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At nearly 600 square miles, Mexico City is one of the largest metropolises in the world, and figuring out exactly which neighborhood to stay in during a visit can seem a little daunting for first-time visitors. In reality, thanks to a great subway network, the advent of cheap and safe Uber services, and the fact that several of the city's most charming neighborhoods have a nice range of lodging options, it's actually not hard to land a great room in a terrific area and to use get around easily to different parts of town. And although Mexico City does have a handful of swanky, higher-priced hotels that cater primarily to international business travelers, it's generally a quite affordable destination - you can find some superb accommodations for the equivalent of under US$100 and some simple, clean ones for far less.
Choosing a Hotel in Mexico City
Quite a few gay travelers to Mexico City, at least those with a penchant for LGBT nightlife, like to stay in Zona Rosa, which is both the city's gay nightlife hub and a vibrant center of dining and shopping in its own right. This modern neighborhood with a mix of office towers, embassies, and apartments is very central, too - it's easy to get from here to the major sites of the historic city center to the east, Chapultepec Park to the west, and the hip and historic neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma to the south. You'll find a good mix of international and local hotels in Zona Rosa and adjoining Cuauhtemoc, mostly along Paseo de la Reforma, one of the city's most prominent thoroughfares.
If it's important to you to be within an easy walk of many of the top museums and attractions in the city core, you might consider a hotel in Centro Historico, although this area puts you a bit out of the way of gay nightlife and some of the more charmer, greener, and less frenetic districts to the west. Parts of Centro Historico can feel a tad touristy, too.
The aforementioned Roma and Condesa districts are just a 10- to 20-minute walk from the Zona Rosa gay nightlife core, and they're among the most charming urban neighborhoods in Mexico. Lined with both grand old homes and striking contemporary apartments (most of them fewer than four or five stories), fragrant shade trees, stylish yet for the most part laid-back sidewalk cafes and neighborhood bistros, and dapper boutiques, the narrow streets in this part of the city are a pleasure to stroll along. Parque Espana and Parque Mexico anchor these two adjacent boroughs, and although you won't find a ton of hotels in this part of the city, there are a handful of gems.
Two neighborhoods with a good selection of upscale international hotels that cater heavily to foreign business workers are Polanco and Santa Fe. Of the two, Santa Fe is the least convenient for sightseeing and being close to the city's gay scene - it's a 25- to 30-minute drive from Condesa and Zona Rosa, for example. Polanco, on the other hand, has an ideal location if you're a fan of high-end shopping and fancy dining, and it's also steps from Bosque Chapultepec, the city's "green lung," which is rife with exceptional museums and lush greenery. Polanco has several outstanding high-end hotels.
Last but by no means least, the southerly neighborhoods of Coyoacan and San Angel rank among the most inviting areas to stay in Mexico City. There aren't many hotels in these upscale districts that feel a bit like independent cities, but they're strong on charm and history and contain some of the best restaurants in the city, plus some outstanding cultural attractions, such as the former homes and studios of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, which are now museums.
It's a little difficult not to focus solely on the huge walk-in showers in the rooms when discussing up the swank and stylish W Hotel Mexico City - these huge shower rooms, some with deep soaking tubs and others with rain-forest and side water jets, have big windows looking down over the elegant Polanco neighborhood, and they each have one feature that seems to capture the imaginations of every guest: silk hammocks.
But even going beyond the fab bathrooms, the W is a terrific place to stay. Set along Campos Eliseos' upscale-hotel row (the Hyatt Regency is another very nice, though more traditional, option along here), the 237-room hotel is steps from a number of slick boutiques, elegant restaurants, and exceptional museums - most of the latter being in verdant Chapultepec Park, which is just steps away.
Rooms at this pet-friendly hotel are outfitted with plenty of fun gadgets and techie touches: DVD and CD players (with a collection of media to play in them), 32-inch Plasma TVs, quirky and fun minibar snacks, Bliss Spa bath products, huge desks. There's a charge for Wi-Fi - if you're not using it much, head to the lobby and enjoy the free connection there. Beds are ultra-soft, and furnishings - including large work desks - are angular, sleek, and boldly colored. At the very high end, the W has some stunning suites, too. Visiting celebs often opt for these palatial units, with the 1,300-square-foot Extreme Wow Suite ranking right up there with the coolest VIP hotel rooms in North America (it has two private rooftop terraces).
The W has an expansive and smartly outfitted fitness center and full-service Away Spa, one of the quirkiest gift shops of any hotel in town, and great service - the staff tends toward the youthful and stylish side, but without any attitude. As with other W Hotels, the bar and dining spaces are as popular with locals as with guests, and they draw plenty of business from the LGBTQ community. Sip cocktails in the scene-y "living room" bar The Whiskey, or in the Terrace Bar.
