What it’s like to visit Mexico City now
(Bloomberg) – Cyntia Barrera Diaz is the editor of Breaking News for Bloomberg in Mexico City.
Most weekends in the hip Condesa, Roma, and Polanco neighborhoods of Mexico City, the outdoor restaurant seating is crowded with long-time diners and their pets, unimpressed by the traffic just inches away. Early in the morning, joggers can be seen exercising as they meander through sprawling Chapultepec Park and tree-lined Reforma Avenue. On Sundays, hundreds of residents conquer some of the capital’s main streets thanks to a popular government-organized bike tour for all ages.
Life seems unusually normal in many parts of the Mexican capital, despite the country ranks fourth in the world for Covid-19 deaths and the city is currently seeing an acceleration in weekly cases and hospital admissions.
Still, there are lingering signs of the effects of Covid: Masaryk Avenue, often referred to as Mexico’s Rodeo Drive, has more “For Rent” signs on its facades than ever before. And some restrictions remain: restaurants, hotels, and shopping malls are generally capped at 60% indoors, and cinemas and outdoor stadiums are capped at 50%.
Getting to that point was a tug of war. Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum lifted most of the Covid-19 restrictions in early June when cases fell, only to reverse course two weeks later when they increased.
Locals are now regaining confidence after a renewed vaccination campaign aimed at containing the spread of the virus during the busy summer months. While 64% of the adult population have received at least one dose so far, President Lopez Obrador has pledged to have all eligible people vaccinated with at least one vaccination by October. In Mexico City, cases in the 20- to 39-year-old age group are on the rise, and authorities are still preparing for a third wave that will peak in August, with only 38% of adults expected to be vaccinated by then will be.
The race for vaccinations is especially important given Mexico’s tourism restrictions – or lack of it altogether. With no quarantine or pre-arrival testing required, some of the capital’s hotels and vacation rentals are busy accommodating international visitors seeking the U.S. as their final destination, but who are prohibited from traveling until they are approved for two weeks Land. like Mexico.
Sylvain Chauvet, general manager of the Sofitel Reforma Hotel, says things started to pick up speed in January 2021 and vaccinated Americans have been arriving in greater numbers since March. The hotel’s rooftop Cityzen restaurant, which serves ambitious cocktails with breathtaking views of the skyline, is packed on weekends – though it still separates tables with partitions.
The scene there perfectly reflects the current reality of Mexico City: culinary greatness served with many permanent precautions. This is what awaits you when you think of an adventure in this incomparable megalopolis.
The food scene
Around 20% of all restaurants in Mexico have pulled the plug since the pandemic began as lockdowns, cautious customers and a lack of economic support from the government choked businesses. Among the notable closings: Sir Winston Churchill’s, a 50-year-old restaurant in a Tudor-style mansion known for its excellent Wellington steak and political powerhouse. Conversely, hundreds of taco stands remained open on the streets while local authorities sloppily pushed through to keep the informal economy afloat.
Alfresco dining has been a hidden blessing for many places, though it started awkwardly in January amid a tough second wave that oversaturated hospital beds. Now it should become an integral part. But the city’s foodies like Pujol and Quintonil rely on indoor service for a fuller, more controlled experience; Now that this is an option, reservations are being taken for a minimum of four to six weeks for indoor tables and getting started is not an easy task.
There are also notable newcomers. The tiny women-owned Bar Las Brujas, next to the beautiful Rio de Janeiro Plaza, is quickly developing an overwhelming reputation for risky drinks like “Fairy Poison,” made from mezcal, rice milk and lavender syrup. (It’s also a great place to explore the area’s many architectural gems.) An old favorite, Maximo Bistrot might as well be new again: it moved to spacious, industrial-looking grounds in the dynamic Roma Norte neighborhood in 2020, with many additions to a constantly changing menu that includes everything from ants to delicate rain mushrooms.
