The Condesa and Roma district of Mexico City is a residential and restaurant area on both sides of Insurgentes avenue (Condesa on the west side, Roma on the east side) between Viaducto Miguel Alemán in the south and Avenida Chapultepec in the north. It's a large area with mostly Art Deco architecture, large parks, and a relaxed atmosphere.
La Condesa, an area consisting of several colonias on the west side of Avenida Insurgentes, was at one time an extremely fashionable part of Mexico City, particularly during the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in the 1940s and 1950s when it was home to many film stars. Mexico City's first Bauhaus-type apartment building, the Edificio Basurto, was built in 1938 and was popular amongst entertainment industry figures. After the 1985 earthquake which hit the area hard, many of its residents moved on to areas like Polanco and Lomas de Chapultepec and many of the Art Deco and midcentury modern homes and apartments became abandoned. Due to the high availability of housing stock and fascinating architecture, the area was rediscovered and became immensely popular with artists, musicians and other creative people in the mid 90s, resulting in rising real estate costs and an abundance of hip restaurants, cafes, and bars. Today La Condesa is still worth a visit, although many of the pioneers have moved on to other neighbouring areas. One such area is Col. Roma, on the opposite side of Insurgentes from Condesa, which is less developed, but has a similar flavor. Although Colonia Roma was developed at the same time as Condesa, it traditionally was more middle class in population, with a large number of European immigrants who had fled the Spanish Civil War and the Holocaust, and despite the damage of the 1985 earthquake kept this character until recently.
The area of Condesa closest to Insurgentes is focused around Avenida Amsterdam, a large, oval street that used to be the track of the area's horse racetrack (thus the name for this colonia, Hipódromo Condesa). Av. Amsterdam is long and slightly curving, making it easy to lose your direction while going along it. It's dotted with small roundabouts where other streets cross it, and a large part of the area inside it is taken up by the Parque México, with an open-air amphitheatre on one end, and small lanes amongst large trees and fountains on the other. There are several good restaurants and bars in this area, but it's the most residential, and least urban, of the Condesa.
The other part of Condesa is Col. Condesa, a bit further away from Insurgentes, on the other side of Av. Nuevo León. This is much more heavily developed, and has an impressive assortment of bars, restaurants, and sidewalk cafes.
Col. Roma, on the other side of Insurgentes, has less greenery and is more urbanized. Its going through a period of very fast real estate development at the moment, as prices and popularity are increasing. There are new bars and restaurants popping up every week, and it's well worth a visit. Roma also has two small malls, one by Insurgentes, the Plaza Insurgentes, and another on the east side of the area, by Avenida Cuauhtémoc, the Plaza Cuauhtémoc. Both have stores and Cinemex movie theaters.
La Condesa has experienced a building boom in the late 1990s and 2000s, resulting in many new modernist buildings, carrying on the tradition of exceptional architecture that includes fine examples of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne.
Condesa and Roma don't have Metro stations directly inside the area, but there are a few stations at its periphery that will get you within a short distance's walk of your destination. For Condesa, stations Insurgentes, Sevilla, Chapultepec and Juanacatlan on Line 1 border along the north and west side of the area, and stations Patriotismo and Chilpancingo on Line 9 border the south. For Roma, stations Insurgentes and Cuahtemoc on Line 1 border the north, and stations Ninos Heroes, Hospital General and Centro Medico on Line 3 border the east.
The Metrobús, which runs up and down Avenida Insurgentes, is a very convenient way of getting to Condesa and Roma.
- OMR, Plaza Río de Janeiro 54, Col. Roma (cross street Durango; three blocks from Insurgentes Metro station), ☎ +52 55 5511 1179, +52 55 5207 1080, . Six to eight different exhibitions rotate throughout the year in this converted house in the heart of the Roma district, focusing on the work of an emerging Mexican artist. Free admission.
- Parque Mexico— This park, located in the middle of the neighborhood, is an obligatory visit when you are in La Condesa. The park was built in the early 1920's. The main square of the park hosts frequent music bands and they also have stalls selling handcrafts and clothing. The park has a famous fountain of a woman and also a clock erected by the Armenian community.
There are many small shops around Condesa, selling clothing from independent designers, crafts and trendy stuff. This place recalls the Palermo neighborhood in Buenos Aires or SOHO in New York.
Visit some of the nice book shops in the area.
- Librerìa Rosario Castellanos del Fondo de Cultura Económica (FCE), Tamaulipas 202, Col. Condesa (cross street Benjamin Hill), . One of the biggest bookstores in Latin America, you can spend hours just browsing through the shelves.
- Cafebreria El Pendulo, Nuevo León 115, Col. Condesa (cross street Michoacan), ☎ +52 55 5286 9493, . Bookstore-slash-library that has a wide selection of books that will appease all tastes.
