For Mexico City Pride, “The St. Regis, as part of Marriott, organizes with all the hotels and with all our staffs and we have a big float with some guests. It’s a great event.” Arturo Ortiz, Chief Concierge
As chief concierge at the St. Regis Mexico City, Arturo Ortiz is well versed at serving the needs of sophisticated travelers. He’s also become quite an expert on his hometown, after years of making recommendations to guests from around the world. Ortiz also takes a leadership role in the new “48 hours in Mexico City” program, which is designed to make it easier for guests to make the most of Mexico’s capital, with customized itineraries created by Ortiz and his colleagues based on guest preferences. The luxurious 189- room St. Regis Mexico City, which rises 31 stories above the grand boulevard called Paseo de la Reforma, is especially well situated for exploring the city. Here are some of Ortiz’s own insider tips for the best experiences, on and off the property.
Your hotel is one of the top luxury hotels in the city, and you welcome a lot of famous guests, including much of the cast and crew of the James Bond movie “Spectre.” Can you talk a bit about how you treat your big-name guests?
First of all, at the St. Regis, all guests are VIP, but it depends on preferences. Usually, the guests share with us if they’re having an anniversary, if they’re celebrating a birthday, if they’re coming for an engagement celebration, or if it’s their first time in the city. They share with us their main interests, so we can make a tailored visit. With the celebrities and luminaries that visit the St. Regis, they have specific preferences and we of course satisfy all of them. If there’s a specific time for the wakeup call or a specific orientation for the room, we have rooms where the sunshine wakes you up directly on your face. We try to be the best for every preference, but there really isn’t any difference between a luminary, a rock star, or a businessman.
The hotel has great features for those looking to arrive in style, like your own rooftop heliport.
All of the concierges here are Clefs d’Or, so we have international certification that gives us opportunities to make great relationships with the airlines and the airports. For us it’s a luxury to have the helipad.
Your hotel is also quite a culinary hotspot.
Before the pandemic, the hotel was a gastronomic point of the city, with six different [dining] outlets. During the pandemic we had to reduce the access and the outlets. But we’ve created Bloom, an amazing garden that we have behind the front desk. It’s like our secret garden, right in the middle of all the skyscrapers, with many dishes from our restaurants that are still closed now. For example, the avocado pizza is a great success and you can enjoy it at the Diana terrace or at Bloom. That’s something that happens at St. Regis all the time: innovation for our guests. At our Sunday brunch, you can come as a regular guest, but at the table next to you there could be a singer or a senator. That’s why all of our guests crossing the door of the St. Regis are VIPs.
What are your top culinary recommendations outside of your hotel?
Mexico City is a gastronomic adventure. It has everything for everybody. We have restaurants that are among the 50 best in Mexico and we have two that are part of the 50 best in Latin America, including Pujol (www.pujol.com.mx) and Quintonil (www.quintonil.com/en/restaurant), which are really famous around the world. If you decide to eat something traditional you can go to Café de Tacuba (www.cafedetacuba. com.mx) downtown, a restaurant that opened in 1912 that has traditional tamales and the best tortilla soup you can get. For Mexican nouveau cuisine, you can try El Mayor (www.elmayor.com.mx), which is on the roof of a really old library downtown, [next to] the Templo Mayor archeological site.
What about the best places for cocktails?
We have great terraces. Within walking distance from the hotel is Toledo Rooftop (www.toledorooftop.com), which is the most chic and important in the city, and there is Supra Roma Rooftop (www.supraroma.com), in Roma.
Brunch isn’t an overly common concept in Mexico City, but what are your recommendations for the best brunch in the city?
Our own brunch at Bloom. We had to set up a couple of different seating times, 11 A.M. and 1 P.M., because there are many reservations on weekends. Not a lot of places have that outdoor, open space, and from your table you can order from any station around the garden. That’s why it’s one of the most important, because it’s the flavor, the space, and the experience. Around the city, it’s mostly the hotels that offer brunch. There is a regular buffet (not really a brunch) at Bistro Chapultepec (www.bistrochapultepec.com), a restaurant next to Chapultepec Lake, where you can enjoy the view. The view of the lake is amazing. They have good meals, but they don’t have the ‘best of the best’ or the upscale experience. Sometimes people that are exercising or using bikes in the park stop there, so you don’t have to dress up.
Where are some great places to go for live entertainment?
We’re just a few minutes by car from the National Auditorium (www.auditorio.com.mx), where they have a lot of concerts of international and local singers and shows; it’s very interesting. Downtown, we have some popular concerts right on the Zócalo, the main square. For example, Paul McCartney performed right on the square and there were 25,000 people there listening to him, for free. You just have to be early to get near the stage, but it’s free. A show you can’t miss when you visit Mexico City is the Folkloric Ballet. It’s a performance with 12 different dances from 12 different regions of Mexico, with the regional costumes and live music; the theater is the Fine Arts Palace, we call it the Palacio de Bellas Artes (www.palacio.inba.gob.mx), the most important representation of art deco in Mexico. The building is made with Carrera white marble and the walls inside have murals by Diego Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros, the famous muralists of the early part of the last century. Mexico City’s historic downtown is very rich with murals, because our minister of education in the 1920s saw that not a lot of people in Mexico could read or write, so he requested that the muralists tell the history of Mexico with pictures on the walls of all the government and public buildings, so when you go to the National Palace to pay taxes, you see on the walls all the figures from the Aztecs, and the revolution.
