Mexico City is among the great world capitals. It’s home to incredible culture, astounding art, unforgettable cuisine, and a proud LGBTQ community. The city draws millions of international tourists yearly, mingling with its nine million residents. So, in this booming metropolis, we turn to a true local expert for guidance about the best places go, things to do, and one of kind experiences not to be missed. At the W Mexico City (Campos Elíseos 252, Polanco. Tel: 52-55-9138-1800. www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/mexwm-w-mexico-city), the charming and knowledgeable Carlos Amaral serves as our W Insider, an elevated guest-experience and urban ambassador. In his unique role for the hotel, Amaral considers himself each guest’s “eyes and ears in the city,” ever on the lookout for exact places to suit their interests. For Passport, Amaral shared his curated, LGBTQ-centric tips for this city, from antojitos to Frida’s Casa Azul.
What are the best restaurants for a romantic dinner in the city?
For fine Mexican cuisine, my romantic idea is Dulce Pateria (Anatole France 100, Polanco. Tel: 52-55-3300-3999. www.marthaortiz.mx). It’s walking distance from the W here in Polanco. I consider it romantic because it’s really cozy, with good lighting, music and atmosphere. And the food is fantastic. There is another good one in La Roma, which is called Sepia (Sinaloa 170, Roma Norte. Tel:52-55-7827-9395. www.cocinasepia.mx). It’s seafood with an Italian mix. It has a terrace and a wide choice of wines, plus great selection of cocktails.
Where are the coolest places for cocktails?
Licorería Limantour (Av. Alvaro Obregon 106, Roma Nte. Tel: 52-55-5264-4122. www.limantour.tv) is one of the best bars in Latin America. Their mixology is sharp, AND so is their presentation. There are two locations: the one in La Roma attracts a lot of young, hip people. The one here in Polanco has more business people having drinks after work, or travelers because of the hotels nearby. Another cool bar is Rufino (Av Oaxaca 89, Roma Norte. Tel: 52-55-2116-8252. www.rufinogastrobar.mx) in La Roma. It’s all about Mexican spirits, so you’ll find drinks based on tequila, mezcal, another one called pozol, and one called pox (poesch). The cocktails are interesting, and it makes me really proud how the mixology there is based on the products we create only here in our country. Even though they are extracted from the same agave plant, they all taste different because they’re created in different parts of the country.
If you’re looking for a speakeasy, visit Xaman (shaman) (Copenhague 6, Juárez. Tel: 52-55-4793-2614. www.xaman.bar) in Zona Rosa. When you get to the address, you realize that the Xaman entrance is in a parking lot of a building. You’ll see a guy standing at a black door, so just tell him, “I’m here for the bar.” Once you’re inside, it’s decorated like a modern apothecary. You’ll see shelves with bottles crystals and plants, which makes complete sense with the name, because xaman means medicine man. The atmosphere is casual and the drinks are really good.
Who serves the greatest weekend brunch?
From Chef Enrique Olvera, creator of Pujol, one of my favorite brunch options is Eno (Petrarca 258, Polanco. Tel: 52-55-5531-8535. www.eno.com.mx). It’s a casual cafeteria for quesadillas, eggs, chicken, frijoles, and more. There are four locations, so you can find one in Polanco, La Roma, Granada, and Lomas de Chapultepec. They serve a casual Mexican breakfast, but with a gourmet twist. For a Sunday morning “hangover brunch,” I would go to La Unica (Anatole France 98, Polanco. Tel: 52-55-4333 -2103. www.launica.mx). They have really good tuna dishes and ceviches, which for me is like my lifesaver when I have a late night. It’s light but it’s a bit chili-spicy, and it sort of wakes you up and puts you back on track.
Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal?
There is a really popular chain here in Mexico City called La Casa de Toño (www.m.lacasadetono.com.mx), and they’re open 24 hours. So it doesn’t matter if your party ends at 5 A.M., or you’re finishing work at 11 P.M.— you’ll find something to eat there, and it’s ready quickly. They serve Mexican food, or as we call it, antojitos, like sopes (soups), pozole (traditional stew), tostadas, chimichangos. Antojitos are small bites or munchies, and they’re what you eat when you have a craving or need a snack.
What are the best LGBTQ bars in the city?
Zona Rosa is famous for most of the LGBTQ establishments. For gay tourists, you can go to Zona Rosa and be as gay what you want. There are several gay bars there, but the most popular is Kinky (Calle Amberes 1, Juárez. Tel: 52-55-5514-4920. www.kinkybar.com.mx). Kinky is near the Angel of Independence monument, which you can see from the bar. It has three levels: On the first level you’ll find people having a beer and singing karaoke. On the second level you’ll find pop music, so you can dance to Britney Spears, Shakira, or Destiny’s Child. The third floor is more electronic circuit music with a DJ for dancing. They have small cover charges depending on which night you go. On Thursdays they have a special lesbian night, and they try to keep it to women, but it’s a mix.
Around Kinky you’ll find many, many other bars. If you want to walk around Zona Rosa, the best street is Amberes for good people watching or to have a look at the other bars. And I would recommend you do that, because it’s part of the Mexican culture and part of the Mexican rainbow, and there’s nothing like seeing a place for yourself. Just be aware of your belongings, or go with a local. Sometimes nothing happens, but sometimes people take advantage of crowded places to take your wallet or your mobile phone, as in every other big city. My advice is always: Don’t get too confident.