Set inside a rather grand 1920s neoclassical building amid stylish Condesa's tree-lined streets and tony cafes and restaurants, the Hotel Condesa exudes elegance. But don't let the building's traditional facade trick you into thinking that this trendy roost is old-fashioned - indeed, this is one of the city's most contemporary and stylishly whimsical retreats, a favorite with fashionistas, artists, celebs, foodies, gays and lesbians, and the like. And with its gorgeous lobby restaurant and enchanting rooftop bar, it's also very much a venue for socializing with friends and people-watching. The hotel is part of Mexico's exclusive Grupo Habita hotel brand, which has earned a deserved reputation for its stable of artfully executed, often historic properties around the country, including La Purificadora in Puebla, Azucar in Tecolutla, and Distrito Capital in Mexico City's Santa Fe, and Downtown Mexico in DF's Centro Historico, among several others.
Shaped roughly in a triangle, the building is set around a dramatic central courtyard restaurant, El Patio, which is just off the lobby and features the daring Japanese-Mexican fusion fare of chef Keisuke Harada. It's a lovely spot, especially during the day, for a meal, but it's the Condesa's fabulous fourth-floor Terrace bar that's the hotel's real showstopper. The Terrace is decked with large, comfy reclining chairs and big tables where friends can mingle, sip craft cocktails, and feast on superb sushi while gazing out over the neighborhood's treetops and beyond that toward higher towers in surrounding districts. There's 24-hour room service, too, in case you'd rather dine in private, and the hotel also offers such appealing features as shuttle service in the house Mini Cooper, business services, free Wi-Fi throughout, valet parking, bicycles, and laundry services.
The upscale rooms, with rates starting around US$250 to US$300, come in several configurations - there are 40 units total. The Patio rooms open to the hotel's interior courtyard, while the compact but Balcony rooms have windows that allow a look out onto the street. Larger units include Balcony Suites with spacious living areas and larger bathrooms (with full tubs as opposed to just showers), and the most desirable of all, Terrace Suites and Corner Suites, with sunny outdoor balconies overlooking the trees. Whatever room you opt for, you'll enjoy bath products from Malin+Goetz, DVD/CD players, iPod docks, rain showers, and flat-screen TVs, plus one of the most memorable vibes of any hotel in the city.
Hotel La Casona
A low-keyed, elegantly appointed historic property a couple of blocks north of Parque Espana in Roma, the 29-room Hotel La Casona is a lovely base camp for exploring this trendy neighborhood. Although not exactly a budget option, La Casona does have quite reasonable prices - figure around US$150 on average, and sometimes you can score far better deals on the web. The rather grand-looking two-story building surrounded by an imposing iron fence dates to the early 20th century and rooms are decorated with charming artistic touches, from antique musical instruments to vintage paintings and photos. Hardwood floors, French doors that open onto tiny Juliet balconies, bathrooms with attractive tile work, and vintage beds, tables, and chairs contribute to the rather quaint vibe, but you'll also find plenty of modern perks, such as reliably fast and free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs with cable TV, climate control, and small baskets of in-room snacks.
For a fairly small hotel, La Casona does have a few other attractive amenities, including a nice little gym with a steam room, a terrace that's perfect for relaxation on a sunny day, the use of bicycles for roaming around the city, and a couple of inviting common areas - even a reading room for curling up with a book or your Kindle. The hotel also has an intimate, romantic restaurant that serves three meals daily - the food tends toward international and eclectic, but you'll detect a Swiss influence in some dishes. And there's an extensive wine list and bar selection.
One of the loveliest and most elegant neighborhoods in Mexico City, if not in all of Mexico, Polanco borders verdant Chapultepec Park, with its many cultural attractions - the National Auditorium, Chapultepec Zoo, Modern Art Museum, Museum Rufino Tomayo, and Museum of Anthropology. It's also a district rife with swank boutiques, designer shops, hip hotels (including another gay fave, the W Mexico City), and upscale restaurants, and there are even some see-and-be-seen gay clubbing nights in the area, including Envy on Friday nights (and the other gay bars of Mexico City located in Zona Rosa aren't far). Staying at the soaring, 45-story Hyatt Regency Mexico City, which had been the Nikko Hotel prior to 2012, puts you right in the heart of the Polanco retail, dining, and culture.
At 756 rooms, the Hyatt is one of the largest hotels in the city, so if you're seeking old-world, intimate, it's not the best choice for you. Yet the service at the Hyatt is highly personal and attentive - what you might expect from a boutique property. And the services and amenities are extensive. There's an impressive fitness center with an indoor pool, solarium, and three tennis courts, full business services (it's a popular place to stay with corporate travelers), and several respected bars and restaurants, the most renowned being Yoshimi, which serves sophisticated haute Japanese fare.
Request a room on an upper floor (anything above 25 is ideal) for the most impressive views of Mexico City - those facing Chapultepec Park have especially impressive vistas. Rooms are completely insulated from city noise, with large windows, Wi-Fi (there's a daily charge), good-size desks, nicely equipped marble bathrooms, coffeemakers, and all the other creature comforts you'd expect of an upscale Hyatt hotel. Note that weekdays are often busiest at Polanco business hotels, so you may be able to score some particularly impressive rates on weekends.