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 2pm for lunch and 8:30 for dinner being prime times). Or take a break in one of the many picturesque plazas and parks.
English is widely spoken.
Roma--Art Nouveau neighborhood. Great area for restaurants, coffee, boutiques and bookstores, with plazas scattered throughout.
Condesa--Bauhaus neighborhood. Love walking the Amsterdam loop--it's the prettiest street in the city, surrounding a great park. I usually stay here.
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. Sparkling streets and shops that mix international brands with some of the best new Mexican designers.
City Center--worth bracing the crowds (briefly) for old school stores/sites: Zocalo, Palacio Nacional, Sanborns Casa de los Azulejos, El Cardenal, Farmacia Paris.
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.
Chapultepec Park and Castle--lakes where you can rent paddle boats, walking paths, a castle that boasts city views and a history of Mexican art and murals. The park houses the Anthropology and Tamayo museums (above), as well as others.
Franz Mayer Museum--focuses on the decorative arts of Latin America and beyond.
Museo Jumex--for international 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--Diego Rivera-designed museum that houses the artist's pre-Hispanic collection of artifacts. Building itself is a standout, but location is out of the way.
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--delicious baked goods. One in Roma and one in Juarez.
Lardo--(also a restaurant, see below). Window for excellent baked goods and coffee.
Churreria el Moro--famous churros. One in the city center, Roma and Condesa.
Dosis--new coffee place in Roma.
Freims--neighborhood coffee shop on Amsterdam.
Tierra Garat--a city chain for coffee and cacao. Try the chiltepin, a spicy mocha.
Abarrotes Delirio--great pantry gifts. Preserves, honey and the most gorgeous teas.
Rosetta--a perennial favorite. Seasonal dishes are always changing, but the staple I return to is the sea bass baked in salt. Pastas, herb salads--all amazing.
Contramar--a must for lunch only. Best seafood in the city. Try the tuna tostadas and save room for their most gorgeous desserts.
Amaya--superb and stylish restaurant in up-and-coming Juarez. Everything we ate was phenomenal.
Lardo--cozy, lovely restaurant and wine bar. Italian with a Mexican twist. We always stop here, love the stuffed squash blossoms. Very popular for breakfast too.
Ojo de Agua--bright, healthy spot on beautiful Amsterdam. Great juices and delicious chilaquiles with a fountain view. Open Sunday nights.
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.
No-name restaurant next to Bosforo Mezcaleria--a dark, new-ish, hidden spot for inventive takes on traditional cooking. Be prepared for some unusual menu items.
Tetetlan--new Barragan cultural space with a gorgeous restaurant. Good spot if out near Coyoacan/El Pedregal. Traditional, simple dishes and a place to try crickets.
Meroma--seasonally-inspired neighborhood restaurant with the sweetest chef. Delicious small dishes, pretty space and a street-level cocktail bar.
Cicatriz Cafe--another good spot for cocktails and open for dinner on Sundays (a rarity in the city). Try the fried chicken sandwich.
Paramo--also open Sunday nights, known for excellent ceviche. A fun, crowded mishmash of tables and decor. A lively scene above the famous La Parnita tacos.
El Cardenal--known for their breakfasts and the best hot chocolate. There are several locations across the city, with the original in the Centro.
Agua y Sal--if in Polanco, we often stop for lunch here. Excellent ceviche and seafood.
Nicos--a culinary pilgrimage for traditional cooking in an otherwise not-visited part of town.
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.
Meroma--the restaurant's (see above) street level bar is small and great for watching passerby in Roma. The cocktails are delicious.
Paramo--lively bar (with tables and food) above La Parnita taco shop. Open on Sunday nights, which is rare. Ceviche is a standout.
Cicatriz Cafe--another restaurant (see above) that has a bit of a bar scene and is known for its drinks as much as its food. Open on Sunday nights.
San Angel Inn--famous for their margaritas in the most beautiful courtyard.
Baltra--a friend's tiny jewel-box of a bar serving innovative cocktails. Same group owns Limontaur.
Condesa DF--the rooftop bar is touristy (it's in a hotel, after all), but can be a quiet oasis at sunset. For if you need a break.
With only a weekend, see 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--supposed to be one of (if not the) top 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 (home, clothing, accessories).
Insh'ala--Mexican midcentury (home design).
Kingsley Market--Mexican zen (home and accessories).
Fabrica Aurora--collection of antiques galleries, on the upscale side.
Artisan Market--a mix of quality, 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. You can google to find their info.
Wineries--there are several nearby, 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--tons of independent teachers (many of them expats) teach every type of class you can imagine. I have had great experiences with one-off classes (just google around), as well as short term drop-ins at the university.