I feel at home in Mexico City. This isn’t something I expected to encounter while exploring one of the world’s largest cities. I thought I would feel exhilarated and up for an adventure. But at home?
Part of the reason I feel this way is because of where I’m staying: in Polanco, an elegant Mexico City neighborhood with a storied history. I wake up, walk to the local coffee shop, Noisette, then poke into shops on unassuming side streets. I walk to tranquil Parque Lincoln and watch the parade of dog walkers making their laps.
Polanco is the center of the good life in Mexico City. I stroll down Avenida Presidente Masaryk, sometimes called the Mexican Champs-Élysées. But the Champs-Élysées is so imposing and intimidating. Instead, this thoroughfare, though dotted with world-class brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, feels like the heartbeat of a small community beating within a much larger metropolis.
Situated just north of Chapultepec Park on the edge of the Las Lomas neighborhood with its mansions and embassies, Polanco was originally farmland that belonged to Hacienda de Los Morales – what remains one of the city’s classic restaurants to this day.
My home base is Las Alcobas, a boutique hotel with a charming hotelier named Samuel Leizorek who understands that details — like sweet treats at turn-down and a menu artisan soaps made with local ingredients – make all the difference. Even though it has been open for business for more than three years, Las Alcobas is the hotel everyone is still talking about.
With just 35 rooms, natural light filling the corridors, artwork and rugs by contemporary Mexican artists, and signature spa treatments derived from indigenous traditions, this home away from home strikes the perfect balance of friendly and refined.
Regardless of where you stay, what draws visitors back to Polanco is its growing international dining scene. “Local, organic, and farm-to-table is still a story here,” a friend in Mexico City told me. ”It really is trending in the city and new.”
Anatol, one of Las Alcobas’ restaurants, is leading the charge with this philosophy along with Dulce Patria, the hotel’s other eatery known for its chef, Martha Ortiz, who has dedicated her life to elevating Mexican cuisine.
But perhaps the most famous of all of Mexico City’s restaurants is Pujol, and for good reason. I won’t soon forget the smell of smoking corn husks brought to my table inside a gourd, the truly exceptional margaritas, or the quiet elegance of the navy interior.
But not every restaurant in Polanco is high-end. You’ll also find quesadillas and hamburgers at Butcher & Sons, classic brasserie fare at Brassi, great Japanese at Tori Tori, and even Yorkshire pudding in a house straight out of rural England at Sir Winston Churchill’s. Ivoire, with its black-checkered floor and old-home charm, is another perennial favorite.
The neighborhood’s charm isn’t limited to food. Shopping at Tane, I found things I didn’t even know I could want. The store, which first started making leather handbags in the 1940s, is now Mexico’s premier silversmith, making jewelry, trays, and more. On display was the progression of a single slab of silver hand pounded into a one-of-a-kind spoon. And don’t miss picking up a colorful silk scarf at Pineda Covalin.
Browse high-quality Mexican handicrafts like pottery and blankets at the Museo de Arte Popular store, then head to Museo Soumaya to see the private collection of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim – a mix of European masters (Picasso, Renoir, Dali, Van Gogh), sculptures (there are hundreds of works by Rodin), coins, and furniture.
And on the more modern side, you’ll love seeing the contemporary pieces made with renewable resources at cutting-edge design store, Pirwi.
My real home back in Brooklyn is comfortable, but nowhere near as chic and worldly as Polanco. But with small discoveries at only-in-Mexico shops and the determination to make a margarita as good as the one I had at Pujol, I hope to bring a little bit of that Mexican spirit back with me.