She may be a mere 19 years old, but Guadalajara native Mariana Zaragoza is a constant presence in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, thanks to her gig as una modelo de moda—that is, a top runway model who counts Marc Jacobs, Rodarte, and Chanel as regular clients. (As the story goes, the late Karl Lagerfeld froze when she walked into a couture casting, pulling her from the crowd of other hopefuls to immediately start fittings.)
Despite her frequent travels, Zaragoza chose to spend this season staying relatively local, graduating from high school, hanging with her pet pigs (really!), and appearing as the official face of Fashion Week Mexico City—all while cooking and baking her way through Instagram.
Emulating the IMG model’s leggy catwalk prance may be tough, but tracing her hometown steps is easy with her exclusive guide to Mexico City.
For History Junkies and 90s Claire Danes Vibes
Castillo de Chapultepec
Once the site of Aztec ceremonies, this hilltop is now home to El Museo Nacional de Historia, which explores the history of Mexico via artifacts and exhibitions from the age of Tenochtitlan through the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920). Besides giving Indiana Jones wannabes the chance to see Montezuma’s treasure up close, the castillo also has a coup for fashion and film junkies: It was a location for Baz Luhrmann’s 1995 epic Romeo + Juliet, and the chances for Instagram moments abound.
For Haute Style and Hot Chocolate
Polanco may be known as “the Beverly Hills of Mexico,” but its little sister neighborhood Polanquito has a more bohemian vibe—think Notting Hill, with way better horchata. Start with a visit to local designer Sandra Weil’s boutique, then walk seven minutes to Stendhal (think Barneys, but Mexican and without the bankruptcy) for a cheerfully hip curation of contemporary Latin designers. From there, you’ve got some very different food options: the beloved local taco shack El Turix and the molecular gastronomy hub Pujol—recently named the best restaurant in North America by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (!)—are around 10 minutes apart on foot. Those who’d rather skip to dessert are in luck: the famed gourmet-chocolate temple Que Bo! is right down the street, with artisanal hot cocoa to rival Angelina’s in Paris.
For a Locals-Only Workout
El Ángel de la Independencia
Endorphin addicts, rejoice! Mexico City is amped on Siclo, a Latin version of SoulCycle without the political guilt. There’s also Body Barre for toning and sculpting, or Sersana for modern Pilates. But if you want a free workout that’s also a history lesson and a killer view, here’s a model-approved tip: Charge up the 200 steps of El Ángel, the famous landmark built in 1910 to commemorate Mexican independence. Once you hit the top, you’ll be 11 stories high—but the sweat will be worth it when you take in an unrivaled view of downtown Mexico City. Cool off with a 15-minute stroll to Hungry Beast, the new juice bar and “clean eating” mecca founded by international cool girls Bárbara Arredondo and Carolina Santos-Neves.
For Bombshells and Botticellis
No, a spaceship has not landed in Mexico City (yet). But starchitect Fernando Romero has created an otherworldly vessel at Plaza Carso with an astonishing façade and an equally jaw-dropping interior. That’s because housed in the massive Museo Soumaya complex is Rodin’s Thinker, Botticelli’s The Virgin and the Child in a Niche, and rotating shows celebrating Mexican Pop art. This month, keep an eye out for “Calendarios Mexicanos,” an exhibition at the Plaza Loreto location that shows the links between pinup art, religious iconography, and supermarket ads in the 20th century. It’s just as weird, and wonderful, as it sounds.
For a Real Dance Revolution
El Palacio de Bellas Artes
Yes, the Tiffany mosaic—created with more than a million pieces of colored glass—is dazzling. But the truly spectacular part of El Palacio de Bellas Artes is its resident dance company, Ballet Folklorico. Prepare to be awestruck by this internationally acclaimed ensemble and their lush, larger-than-life versions of indigenous dances with drum circles, lasso routines, and a vivid take on Jarabe Tapatío, the famous courtship ritual with charro suits and china poblana dresses. Plus, our tour guide has a personal connection to this space: as an avid flamenco dancer, Zaragoza spent her childhood immersed in the world (and steps!) of this celebrated ballet company.
For the Culture
La Casa Azul de Frida Kahlo
Why brave the crowds for a peek at Kahlo’s workspace? Because it’s epic, and inspiring, and maybe even a little haunted. Pay your respects to la reina of modern feminist art, take a moment (or a selfie) with the famed cobalt walls, then walk over to another bright-blue house—El Mercado del Carmen—for such favorite local snacks as tostadas and hibiscus sorbet.
For Model-Approved Kicks
Zaragoza’s Instagram fans already know her sweet spot for sneakers: Innvictus, a Latin American streetwear chain that’s far cooler than Foot Locker but cheaper than Kith. With limited-edition drops arriving at the speed of Taylor Swift singles, this is the place to see modern Mexican youth culture in action … or get an extra pair of Stan Smiths if you left yours at home.
Faran Krentcil is a writer and editor based in New York