Av. Campos Eliseos 252, Polanco, Mexico City, Mexico
One of the city's original hip hotels still feels edgy and artistic after a round of updates and the W Mexico City boasts some of the best rooms in the city, in a leafy part of Polanco.
There are four hotels right in a row in Mexico City's ritzy Polanco neighborhood, on a strip between Chapultepec Park and Lincoln Park. The W is by far the most contemporary, however, and is the best choice for leisure travelers or those meeting 30-something business contacts at the bar. While this brand—now part of the very corporate Marriott conglomerate—may have spawned a thousand imitators, it still does the chain design hotel concept better than anyone. For artsy types who also want reliably good service, it's the best upscale option in the capital.
Staffers with shiny suits and white sneakers who greet you as you pull up make it clear you're not at the Hyatt by mistake. Inside, the initial impression is striking. Large molded chairs in the shape of heads surround an inverted pyramid with a reflective surface. The chairs have cut-out areas for the eyes, the visages facing out. One "cast member" takes care of your bags, another greets you at one of the individual stand-up checking stations and gets you processed. Elevators go up 25 floors, with the highest rooms having stunning panoramic views of the city and mountains on a clear day.
Various room classes have different set-ups, but all boast some kind of mural with a haute couture model representing an aspect of Mexican history, interesting lighting for different moods or times of day, and at least one sitting area. Expect lots of color pops on a white background and furniture that's pleasant to look at. Platform beds are lit from underneath with colors that can change. LED infinity lights behind the sofa have embedded little alibrijes, the fantasy monster figurines from Oaxaca. It's all whimsical and fun, reminding you that all work and no play is not the Mexican way.
The baths have quality Bliss amenities and all rooms come with safes, robes, and minibars with plenty of items to ensure a good time—including some adult-themed ones. There's complimentary bottled water (plus a more environmentally friendly fill-up station in the gym) and a capsule coffee maker. These are some of the largest hotel rooms in Mexico City, so you won't feel cramped even at the standard level.
Room categories at the W start at "Wonderful" and go up through "Spectacular," "Fabulous," "Cool," "Marvelous," and "Extreme." While this is cute, it's not very helpful since those all sound great. So go by the photos and descriptions when booking. In general, the upper categories give you more space and a lounging area, while some have a view from the bathroom. The penthouse duplex suites on the top floor are not huge, but the bedroom is on the second level, leaving the first for eating, lounging, and watching TV. Or you can just sit on the furnished balcony and take in the view. The euro-style table has sections that can be taken down or up to provide more or less of a surface area and there are handy outlets for working.
If you want to feel like a real rock star though, go for the Extreme Wow Penthouse, which occupies a big section of the top floor, with more than 1,300 square feet. It's built to wow indeed, with 180-degree views of the skyline from two terraces and furniture that will make you look fab in the selfies.
The gym here is well-equipped and pleasant, with a view through glass walls to the trees outside. There's no pool, but on the same level is a large co-ed hot tub, some deck chairs, steam room, sauna, and spa with treatment rooms. If you set it up in time, your small group can have a temezcal session in a conical Mayan sweat room that comes with a cleansing ritual.
The Living Room bar and lounge area on the ground level is the real social center and this is a popular gathering space for local professionals who aren't staying here as well. It's not a raucous as it was when the W opened and this was the place to be, but if you're a guest here that's a good thing: you can still find a table, order some nice appetizers, and have a conversation. There's a variety of interesting cocktails-many featuring mexcal or tequila of course-and a good selection of craft beer and Mexican wine. The lounge utilizes some of the same molded chairs as the lobby, but also has plenty of intimate sitting areas and comfortable couches.
25DOS restaurant is open for all three meals. In the morning it has an extensive breakfast buffet that leans toward the healthy, billed as continental but including a few hot items as well and good fresh-squeezed juices. At night the space becomes more formal and intimate, with the cuisine focused on southeast Mexico mainly. There are dozens of other nice restaurants within a 20-minute walk or quick cab ride, including some of Mexico's most renowned (and expensive) spots from chefs who have become celebrities.
While design-focused hotels like the W can have side effects like baffling control switches and staffers that are too cool to actually be helpful, the W Mexico City seems to straddle form and function quite well. The details are whimsical and surprising enough to make aesthetic-conscious travelers smile, but everything works like it's supposed to in a fine hotel and those cast members have earned their roles as hospitality professionals.
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.