ages–that’s always a good way to gauge.

CONTRAMAR Ground zero for daytime eating in CDMX. Head here for a long comida, ideally around 3pm on a Friday. It’s the ultimate place for Mexico City people-watching, and the seafood-centric menu continues to more than hold its own all these many years later. (If you are not able to nab a reservation in advance, opting to sit at the bar significantly cuts wait time).
I can’t rave strongly enough about the newish MI COMPA CHAVA in Roma—my hands down favorite meals during my most recent visit. Sinaloa-style seafood in a big, boisterous, open space. You’ll have to wait for a table, but it will be worth it. Order, especially, the aquachiles and the tostadas.
DON VERGAS in Colonia Cuauhtemoc is also a really good bet for Sinaloan-style seafood, in a much more casual setting. (Previously in Mercado San Juan, where the other market vendors weren’t thrilled with the insane lines he attracted).
MASALA Y MAÍZ In Colonia Juárez, a mix of Indian and African and Mexican, to wash down with natural wines. The food is overall remarkably delicious and fun. Also on the natural wine-front + eats in the neighborhood is AMAYA from Jaír Telléz.

EXPENDIO DE MAÍZ: Interesting, playful, experimental—and often delicious (I’ve been a wee bit less charmed on recent visits, but still love the idea). There’s no menu—you just settle and they feed you until you tell them to stop.

And if you can’t score a seat at one of the tables at Expendio, you can step next door to EL PARNITA—very casual and easy-going, this is my go-to for everyday goodness. Order the quesadillas con frijoles, and tacos, tacos, tacos.

NICOS Forever on my list. (And am yet to make it). I hear it’s a must.
Where to eat in Mexico City Masala y Maiz and Pujol
Overall, dinner’s less compelling than lunch in CDMX. (It’s a long-lunch town).

I really like HAVRE 77 in Juárez (in large part because of the design and good feel, and I especially like the casual oyster bar at the back), which is Lalo Garcia’s spin on Mexi-French. I was in to EM (which is in the old Máximo Bistro space) when there on a recent visit. And I thought HUGO WINE BAR in Condesa (small bites, natural wines) was pretty delicious.

PUJOL From a pure design perspective, the space is a total dream – beyond stunning. Both the outside drink lounging area and the interior restaurant area — I couldn’t love more. For a meal, I would say that the taco omakase bar is the way to go.

MÁXIMO BISTRO French techniques, Mexican ingredients, in a cool new space designed by Charles de Lisle. QUINTONIL Somehow both upscale and low-key at the same time. The tasting menu gets a lot of attention here, but I prefer ordering straight from the menu. Ask for the back garden room.

Also: ROSETTA, LARDO (which is almost all bar, and great for solo-dining), and MEROMA.

There are thousands of taco stands in CDMX, and anywhere with a line signals good things. Some of my faves:
TACOS HOLA EL GÜERO Tiny, casual stand in Condesa, serving mostly guisado (stew) tacos.
TACOS ORINICO A chain of Monterrey-style tacos with various outposts around the city.
EL VILSITO An auto garage by day, this is the place for tacos al pastor at night.
EL HIDALGUENSE Get the barbacoa (lamb) tacos for breakfast or lunch on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Made from the fermented sap of an agave plant and known as the drink of the gods in Mexico, pulque is not for everyone. (And, truth be told, it’s not for me, but I approach it anew each time, hoping I’ll finally be won over). At LAS DUELISTAS, the pulque is poured from wooden barrels that sit in front of graffitied walls. It’s a strong bet for an old-school spot to try pulque in a range of different flavors.

BÓSFORO for mezcal in Centro.

By the bottle, I love the wine store VINOS CHIDOS, and MIS MESCALES for interesting, small batch Oaxacan mezcals.

MERCADO DE SAN JUAN This gourmet-esque market is great for spotting a range of exotic ingredients, like armadillo or Mexican bug delicacies (it’s definitely not a spot for the queasy). They’ve also got a great selection of Spanish and other international food stuffs.
MERCADO LA MERCED Mexico City’s largest and oldest market is sprawling. It’s almost impossible not to get lost. And most fun if you give in to doing so.
I also really like MERCADO DE COYOACÁN (in… Coyoacán), and MERCADO MEDELLÍN in Roma.
There are a handful of great local farmers markets (tiangus), on varying days of the week. I especially love the one in Condesa in front of Lardo on Tuesdays. And on Sundays, MERCADO el 100 is a small, sweet farmers market in Roma Sur, with nothing coming from more than 100 miles away.
BARRAGÁN MUSTS: A gazillion pictures of Luis Barragán’s Mexico City spaces will never capture the spriritual element to the way he played with light and shadow. On the list: CASA LUIS BARRAGÁN, CASA PEDEGRAL and CENTRO CULTURAL TETELÁN, along with CASA PRIETO LÓPEZ.

And if you can sneak into the gardens at CASA ORTEGA (a house designed by Barragán that’s next door to Casa Luis Barragán), they’re phenomenal.

I also love Legoretta’s CAMINO REAL hotel in Polanco, and the facade of the MATHIAS GOERITZ SYNAGOGUE. (Really, all things Mathias Goeritz.) A quick visit to DIEGO AND FRIDA’S HOME AND STUDIO is wholly worth it.

At KURIMANZUTTO GALLERY, the collections are definitely rivaled by the modern concrete and wood space. Infused with great light, it’s designed by the Mexican architect Alberto Kalach.


