Mexico City insider guide

Local experts share the inside track on the sprawling capital city

Michael Parker meets up with two local experts to get the inside story on the country’s much maligned capital.

It is buzzing with arty sophisticates and high-energy bohemian life, but Mexico City, all too often, gets a bad press. Who hasn’t heard about its traffic, corruption, pollution and so on for at least 20 years running now?
So basta – enough.

Is it really that scary?
Like many great cities there are daunting problems. But while you’re here, think of these as the cover charge (it’s really not that scary) for what makes Mexico City so fascinating: design, music, nightlife, art. And, of course, the mad human pageant of its mega population. Emerging from somewhere in all that is Mexico City’s high-energy bohemian life, a scene that’s exploded in recent years, with elements familiar to – yet unlike – what artsy sophisticates from other world capitals know. Sure, eat your tacos and listen to a mariachi band (hipsters do, too). But when you’re done with that, dress up
and dive into the city’s not-so-obvious vida dulce.

The Condesa district

As elsewhere, mood-watchers perennially talk about what’s no longer in, what’s barely cool right now, and what’s the Next Big Thing. So though we truly love its leafy streets, deco architecture and fashionable watering holes, the famed Condesa district, perhaps the city’s poshest, can no longer be considered hip. Every visitor should see it, though. Wander around, lunch with the ladies, do happy hour on the roof of the Condesa DF Hotel (truly chic), enjoy great bars such as the T Gallery after sunset... Condesa is gorgeous, but cast your nets wider for real bohemia.

Local knowledge

Arturo Delgado, actor

We meet Arturo for a spin in Colonia Roma – the cool-right-now neighbourhood. We start on Calle Colima – once home to numerous undertakers, now where you’ll find the city’s edgiest clothing, design and antiques district. Vintage furnishings are probably out as souvenirs, but there are just tonnes of gorgeous Mexican-designed clothes, accessories, and graphic arts to be found all along the strip (standouts include Kong, Sicario and Dime, two blocks over on Alvaro Obregón). Galería Borde, on Zacatecas, is always worth a look, specialising in young and emerging Mexican artists.

At drinks time, Arturo says that Covadonga – an always fun, fluorescent-lit fellowship hall (no joke) for elderly Spaniards – has become the place for young literati, media folk and fashionistas. Dig the buzz and marvel at the table-hopping on weeknights until late. Even out-of-towners run into someone they know.

Tania Negrete, journalist
You’d never encounter Tania Negrete in Covadonga – it bores her – so we meet in the Centro Histórico: ‘The Next Next Big Thing,’ she says. Sophisticated, slummy nightlife hits a high in this ancient neighbourhood. We start at the Hostel Virreyes, the down-at-heel yet stylish home to numerous artists, and the bar is packed with every galactic life form, gyrating to a rock band and spilling into the tatty lobby. This crew is also fond of Pasagûero, a few blocks away.

Calle República de Cuba, still downtown, is an emerging stretch of odd, underground joints. We love Marrakech, with a great people mix, a zaftig burlesque revue, and cheap Mexican horror/sci-fi projected on the walls. Nearby is another must-see: La Perla, a retro lounge with dancing and a swingy crowd.

Then it’s on to Pasaje América, an early 1900s retail space, now the dance club of choice for the acutely trendy. Once in (the more girls in your party, the better), it is just so, but it’s also just so fun.

After all that, we’re ready to stagger home. But Tania says we have to last until 5.30am, when Cantina la Margarita, in a random corner of Colonia del Valle, opens, serving breakfast – or stronger fare – to a mix of truckers, families and, of course, Mexico City’s fabulous night crawlers. Don’t scoff your food or rush home to bed though – live music starts up again at 8.30am.

Need to know

Getting there
Emirates flies to Mexico City via New York from Dhs6,085 return.
www.emirates.com.

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