- Mercado Alvaro Obregon Located along Alvaro Obregon Avenue, open on Saturdays, 10AM to 4PM, this market sells crafts, paintings and there is a unique stall selling fossils and meteorites.
- Mercado de Antiguedades de Cuauhtemoc Cuauhtemoc Avenue and Colima Street. Open on Saturdays at 10AM, this market sells lots of antique and vintage stuff, and there are many stalls selling vintage toys. Located two blocks away from Alvaro Obregon street. To reach from Reforma avenue, take a bus at Reforma and Bucareli street. Ask the driver to drop you at Colima street, you will see the stalls at your right along Cuauhtemoc avenue.
Condesa has a developed restaurant scene, centered on a few blocks surrounding the triple-street intersection of Michoacán, Atlixco and Vincente Suárez, which can be pretty crowded during the day and very popular at night, especially on weekends. The restaurant area extends all along Michoacán from Tamaulipas to Mazatlan. You will find the majority of the restaurants listed below in this area.
- Barracuda Diner, Nuevo León and Sonora, Col. Condesa. Always open. All-night hip diner with what might be Mexico City's only US-style diner food. Popular place to go after going out drinking. Reasonable, but not exactly low prices. $100-200.
- Bistro Mosaico, Michoacán 10, Col. Condesa (between Amsterdam and Insurgentes). It is said that French people living in Mexico frequently dine here and highly recommend it. It is rather expensive and haute French cuisine. They also sell excellent European style bread over the counter.
- Café La Glória, Michoacán, Col. Condesa (across from Mama Rosa's). Daily 1PM-11PM. Reasonably priced Asian/Italian fusion with a Mexican touch, good bar and good coffee. The staff is laid back to the point of being unprofessional, don't worry about asking twice for your order. Try the pasta with chicken and sesame seed oil/soy sauce. $80-200.
- Califa, Alfonso Reyes, Col. Condesa (a block or two from Av. Nuevo León). Su-We 1PM-11PM, Th-Sa 1PM-5AM. A little overpriced, but very high quality tacos. The specialty is the gaonera (try the one with cheese), a large, thin slice of tender beef, roasted and placed on a tortilla. The house salsas are also notable for being made with fried tomatoes. After dinner, try the traditional Mexican coffee with cinnamon, café de olla. $100-200.
- Casbah, Amsterdam, Col. Hipódromo Condesa (nearest cross-street Iztaccihuatl). Tu-Su. Authentic Moroccan food, with the requisite atmosphere. Everything on the menu is good, accompany it with the house tea, and try the house dessert, if you have a high sugar tolerance. My wife and I ate here last night (based on the above recommendation). The food was not as good or authentic as it should have been, given the prices. The starter we ordered were basically spring rolls with an unflavoured meat inside, and the chicken tagine was a big let down. That was basically a flattened chicken breast, served on a plate with a few olives in a bland sauce (at a quality restaurant price). The bestilla was ok but the pastry was undercooked. EL JAMIL, a Lebanese restaurant in the same area, does far better food than this. It is also on Amsterdam but about 500 meters towards Alvero Obregon road. $150-300.
- El 10 (El 'Diez'), Alfonso Reyes 66, Col. Condesa (cross street Cosala), ☎ +52 55 5553 0734. Daily 1PM-11PM. Argentinian cuisine run by an Argentine owner, very good food at a very reasonable price. The bar is very popular at night.
- el ocho, Avenida México, Col. Condesa (between cross streets Nuevo León and Amsterdam), ☎ +52 55 5211 9010, +52 55 5211-9015. Su-W 8AM-Midnight, Th-Sa 8AM-1AM. This hip cafe has some good food and a pervasive retro look. Billing itself as a "cafe recreativo", it's got sudoku and word searches on the placemats, and pencils and scratch paper on every table; help yourself to the wall of board games and magazines.
- Familia Brito, Insurgentes Sur (cross street Medellin, in the Edificio Canada). Daily. Family-run Cuban restaurant, good food at reasonable prices. Menus include a generous main dish and a small dessert, drinks are extra. On Sundays, there's a sidewalk barbecue. $60-150.
- Frutos Prohibidos, Amsterdam 244, Col. Condesa (cross street Michoacán). Daily. This fast-food place serves rolled sandwiches using flat thin white bread. Wide choice of salads. $80-120.
- Hookah Lounge, Campeche 284, Col. Condesa, ☎ +52 55 5584 1742. Voted "best lounge" in Mexico City. The club serves Middle Eastern food as well as flavored tobacco "hookahs" at your table. The music selection is extremely good ranging from Electro-arabic, to house.
