Paseo de la Reforma 500, near Zona Rosa and Chapultapec, Mexico City
A favorite of rock bands, movie stars, heads of state, and international CEOs, Mexico City's Four Seasons Hotel offers a diverse range of privileged guests luxury and safe haven in a palace fortress.
Like castles of old, Four Seasons Mexico City hotel isn't much to look at from the outside. Its plain Jane facade reveals little of its swanky interiors, adorning the city's fashionable tree–lined Reforma Boulevard with little more than a demure dusty pink archway that leads to a virtual drive—through lobby. Above this unremarkable entry is a row of ornamental windows; the real ones are set back from the street, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. The only clue to what lies beyond the castle walls—a palatial colonial–style oasis with an extensive garden courtyard—are the armored cars and hulking SUVs that roll in and out, their passengers concealed behind tinted windows. Designed almost exclusively for vehicles, and optimum security, the hotel's only point of access may be a bit of a disappointment to the soul coming and going on foot, but will provide reassurance for those who think this city is just as dangerous as it was in the 1990s. (It’s not even close, but old reputations die hard.)
The Four Seasons' simple and sturdy exterior isn't the only feature it shares with olden castles. It also has a secret passageway: a separate VIP elevator leads straight from the eighth–floor, home to the Presidential Suite, to a basement–level waiting room and garage, so prominent guests can be whisked away without any pesky fans or disgruntled stockholders getting wind of it. Once inside, the VIP treatment starts for every guest though, not just the elite of the elite.
With curbside check–in, guests need only notify the hotel when they're a block or two away, and a staff member will take care of the rest. Since half of the hotel's clients are repeat customers already familiar with the drill, the front desk is rarely busy. The concierge desk, on the other hand, is often buzzing with half a dozen staff members tending to guest requests, each wearing the distinctive lapel pin of the French association of professional concierges, Les Clefs d'Or.
Exceptional service is a prime reason the hotel enjoys a 50 percent repeat rate, many nights of 100 percent occupancy, and the AAA Five Diamond Award for an unprecedented 17 years running. A back–of–house bulletin board displays snapshots and brief bios of high–profile or repeat guests, so the staff can tailor its service to their particular needs and tastes. The staff also strives to welcome all members of a family by name, including little Tommy and Alice, so a little fact checking is part of the reservations process. The Four Seasons is kid–friendly, despite the hotel's reputation as a corporate haven. While it does host many international board meetings, guests are often a mix of men in conservative suits and families traveling with toddlers or teens. At check–in or in the room, kids get a complimentary welcome amenity. Child–size bathrobes and children's toiletries await them in–room.
You can choose between eight different types of rooms, among the largest in the city, and four types of suites. Most guestrooms overlook the plant–filled courtyard, while a few have views of the avenue. All are classically furnished in golden tones and feature roomy marble baths with separate tubs and showers, bedside iHomes for playing music, wireless phones, and a huge flat-screen TV and DVD player. Innovations and renovations are ongoing to keep up with new competition and you’ll find desk lamps with built-in sockets, safes with a socket for recharging laptops, and TVs that display in the bathroom mirror in the suites. Premier Rooms additionally have high ceilings and floor–to–ceiling windows for a more spacious feel, and two extra large Premier Terrace Rooms feature elegant French doors that open onto a private terrace with views of the courtyard.
The hotel's only restaurant has long been the power brokers' breakfast spot of choice and there are times they have to refuse reservations in order to make sure the guests have space. It is a cheerful space with wooden floors and alfresco dining in the courtyard, with portable heaters keeping it open all year outside. The menu at Reforma 500 primarily features Mediterranean cuisine with a few international touches— though only a few Mexican specialties manage to make an incursion into Four Seasons territory. The breakfast choices are a relatively even mix between international options and interesting Mexican ones like a pork concinita pibil omelette. And yes, there's a kid's menu for all meals.
You could easily walk right past the bar and not know it, since it's disguised as an English–style library, complete with book–laden shelves and cushy sofas. Even more surprising is that El Bar is a favorite breakfast spot, featuring an elegant American buffet in a cozy lounge setting where you can sink into an armchair, spread the day's paper and linger over your latte (breakfasts are served till noon weekdays, 1 pm weekends). When not serving breakfast, the bar offers a notable variety of tequilas and mezcals. There's live jazz Wednesday to Saturday nights.
These two areas, boutiques, and a business center surround a courtyard that is a haven from the city’s noise and traffic. With singing parakeets, fountains, and greenery, it’s a lovingly tended space that leads to instant relaxation. Rooms that don’t face outward look down at this garden.
Nestled into a corner of the second floor is a good–sized Athletic Club with Life Fitness treadmills, weight machines, and other staples of the five–star gym—including a personal trainer on staff and an attendant who brings a cool scented washcloth just when you need it. A smallish yet sun– drenched terrace swimming pool offers a great place to work on your tan and it’s surprisingly quiet for a central city pool—if the construction crews on the many skyscrapers going up aren't busy. Rounding out the health facilities are three massage cabins, including one outfitted with flair (tatami mat, walls draped with fabric, East Asian decorative touches) for Thai massages.
The stately and staid Four Seasons Mexico may not be the best choice for travelers who are keen to uncover new trends, follow the creative class to the next hotspot, or gain insights into their host country. But for Type A personalities whose travel plans demand a high level of service and security, this ultra–luxurious palace is the clear option. Despite a steady increase in high-end competition in Mexico City, "I’m staying at the Four Seasons" still carries the surest air of prestige with upper-crust locals.
Web Address: www.fourseasons.com/mexico
Total Number of Rooms: 240
Published rates: $295 to $6,000
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.