Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende are only a few hours drive apart, but they feel like different worlds. Here's a quick introduction to two of my favorite spots for visiting and stocking MATERIA's shop.
Mexico's capital city is one of the most populated in the world. Plan ahead for traffic and group your activities by neighborhood. Uber is an excellent, safe and reliable way to get around. For walking, Roma and Condesa are some of the loveliest, while Polanco is shopping central. San Angel and Coyoacan, outside the city center, are peaceful and pretty residential areas to explore.
This is a lively metropolis. Trips here can be exhausting for some, so balance the sightseeing with long lunches and dinners (people eat on the later side, with 9pm being prime time). Or take a break in one of the many picturesque plazas and parks.
English is widely spoken.
Roma--Art Nouveau neighborhood (where I usually stay). Great area for restaurants, coffee, boutiques and bookstores.
Condesa--Bauhaus neighborhood. Love walking the Amsterdam loop--prettiest street in the city, stop for a juice or breakfast at Ojo de Agua.
San Angel--upscale, romantic neighborhood outside city center. Combine with Coyoacan for Frida and Diego sites and drinks at San Angel Inn.
Polanco--the Beverly Hills of Mexico City. Some favorite stops are Xinu perfumes (where my great-grandmother's book is on display), Onora for homewares (I sell them here) and Yakampot for clothes. Lago DF has a great selection of local designers.
City Center--worth bracing the crowds (briefly) for art and old school stores/sites: Farmacia Paris, Zocalo, Palacio Nacional, Sanborns Casa de los Azulejos.
Juarez--becoming the new Roma, great spot for the newest restaurants.
Chapultepec Park--Mexico City's Central Park and museum central. Chapultepec Castle boasts city views and houses a history of Mexican art.
Pedregal--Lava fields, modernist houses and UNAM (Mexico City's major university). Home to Tetetlan and Luis Barragan sites.
Casa Luis Barragan--guided tours only, must make a reservation.
Casa Azul--Frida Kahlo's house. Book tickets in advance and try for first time slot of the day (lines get crazy long).
Casa Estudio Diego y Frida--famous pink and blue adjoining houses with cactus fence. Diego's studio is the standout. (This is one of my great-grandfather's buildings).
Anthropology Museum--world renowned collection of Pre-Colombian artifacts and design.
Museo Tamayo--next door to the Anthropology museum for contemporary art.
Zocalo--historic city square. Cathedral here is the largest in the Americas.
Palacio Nacional--houses one of Diego Rivera's most famous murals.
Bazar Sábado--Saturday market in San Angel. Outside for textiles and silver. Inside for glassware and ceramics. Get your fortune from the man with the little bird.
Lagunilla--huge Sunday flea market. Not for the faint of heart. (Check for safety).
Anahuacalli--it's out of the way (past Coyoacan), but I've been meaning to get to this Diego-Rivera designed museum for ages. Supposed to be amazing. Combine it with...
Espacio Escultorico--land art sculpture at Mexico City's main university. There's also an iconic library here covered in mosaics by my great-grandfather. And...
Tetetlan--cultural center with stunning restaurant, attached to Luis Barragan's Casa Pedregal (formerly known as Casa Prieto). To visit the house, email for an appointment.
Teotihuacan--requires a trek outside the city but so very worth it. Climb the pyramids and walk the ancient streets. It's incredible how much is preserved.
Xochimilco--weather permitting and best on the weekends. Haven't been here in ages, but it's a trip. Boats selling food and music on the water. (Check for safety).
Coffee + Snacks:
Buna 24--excellent coffee. Love their shakerato.
Panaderia Rosetta--best baked goods. Could get a croissant here every morning.
Abarrotes Delirio--great pantry gifts. Preserves, honey and the most gorgeous teas.
Churreria el Moro--famous churros. There's one in the city center and one in Roma.
Lardo--(also a restaurant, see below). Window for breakfast baked goods and coffee.
Ojo de Agua--healthy fare on Amsterdam. Great "huevos rancheros" type bowl.
Rosetta--a MUST. Some favorites are the herb ice cream, goat cheese salad with beet ice cream and fish baked in salt. But really everything is amazing.
