Minimalist and modern, Hotel Habita was a pioneer of sultry, stylish boutique hotels in Mexico City. Right inn the centre of posh Polanco, this city-chic retreat takes a pared-down approach to luxury, hinted at from first glance of the frosted-glass-paneled entrance. Inside, design is all-white, the rooftop pool is decadent and comfort is a serious priority.
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Welcome cocktails, a bottle of wine, and daily breakfast for two
Double rooms from £212.34 ($263), including tax at 19.5 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
At the hotel
Spa with gym, open-air Jacuzzi and sauna, library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, DVD/CD player, music system, air-conditioning, minibar, Malin+Goetz toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Opt for a room with a number ending in 1 if you fancy a bath tub big enough for two and a sitting room to call your own. For a large wrap-around balcony and twin queen-beds, go for one ending in 3. The main street can be busy, so for a quieter stay, ask to be put at the sides or rear of Hotel Habita.
Habita’s pool perches on the rooftop, overlooked by the mezzanine bar. The dark wooden decking and curvy white loungers – together with the panoramic Mexico City skyline – make it a popular location for photo shoots.
Habita’s fifth-floor spa soothes stresses with a menu of massage and facial treatments, including shiatsu, Chinese massage, lymph system massage and reflexology.
Your Missoni bikini for mooching by the pool; ear plugs if you want an early night at the weekend.
Pets are welcome and can stay free. Stays on 1 August require a seven-night minimum.
The tables by the huge windows offer opportunity for ogling the well-dressed, well-heeled denizens of Polanco going about their stylish business, and the bench seats along one side of the dining area allow for people-watching inside.
Slack by day, slick by night: American Apparel with designer flourishes.
Mexican bistro cuisine is on offer at Habita’s Lobby restaurant, where the cool concrete minimalism is balanced by monochrome artwork in wood and retro-chic Arne Jacobsen chairs.
Area, Habita’s fixth-floor terrace bar, is a magnet for Mexico City’s fun-loving fresas (young, beautiful types), keeping the drinks and the music flowing until 2am at weekends. The Habita cocktail (champagne, cognac, and tarmarind) is wickedly addictive.
The restaurant is open all day until 11pm during the week, midnight at weekends.
Bénito Juárez International Airport is Mexico City’s main gateway, served by direct flights from London Heathrow with British Airways (www.ba.com) and both Heathrow and London Gatwick with Mexicana (www.mexicana.com). It also has routes serving other destinations throughout the US and Europe. It's a 30-minute drive to the hotel.
Mexico City’s metro system is quick and cheap, with line 5 linking the airport to the city centre, but it can be overcrowded – a taxi is the best option for hassle-free journeys. If you do decide to brave the metro, the nearest station to the hotel is Polanco on line 7 (change at Pantitlan and Tacubaya).
Taxis to the city centre from the airport cost around US$20 – look for the authorised taxi stands inside the terminal to avoid being overcharged. Heavy traffic can add up to half an hour to the journey, so allow plenty of time. Cars can be rented at the airport from Avis (www.avis.com) but Mexico City’s chaotic and congested roads are not for the faint-hearted.
Worth getting out of bed for
For a proper Mexican Sunday, head to Xochimilco in the south of the city for a day out on the canals. Hire yourself a boat and buy drinks and food from the canoe-based vendors as they float past. You can even pay a mariachi band to hop onboard and serenade you.
When it comes to packing Mr Smith and I simply don’t see eye to eye. I deliberate for hours; he throws the same outfits in a bag – whatever the trip – and is ready to go in minutes. On this occasion my sartorial stress has increased substantially, as we are getting ready to spend the weekend at Hotel Habita, Mexico City’s first design hotel, located in the most exclusive neighbourhood, Polanco. It’s also one of the city’s hippest hangouts with a rooftop bar that’s long been a favourite of the fun-loving, fashion-forward elite. Frankly, I’m not sure that my wardrobe is up for it.
