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Trip Ideas

10 Cool Things to Do in Mexico City

Unless you look closely, you’d never know that Mexico City suffered a devastating earthquake last September—and in the hardest hit neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa, visitors continue to flock to the ever-growing array of cafés, restaurants, bars, shops and galleries. Indeed, there's never been a better time to visit, thanks to the city's designation as this year’s World Design Capital (a first for a city in the Americas).

See recent posts by Brooke Porter Katz

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Mexico City is known for its red-hot food scene—making it next to impossible to suggest just one place for a meal. So here are three we love, all run by alumni of Enrique Olvera’s outstanding Pujol. Eduardo García runs the show at Havre 77, a seafood-focused French spot in Cuauhtémoc with an impressive raw bar. (His two other projects, Lalo! and Máximo Bistrot Local, are also worth a visit.) At the hip Carlota hotel’s poolside restaurant, chef Joaquin Cardoso serves up dishes like grilled avocado with smoked eel and goat cheese granite. Finally, there’s Quintonil in Polanco—No. 22 on the 50 Worlds Best Restaurant list—where chef Jorge Vallejo is the mastermind behind a contemporary Mexican menu, available both a la carte and as a multi-course tasting.

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Plaza Garibaldi

Fair warning: this large square where mariachi bands gather to serenade onlookers can be a bit seedy. But keeping close tabs on your wallet is a small, er, price to pay for a chance to soak up the energy-filled scene. It’s best to visit at night, when families, friends, and canoodling couples gather to listen to the traditional music. Want a personal performance? Offer 50 to 100 pesos and they’ll sing Guadalajara (or any song of your choice) just for you.

San Miguel Chapultepec

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courtesy of Onnis Luque

This mostly residential neighborhood tucked in a triangle south of Chapultepec Park is like Manhattan’s gallery-filled Chelsea but on a much smaller scale. Some of the best art spaces in the city are all within a few-block radius, including the pioneering La Galería de Arte Mexicano—which has supported Mexican artists since its founding in 1935 (beginning with the likes of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Rufino Tamayo)—and Nina Menocal, long an advocate of Cuban art. The boundary-pushing, floodlit Kurimanzutto began as a roving gallery hosting site-specific exhibits and now occupies a former timber yard, while Patricia Conde Galería is known for its contemporary photography.

RELATED: 11 Best Hotels in Mexico City

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Casa Luis Barragán

Adjacent to San Miguel Chapultepec, in the tiny area of Daniel Garza, you’ll find the former home and studio of Pritzker Architecture Prize-winner Luis Barragán. Built in 1948, Casa Luis Barragán—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is a small, plain building whose interior is full of surprises like a floating staircase, volcanic stone floors, and DayGlo magenta and yellow walls. Note: tours must be reserved in advance online, and they can fill up.

Floating Gardens of Xochimilco

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For a break from city life, Uber south to Xochimilco, a working-class neighborhood that’s home to a series of waterways—remnants of a natural lake and canal system that date back to pre-Hispanic times. There are several entry points where you can rent a vibrant red-and-yellow trajinera (or flat-bottomed boat) and a guide to cruise you around the water. Along the way, musicians and vendors selling crafts, drinks, and food will sail up to you (you can also pack your own refreshments). Go early on a weekday for a peaceful ride; weekends have more of an energetic, booze-cruise vibe.

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Jardin del Centenario / Plaza Jardin Hidalgo

Coyoacán is perhaps best known for being the southern suburb where Frida Kahlo lived and died—and her former house and studio is a museum that’s not to be missed. Many visitors tend to depart after a quick tour, but our advice? Meander over to the area’s bustling center, made up of two adjoining squares that pulse with energy: children laughing at a clown’s antics; vendors selling oversized balloons and other toys; carts hawking elote (corn on the cob) smothered in mayo and cheese and dusted with chili powder. Grab a seat on a bench—or at a patio table at Los Danzantes—and just take it all in.

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Two women—one a Mexican living in Los Angeles and the other a New Yorker living in Mexico—joined forces to create this home and accessories brand, which reinterprets traditional techniques in decidedly modern ways and partners with artisans from around the country. Their first brick-and-mortar opened a few years ago in the posh Polanco neighborhood, and is a wonderland of objets you’ll want in your house: black clay candleholders, monochromatic beaded skulls, and colorful lacquered wood dishes.

RELATED: The Ultimate Mexico City Food Tour

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Lucha Libre

Even if WWF has never been your thing, save a Friday night for a Mexican wrestling match at Arena Mexico, in the Doctores neighborhood. Watching the half-naked, masked men slam each other against the ropes and toss each other out of the ring is an entertaining spectacle—one made even more fun with giant cups of beer. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.

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Mercado de Medellín

Every neighborhood has its local market—and this place in Roma Sur is one of the best. The expansive, colorful space is filled with rows upon rows of stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and all the makings of an authentic Mexican meal. (It’s also known for carrying ingredients from central and South America that can be hard to find elsewhere in town.) Come hungry, and seek out the Meche y Rafael butcher stand for chicharrón tacos on freshly made tortillas.

Bosque de Chapultepec

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Mexico City’s streets are often clogged with cars—but you’d never know it once inside this 1,695-acre green space (the largest city park in Latin America). It’s a welcome breath of fresh air, plus a go-to destination for a number of museums and sights including the National Museum of Anthropology, the Rufino Tamayo Museum, and the Chapultepec Zoo (which can be just that on weekends, when it’s packed with local families). You can also tour Chapultepec Castle, the former official residence of eight Mexican presidents that’s set high on a hill.

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