Once the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, Mexico City has been conquered, colonized and declared independent. It’s a survivor of war, revolution and even an earthquake. From the ashes emerged a lively hub of art and culture, with remnants of a tumultuous history sprinkled in between modern buildings. It can be challenging with its thin air (the city is 2,240 meters above sea level), smog and traffic. But it’s a fascinating, intoxicating, chaotic place with year-round mild weather and simpatico locals. Vibrant and overwhelming—it’s all that. The truth: it takes time and careful planning to tackle Mexico City; the world’s third-largest city by some estimates.
With some 300 neighborhoods, the city overflows with things to do. But Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, D.F. seamlessly guides guests through this exciting metropolis, while also providing an oasis to escape the hustle and bustle when needed.
Independent from the 31 states, the city belongs to the people of Mexico—fitting, as everyone we encountered welcomed us into the Federal District (Districto Federal or D.F.) as if we were family. Sure, there’s traffic, but with planning (can we say plan again?), our cars were always moving and our five-year-old raves about the same experiences we do. We didn’t expect this trip to Mexico City to rank as one of our most memorable of all time, but it does.
*Tequila, tamales, Frida Kahlo, head-turning fusion cuisine, Mexican wrestlers, the pyramids.
*Hotel location: With gorgeous Chapultepec Park right next door, and plenty to do within stroller-pushing distance along Paseo de la Reforma, luxurious Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, D.F. is the perfect place to park the family.
*Culture: You’ve got to delve into the fascinating mix of ancient history and modern metropolis first hand.
*Variety: México D.F. suits a variety of travel styles. Foodie? Art lover? History buff, or just ready to roll with it? This sprawling place has enough to dedicate an entire trip to each and then some.
*Archaeology lesson: More than 70 world-class museums and 10 archeological zones: famous Aztec and Mayan ruins at the world-renowned Museo Nacional de Antropología; the Papalote Museo del Niño; the re-discovered sacrificial pyramid of Templo Mayor—the list goes on.
*Extremely family-friendly. Yes, really.
*Better-than-textbook learning: Whether they’ve studied it yet or not, they’ll remember seeing the famous artwork and ruins—and you’ll have the photos to prove it.
*Climbing pyramids: There are short ones and tall ones at Teotihuacán, 30 miles northeast of the city, a massive site dating to 100 BC with some of the largest pyramids in the pre-Columbia Americas. The name translates as: “Where man met the gods.” Get dirty, touch and contemplate how this massive, ancient city was built by hand.
*Color everywhere: From piñatas hanging in streetside shops to multi-hued buildings, Mexico City is a delightful feast for the senses.
*Chapultepec Park: There’s a real castle, small zoo, play areas, boats to pedal, vendors selling trinkets and plenty of lush space to blow off steam.
*The hotel’s inner courtyard: Let them loose to roam this fully-enclosed oasis.
*A signature Mexican massage at the hotel spa. Calm nerves and revive strength after a long journey, or just because.
*One-of-a-kind tours arranged by the hotel: of the city’s most popular markets or a unique outing based on fashion, interior and industrial design. Babysitting is available.
*Tequila: in the afternoon, El Bar sets out 130 tequilas and mescals to savor.
*Security: The hotel has a fleet of 50 cars and an excellent concierge desk to steer you in the right direction.
*Shopping: for any budget or style—fun, colorful outdoor markets and high-end fashion, and everything in between.
The pretty birds and sculptures in the hotel courtyard. Temperate year-round weather means both are always on display.
Dine in—Reforma 500 boasts the best Sunday brunch in all of Mexico City (ceviche, paella, bottomless Taittinger champagne) along with delicious, all-day contemporary Latin cuisine. Or lounge in the living room-like comfort of El Bar. The breakfast buffet features zucchini blossom omelets, chilaquiles and other delights not commonly found at home. Drop into El Bar for snacks throughout the day, a quick lunch and specialty cocktails in the evening. Both restaurants overlook the tranquil courtyard gardens. In-room dining serves crispy tacos, fajitas and kid-friendly favorites for the times when going out after a long day of sightseeing is a stretch for the little ones.
Dine out—Just a 10-minute walk from the hotel, Barro Negro serves Oaxacan cuisine in a relaxed, contemporary setting. Choose from a variety of moles, flatbreads and horchatas.
Fonda el Refugio might be a little touristy, but the traditional, home-style Mexican fare makes this nearly 50-year-old, family-friendly restaurant worth a visit. Try the thick and chocolatey mole, grilled meats, rice dishes and don’t skip the flan (custard). It’s a 25-minute walk (at a five-year-old’s pace) or seven minutes from the hotel by car. Keep Four Seasons’ restaurant guide in your pocket: it lists concierge favorites by borough, along with a variety of international cuisines.
1. Tour Teotihuacan and its pyramids. Book a knowledgeable Four Seasons driver who will tailor a once-in-a-lifetime experience at this pre-Hispanic city and very special UNESCO World Heritage Site, located about an hour away from the hotel.
2. Chapultepec Park: The largest city park in the Western Hemisphere is home to play areas, Chapultepec Zoo, Chapultepec Castle, nine museums, lakes, fountains, winding paths…
3. Eat: Take advantage of some 50 different regional cuisines, some found within walking distance of the hotel. Jog it off in Chapultepec Park or at the hotel fitness center—the glorious food is worth the extra exercise.
4. The floating gardens of Xochimilco: It’s considered the Venice of Mexico city with canals, floating islands and colorful boats called trajineras to ride. Don’t forget to shop and eat here, too.
5. Museo Nacional de Antropología: These artifacts are impressive even to a young eye. Avoid Sunday crowds, due to free admission for residents, and Mondays, when it’s closed. Even if you just have an hour to spare, stop in—it’s incredible.
*Babies: A dip in the heated pool, a walk in a carrier through Chapultepec Park or stoller ride down Paseo de la Reforma.
*Kids 5-10: Role playing real-life occupations at a Kidzania theme park, a pedal boat ride in Chapultepec Park, Teotihuacan, Museo Nacional de Antropología, riding a trajinera at Xochimilco.
*Tweens & teens: A ride through Chapultepec Park on one of the hotel’s bicycles, shopping, museums, Templo Mayor, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Teotihuacan, learning about the pop-culture phenomenon of lucha libre on a private tour.
Email the concierge desk in advance of your trip as the suggestions may change what you do for the better, trust me. Also, re-hash history as a family before you arrive. Grab a kid’s book for the youngsters and discuss what you’ll be seeing. It makes seeing things in real life that much more… awesome.
Read more about Mexico City in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our top experiences for Mexico City in Four Seasons Magazine.
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Katie Dillon writes La Jolla Mom, a lifestyle site covering parenting, travel, cooking with kids, home management and local happenings. After seven years of expat life in London and Hong Kong (Four Seasons Place in Hong Kong was her home for four years), she is now grounded in the seaside community of La Jolla, CA with her husband and preschool aged daughter. You'll also find Katie active on Twitter and Facebook.
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