As we’ve recently moved to Mexico City, the ride isn’t far. We hail a taxi, navigating bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic from our newly adopted bohemian toward well-heeled Polanco. This tree-lined corner of town is Mexico City’s answer to Knightsbridge or the Upper East Side, with Avenida Presidente Masaryk at the heart: tiny boutiques such as Tiffany and Cartier stand beside world-renowned restaurants like Biko, which recently earned a spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Eventually we pull up alongside the frosted-glass cube that is our hotel.
The hotel was once a 60s apartment block, but a comprehensive architectural facelift has ensured that you’d never know it. Elegantly but unassumingly wrapped in panels of frosted glass, the tall, square building was designed when minimalism was the order of the day, and spotless, icy white was the tone of choice. The style is contagious – napkin doodlers become maverick graphic designers by osmosis, and IT staff can turn to it-girls at the drop of a sunhat.
Doormen – clad in black and looking more Secret Service than baggage handlers – usher us through the lounge to a discreet reception desk at the back. Minutes later, we’re in our room, a contemporary white-and-steel space that is an effortlessly stylish setup of grey carpets, floor-to-ceiling windows and light wardrobes alongside Flos lighting, built-in speakers and a collection of arty books. One thing Mexico’s Habita hotel group always gets right is the beds. Soft, spacious and never-get-up comfortable, all of the group’s hotels (Deseo, Basico, Condesa DF, La Purificadora, Hôtel Americano and Azucar) share the same devotion to the science of sleep, with perfectly judged pillows and dive-in-and-disappear duvets.
I don’t quite understand the bowl of lemons displayed on the glass desk though – is statement fruit still a hot trend? – but later I learn that they are used to ward off evil spirits. The bathroom is compact with a too-tiny tub, but the Malin+Goetz products instantly compensate. Mr Smith, meanwhile, inspects the tray of in-room snacks and is more excited by the packets of Alka-Seltzer and Advil. Figuring they’re antidotes to the hotel’s potent cocktails, we head to the rooftop bar (beside the perennially popular pool) to find out.
The bar, Area, is divided over two levels. The lap pool – surrounded by loungers – has a wet bar; upstairs, the full lounge has tables, chairs and a crackling fireplace for cooler evenings. On clear nights, films are projected on to the walls of nearby buildings. We dip into the pleasantly warm water, then flop on the loungers with drinks in hand. The idea of dressing for dinner holds little appeal, so we help ourselves to excellent tapas from the bar menu instead and relax high above the hum of the city.
After breakfast the next morning, we head out to explore. It’s only a couple of blocks to the Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest), an enormous green space (686 hectares, to be exact) that is home to a zoo, boating lake and castle, as well as the national Museum of Anthropology, which is our first stop. We spend most of the morning taking in Mexico’s colourful – and gory – history), then lose ourselves in the beautiful park. The pool beckons, so we pull on our suits and find that we have it all to ourselves. ‘Where are all the cool kids,’ I ask Mr Smith. ‘They only come out at night,’ he knowingly replies, ‘much later at night.’
That evening we avoid the temptation of Polanco’s great restaurants and choose to eat at the hotel. Mr Smith starts his meal in Mexican spirit by ordering a bandera, or trio of shots (tequila, sangrita and lime juice) in the colours of the Mexican flag. The difference in Mexico, however, is that the tequila is not traditionally slammed, but sipped and savoured. I pair tuna carpaccio with smoky mezcal, and Mr Smith chooses the tomato soup with goat cheese. Main courses are prawn enchiladas for me, and medallions of beef with mustard sauce for my mister.
Just as we’re finishing off our tangy mango mousse we spot them: first a trickle, then a steady flow of Polanco’s cool crowd, heading towards the rooftop. Mr Smith and I look at each other and decide that we’re happy where we are. Besides, we like the rooftop best when we have it all to ourselves.