With a trip to Mexico City on the horizon, I asked my friend and fellow family travel blogger Katja Gaskell (globetotting.com), if she would mind sharing with us her tips about her beloved neighbourhood – La Condesa. Her excellent suggestions have me so excited that I am counting down the days until our DF visit !
Mexico City, otherwise known as el Distrito Federal (or simply el DF – pronounced “day-effay”) is one of the world’s largest cities; a huge, crowded, often chaotic capital where some 22 million people jostle for space. But this city is also our home. A place that we’ve lived for the last four years and where we hope to stay for at least a few more.
Despite all the negative press, Mexico City is a vibrant, exciting place to be and if you can’t live here then you should definitely visit! After all, the New York Times listed it as their top travel destination for 2016. And they couldn’t possibly be wrong…
Part of what makes living in this megacity both enjoyable (and, at times, bearable) is our colonia Condesa. This neighbourhood, along with its neighbour Roma Norte, is artsy and bohemian, characterised by tree-lined streets and Art Deco buildings. Together, they sit in the heart of Mexico City, southwest of the Centro Historico (historic centre).
Condesa, meaning “countess” was named after the Countess of Miravalle, who once owned land in the area. The neighbourhood was founded in 1902 and from 1910, its most famous feature was the horse racing track or hippodrome. Today the area is popular with young chilangos (locals), artists, families, hipsters and people like us, international residents who call Mexico City home.
Compared to the craziness of many parts of the city, Condesa offers a relaxed pace of life. There are lots of excellent restaurants, cool bars and sidewalk cafés (people can be seen eating all the time in Mexico City!) as well as parks and boutiques by some of Mexico’s best independent fashion designers. It’s also a fantastic place for kids.
What I love most about Condesa, however, is that you can walk everywhere! This, for a city like D.F., where the car is king, is a huge plus point.
Here are some of my favourite things about living in Condesa.
Parque Mexico (Mexico Park) sits in the centre of Condesa. Originally built in the 1920s, this park echoes European green spaces with ponds, walkways and curved paths. It’s well known for its Teatro al Aire Libre Lindbergh (Lindbergh Open Air Theatre) that has recently been renovated and is, according to my kids, great for bike riding! Parque Mexico gets busy at the weekends, particularly with dog owners, but it’s a fun place to visit with younger kids in particular. Enterprising families set up stalls along the paths where kids can paint moneyboxes or colour pictures for a small charge. There are antiquated electronic kiddie cars to hire for a lap around the park as well as three-wheeled bicycles.
Running around Parque Mexico is Avenida Amsterdam, what was once the neighbourhood’s horse racing track. Today, this central street continues to be a focal point of the neighbourhood and a pedestrian walkway runs through the middle. The street curves slightly – making it easy for you to lose your bearings – and is punctuated in parts by roundabouts and fountains. Some of Condesa’s most beautiful examples of Art Deco architecture can be seen along here.
Condesa’s other main park, Parque Espana (Spain Park) sits just a few streets away from Parque Mexico. This park is particularly popular with families as it is home to a playground. A somewhat dusty and falling-apart-in-places playground, but the kids love it!
Condesa’s Tuesday Market
The Tuesday tianguis or “Mercado sobre Ruedas” is a weekly street market that appears every Tuesday morning in the streets surrounding Edificio Condesa and offers a wonderful look at local life. Every week, traders set up their stalls selling colourful fruits and vegetables as well as plants, flowers, fish and meats. The lively atmosphere is contagious and the vendors incredibly friendly. While you’re here, it’s worth taking a look at Eificio Condesa itself. This rather fabulous old building dates back to 1911 and occupies an entire city block. It was the first luxury apartment complex to be built in Condesa and where, apparently, Plácido Domingo spent some time.
Just down the road from where we live is Nevería Roxy, a family-run ice cream chain that has been scooping scoops for some 60-odd years. It prides itself on having the most traditional ice cream in the capital and flavours range from the conventional (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry) to the more unusual (tamarind, soursop and rice). The ice cream parlour is packed on weekends but service is speedy!
Breakfast in Condesa
People in Mexico City love to eat out. Which suits us perfectly because I do not love to cook! One of the things we love best about living in Condesa is heading out on a Saturday morning for a family breakfast. There are lots of great places to eat in Condesa including Toscano, a popular chain of cafés, Duo, a small café with excellent breakfasts and, our latest favourite, Lardo. Owned by Elena Reygadas, one of Mexico’s best known chefs (she was named Latin America’s Best Female Chef of 2015), this restaurant has quickly become a popular place for breakfast, lunch and dinner and we spend a lot of time here. There’s a casual vibe, open kitchen and great food, including delicious pastries, known pan dulce (literally, “sweet bread”).
Katja is the co-founder of globetotting.com, a website for adventurous family travel. She has also helped establish FamilyTravelHQ.com, a selection of the best family travel writing on the web. Katja is a firm believer that you can – and should! – take your children everywhere and anywhere no matter what age they are. Prior to life on the road with kids, Katja wrote across a range of titles for Lonely Planet and tried and tested luxury hotels for the British boutique hotel guide Mr & Mrs Smith. She is currently based in Mexico City with her husband and three children.
Update: We had the great pleasure of visiting Katja in her Condesa neighborhood. Here is a 2 minute Mexico City YouTube video of our adventure.
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