Contramar--also a must. Lunch only. Best seafood in the city. Try the tuna tostadas and save room for dessert.
No-name restaurant next to Bosforo Mezcaleria--best (new-ish) spot for hidden, inventive cooking.
Amaya--superb and stylish restaurant in up-and-coming Juarez. Everything we ate was phenomenal.
Lardo--cozy, lovely restaurant/wine bar. Italian with a Mexican twist. Stuffed squash blossoms are a favorite. We always make a stop here.
San Angel Inn--come here at LEAST for a margarita after Bazar Sabado or Frida's houses. They're known for the city's best and it's so beautiful. An elegant throwback to a bygone era.
Tetetlan--new Barragan cultural space with gorgeous restaurant. It's opened since my last visit, but everyone's been going and loving it.
Meroma--we have reservations, will report back. Supposedly a new standout spot in Roma.
Cicatriz Cafe--also new and loved since my last visit. Beautiful and open for dinner on Sundays, which is rare.
El Cardenal--hoping to get here next trip. Has a reputation for the best breakfast and hot chocolate. There are several locations across the city.
Agua y Sal--if in Polanco, we often stop for lunch here. Excellent ceviche and seafood.
Maximo Bistrot--a longstanding "it" restaurant. Requires reservations super in advance.
Pujol--another "it" restaurant by arguably Mexico's most famous chef. Reservations required.
Bosforo Mezcaleria--random location but the best place to taste mezcal. Sources from small distilleries all over the country.
Baltra--a friend's tiny jewel-box of a bar serving innovative cocktails. Same group owns Limontaur.
Condesa DF--the rooftop bar can be touristy, but it's a quiet oasis at sunset.
With only a weekend, check out my itinerary on How You Glow.
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
Where Mexico City is bustling, San Miguel de Allende is quiet. With its preserved cobblestone streets and houses, being here feels like a step back in time. Not hard to see why it's a beloved weekend escape and popular wedding destination for many from the city's capital. Be aware that the city's hillside orientation makes a stroll here more often a climb.
It's also a longtime expat enclave with an artistic bent. So you'll find plenty of art, yoga, cooking and language classes to fill your time. Visit a spa, one of many local hot springs or a winery for ultimate relaxation. Or check out some small pyramids and the botanical garden for time in the sun. There's both high and low shopping throughout town, as well as several nearby locations for pottery.
Food + Drink:
Aperi--currently the #1 restaurant (new since my last visit).
Doce 18--concept spot with stores and restaurants. Also new since I visited, everything allegedly great.
La Mezcaleria--tiny bar/restaurant with absolutely perfect small plates and mezcal cocktails.
La Parada--super good Peruvian food in an upscale setting.
The Restaurant--global-fusion Mexican from an LA transplant chef. Ambiance > food when I visited. They also have a nice little boutique inside.
Luna Tapas Bar--get a drink here and watch the sunset. It's the best views of the city and cathedral.
La Colmena--super authentic little Mexican bakery. The original one is down a side street, behind an unassuming blue door.
Luna de Queso--charming shop for pantry items and local cheeses.
Chocolate y Churros--enough said.
Y Somos--Patricia Larsen's gorgeous gallery.
Mixta--bohemian mix from Mexico and elsewhere.
Insh'ala--Mexican midcentury (she used to sell on OKL).
Kingsley Market--Mexican zen (owned by a friend of Emily Fiffer).
Fabrica Aurora--collection of antiques galleries, on the upscale side.
Artisan Market--a mix, but you can find some good kitchen textiles.
El Charco del Ingenio--incredible botanical gardens outside town.
Hot Springs--La Gruta is supposedly the best of them. Combine with a visit to...
Atontonilco--called the "Sistine Chapel of the Americas."
Cooking Classes--San Miguel is a great place for this. I've done them with both Maribel and Kris Rudolph. Haven't tried Paco Cardenas yet, but he was recently recommended.
Wineries--there are several ranches, if you want a break/day trip to the countryside.
Yoga, Massage, Healing--tons of spots in town. Hotel Sierra Nevada's spa is among the best.
Pyramids--there are some nice ruins just outside town.
Art + language classes--can both be googled for independent teachers. I have had great experiences with one-off classes, as well as drop-ins at the university.