I’ve been living in Mexico City for four months, immersing myself in local life to speak Spanish. I’m staying in Condesa, a cosmopolitan neighbourhood known for its lush green parks and abundance of eateries, and I’ve indulged fully in Mexican cuisine, with chilaquiles becoming my regular order.
This popular dish of totopos (similar to what South Africans know as nachos) drenched in tomato salsa, drizzled with cream, and sprinkled with crumbed white cheese, onion, and coriander becomes the ultimate breakfast when topped with fried eggs.
Manduca dishes up one of my favourites, and is a great place from which to people-watch from the sidewalk tables on the busy Nuevo León Street. Frëims, on tree-lined Amsterdam Street (the city’s trendy “running track”) also has a superb breakfast menu, and sitting in its sunny courtyard is a welcoming way to start the day.
For a beverage-to-go, I stop at one of the many street-corner juice vendors for freshly squeezed tropical juices (sidenote: Mexico’s mangoes are the sweetest I’ve ever tasted). But mostly, I’ve been sitting in coffee shops where I can mingle with fellow freelancers. Blend Station and Cardinal both serve perfectly frothed cappuccinos made from top-quality Mexican beans.
During the week, a comida corrida (set lunch at a fixed price) at Mercado Medellin involves four speedy courses so you can get on with your day: soup; rice or spaghetti; mole, chile rellenos (roasted and stuffed poblano peppers), or another such home-cooked speciality; and flan for dessert. This sophisticated mercado (market) is where I source all my fruit, veg, eggs, and cheese, so I rarely frequent grocery stores.
On Fridays, El Parnita in the buzzing Roma Norte neighbourhood is the ultimate venue for a late lunch, as Mexico City’s 25-million residents ease into the weekend. If you have to wait for a table, the old-school mariachi bands wandering the streets will keep you entertained.
For tacos, Por Siempre’s vegan versions mean that anyone can enjoy the country’s World Heritage-designated fare. Even though I’m a meat-eater, this is my Thursday-night stop en route to salsa and bachata classes. I’ve put these dance lessons to good use at Mambocafé, where a vibrant (and very loud) Latino band makes it difficult to leave the dance floor.
As an art- and design-lover, I’ve been spoilt for choice in this culturally rich city. Frida Kahlo’s house is a must-see, especially to appreciate her bedroom and studio, which are left as they were when she died. Buy tickets online to skip the queue, and go at the end of the day to wander around her and Diego Rivera’s courtyard a while longer as visitors clear out.
The Anthropology Museum is so unbelievably fascinating that I’ve been twice and still haven’t gotten around to viewing the second storey, as I learn about the evolution of man, and Mexico’s complex cultural history. Jumex, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, and the Museo Rufino Tamayo are my standout museums, not just for their ever-changing art and photography content, but for their statuesque architecture too. And Arróniz and Galería OMR have been the art galleries with the most thought-provoking exhibitions (and fun opening parties). I was thrilled to catch a solo show of sculptural works by renowned Mexican artist Jose Dávila at OMR.
Nights are hard to plan in Mexico City because no one is ever on time. Life just happens, and dinners can start as late as 10pm. I have learnt to embrace it — or perhaps it’s the mezcal that’s made me chill out. Limantour is my go-to for this distilled alcoholic spirit made from the agave plant. Sip it neat (accompanied by chilli salt-sprinkled orange wedges) or in a cocktail stirred up by world-class mixologists in this bar designed to make you want to party until wee hours of the morning. Because who wants to go home anyway?