LLA_la_romaFunky and eclectic, artistic and gritty, Colonia Roma has long been the hipster little sister of coiffed Condesa and posh Polanco. But this neighborhood, in the center of Mexico City — named #1 place to visit in 2016 by the New York Times – , has become the it spot for travelers looking for luxury without pretension and neighborhoods that still feel like neighborhoods.

When Eduardo Garcia opened Maximo Bistrot on a quiet corner in La Roma in 2013, it put the Roma on the haute cuisine map. Just blocks from the area’s main drag, Maximo offers innovative and delicious dishes along with an excellent wine list in an unpretentious setting. This restaurant has become the centerpiece of a mini culinary corridor up and down La Roma’s Zacatecas street with chefs Daniel Ovadía and Salvador Orozco opening Nudo Negro at the end of 2014, Garcia opening Lalo, his upscale breakfast spot last year, and Rene Cremieux’s Antolia, opened in  2014, a low-key option with a Mexican-heavy wine list.

This year, Chef Diego Hernandez of Corazón de Tierra fame opened la Roma’s Cocina Cochinita – a delectable menu of seafood dishes inspired food023by the streets of Baja California. Aguamiel, chef José Manuel Baños Rodríguez’s newest project, opened just a few months later to rave reviews, serving some of the neighborhood’s most thoughtfully prepared Oaxacan food.

If all that food is making you thirsty, the Limantour bar, voted #20 of the world’s top 50 bars, has an excellently crafted list of cocktails made with housemade mixers. You can also find top-notch Mexican wine at SiMon, whose namesake wine was designed by oenologist Hugo D’Acosta. Mexico’s libation star right now – Mezcal – can be found at almost any upscale bar in La Roma — think Aurora or Romicondesa_df_400ta Comedor for sophisticated ambiance. Gin Gin has a long list of creative gin & tonics mixed up with sake, clamato, honey, mint, and Puebla 109 has smoked margaritas among their list of inventive cocktails.

Though extremely small (only 3 rooms) La Valise boutique hotel is Roma’s newest luxury standout, with a bed that rolls out onto an outdoor patio so you can sleep beneath the stars and dramatic accents like gigantic revolving moons for doors. High-end Condesa DF has a softer edge than you would expect as you stare up through its sharp, geometrical inner patio. The rooms exude warmth with smooth wooden floors, soft to the touch linens and classic wrought-iron balconies facing Veracruz Avenue. Also worth a stay is the retro La Casona on bustling Durango street. This hotel, withDSCF1932 its old-fashioned marble tubs and 1950s-inspired furniture, puts you steps from the recently renovated Las Cibeles traffic roundabout with outdoor tables situated around its majestic fountain.

If you hit the weekend right you can take a stroll through the Trafico Bazar, a design-heavy market full of young chilangos hawking their latest creations. Also addictive are the neighborhood’s upscale vintage furniture shops Trouve and Piezas Unicas, and for high-end jewelry and artistic home furnishings head to the shops in the Balmori building on Alvaro Obregón street or Casa Lamm just across the street.

The upscale shops and hotels have not diminished the neighborhood’s character. A good balance of residents, tourists and visitors from other parts of the city give this collection of streets its lively vibe. Restaurants and galleries have spread out to live among the residences instead of creating commercial black holes or outdoor malls. The lovely Rio de Jainero and Luis Cabrera plaza still draw families and lovers to walk their leafy parameters – Mexican coffee and vegan cookie in hand. If you’re a frequent traveler to Mexico City and itching to venture out of the Condesa or Polanco, now is the time. La Roma is ready to host you.

Roma_01Lydia Carey is a writer and translator living in Mexico City. Check out her new book Mexico City Streets: La Roma for more about La Roma’s best and brightest. Buy it on amazon or at her blog: www.mexicocitystreets.com.