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If the world of travel has a current "it" destination, the former Aztec capital that is Mexico City easily claims the title. So when it came time to plan their first solo postbaby vacation (a second honeymoon, if you will), senior editor Brooke Porter Katz and her husband, Andrew, skipped the beach to experience the sprawling, bustling, colorful city known as CDMX. Here, she shares the highlights—proving that even a huge metropolis can make for an amazing romantic getaway.
Considering Mexico City for your honeymoon? Follow Porter Katz's guide for six incredible (and action-packed) days in this unique destination. She even breaks down where to stay, the best spots to eat, and every spot you have to see (plus, when to see them—down to the minute).
Day 1, 11 A.M.
But First, Lunch!
Our trip began with a two-hour delay out of New York, so it was late by the time we checked into the elegant Las Alcobas, A Luxury Collection Hotel (from $332 per night). Needless to say, our first day is off to a slow art. This city of about 9 million people is divided into distinct neighborhoods; we're staying north of Chapultepec park in Polanco, which is often compared to Beverly Hills. But shopping in upscale stores is not on the agenda—we're here to get lost in the city's buzzing energy, learn its rich history, and, of course, eat its incredible food.
Since we missed breakfast, it's straight to lunch at Contramar, chef Gabriela Cámara's ode to fresh seafood. We've forgotten that the afternoon meal here begins at 2 P.M. (and can last hours), but our rookie mistake means we have the breezy spot all to ourselves. An order of avocado-topped tuna tostadas and shrimp aguachile (a spicy ceviche) later, we set off on an ambitious two-mile-long walk, crossing a four-lane thoroughfare and winding through quiet streets to Casa Luis Barragán (reserve tours in advance). The plain exterior of the Pritzker Architecture Prize winner's house belies what's inside: saturated yellow and magenta walls, a floating aircase, a somewhat disorienting layout. I'm so tempted to turn left when the guide turns right—but alas, I resist.
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Day 2, 9:15 A.M.
We're early to meet Adrián, our guide from Eat Mexico, who is leading us on a street-food tour. It's just enough time for a walk around the block, where we happen upon an outpost of El Moro, the legendary churrería. One sugar-and-cinnamon-covered piece of crispy fried dough won't ruin our appetites, right? The first stop on our official gastronomic journey is an indoor market selling bright produce, just-butchered meat, and freshly made tortillas. Over the next few hours, we stroll outside from vendor to vendor, sampling everything from a carnitas taco and a pambazo sandwich (a white roll dipped in chile and spices, layered with chorizo, potatoes, cheese, lettuce, and crema) to a much-needed jugo verde, green juice of celery, orange, pineapple, parsley, and prickly pear. The grand finale: an old-school sweet shop filled with cases of candied limes, marzipan, and other sugary confections.
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Day 2, 2:30 P.M.
To counteract the marathon eating, we embark on another long walk, this time to Chapultepec, which—at 1,695 acres—is one of the largest urban green spaces in the Western Hemisphere. One step inside and you instantly forget it's in a city at all. In fact, it's straight out of a fairy tale, with meandering tree-lined paths that were made for hand-in-hand strolls; a lake where you can rent paddleboats; and an 18th-century castle, the former residence of Emperor Maximilian I and eight Mexican presidents.
The park is also home to the zoo, the Museo de Arte Moderno, and—our next stop—the Museo Nacional de Antropología. With ancient artifacts and informative displays spread across 23 exhibit rooms, it is the most in-depth and overwhelming museum I've ever seen. It doesn't help that we're tired—our current step tally is already well beyond the requisite 10,000—so we muster the energy for a whirlwind visit, soaking in as much as we can about the hunter-gatherers of 30,000 B.C. through the indigenous groups that settled in Mexico through 1521 A.D.
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Day 3, 8 A.M.
Step Back in Time
We arrive early to beat the crowds (and the heat) at Teotihuacán, an archaeological complex about 30 miles northeast of downtown. (We had a driver and guide, but you can easily take an Uber and go at it alone.) It's said that the site, which dates to the first century, had more than 25,000 residents during its heyday. As we approach the steep steps leading to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun (the biggest of the three main structures), we pass an altar, and our guide, José, tells us about the ceremonies that once took place, human sacrifices and all. Upon reaching the apex, more than 200 feet up, we find that we're the only two people there. Sitting side by side, we pause to take in the view—and the peace and quiet.
