Many visitors to Mexico cling exclusively to the coasts, sipping cocktails and splashing in the waters of Cancun, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas. Thankfully, American visitors are catching on to the magic of landlocked Mexico City, a megalopolis with 21 million people and just as many potential adventures.
A pre-pandemic journey there lived up to all the hype that hip gays touted, with innumerable museums, parks, and restaurants. The city is almost like a mash-up of other massive, cosmopolitan cities; imagine if Madrid, Bangkok, Tokyo, and L.A. all came together into one magical place. With that in mind, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you only have a few days to explore, so keep this primer on what’s unmissable in Mexico City, or CDMX, as the city and surroundings are known by locals.
A proud couple kisses in Mexico City
Zona Rosa is the beating heart of queer Mexico City, where LGBTQ-owned businesses proliferate, and the annual Pride parade kicks off. Even though CDMX as a whole is generally welcoming to LGBTQ+ travelers, Zona Rosa is an ideal spot to lay your head, as it’s filled with lodging options and is very centrally located. The Sofitel Mexico City Reforma is one of the area’s best new hotel options. My partner and I stayed at a modest hotel, PF Suites on Liverpool Street, which served all our needs perfectly.
We usually started our days by grabbing a coffee and walking to the city’s iconic and awe-inspiring Angel of Independence statue, before contemplating lunch. As befitting any hip neighborhood, the dining options in Zona Rosa are top-notch and include spots like Almara, with its fresh Mexican-Mediterranean menu, and Contramar, a much-loved seafood restaurant the city’s movers and shakers adore. Mercado Roma, an elaborate food hall that can satisfy any craving, is a 20-minute walk from the gayborhood.
A collection of Frida Kahlo’s clothes at the Frida Kahlo Museum
As a first-time visitor to CDMX, I was blown away by the staggering variety of museums, all very easy to access. We casually strolled to Chapultepec, Mexico City’s own Central Park, and soon found ourselves exploring the numerous attractions it houses, like the stunning National Museum of Anthropology — the nation’s largest and most visited cultural institution — and the Museum of Modern Art and the Museo Rufino Tamayo, another contemporary art museum.
Sadly, we didn’t save enough time for Chapultepec Castle, an ornate citadel that, while renovated and expanded numerous times, has been in existence since the time of the early Aztecs. It now houses gardens and the National Museum of Cultures. Leave a day to explore the Palace of Fine Arts (about a 40-minute walk from Zona Rosa, or an easy subway or bus ride) and its nearby museums, which include institutions devoted to muralist Diego Rivera and the nation’s fight for independence.
Locals showing their LGBTQ+ Pride
If you’re a culture vulture like my husband and me, save time on your itinerary for spots like the Zone Rosa-adjacent Museo del Objeto del Objeto — which opened in 2010 and explores items like mass-produced goods and advertising — and, of course, the Frida Kahlo Museum. Built in Kahlo’s former home with Rivera, her husband, the museum is a bit of a trek south from central CDMX and usually crowded, but worth the effort to see up close how this bisexual genius lived, loved, and worked.
As in most cities, nightlife is coming back in fits and starts in CDMX, but stalwart spots in Zona Rosa remain open for your pleasure like Kinky Bar and Nicho Bears & Bar. As an engaged gay couple in their 30s at the time of our Mexico City sojourn, we mainly stuck to daytime adventures, passing out early most nights. You’ll walk a lot in CDMX, but it’s a pleasure, and it heightened the city’s romantic nature. The sidewalks are pristine and fastidiously landscaped with trees and flowers, while ubiquitous benches, plazas, and parks attract canoodling lovers at all hours of the day.
The architecture of historic Mexico City
My most vivid memory of Mexico City is strolling hand in hand with my future husband as our senses were overwhelmed with the sights, smells, and sounds of this sprawling, fascinating world capital. And not once did we think of the beach.
This piece originally ran in Out Traveler print magazine. The Spring 2022 issue is now available on newsstands.