Classy Condesa

Kicking back in this hipster haven

By: Gabriella Gershenson

Mexico City’s ancient Aztec and colonial history are draws in and of themselves, and intrepid travelers who ignore the warnings and choose to explore the Western hemisphere’s largest city will be richly rewarded. But its less advertised, up-and-coming, hip neighborhoods rival those of the world’s greatest cities and justify a visit in their own right.

The hottest of these neighborhoods is La Condesa (countess), Mexico City’s token artsy district. Travel guides liken Condesa to New York City’s Soho because of the abundance of artists who have colonized the region since the mid-90s, upping its real estate and social value. Its present status as a hipster haven and past as the home to Mexico City’s early 20th-century Jewish immigrant community has also led to comparisons between Condesa and Manhattan’s East Village.

But this is where the comparisons to Gotham end. Unlike the pallid gray landscape of the Empire City, Condesa’s architecture is ornate, varied and colorful. The art-nouveau architecture can fool you into thinking you are in a European city, that is until you catch a glimpse of the tropical foliage lining the streets.

Condesa is located in south-central Mexico City and convenient to Parque Chapultapec, as well as nearby neighborhoods like Polanco, Mexico City’s ritziest area, and la Zona Rosa, possibly it’s most touristy.

As easy as it is to get to other neighborhoods from Condesa, it may be hard to tear yourself away. Condesa boasts an elegant infrastructure organized in a series of boulevards (the main avenues are Amsterdam, Tamaulipas and Mazatlan), with smaller side streets radiating off of them, perfect for window-shopping or whiling away an afternoon with a glass of wine at one of the many restaurants.

The quarter is also one of the greenest, thanks to its two parks. Parque Mexico features fountains, a duck pond and an art-deco open-air theater, and the verdant Parque Espana was once a racetrack. Cloistered away from the less-refined aspects of Mexico City, in leafy, low-key Condesa, tourists will wonder about the whereabouts of all of that promised noise and grime.

In the last 10 years the neighborhood has become a center for the art, film and music industries. Inevitably, the impressive array of sophisticated cafes, bars, galleries and restaurants have followed. In line with these developments, Condesa’s first boutique hotel, Condesa df, opened last year. The site of the ultra-stylish accommodations is a triangular 1920s Beaux Arts building overlooking Parque Espana. The interior, conceived by Parisian designer India Mondavi, combines an organic ’70s aesthetic with indigenous Mexican touches. From the rooftop sushi bar to the nightclub and cinema in the basement, there is something for every taste.

As trendy as Condesa has become, its middle-class roots are still evident. Though Condesa is officially gentrified the tell-tale marker, a Starbucks there are still wisps of its original working-class identity. Butcher shops, hardware stores and humble eateries break up the density of the more stylish commercial newcomers. It might take a neighborhood like this to get tourists to finally recognize Mexico as the world-class city it is.


Condesa df, Mexico City

For clients seeking the full hipster experience, or who would just like to enter the ranks of Mexico City’s beautiful people, Condesa df can deliver on both counts. The hotel offers 40 rooms done up in retro furnishings and modern-day amenities, including iPods, Internet access and Malin + Goetz toiletries. Request the terrace suite, which features a private terrace and excellent views of the surrounding area. Rates for the terrace suite range from $194-$380.