What You'll Find in This Post:
One of the views from the roof of my Airbnb
Mexico City is huge and old, and like many huge old cities it’s split up into different boroughs. The boroughs are called alcadias and each one has hundreds of neighborhoods called colonias. If you’re from the Virginia, think about it like Henrico County being an alcadia and Sandston being a colonia (because each colonia has its own postal code).
The colonia I stayed in was Condesa, in the alcadia Cuauhtémoc. I wanted to write about Condesa, even if briefly, because the neighborhood was one of the most memorable parts of the trip and contributed to some of my best experiences in the city.
A few Condesa fun facts
These keys and coins were embedded in parts of the sidewalk around Condesa
Condesa means “countess” and is named after one or two 18th century countesses that owned the land and much of its surrounding area.
It’s one of the “Barrios Mágicos” which means “Magical Neighborhoods.” Essentially, there are a handful of neighborhoods around Mexico City that the heads of tourism declared “magical” or tourist-friendly.
Condesa had a large Jewish population through much of the 20th century.
What’s it like?
Condesa is a pretty affluent neighborhood and has a “young, hip, & trendy” kind of vibe mixed with early 20th century architecture. For those of you from Richmond, it reminded me of Carytown but more spread out and populated with a stronger nightlife (especially on Friday nights).
Some of the cafes surrounding Parque México
There were plenty of cafes, bars, dessert joints, and restaurants all around Condesa. There seemed to be one on every corner and some of them were set up on the sidewalk. There was always music pouring out of them, especially as night settled in . . . for better or worse.
There were multiple parks, though I only visited one. It was a really nice green space in the middle of a series of concrete rectangles.
Bookstore Fondo de Cultura Economica
There were plenty of boutiques, galleries, and bookstores. There was also La Ciudadela, a craft market about 15 minutes away (by car) from the park I just mentioned.
An art deco clock in Parque México and the Fuente de los Cántaros (the Fountain of the Jugs).
Condesa also has a lot of Art Deco art & architecture, meaning that many of the buildings date back to the 1920s & 30s. I found this really cool because when Art Deco is taught about in art history classes (if it’s taught at all), it almost exclusively focuses on architecture in New York. So, it was great to see some more examples of the style not only outside of a textbook, but in a different context.
A van for a dog gym!
Condesa was also very dog friendly! I had heard reports of strays, but I didn’t see any; all of the fluffy boys & girls I saw—big and small—were walking on leashes with their owners.
The house I stayed in
The Airbnb was right on the corner
I think I’ve established that the neighborhood of Condesa can be a pretty sweet hangout spot, but what was it like living there for a week? Well, first things first, our study abroad group was split between two Airbnb’s.
A box of Mexican snacks that greeted us when we entered the apartment and some views taken from the roof.
I stayed at Airbnb #1 and it was only my second experience staying at an Airbnb. Overall, the apartment was nice; it had a bunch of rooms will full furnishings and multiple keys, which makes sense as I write it, but at the time it really surprised me. It was also across the street from a sushi restaurant that was always packed and around the corner from a lot of good restaurants.
The kitchen and the bathroom
I will say, though, that the Airbnb did have a few meh things about it, like poor drainage in one of the bathrooms (to the point where it overflowed and smelled like sewage), a fridge too warm for my comfort, and WiFi that went out on day three and never got fixed (despite attempts from the host). However, Mexico City offers municipal broadband, so the lack of apartment WiFi didn’t screw up things too much. There was also a roach in the microwave, as in to say, I heated up some food and the roach crawled out after it was done heating . . . as you might can imagine, my appetite for leftover enchiladas verdes vanished. Also, none of us could figure out where the big city dumpsters were located outside, so trash in the apartment piled up (which I’m sure the roaches rejoiced about).
One of the bedrooms! It doesn’t look like much, but I liked it
Do you remember what I said about Condesa night life blasting music for better or worse? Well, it’s a bit more than that because it wasn’t just music and it wasn’t just at night, it was noise that lingered 24/7. Music, traffic, pedestrians, that one man yelling at a dog . . . it never stopped. It was the first time I had ever slept in a place that didn’t quiet down at night.
Although, within that ruckus was one of the funniest, most abstract memories I have of Mexico City: Hearing the word tamales rhythmically announced 20 times outside my window as I got ready for bed. See, there was this food truck that slowly circled the area every evening, advertising its menu in the most monotonous and nasal voice to ever travel through the wiring of a shoddy loudspeaker.
Meanwhile, the other apartment had all the amenities of ours plus a patio and Netflix.
I’m not bitter about that, though, really. Like I began with, I really liked the apartment and the neighborhood, despite its nuisances. None of the things that annoyed me about the apartment were game changers and, perhaps more personally, when I think about that apartment, I think about the people I shared it with. Those people were undeniably the best part of the trip.