Mexico City is an amazing place for museum lovers. What are some of your favorite museums?
The National Anthropology Museum (www. mna.inah.gob.mx) is one of the top five in the world, along with the Prado, MOMA, and the Guggenheim because it has the most important collection about the old cultures in Mexico: the Mayans, and the Aztecs. The design of the building is incredible. They have a lot of murals and all the original pieces from that age of Mexico’s history. Or visit the private collection at the Soumaya Museum (www.museosoumaya.org) in Polanco. That building is amazing. They don’t have escalators or elevators; it’s like the Guggenheim, you just walk around from down to up. It has one of the most important collections of art from Europe, Asia, and the Americas as a continent. Next to that is the Jumex Museum (www.fundacionjumex.org/en) for contemporary art that has really important exhibitions that you won’t find anywhere. Those are my favorite museums.
What’s the best way to do a guided tour of Mexico City?
The St. Regis has a list of tours for our guests, including the traditional tours, like the pyramids of Teotihuacan, which is the most important archeological site in the central part of the country. We can also offer a walk of our historic downtown, and a visit to the floating gardens of Xochimilco, which has canals like Venice but with no buildings, only trees and flowers. Those tours would be with a group, but usually our guests use our private guides. The St. Regis has a fleet of luxury cars with professional, English-speaking guides and the concierge tailors the tours for each guest. We know that every guest is unique, so they will have a unique experience depending on their interests.
What are the biggest annual events in Mexico City?
We have a big [holiday] season from Thanksgiving to January, starting with Thanksgiving dinner and finishing with the Day of Kings on January 6. During that time of the year, at the St. Regis we have all the celebrations, the posadas, the Christmas dinners, and the New Year’s Eve event that’s amazing. We have one room with a classical big band, we have another room with a terrace [looking out] to Reforma Avenue with a DJ, and we have another place with a room that has Caribbean music for dancing. And there are many other options around the city. In February/March is Zona Maco (www.zsonamaco.com), the most important meeting for brokers and art galleries in Latin America. After that, we continue with the summer, when we have Mercedes Benz Fashion Week (www.fashionweek.mx). In June we celebrate diversity. We have one of the most important pride events in Mexico. The city has a parade that involves many companies, it’s a carnival right on the main avenue. The St. Regis, as part of Marriott, organizes with all the hotels and with all our staffs and we have a big float with some guests. It’s a great event. After that, for independence day on September 15, we have a great celebration downtown in our main square. We have a lot of fireworks and it’s really attractive, because in some parts of Reforma Avenue there are concerts with local artists for free, so people can stop at the independence monument and dance, and in front of the St. Regis maybe enjoy a local rock band. The whole city is a party on those days. After that, in October we have the Grand Prix, the F1 (www.mexicogp.mx), which is an amazing success. We host many fans and for everybody to move to the racetrack and back, we use the helicopter. After that we have the Day of the Dead, and you know it’s not only for the 1st and 2nd of November; there is a whole week with parades on the street. Our staff prepares a terrace to watch the parade, like we do with the independence day. We have professionals who come to the hotel and do the Day of the Dead makeup for the guests, because everyone wants that experience.
What are the best spas in the city?
The St. Regis is the best, but some other great locations around town include the W Mexico City (www.marriott.com). It has a temazcal, the experience inside is like an adobe igloo where you enjoy the sauna with herbs and aromas to make it relaxing. You can also go to Teotihuacan to experience a regular temazcal in a small town.
What about experiences specifically for LGBTQ travelers?
The Zona Rosa is within walking distance and offers many places. Near the hotel, [a top LGBTQ dance club] would be Kinky (www.facebook.com/KINKYbar).
Where’s the best place to get a late-night bite after a night out on the town?
One of the great things about Mexico City is the street food. Everyone loves tacos. But you can also visit places like El Califa (www.elcalifa.com.mx) or El Fogoncito (www.fogoncito.com) that aren’t stands on the street. They’re formal restaurants and really delicious, they’re open late, until three or four in the morning.
What are the best souvenirs to take home for family and friends?
We suggest visiting places like Onora Casa (www.onoracasa.com), which is a great arts and crafts store in Polanco. We also have a couple craft markets downtown and in the Zona Rosa where you will find many stands selling a wonderful variety of products.
Complete this sentence: Don’t leave Mexico City without …
Having a great dinner, visiting one of our museums, and experiencing our history.