History is writ large in Casa Polanco, a boutique bed and breakfast in one of Mexico City’s most monied neighbourhoods, set at the edge of the second largest park in the world. It’s part Spanish colonial mansion that’s housed aristocratic families since the 1940s, and part sleek modernist block built by architect Claudio Gantuz over four years. Its whiplash era shifts are testament to the country’s pacy dynamism and an homage to Mexican craftsmanship – furthered by the love that’s been given to the interiors, from gently restored stucco ceilings and marble floors, to treasure-hunted antiques (the work of design team M+M), and statement pieces from innovative studios. And, in this best-of-both world, there are lingering drinks with leafy views, spa escapism and romance that spans the ages.
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A private breakfast served in your room or on the terrace
Double rooms from £414.86 ($432), including tax at 16 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of 3.5% per room per night prior to arrival and an additional service charge of 10% per room per night prior to arrival.
Rates include a continental breakfast, minibar soft drinks, tea time (with drinks and snacks) from 5pm to 7pm, coffee and water delivered to your room at 7am, and one set of clothes pressed a day.
The grand entranceway to the original house has some stairs, but within there’s a lift to all floors and spacious ground-floor rooms that may suit guests with mobility issues.
At the hotel
Spa and gym, library, restaurant, pressing service, bikes to borrow, lounging terraces, concierge, free WiFi. In rooms: Flatscreen TV, minibar, Nespresso coffee machine, bathrobes, Xinu bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Stick with the classics – the hotel’s newer rooms are easy on the eye, with dark woods, parquet flooring, luxe marble and white walls, but for that true lord-or-lady-of-the-house feel, you’ll want to stay in one of the four mansion rooms. There are three Premier rooms and one Grand with a sleek modern bath tub; all are spacious and light-flooded, with park views, and each has something special: an intricate stucco ceiling, windows with Eastern-style arches, curlicued ironwork. The two ground-floor rooms interconnect, and the two on the upper floor have balconies. Of the more modern rooms, we’d pick the Lincoln Park suite with its super-sized terrace.
The spa’s glazed cabin (big enough for two) is set overlooking the park atop the new annexe, so you feel far removed from the city hubbub. There’s a small but considered treatment menu for gentle unwinding after you’ve exhausted the shops in Polanco, and ambient lamps made by respected native designer Héctor Esrawe to set the scene. And, the hotel’s gym adds a touch of glamour to your work-out, not only with its hifalutin Technogym equipment, but with its original art nouveau feature windows and chic styling.
A hefty credit limit to allow for temptation, and gear for going out – Polanco is party-hard with label-draped denizens and a high concentration of the city’s be-seen hotspots, so you’ll want to look the part.
The concierge can help set you up with an entourage of personal shoppers, drivers and whoever else can be of service.
The casa may have once been a family home, but now it's more of a love nest.
Mexico City may be a go-go-go megalopolis, but you wouldn’t know it to sit on the hotel’s terrace and look out upon the leafy peacefulness of Lincoln Park. We’re also rather taken with the cosy corner sofas in the library lounge.
Burnished back-in-the-day looks or au courant couture.
Waft through the hotel’s entrance hallway – an art-lined, marble-floored space from which a staircase spirals up – past the check-in desk and through the colonnaded arches and you’ll find yourself bathed in sunlight in the hotel’s glass-roofed atrium, La Veranda. It’s here where you can take breakfast (a buffet or locally inspired à la carte options), tea or an apéritif on a comfy sofa and under a parasol on particularly dazzling days. The focus is on the most important meal of the day, but the concierge can point you in the right direction when it comes to lunch and dinner.
Make yourself at home – if you’re anything like us, this means helping ourselves to liberal servings from the honesty bar – here a chic decanter-laden cocktail trolley in the library. It’s largely stocked with spirits – some of which are free for guests – and there's plenty of wine offerings, too.
Casa Polanco is in the upscale colonia of its name, to the northwest of Mexico City, close to the vast and verdant Bosque de Chapultepec. Dubbed the ‘Beverly Hills’ of CDMX, there are designer boutiques aplenty and some of the city’s priciest residences.
Mexico City Airport is the nearest international hub, just a 25-minute drive from the hotel. It’s well connected to both Americas and Europe with plenty of direct flights. Hotel staff can arrange transfers (around US$35 one-way).
There are two subway stations within walking distance of the hotel: Auditorio and Polanco, both on Line 7. From the airport, board at Terminal Aérea on Line 5, ride it one stop to Pantitlan on Line 9, then head west to reach Line 7.
