Our upcoming Mexico City: Aztec Adventure largely takes place in the North American megalópolis itself. If you cannot join our tour, we put together this useful gay guide to get the most out of your visit. Read on!
Where to stay in Mexico City
Located on the cusps of the financial district and Zona Rosa (The Pink District, aka the city’s gay neighbourhood), Hotel Galería Plaza Reforma is a practical and reasonably priced choice. Its rooftop pool is also a welcome relief from the mid-day heat.
Alternatively, in Zona Rosa, NH Collection, Mexico City Reforma is an excellent luxury option.
Jumping over to the city’s Condesa neighbourhood, we can personally vouch for the boho-chic Condesa DF Hotel. The stylish space is entirely furnished by Parisian designer India Mahdavi. C’est Bon! errr… Es Bueno!
Those looking for suave sophistication won’t go wrong with a reservation at the W Hotel’s Mexico City outpost.
Finally, for our budget travellers, the best hostel in town (of which there are many!) is Casa San Ildefonso. The hostel is in a restored 19th-century building with a stunning courtyard complete with a fountain and singing canaries.
Where to eat
Mexico City is overflowing with quality cantinas, tempting tacorias, sensational street food, award-winning upscale establishments and even a number of mescal bars. Here’s a nibble of what’s available…
Chef Enrique Olvera oversees arguably the city’s most famous restaurant Pujol. Although incredible, you have your work cut out for you making a booking. Alternative high-end yet relaxed restaurants include Mediterranean-influenced Lardo, regionally-focused Quintonil and the always innovating supper club Mesa B. To make a reservation at a said supper club, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, no trip to Mexico City would be complete without tacos. And our favourite way to approach the scene is simply by asking locals to recommend their favourite vendors. However, a few of the more famous spots include the alleged creator of tacos el pastor El Tizoncito Condesa (expect lineups), La Casa de Toño, El Huequito and the offal-ly inclined Los Cocuyos.
One of our favourite low-key establishments includes the barbacoa—braised meat—at El Hidalguense. Another excellent option is the ironically named Sin Nombre (Translation: “No Name”—odd considering it’s earned quite the name for itself). This beloved restaurant focuses on slow-cooked Mexican classics with modern twists.
If you’re looking to sip authentic Mexican mezcal—by definition, any liquor made of agave, including tequila which is made exclusively of blue agave—La Clandestina is our favourite nook. Other options include Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal, Barra Alipús and Bósforo. Oh, and the previously mentioned, Condesa DF Hotel has an excellent rooftop terrace on you can sip mezcal on.
A few alternative ways of approaching Mexico City’s booming culinary scene is to hit up markets such as Coyoacán Market (One of Frida Kahlo’s old haunts) and Mercado Roma (More trendy and hip. Be sure to indulge your sweet tooth at El Moro). Also, cooking classes are an excellent way to get a more in-depth understanding of UNESCO-listed cuisine. Our favourite cooking class is through Casa Jacaranda—run by two gay men! Alternatively, take a walking street food tour like those offered by Urban Adventures.
What to do in Mexico City
We highly recommend getting the lay of the land on a locally-guided walking tour. These urban experiences will wind you through colonial architecture, cobblestone alleys and popping plazas. Your guide will provide invaluable insight into the city’s past and present.
After you’ve caught your bearings on a walking tour, Museo Soumaya is a common next step. The exterior of this art museum is almost as beautiful as the treasures it houses, such as the renowned work by Salvador Dalí and Auguste Rodin.
Finally—and if you’re not museumed-out—Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) is an award-winning institution you could spend an entire day in.
For something a bit more physical, consider an evening watching luchadors (wrestlers) at the 17,000-seat Arena México. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a sports fan, Mexican wrestling is quite the show, and you’ll likely catch yourself getting caught up in the spectacle.
If you’re looking for a low-key activity, head south towards the popular Xochimilco canals where colourful riverboats known as “trajinar” await. From the boats you’ll see the region’s pretty ‘floating gardens’, be able to order beers and tacos from floating stands and even haggle with floating souvenir shops—sombrero, anyone? Finally, expect your vessel to be commandeered by at least one singing family or mariachi performer.
Last but far from least, and although it is 40km north of Mexico City, we recommend a half-day trip to Teotihuacán—a series of stunning Mesoamerican pyramids. The sprawling site resembles Cambodia’s Angkor or Peru’s Machu Picchu. Tip: Uber is so affordable in Mexico, you can take it all the way here and back without breaking the bank.
Some shops we love
Mexico City has no shortage of stores to blow your pesos at. For example, Apartment25 is an excellent high-end clothing retailer. Typically, the boutique leans toward trendy and youthful garments. And on top of their in-house line, they also sell brands such as Comme des Garçons. As an added bonus, just head upstairs to find an amazing bookstore called Casa Bosques.
Another clothing boutique we love is 180º Shop. The stylish spot celebrates Mexican designers and materials, most of which you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
Antique hunters will love meandering Decada Muebles Vintage. It might be difficult fitting a vintage ottoman in your carry-on, but hey, one can window shop!
Regarding souvenirs, we highly recommend visiting the government-sponsored FONART. All products sold are guaranteed to be made by Mexican artisans. Prices are higher, but the quality and guarantee are worth it.
Mexico City’s best gay bars
As mentioned, Mexico City’s gay scene is largely centred around Zona Rosa. But in recent years, many queer-oriented establishments pepper the entire city. While the following are a few of our favourite watering holes, this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Kinky Bar is probably our favourite establishment, offering an unpretentious environment to grab a pint. Expect attractive bartenders, filthy drag queens and a nice mixed crowd ranging in age and body type.
If you’re a fan of local Kweens, La Purísima is a great spot to catch a bilingual show.
Nicho Bears & Bar is for furry fellows and their dedicated followers. Sorry ladies, but this establishment is men-only.
Tom’s Leather Bar is a cruise-y little spot featuring local DJs and sweaty strippers. Throw back a shot of tequila and enjoy!
Finally, unassuming Vaqueros Bar has a relaxed evening atmosphere perfect for those who’d rather not have to scream to be heard. That is, until the drag shows start at 11pm…
Clubs & discoteques
Baby is young, fun and affordable. It’s a wide-open space perfect for dancing. Because of its youthful aura, lots of straight women come here as well.
If you’re in town on a Saturday and looking to shake your maraka, slide on over to Guilt in the Polanco neighbourhood. Be warned: this weekly blowout goes until 6 or 7 am.
Finally, consider Boy Bar where two levels of electro-pop and go-go dancers are topped with a surprisingly lovely terrace. We love this space for its affordable drinks and rowdy parties. And for those looking for a generous dash of hot sauce, Thursdays are sex-positive.
Intrigued by Mexico City?
Our Mexico City: Aztec Adventure departs bi-annually in late-Spring and fall. The short and sweet escape is the perfect introduction to the city as well as nearby places of interest, including Teotihuacan, Cholula and Puebla.
Header image courtesy of Bhargava Marripati on unsplash.com. All other image credits from the top down: Hotel Galería Plaza Reforma, Hotel Vila Condessa, Lardo Restaurant x 3, Daniel Lerman from unsplash.com, Casa Jacaranda, Robert Sharp, Kevin Robitaille x 3, Robert Sharp, Jeremy Lwanga on unsplash.com, Kinky Bar.