- Mama Rosa's, Michoacán and Atlixco, Col. Condesa. Daily 1PM-11PM. Italian, Asian, and Mexican styled dishes of high quality, all presented in a pop-culture package. Try the chicken fajitas with tamarind sauce. $200-300.
- Parilladas Bariloche, Amsterdam, Col. Hipódromo Condesa (on the side of a small roundabout). Daily. This family-run restaurant is one of the cheapest places in the city to have good Argentinian/Uruguayan food. Start with some Provolone cheese and papas con amor (fried potato wedges with the peel still on). If you're hungry, also try the filete bariloche (for two people, about half a kilo of meat each), the bife bufalo or the arrachera. $150-250.
- Parrilla Quilmes, Alfonso Reyes 193, Col. Condesa. Daily. Authentic family-run Argentinian restaurant with wonderful meat, and good Italian pizza. Try the arrachera, and the four cheeses pizza. The Economist calls it the place where carnivores with good karma meet their destiny. $200-300.
Roma does not have such a well-developed restaurant scene, but there are still many places to eat. A few are listed here, but you will also be able to discover many others on your own.
- BB Kfe, Manzanillo, Col. Roma (between Campeche and Coahuila, one block east of Insurgentes Sur). Mo-Sa 1PM-8PM. This small cafe offers excellent food at very low prices until 6PM. A set dinner includes a soup, a salad, a main dish, a small dessert, fruit flavored water, and coffee. The pasta dishes are good and portions are abundant. $40-60.
- Chie's, Insurgentes Sur, Col. Roma Sur (between Baja California and Quintana Roo, a block south of Metro Chilpancingo). Daily 1PM-11PM. Cheap and excellent Chinese food, mostly Cantonese, but with original twists. If the owner/chef Sr. Chie is there himself, expect to be told what to order, and to be literally spoon-fed at the table. Accept his recommendations, as they are always excellent; however his heavily accented Spanish can be hard to understand. Try the "Chinese tacos", and the chicken in lime sauce. $80-200.
In Condesa, you will find a number of bars on the north end of Avenida Tamaulipas, in addition to the restaurant area mentioned above.
- PataNegra, Juan Escutia, Col. Condesa (corner of Tamaulipas/Nuevo León, same building as the Foro Condesa), ☎ +52 55 5211-5563/4678. M-Su 12PM-1AM. Relatively new, always popular bar/cafe with a good kitchen for snack food, and reasonable prices. Plays lounge, trip-hop, rock, etc. Good for chatting and meeting people.
- Mama Rumba, Av. Medellin, Col. Roma (one block from Insurgentes). Th-Sa 6PM-3AM. One of the most popular dance clubs/bars in the city, usually very full, plays salsa, merengue, and other Cuban music. There is another branch in San Angel, which is more popular and can be hard to get into.
- Hostel 333, Colima 333, above American Apparel, very near Av. Oaxaca. Durango MetroBus and Sevilla Metro stations are very near. This is a brand new hostel located in Roma Norte, very near Condesa. There is a fabulous rooftop terrace and the facilities are cleaned daily (except for Sundays). 24 hour reception and the staff is very knowledgable about contemporary life in the city., . 14-18usd.
- Bed & Breakfast Mexico, Durango 145, Col. Roma (corner of Tonalá). The staff at this hostel is what people remember long after their stay. Staff will come to the airport to pick you up for free when you arrive, and their friendliness and attentiveness continues throughout your stay. There is wifi access and breakfast and linen is included in the price.
- Hippodrome Hotel. Boutique hotel offering a historic landmark and luxurious accommodations.
- Hostal Condesa, Av. Tamaulipas 197, Col. Condesa 06170, Distrito Federal, Mexico City 06700 (Right in front of the Centro Cultural Bella Época, only 2 minutes walking from the Patriotismo subway station.), ☎ +52 55 52736851, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. A brand new youth hostel in the trendy Condesa. It's also close to Polanco, Zona Rosa and the Insurgentes corridor. The Hostel is beautiful Art Nouveau house built in 1926 and is a great choice for a budget hostel. There is very rarely a receptionist and the guests tend to be more long-term. 18 USD.
- CONDESAdf, . An amazing boutique hotel within walking distance of all the best bars, lounges, clubs and restaurants of Condesa. It is a design hotel with ipods in every room, a sushi bar rooftop bar and a night club in the basement. The people who work at the hotel are the nicest people you will meet and the hotel has a chocolate lab, Conde, as an amenity.
- Hostel Condesa Chapultepec, Cozumel #53-A Col. Roma Norte (between Colima and Durango) (3 blocks from Sevilla´s subway station), ☎ (+52 55) 52-11-10-24, . checkout: 12:00rs. 12usd.
- Casa Lula, La Condesa, . Casa Lula is a petite, artistic international zen guesthouse in the heart of La Condesa for short to mid term stays. Great location, great home, great people!
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