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Day 3, 2:30 P.M.
Falling in Love with Condesa
After the pyramids, it's straight to our next hotel, the stylish CondesaDF (from $325 per night). While the common areas pop with turquoise walls and animal prints, our room is as serene as it gets: flowy white curtains, white leather couch, white, well, almost everything. As much as we need a nap, the pull of the neighborhood is even stronger. Condesa, southeast of Chapultepec, lays the charm on thick: leafy streets, sidewalk cafés, cool boutiques, and a lively restaurant scene.
I peel off for some aimless solo exploring, starting with a few conchas (sweet bread rolls) from the bakery Maque. On a local's tip, I buzz at Taller Vargas, and Mariana, the designer herself, lets me in to browse her chic collection of blazers and dresses. Andrew and I meet up to swap tales over drinks at the dive-y, hidden mezcal bar La Clandestina, opting to trade sips of a refreshing cucumber-rosemary-mezcal cocktail and a straight shot of the strong stuff.
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Day 4, 4 P.M.
Discovering Centro Histórico
I never thought we'd be eating Lebanese food in Mexico, but here we are at the tucked-away Al-Andalus (Calle de Mesones 171), a spread of hummus, kibbe, and other meze before us. We've been exploring the historic area all day: people-watching in the zocalo (main square); staring in awe at Diego Rivera's murals in the Palacio Nacional; walking the chaotic, vendor-filled streets. Taking one last bite, we realize we have just enough time to freshen up before our reservation in Polanco at Enrique Olvera's new-and-improved Pujol, where the six-course menu rethinks traditional ingredients and the mole madre has been nurtured for, at press time, 1,266 days.
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Day 5, 11 A.M.
A Dose of Culture
One thing's for sure about the free-to-the-public Museo Soumaya: It makes a statement. The undulating building—covered in 16,000 shimmering aluminum tiles—tends to garner more attention than the art itself, which is owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's foundation. The breadth is certainly impressive, with 66,000 or so works from the likes of Titian, Picasso, and Dalí; Rodin sculptures occupy the sixth floor. Across the way sits the Museo Jumex. Founded by the heir to the Grupo Jumex fruit-juice empire, the David Chipperfield–designed space champions contemporary art through rotating exhibits; an Andy Warhol retrospective is now on view.
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Day 5, 2:30 P.M.
Getting to Know Juárez
Our final home is Hotel Carlota (from $150 per night), a design-forward property where the lobby-side pool has a Miami Beach vibe. (Request No. 310, one of the terraced suites.) The room isn't ready, so we set off to explore the nearby Juárez neighborhood. Among our discoveries: Fusión, a school-turned-artisan market selling natural soaps, wood jewelry, embroidered shoes, and other locally made goods. At the cool micromall Milán 44, we debate between an açai bowl and artisanal ice cream but decide to keep moving. A few more blocks bring us to Amaya, a restaurant and natural-wine bar from lauded chef Jair Téllez. After reading the menu, we vow to return for shareable dishes like grilled lettuce with hummus and sheep's-milk cheese.
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Day 6, 10 A.M.
The dramatic ups and downs of the artistic couple, who resided in the quiet district of Coyoacán, have been well documented. (If you haven't seen Frida, watch it before you go.) At the Museo Frida Kahlo (book online), the rooms inside the blue-walled house—where she lived most of her life until her death in 1954—have been frozen in time. And at Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, the functionalist buildings have also been preserved and are filled with paintings, masks, sculptures, and folk handcrafts. Too bad it's not a Saturday, when the nearby San Ángel bazaar takes place. On second thought, it's probably for the best: The only surefire way to guarantee that Andrew and I will fight is to shop for (i.e., disagree about) souvenirs.
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Day 6, 9:30 P.M.
A Night of Wrestling and Music
I'm drinking watery beer out of a plastic cup the size of my head, and we're so close to the ring that I can see sweat flying off the masked wrestlers. Welcome to a lucha libre match at Arena México. Cheesy, yes, but so much fun. After the final bell, our friend Tim (who lives in town) leads us via two subways to Plaza Garibaldi, where locals—friends, couples, families—go to hear mariachi bands. He seeks out a quintet to serenade Andrew and me, and as their soulful voices sing "Guadalajara,"
It's like we're the only ones there. When the song ends, it all comes back into focus: music all around us, the joy of people clapping, dancing, laughing. And I think, this is what we came here for.