Mexico City, Mexico ~ Downtown Mexico

January 2020

Four-and-a-half hours traveling south through a single time zone will get you from Minneapolis to Mexico City. The access hasn’t always been so convenient, so until recently, we had delayed a visit, even though mega-cities have long ranked high on our list of places to see. When Delta introduced a direct flight from Minneapolis and friends invited us for a long weekend in the city, we jumped at the opportunity. When those friends unfortunately had to cancel, we decided to go on our own, have some mezcal and tacos for them, and bring home ideas for next time.

La Condesa. Roma. Polanco. Coyoacán.

Downtown Mexico

These were the neighborhoods that kept coming up as we researched Mexico City and places to stay. They all sounded lovely, but we were intrigued by a handful of articles that featured a hotel in the historic center of the city just a few blocks from the Zócalo, its main square. This part of Mexico City is experiencing a kind of renaissance, and while the hotel itself – aptly named Downtown Mexico – is only six years old, it is housed in a 17th-century palace situated in a UNESCO World Heritage area.

Palatial in a modern, minimalist way

In a city with 23 million people and things to see from end to end, we knew we would only dip our toes in the water during this short stay. The list of sights we wanted to see included several near the historic center, so that neighborhood seemed like a strategically wise choice. Then, when we read about Downtown Mexico and its adaptation of the palace building into what The Telegraph described as a neo-industrial hotel with lofty pared-down rooms and cool communal spaces, we were sold.

We arrived at Downtown Mexico on a warm January afternoon after being picked up at the airport by the hotel’s driver. As the porter delivered bags to our room, we enjoyed a welcome shot of mezcal and then got a brief introduction to the hotel’s facilities, including the rooftop pool and bar and the breakfast terrace. From there, we were on to our room, the Revolution Suite.

Panorama – The Revolution Suite

We had seen pictures of the suite on the hotel’s website but were surprised – in the best way – when we entered for the first time. The scale of the space was breathtaking with barrel-vaulted ceilings 20 feet tall. The stone and plaster walls, tile floors and shuttered doors were complemented – but not overwhelmed – by simple wood and leather furniture. The architecture of the space provided the design, which had brutalist elements, but at the same time was soft and warm.

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Downtown’s good company

The hotel is small – 17 rooms – but it shares the palace building with several other businesses, many of which we took advantage of during our stay.

Azul Historico

Azul Historico occupies one of two courtyards and is perhaps the most popular restaurant in the area. It was perpetually busy during our stay, and after having dinner there, we knew why. The palace also has a second restaurant, Puntarena, that specializes in fish; a small collection of Mexican-owned shops that sell boutique clothing, foods and gifts; and a well-regarded coffee shop on the first floor. Just outside the door of the hotel is one of Mexico City’s primary shopping districts, so we didn’t need to go far to find anything we might need.

Good to know

We don’t often use concierge services when we travel because we aren’t big planners, but Downtown’s chief concierge and her terrific colleagues helped us with several arrangements, including transport to and from the airport; tickets to the Frida Kahlo Museum; and reservations at Emilia (aka Milia), a relatively new arrival to Mexico City’s excellent dining scene. Throughout our stay, the staff also gave us helpful tips on things to see and do.

Downtown Mexico may not be the most luxurious place in which we have stayed, but it is certainly one of the most unique and memorable. It ranks in our top 3.

A few cautions for travelers with particular expectations: The hotel is in a bustling area, and the rooftop bar turns into a party spot at night. With our balcony door open, we could hear the sounds of the city late into the night. When we closed the door, it was very quiet. However, we can imagine that the rooms directly under the bar aren’t quite so peaceful.

Additionally, the rooms can be dark, particularly on cloudy days. We appreciated that the architecture of the room wasn’t cluttered with things like light fixtures, but that did mean the vast space was lit only with lamps and a votive candle — yes, a real candle. When the sun was out, light found its way in, and our room had the advantage of two shuttered doors on the east and west sides. Other rooms face only into the courtyard, and on a rainy day when the courtyard covers were drawn shut (we got to see the remarkably quick button-up on a rainy day), the whole building became quite dim. We love spaces that fluidly move between inside and outside and express the mood of the day, but we know not everyone feels the same.

Feeling fortunate

Downtown ranks as one of the most distinctive places we have stayed, and we feel lucky to have found it. The suite made the visit even more out of the ordinary; we highly recommend booking this particular room. Pictures can’t accurately capture the hotel’s spaces – and we could go on for much longer describing the many details we appreciated – but suffice it to say, Downtown Mexico is well worth a visit to experience yourself.

Stay details:

  • Downtown Mexico, central historic district
  • 3-night stay, January 17-19
  • Revolution Suite #14

Where we ate, what we did:

Frida Kahlo Museum


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