As many of you may know, Mexico City is super popular on the travel market right now (and has been for a while), so Dan and I decided that we absolutely needed to go over Memorial Day weekend! Actually, I have been wanting to visit Mexico City for a long time, but safety was always a concern. In any case, we felt that it was safe enough to visit so we booked tickets for the long weekend! It was just enough time to see Mexico City’s highlights, and I would definitely return for more exploration! Mexico City was cool, cheap, and full of delicious, delicious food.
For a bit of background, Mexico City is the capital of Mexico, located in the centerish part of the country high in the mountains (7350 feet to be exact, surprising!). Since Mexico City is located in the mountains, its not a beach destination like so many popular Mexico vacation spots and is generally warm during the day and cool at night. Rumored to be dangerous in recent history, Mexico City is actually, in my opinion, safe enough for a large city and an easy place to spend a long weekend. Its also HUGE. Seriously, huge, and the most populous city in North America. Sprawling from its historic center, the Zocalo, to many, many, many neighborhoods.
Since Mexico City is so large, I recommend exploring it by neighborhood. Our favorite neighborhoods were Condesa (where we stayed), Roma Norte, and Polanco. These neighborhoods were upscale, safe, and very walkable. To get between neighborhoods, we used Uber, but you can also use the subway. And, it can take a long time (like an hour plus) to get across the city.
What We Did In Mexico City
We were only in town for a long weekend – 4 days – so we packed in a lot, mostly centered around food…! Our mini-vacation started with a tour of the Merced Market, the largest market in North America! We decided to do a tour of the market, as its rumored (although somewhat falsely) to be in a dangerous area and we were a tiny bit concerned about going on our own. I have an entire separate post on this tour because it was THAT good, but suffice it to say we tried lots of different local Mexico City food and it was all amazing! I highly recommend a visit to the Merced Market, but it is probably easiest to go with a guide who knows where the best food is located; the market is crazy, crazy!
After visiting Merced Market, we took an Uber alllllllll the way across town to the Frida Khalo Museum, a/k/a Casa Azul, in the Coyoacan neighborhood (a safe and walkable neighborhood). Frida Khalo is one of Mexico City’s most famous artists, the woman with the unibrow and the cool clothing collection. The museum is located in her former home, which she shared with her husband, Mexican artist Diego Riveira. The museum was quite interesting but not my favorite. It basically goes through her home, which is outfitted with her artwork. There is also a courtyard and, when we visited, an exposition dedicated to her unique clothing. If you plan to visit the museum, buy your tickets online in advance. I cannot stress this enough!! The line is crazy, crazy long.
Our second full day in Mexico City started with an morning self-guided tour of the Zocalo, Mexico City’s historic center and the most touristy part of Mexico City. First on our list was the stunningly beautiful Metropolitian Cathedral. I had been wanting to see this cathedral in person for years (thanks Samantha Brown…), so this was quite the treat! It was just as beautiful inside as out, and it goes down as one of my favorite cathedrals.
After the Metropolitian Cathedral, we walked through Zocalo (with a brief stop in Mexican Zara…) to the Torre Latino Americana, the 44 story “skyscraper” in Mexico City. Coming from New York, I do not really count this as a “skyscraper,” but it does offer amazing views of Mexico City from its roof. Fun fact, the Torre Latino Americana is also the first major skyscraper to have been built of seismic land. Its particularly fun to think about that little fact on top of the tower…
We ended our tour of Zocalo with a walk by the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes), a stroll through the loveliest park just next door, and a visit to the fabulous Diego Rivera Museum, which I highly recommend! Unlike the Frida Khalo Museum, the Diego Rivera Museum is a modern, fancy museum and show cases one of his famous murals.
Our day ended with another food tour, this one through the Navarte neighborhood. We had a lot of casual Mexican food and ended with a mezcal tasting!
On our third day, we took a day trip to the pyramids of Teotihuacan, located about 30 miles (45 minutes) outside of Mexico City. Teotihuacan is a famous site of Mesoamerican pyramids built during pre-Columbian times. The pyramids are well-maintained and you can even view some original (yet “restored”) colorful murals in Teotihuacan. In short, they are well worth your time if you have an extra half-day in Mexico City (you need at least a half-day to visit Teotihuacan from Mexico City). We hired a private driver and tour guide but, if I were doing it again, I would take the bus or an Uber, or join a cheaper boxed bus tour; you don’t need a personal tour guide.
Our final morning was spent wandering around Condesa and Roma Norte, enjoying as much last minute Mexican food as possible! If you are in Mexico City, I highly recommend an afternoon strolling around these charming (and safe) neighborhoods! Polanco, which we strolled around earlier in our trip, is also a good option for an afternoon stroll and photo session.