Downtown in Centro Historico, there is a bar called Cabaret La Perla (República de Cuba 44, Centro. Tel: 52-55-3916-2699. www.facebook.com/cabaret.laperla). It’s been open about four years, and they have drag-queen shows. It’s like a restaurant where you go, you have your table, you order some antojitos and drinks. And in front you have this dance floor where on weekends starting from 11 P.M., they have fun drag shows. Drag-queen culture has gone big here; it’s became sort of mainstream. And we have these really artistic Mexican queens who are worth seeing.
There’s also this popular place in Zona Rosa called Baby (Londres 71, Juárez. Tel: 52-55-3617-5580. www.facebook.com/BabyCDMX). Inside it’s as if you were in this empty house, and that’s where they set the nightclub. That’s a really good spot if you’re interested in watching drag queens.
If you go to La Perla, visit La Purísima (very pure) (República de Cuba 17, Centro. Tel: 52-55-5704-1995. www.facebook.com/Lapuri.oficial). It has two levels: the first one, you get to listen to mainstream music from the 1990s and 2000s. On the second level it’s more like Latin, salsa, reggaetón, maybe a little Ricky Martin. What I find impressive is that all the décor seems religious, but in all these pictures of nuns and priests, they are all couples. Maybe nuns making out, or priests holding hands, which can be a little bit risqué, but for the LGBTQ crowd there it’s a cool thing, not really about religion.
What are the most popular gay dance clubs in the city?
In our dance clubs, they have more mainstream music, and it’s about getting dressy and going out to show off. Here in Mexico there’s a marked difference between the people who go to the big popular clubs and the people who prefer bars. At clubs, you’ll find higher covers, and you have to dress well and talk kindly to the door people to let you in. It’s more of a VIP luxury experience, and usually with bottle service.
A good one in Polanco is Lust (Tamaulipas 37, Polanco. Tel: 52-55-1378-0992. www.envytheclub.com/lust_en.html). Go there to find cute guys and ladies. But the gay scene here is very diverse, and you’ll find a mix of straight people in gay clubs, they love it.
What museums are a must see for visitors?
The most representative of the city is the National Museum of Anthropology (Av. Paseo de la Reforma, Polanco. Tel: 52-55-4040-5370. www.mna.inah.gob.mx). It’s the largest and most visited museum in Mexico, and one of the biggest museums in Latin America. Some visitors have told me that it’s even more impressive than the history museums in Egypt or New York, so if you’re interested in history and pre-Hispanic culture starting with Mayans and Aztecs, it’s really worth going.
Another good one is Chapultepec Castle (Bosque de Chapultepec. Tel: 52-55-4040-5200. www.mnh.inah.gob.mx), which is cool just to know that there is a true castle in the middle of this ridiculously big city. It’s on top of the hill and you’ll get really good views of Paseo de la Reforma. Inside, it’s like traveling through time. You’ll see furniture, cars, and artifacts of that time. You’ll also get really good photos.
Of course one of the main attractions in Mexico City is the Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan, called he Blue House, Casa Azul (Londres 247, Del Carmen. Tel: 52-55-5554-5999. www.museofridakahlo.org.mx/en). Being there, the energy and vibes you feel, at least to me, is like getting to know a different Frida. Not the Frida Kahlo we see in paintings. You see and feel how she actually lived here; she was here with the monkey, with Diego Rivera, with her family. It is really special. Here, my recommendation is to buy your tickets for the time you want to visit in advance, because it gets really crowded and the queues can be insane.
Where are the best views?
Chapultepec Castle has a great view. Then there is Torre Latinamericana (Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 2, Centro. Tel: 52-55-5518-7423. www.torrelatinoamericana.com.mx), which resembles the Empire State Building. Back in the day it used to be the tallest building in all of Latin America. They have a restaurant and observatories on top. And there is this other monument before getting to downtown, called La Monumento de la Revolucion (Plaza de la República, Tabacalera), which is built to honor the Mexican Revolution. It’s a giant stone structure that has an observatory.
If someone is looking for a full-service spa, where do you send them?
AWAY Spa at the W Mexico City is special. We have a temazcal in the spa, which is a unique, impressive feature. It’s a sweat lodge, which they use for Mexican ancestral ritual treatments. You can just go in there, and the people from the spa will prepare everything. You have the option of full treatment by a shaman (I think she’s a woman so, shamana). With the volcanic hot stones it can go up to really high temperatures, which are regulated with water, herbs and essences. Then she cleans your spirit and aura in a ritual passed down from our pre-Hispanic ancestors. But it’s very different to have this ancient treatment available in this modern W Hotel. It will be the only temazcal you’ll find in the city on a fourth floor, and here you don’t even have to go outside.
What is the iconic tourist souvenir?
The most popular would be Mexican handicrafts. Alabrije are these bright imaginary folk-art creatures mixed of different parts of animals, so they come in all the sizes and colors. They’re interesting souvenirs to bring home. You can pick them up at local markets, and all around in Centro Historico. In the markets, you’ll find different clothing, toys, textiles, paintings, jewelry, and crafts—all Mexican creations. Also there are the little Mexican dolls, with the braids and dresses, that are fun to bring home. And anything related to the Day of the Dead tradition is a good local souvenir.
What annual events should we add to our “Must See” list?
If you’re planning to come to Mexico City, consider early November to see the Day of the Dead parade and festival. I am Mexican and I’m used to this tradition, but for a tourist it’s mind-blowing. The procession travels along Paseo de la Reforma, from Bosque de Chapultepec all the way to Zócalo, the main downtown square.