For those still worried about eating out, established local chef Somsri Raksamran has plenty of Mexican fans with pin-tó, a dark kitchen that hands out packets of Thai small plates. And Piedra Braza, an Argentine grill restaurant that is only open by reservation, about an hour southwest of the city limits, serves set menu options in the middle of the forest.
Culture is making a comeback
Mexico City is recovering from the worst months of the pandemic, which some visitors might be more cautious of than others.
If you’re still tired of Covid: Rent a colorful flat-bottomed gondola called a Trajinera to explore the canal gardens in Xochimilco; Either pack a picnic or stop by one of the many family-run outdoor restaurants nearby when you’ve worked up an appetite. If you plan ahead, the local cooking collective Arca Tierra Trajinera organize dawn excursions that culminate with a breakfast made from locally sourced ingredients. Hot air balloon rides over the magnificent Aztec archaeological site of Teotihuacan are another memorable, socially remote option, as is the sprawling Chapultepec Castle, which currently only allows 1,800 daily visitors to visit its storied rooms and gardens.
If you need a smooth re-entry: Museums are open, but 50% full. A huge installation by Mexican artist Tania Candiani with a black car upside down is parked in front of the museum; Inside, the artist’s daring mixed media works tell the story of the city over the past eight centuries. Show up when the museum opens at 10am and go inside for free. Tickets are required to visit the famous Frida Kahlos Blue House Museum in the heart of the quaint Coyoacan neighborhood, but parties are limited to two people. If you can’t get in, the nearby Anahuacalli Museum gathers Diego Rivera’s huge collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts in a pyramidal building made of volcanic rock.
If you want to pretend the pandemic never happened, nightclubs are among a handful of businesses that are not yet allowed to operate, although underground events are often advertised on social media. A little less daring are live drive-in concerts in the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a place where car races also take place; Popular Mexican rock band Los Caifanes started the trend in mid-May and Molotov, another famous rock group, will play two shows in August, possibly with plenty of open-air pods for extra seating. The first mass sporting event planned for the city will be Formula 1 in October, and authorities seem interested in selling lots of tickets and avoiding a cancellation.
How to get around
Subways and buses overcrowded in Mexico City are perceived by many as unsafe during the pandemic. Ride-hailing apps like Uber, DiDi or Beat (which offer Tesla rides in selected tourist areas) are a simple, affordable alternative; most drivers require masks and have passenger partitions installed. However, the city’s famous traffic is almost back to normal.
Another option is EcoBici, which offers bike-sharing stations in several residential areas, often near metro or bus stations. With 45-minute rental intervals and flimsy frames, they’re great for short journeys, but not for traversing the vast city. Your passport is required to register online, so avoid applying on the go.
Cyclists take note: while the city authorities have made cycling safer by expanding their own lanes, on some roads car traffic moves in one direction and public buses in the other. Take advantage of the Sunday road closures along large parts of Reforma Avenue to explore the city on two wheels without stress.
The ongoing Covid etiquette
With multiple variants of Covid floating around in Mexico City amid a large unvaccinated population, wearing masks is still seen as vital – even if enforcement is sometimes difficult for owners. Shops and restaurants welcome customers back after months of hardship and have to comply with the hygiene regulations issued by the government: clean shoes on mats at the entrance, apply hand sanitiser and check body temperature. Employees can often turn a blind eye to removing face masks or misusing them once inside. Don’t copy others when they flash their unmasked pearly white.
Many hotel employees, restaurant workers and motorists live on the outskirts and spend several hours a day commuting on public transport – at great personal risk. While in Mexico City tips of 10 to 15 percent used to be the norm, now is a good time to be more generous, especially with favorable exchange rates for Americans and Europeans against the peso.
Don’t expect the city to be quieter. Even the pandemic couldn’t silence the nightly battles between carts selling hot tamales and baked sweet potatoes or the early morning bells that heralded garbage trucks. It can be useful to pack a pair of earplugs.
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