By now we know: There is no shortage of inspiration to be found in Mexico City. Whatever your proclivity, CDMX presents it in abundance. Delicious food, music, nightlife, history and tradition, art and architecture, color and texture, old and new—all are present in a riotous preponderance that can make even a seasoned traveler’s head spin. But the prescription remains: You should try it all, you should stay up, you should check that spot out.
Depending on your personal constitution, you’re likely to experience undulating ratios of exhaustion and exhilaration. For me, the key to a balanced visit is finding the right place to lay my head at night. On my last trip, I lucked out by choosing Casa Pani, a guest house-style boutique hotel in Cuauhtémoc that happens to be a Modernist masterpiece (and is bookable on Airbnb).
Cuauhtémoc, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Mexico City’s vast metropolis, is not Roma Norte. It is not dotted with cool-as-heck eateries nor trendy shops. It’s not the location of every interesting pop-up and gallery opening. No matter the time of day or day of the week, a feeling of quiet spaciousness permeates Cuauhtémoc’s residential streets. This makes it an ideal place to return to after you’ve tasted everything, gone everywhere, done more than you meant to do with the insatiable, giddy glee of someone who has just lived through a series of lockdowns amid a global pandemic.
First designed as a private single-family home in 1962 by Mario Pani, a Mexican architect and urbanist who gave form to much of Mexico City’s appearance, the property still exudes a sense of familial comfort and ease. There’s the well-worn leather and chrome sofas that invite repose and conversation, the 11-foot-long communal dining/work table made from Tzalam wood that’s a preferred WFH outpost, and the shared kitchen outfitted with liquors left as offerings from past visitors. Bookended by a magnificent midcentury church with soaring stained glass windows and a charming park at the end of the street, Casa Pani is very much a part of the neighborhood. If you’re up early, you can—and really should—catch the local couple selling tamales from the street.
Celebrating this spirit was the point for Casa Pani’s founding team, architect Miggi Hood, entrepreneur Marie Cazalaa, and Yola Mezcal co-founder Yola Jimenez. “It all began in LA at my home, which has become a place for wandering visitors to meet and stay and dine and connect,” Hood tells me. “Casa Pani is an extension of that.” Guests get the opportunity to mingle in a nucleus of communal spaces which includes the bottom floor living room salon, an indoor-outdoor courtyard, and a formal dining room. “We hope people come downstairs to make their coffee or cocktail, hang out in the shared spaces, and meet people… but you can come down in your pajamas,” Hood says with a laugh. It’s why they have cozy robes in every room.
Kidding, but not completely, I asked Hood if “luxury hostel” might fit Casa Pani in its current iteration. She conceded it might. “We always began with the idea that this is a home away from home. This isn’t a private club, it’s not a crazy expensive place. It was very much that idea of wonderful communal space, where everybody also gets a nice room of their own with a nice bathroom, natural light, and good airflow.” The communal aspect just made sense for a place like Mexico City where buzz is fueled by excited retellings of local haunts and discoveries. It’s this balance of retreat and symbiosis, of tucking quietly away and then having to make your coffee among strangers that makes Casa Pani a truly unique lodging experience.