AGO PROJECTS is a newish exhibition and designer representation space in Reforma from Rodman Primack and Rudy Weissenberg, in a space designed by architect Tatiana Bilbao.

FUNDACIÓN MARSO is housed in a beautiful building in Juárez and hosts rotating galleries and showrooms within, including DIFANE (a new Mexican furniture design company) and PERLA VIVATIERRA (some of my favorite ceramic dishwares).

CHIC BY ACCIDENT (the store/gallery with the best name) is always worth a stroll-through.

CASA AHORITA is a new-ish store which is definitely worth a visit if it re-opens in CDMX.

DESIGN WEEK MEXICO takes place every October, and is ground zero for Mexican design. And the twice yearly (February and August) ZONA MACO, Mexico and Latin America’s preeminent art fair (think Art Basel) is prime-time for gallery hopping.
LA PLAZA DE GARIBALDI Mariachis gather in the plaza to play and to solicit gigs. If you’re craving a little late-night dive bar action, pop into SALON TENAMPA on the north side of the plaza for a serenade and a drink (or a few).
LUCHA LIBRE Kitsch and raucous beyond anything I’ve ever seen, it defies explanation. It’s taken very seriously by fans, who span generations. (I’ve witnessed coiffed grandmas screaming and taunting the wrestlers with a stream of tirades — apparently all in good fun). There’s truly nothing like catching it at the Arena Mexico on a Sunday (day), Tuesday (night) or Friday (night).
LA LAGUNILLA On Sundays, this flea market can be a total treasure trove. Go early, and shop for vintage clothing, jewelry and sunglasses, mid-century furniture, old cameras and lots of quirky Mexican kitch. If you take an Uber, have the driver drop you in front of Super Chedruai (market)—enter the address Gonzáles Bocanegra 48 (cross street Reforma) into the app.
XINÚ, a perfume company created Hector Esware and partners, is a magical wonderland of a space in Polanco that showcases the brand’s perfumes—and now candles, too. (And the space is pegged to Esware’s showroom, which is most definitely worth a stroll-around).
CASA BOSQUES bookstore is filled with design-savvy books and magazines. The space also contains a gallery and the ‘laboratory’ where they make CASA BOSQUES CHOCOLATES, a brand I have a small obsession with.
ONORA CASA A really lovely shop in Polanco, it’s owned by my friend Maggie Galton and her partner Maria Eladias. They work with artisans throughout Mexico, and their collections all have a beautiful, refined touch.
CHIC BY ACCIDENT (best name ever) in Roma is a favorite, too.
LA LAGUNA is an industrial complex in Cuauhtémoc that houses shops and showrooms including DECADA and LA METROPOLITANA, hunting grounds for both vintage new furniture.

I’m a big sucker for Mexican party supplies and paper goods. And the street Jesús Maria in Centro is filled with stores in this vein—LA ZAMORANA is the famous one (Gabriel Garcia Márquez apparently nicknamed it La Tienda de las Maravillas), but there are many just as good nearby. (And you can sneak in a taco stop at Los Paisas).

VICTOR ARTES POPULARES MEXICANAS Tucked away in a downtown building, this shop showcases a really thoughtful collection of folk art from all over Mexico. There’s a real sense of discovery in browsing/shopping here, with a range of handicrafts – both vintage and new – that you won’t find pulled together like this anywhere else.

BAZAR DEL SÁBADO in San Angel is worth a stroll-through if you want to get a folksy shopping hit. Have breakfast or lunch on either side at SAN ÁNGEL INN (it’s not about the food here, and definitely order a margarita).

XOCHIMILCO Tucked into the South of the city is a winding network of canals called Xochimilco, the last remnants of a vast water transport system built by the Aztecs. Within is a series of floating gardens referred to as chinampas. And in this area is a project from ARCA TIERRA—an agroecological community of farming families, chefs, food artisans… Some of the top CDMX restaurants source their produce from Arca Tierra, and the organization hosts both tours of the area and chef-driven events. It’s a super interesting project—follow their Instagram for event updates.

CASA ORGÁNICA An incredible house built by Javier Senosiain in 1985, it’s totally worth a see. 45 mintues or so outside of CDMX, and requires an advance reservation.

I’m also fascinated (but have never been) by LAS GRUTAS TOLANTONGO, a collection of hot springs built in to a cliff, surrounded by volcanic mountains. A 3-4 hour drive from CDMX, in Hidalgo.

IGNACIA GUEST HOUSE (in Roma), CASA DOVELA (in Condesa) and OCTAVIA CASA (in Cuauhtémoc), NIMA LOCAL HOUSE, and  CASA PANI: all stylish and warm and well-located.
CONDESA DF I took a hard-hat tour of this hotel before it opened in 2005, and I’ve been staying there ever since. Designed by India Madhavi for Grupo Habita, it’s one of my favorite places to play house.
DOWNTOWN and the newer CÍRCULO MEXICANO are also from Grupo Habita, and charmed spots to stay downtown, near the Zócalo. Downtown is located in a sprawling colonial-era palace (which also houses the restaurant Azul Histórico and a range of shops), and Círculo is in the former home of Manuel Álvarez Bravo (and has a restaurant by Gabriela Cámara). Both have incredible balcony spots with sprawling views.
LAS ALCOBAS A very grown-up, serene and luxurious option in Polanco, designed by Yabu Pushelberg.
where to stay in Mexico City Condesa DF
White ceramic pendant lights perfect for entryway lighting

Ceramic Pendant Lights

Handknotted Cotton Blankets

Black Clay Table Lamps