By: Nneya Richards
In late May, W Hotels invited me to explore Mexico City, which was bursting back to life as the pandemic began to fade. We all know what happened in 2020: Seemingly unstoppable places around the world went quiet. But from what I could tell, CDMX (a commonly used abbreviation for Ciudad de Mexico) had not lost any of its vibrant, fun, and cultured self after over a year of uncertainty.
I live between Brooklyn and Northern Italy and have been on a bizarre shuttle between the two locations over the last 15 months. I’ve missed exploring countries around the world. And while Americans have mostly been able to visit Mexico during the pandemic, they’d often find limited options in regards to things to do. Nightlife, restaurants, theaters; so many spots were either shuttered or operating with limitations. In general, I’d say Mexico City always feels good, but it was particularly thrilling to absorb the energy of a megalopolis returning to full swing.
Of course, preventative measures were still in place. People were masked up, hand sanitizer was offered abundantly, temperature checks were conducted. We continued to wear masks to comply with local rules and regulations. Even when visiting outdoor tourist attractions, like our trip up to Chapultepec Castle, mask-wearing was enforced. This said, plastic safety barriers and face coverings didn’t prevent you from feeling the smiles and warm sentiments of CDMX’s citizens.
Here are some highlights to my trip:
On my first night, W Mexico City’s W Insider Diego Martinez made our group a reservation at the lush and vibe-y restaurant Puerto Prendes in Roma Norte. It has high ceilings and is dripping with flora and fauna, sort of like an indoor Babylonian garden. Definitely make your way here for drinks and shared tapas. Aguachile is my favorite Mexican dish, and it’s hard to find a perfectly executed version of it in New York. So, per Diego’s recommendation, I tried it at Puerto Prendes. Delicious!
Speaking of aguachile: After some vintage shopping in Roma, I met up with a friend at a plaza-side restaurant called Cabrera 7. It’s a perfect place for people-watching, and it has an eclectic-cool design. But, most notably, this restaurant had the winning aguachile of the trip: A yummy aguachile negro, with squid ink.
Mexico City has amazing shopping. Rugs, bags, lots of hats, arts, jewelry, markets and luxury goods. If you’re anything like me and shopping and bargaining works up an appetite, snag a taco from a street vendor before you dive into these retail delights. I ended up purchasing a rug from one of the tianguis, or Saturday open air markets, in the San Ángel neighborhood. At the end of my trip, the talent at W Mexico City helped me pack it up perfectly, to make traveling home easier.
W Mexico City is nestled in CDMX’s posh Polanco area, surrounded by high-rises, high-end boutiques and ornate Spanish Colonial Revival-style villas. Down a leafy street a five minute walk from the hotel is Avenida Presidente Masaryk. Be sure to check it out for world-class concept stores and traditional luxury brands alike. I love visiting concept stores in my travels and was happy to find two new favorites. Visit Lago DF or Ikal, and find stunning clothing, jewelry and home decor, often by Mexico-based designers.
To me, life in Mexico City seems to be composed of a series of rare experiences that, in a way, be-come absorbed into everyday activity. Call it bucket list living: it’s a phenomenon that happens in large, textured, endlessly thrilling places. Consider: A hot air balloon ride over the Teotihuacan pyra-mids, a Temazcal ritual performed at the AWAY Spa at W Mexico City, or a floating gardens tour of Xochimilco along with a sunset dinner (we joked that Venice should take a page from Xochimilco’s book: make canal rides fun and not cheesy with overdone romance!). In just a weekend, I was able to do all of these things, and all of them were, indeed, spectacularly unique outings.
I want to circle back to that Temazcal ceremony. When the W Mexico City team suggested the option of this millenia-old tradition, I couldn’t wait. The shape of a traditional Temazcal symbolizes a womb, and a shamana takes you through five stages of meditation and reflection. I cried, deep-breathed, ached, and sweated out what felt like my entire body weight. Our leader was named Coco; though I couldn’t understand all of her chants, I was so moved.
Ultimately, W Mexico City made traveling during Covid times easy. To return to the States, we needed a negative test taken within three days of our flight, and the team arranged for a concierge lab to test all of us at the hotel. The perfect touch of luxury hospitality to cap a perfect, return-to-exploration getaway.