El Patio 77

San Rafael, Mexico City, Mexico Book from US$96

Green and grand: this eco-conscious B&B in Mexico City is a handsomely renovated 19th-century mansion
Somehow we expected El Patio 77, Mexico City’s first eco-friendly guesthouse, to be, well, more eco than elegant. But when the grand wrought-iron front gates swung open, we entered a lofty stone courtyard with a 3-tiered fountain that led into a black-and-white tiled lobby of chaise longues and chandeliers. Original fittings from this aristocratic home of the 1890s, like the spiral staircase and oak beams, are on display; what you don’t see are the solar panels on the roof and the battery-operated water recycling system in the basement.

This ingenious mix of progressive green facilities and graceful relics of the past was conjured up by a French-and-Mexican partnership: Alan, a Mexico City native, and Diego, who is originally from Brittany but has lived nearly a decade in the city. They are keenly aware of the water shortage problems facing this huge capital and are dedicated to preserving and utilising natural resources. But that doesn’t mean the mood at their beautiful 8-room B&B is smug - chat between guests at the breakfast terrace is affable; older children are welcome; local artists hang paintings on the exposed-brick walls. It’s a classy mix of sociability and sustainability.

Highs

  • Quiet location in the bohemian San Rafael barrio, near the large San Cosme market and Metro stop
  • Spacious rooms, simply but creatively decorated with crafts and materials from specific Mexican states; all with WiFi
  • Great value for money
  • Friendly hosts who are happy to discuss (in excellent English) either their eco-ethos or where to buy the best burritos
  • A mini art gallery: paintings and sculptures from local La 77 gallery on show throughout the house

Lows

  • The smaller rooms share a bathroom, which can mean you may have to wait for your morning shower
  • The breakfast terrace is small so there is often a wait for tables when the hotel is full - but breakfast is worth the wait
  • No other meals are served but it's an easy stroll to a good choice of restaurants and bars
  • Some may find the neighbourhood slightly down-at-heel and off the beaten track; you're not in the heart of the action here

Best time to go

Mexico City can be enjoyed at any time of year, but you might want to avoid the hotter months of May and June, and the rainy season (June-September), when the capital experiences a downpour most afternoons. Busy times include the MACO Contemporary Arts Festival (April), the Pride march (late June), the Cake Festival (August) and Fashion Week (October).

Our top tips

Keen eco-fans can ask Alan or Diego to take them to the rooftop to see the solar panels or down to the basement to see Alan’s invention, the battery-operated water recycling system.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
City Style
Eco
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 8
  • Breakfast only, restaurants nearby
  • Over 4s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

Each of the 8 bedrooms is named and designed after a particular Mexican state: the rustico Chihuahua Suite is decorated with shelves of traditional pottery; tenango embroidery covers the bed cushions in the 2-double-bedded Hidalgo; tiny orange and black monarch butterflies adorned the light fixtures in our room, Michoacan, known as 'the butterfly state’.

Of the 2 other Suites, the luxury Oaxaca has a Parisian feel with tall shuttered windows opening onto a big corner balcony; the groovy Chiapas a more '70s style with 2 smaller balconies overlooking the street. Lovers of 4-poster beds should go for the sea-themed Veracruz or the Grand Room Guerrero. The second Grand Room, DF, is appropriately city-slick. All the rooms have gleaming wood floors, hand-woven rugs and arched brick ceilings - we loved the vintage chairs and inventive use of objects found during renovations, like the broad oak beams made into bedside tables. There are no other mod cons such as TV, though we didn't need them.

Each of the Suites and Michoacan has an ensuite bathroom; the other rooms share a bathroom between them. We were slightly apprehensive about this but found they were kept scrupulously clean and although there was an occasional wait for the shower, the water was always hot. Individual boilers in each bathroom are heated by the rooftop solar panels and water is recycled to flush toilets. Special bio-degradable hand soap, shampoo and shower gel is provided - commercial chemicals will upset the system so this is not the place to test any fancy toiletries!

Features include:

  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Breakfast is served in the smaller of El Patio’s 2 interior courtyards - a scattering of tables just off the kitchen. Either Alan or Diego will be on hand to help serve a traditional Mexican dish, along with fresh fruit and cereal. We had molletes, a soft bread covered with frijoles, tomatoes and avocados; check the blackboard to see the daily special. The coffee is organic.

Taps in the kitchen have a filtering device and guests can pop in anytime to refill the stainless steel water bottles placed in every room.

Be sure to ask for the B&B's helpful map of cheap and cheerful restaurants, most within walking distance. Worth the slightly long stroll is Mezzo - a tiny, family-run Italian eatery with sidewalk tables and really tasty bruschetta and pasta. Around the corner is El Chivito, a basic Mexican diner that specialises in meat dishes. Many local restaurants are closed on Sundays but one lively place that opens is La Polar - steaming bowls of birria, a delicious lamb stew, are plunked on your table by frantic waiters as competing mariachi and ranchero bands vie for your attention. Kids will love the balloon-sculpting clowns but romantic couples should avoid!

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: Desayunador
Activity:

Activities

  • Wander around the huge San Cosme Mercado, partially covered but with many stalls spilling onto the sidewalk: everything from wedding cakes to baby chicks!

  • Ride the glass elevator to the top of the Monumento a la Revolución, a huge copper dome set on the largest triumphal arches in the world. Children often play in the front square’s fountains, which are beautifully illuminated at night

  • See the best of contemporary Mexican art and photography at Museo Universitario del Chopo - the building’s Art Deco towers were designed by Eiffel and the soaring wood and steel interior is very cool

  • Gaze at enduring Aztec history from the rooftop terrace of Libreria Porrua, one of Mexico City’s oldest bookshops, which has a bar with an unbeatable view over the Temple Mayor ruins

  • Count the number of legendary historical figures in the centrepiece of the Museo Mural Diego Rivera - the purpose-built museum houses Rivera’s wondrous 15m mural, ‘Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda’

  • Spend a Sunday, or any afternoon, in the Alameda Central - the ancient park has palm-lined paths linking fountains and statues; craft merchants and buskers hustle good-naturedly for your custom

  • Arrange with the hotel for a guided tour (Spanish only) of the colourful floating gardens of Xochimilco, south of the city

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

Well-behaved children over 4 years old are welcome at El Patio 77. However, there are no baby cots or extra beds, and no specific services like babysitting or kids' meals.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Hidalgo has 2 double beds, Suite Chihuahua has a sofabed.

Kid Friendly: Suite

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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