Driving in Mexico City can be chaotic with a (sometimes very) fast and loose approach to the highway code, tiresome traffic jams and street vendors vying for your attention, but as long as you keep your wits about you it’s a definite possibility (or you can hire a driver to navigate the city for you). Most international visitors start their road trips in Mexico City, heading north to see the likes of San Miguel de Allende, or south to beach hop the Yucatán, so you’ll likely survive a city stay without a car. There's no private parking at the hotel, but plenty of available spaces in the surrounding streets.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel acts as more of a beauteous base from which to propel your adventures, but they can offer you a massage, call in a personal trainer or take part in mat Pilates, Yoga classes and Meditation sessions. Home to one of Mexico’s most expensive streets (the luxury-boutique-lined Presidente Masaryk Avenue) and one of the largest parks in the western hemisphere (the Bosque de Chapultepec), the Polanco neighbourhood is certainly one of CDMX’s most significant, attracting the city’s wealthiest and flocks of culture vultures. There’s much to grab your attention, but first, hit the line-up of designer labels along Presidente Masaryk Avenue if you have pesos to burn, or explore the – relatively – less expensive options at glamorous open-air mall Antara Polanco. Once you look the part then you’re all set to go promenading through Chapultepec Park (all 17,000 acres if you have the stamina…) There’s enough to do within its borders to distract you for days: see giant pandas at the zoo; trace the city’s history exploring the collections of exceedingly grand Chapultepec Castle (home to the National Museum of Cultures); chart eclipses on the famed Aztec Sun Stone, just one of the fascinating artefacts at the National Anthropology Museum; and see Mexico’s most profound modern artists on display at both the Rufino Tamayo Museum and the Modern Art Museum (which has amassed over 3,000 paintings). The latter has a selection of Frida Kahlo’s works, but you may prefer seeing them in the more personal setting of her peacock-blue home, in the Colonia del Carmen neighbourhood to the south. Just as colourful, with its planes of pink and orange, is architect Luis Barragán’s jawdropping futuristic casa on the southern border of Chapultepec. Parque Lincoln (opposite the hotel) doesn’t have as much going on, but its sculptures and graffiti scrawls, genteel lakes for toy-boat races and hugely popular playground make it worth wandering through. Soumaya Museum has a huge collection of pre-Hispanic and European treasures (notably a trove of Rodin works) for you to lay your eyes on, but the undulating building they’re housed in is an attraction in itself. Teatro Teicel has a programme of plays and musicals, the iconic Paseo de la Reforma will take you to the central Zócalo and surrounding monumental buildings if you walk its length. And, you’re just a short hop from the hipster havens of Roma and Condesa.
Restaurants in Polanco reflect the ‘hood’s ritzy nature – here American chains rub shoulders with upscale global eateries and joints owned by celeb chefs. But, we say forgo fanciness to sit on a curb and messily devour the menu at beloved hole-in-the-wall taqueriaEl Turix (21 Avenida, Emilio Castelar), whose cochinita pibil has earnt a cult following. For a more elevated experience, chef Enrique Olvera is your man – he’s built an empire in the area, which started off with world-renowned Pujol, where the tasting menu that twists and turns through traditional and fusion flavours is worth securing a hard-won reservation. His more casual bistro-style diner Eno, close by, is a cheaper way to discover his genius, or try his protégé’s accomplished cookery at Quintonil, where the menu’s equally myriad, serving charcoal-roasted chicken with mole sauce, nectarines and clams; uchepos (tamales) with cheese foam and confit peppers; and guava rocks with caramelised white chocolate and pink pepper to finish. And, with Dulce Patria, chef Martha Ortiz (who’s starred on Top Chef Mexico), brings a sense of fun to seriously haute Mexican cuisine: think pan negro dusted with a flour Dia De Los Muertos skull, garnishes cut into butterfly shapes, sweets served on wooden toys, and plates that resemble a Kahlo-esque palette.
Maque Café (131 Avenida Altavista) has a Continental feel, but doesn’t deviate too far from tradition, serving top huevos rancheros and pan dulce. And Otro Café’s (78 Shakespeare) coffee game is shot-in-the-arm strong.
Take a wild guess what Gin Gin Polanco excels in: yes, its cocktails largely come laced with its namesake spirit; most keep it simple with some rosemary and a dash of lemon oil here, or a spritz of grapefruit juice there, but the signature sipper is a heady blend of cardamom, ginseng, peppermint, ginkgo biloba and beer. For less single-minded spirits, head to Il Canto (247 Campos Elíseos) whose cocktails are highly regarded (especially the martinis), then warm up your pipes, because its other claim to fame is as a raucously fun karaoke joint.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this bridging-old-and-new boutique hotel in Mexico City’s monied enclave and unpacked their beaded Huichol necklace and lurid luchador masks, a full account of their making-a-dent-in-the-megalopolis break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Casa Polanco…
A rare few have the good fortune – and we mean fortune – to live in Mexico City’s upscale Polanco neighbourhood. Just north of picturesque Parque Lincoln and vast cultural enclave Chapultepec, with designer-boutique-lined streets and cult eateries, the neighbourhood’s real estate will set you back a pretty peso. But, you can experience it’s high life vicariously through a stay at Casa Polanco. This Spanish Colonial Revival mansion – a home for notable families since the 1940s – has had its stucco ceilings, intricate ironwork, sage-marble flooring and colonnaded vestibules restored to their former glory, and a modern antechamber (a four-years-in-the-building project by architect Claudio Gantuz) with 10 elegant bedrooms, a spa and gym added in sympatico style. Mother-and-daughter interior-design team Monica Romo and Monica Novelo scoured antique shops for era-appropriate fittings and objets, but furnishings from Polanco’s design studios, by the likes of Alfonso Marinal, bring it up to the present. Rooms are largely simple, with white walls, dark woods and marble-lined bathrooms, but many have balconies or access to an interior garden, which invites verdure in from the park just opposite. It’s a stay that doesn’t need to entertain you – the best of the city’s museums, monuments and eateries (Pujol is just down the road) are within easy reach – but hosts with a light touch: whipping up breakfasts served in a space where the light pours in, leaving you to your own devices (and the spirit-laden honesty bar) in the library lounge, and serving up cocktails at golden hour. Perhaps it’s for this reason that those who’ve stayed at Casa Polanco have bandied about the – somewhat cliché – adage that a break here is like staying in a stylish friend’s home. Frankly, we can only aspire to have friends with such wonderful assets, but it’s just our good fortune that with Casa Polanco to check into, we won’t need them.