We left for the airport in the late afternoon, which is only about a 20 minute drive from Condesa. Luckily, Mexico City International has a lot of Priority Pass lounges, so we had a lot of options before boarding our plane!
Where We Ate In Mexico City
Honestly, this trip as entirely planned around eating all of the delicious Mexican food, and we definitely ate more than we saw sights! As written above, we took a whopping two food tours over four days, which provided us with some of our favorite Mexico City foods. We also visited several restaurants that were totally delicious. I’m writing a lot of posts about my favorite meals so that I never forget them, but here is a selection of some of my favorites. First up, dinner and drinks at Alipus, a local (i.e. no English spoken or on the menu) Mezcal bar and restaurant in Condesa. They also served excellent Mexican red wine, who knew?! All of the food here was excellent – lots of verde sauce and lots of Oaxaca cheese!
Another surprising solid meal was our free hotel breakfast on the hotel rooftop. This was the “appetizer.” I really discounted the hotel breakfast, assuming that we would just use it for coffee. However, the breakfast was really good and we ate it every morning. If you are staying here, definitely check out the free breakfast!
We also really enjoyed the street food on our food tours. My absolute favorite street food was this Gringa taco from El Vilsito – al pastor meat, cheese, and lots of salsa on a wheat taco. AMAZING.
And, yes, as I am sure you are wondering, we made it to PUJOL!!! I actually made our lunch reservation in January, before we even booked our plane tickets. The lunch tasting menu was $102 USD a person and included about eight courses. I would say it was worth the hype, especially at this price point! The service was excellent and everyone spoke perfect English. Highly recommend if you can get a reservation.
On the Pujol note, we also LOVED Broka Bistrot, which we thought was, gasp (!) better than Pujol. Yes, I said it. I found Broka Bistrot restaurant on an online review from a travel magazine (I forget which one) and the interior of the restaurant was so pretty that we booked a table! True to the pictures, the interior was absolutely beautiful and the food was amazing. We happened to get soft shell crab tacos, the same dish that we had at Pujol the prior day, and these were hands down better! The chef was quite pleased to hear this!
On our last morning (after our hotel breakfast), we still had a few food spots that we needed to hit…so off we went! Our first stop was at Mexico City’s most popular bakery – Panaderia Rosetta. This bakery is super trendy and a line of ex-part hipsters were waiting for coffee and pasteries at 11 AM…. While the sandwich and cookie we got were good, I’m not so sure what all of the hype is about…
After Panaderia Rosetta, we stopped for our final snack – churros at El Moro, a Mexico City churro chain! We went to the branch in the Mercado Roma in Roma Norte, which is a small market packed with lots of restaurants, shops, and bars (similar to a smaller version of the TimeOut Lisbon Market). The churros were delightful and I wish that we had visited earlier in our trip. We opted for the mini churros with a trio of dipping sauces, vanilla, chocolate, and dulce de leche.
And finally, I could not write about Mexico City and not mention the insect craze that was going on. I’m not sure if this was exaggerated at tourist spots, but there were insects everywhere, including on every order of guacamole that we ordered! This was a plate of insects (I think grasshoppers) that were served as a complimentary welcome “treat” on arrival at our hotel… They honestly tasted kind of like a nut, but I limited myself to one. Dan really enjoyed them. A definitely must try for any foodie in Mexico City!
Was Mexico City Safe?
When we visited Mexico City (May 2018), we felt very safe. As I have mentioned, we stayed in the Condesa neighborhood and centered much of our activity in Condesa, Roma Norte, Polanco, and Zocalo. Of course, there are dangerous neighborhoods in Mexico City and crazy “wrong place, wrong time” crimes happen (as they do everywhere), but we did not feel less safe than we do in most other large cities.
If you are concerned about your safety in Mexico City, I recommend reading recent official government warnings and statements regarding Mexico City, and not to get caught up in the hype surrounding the “dangers” of Mexico City. There are a lot of rabbit holes regarding safety in Mexico on the world wide web…
Language: Spanish is the official language of Mexico City. However, most establishments catering to tourists speak English, as well as several other languages. Aside from tourists sites, English was definitely not guaranteed and many menus were strictly in Spanish. That being said, if you know at least a little Spanish, you should be fine.
Money: The Mexican Peso is king. We did not observe anyone paying in US Dollars or any other currency. We took Pesos out of an international ATM on arrival and a few times thereafter without trouble. Always go in the day and use an ATM associated with an international bank.
Altitude: Mexico City is located at a surprisingly high altitude (7,350 feet). While we did not have any major issues with altitude, it can wear you out and cause headaches. Take note if you are not feeling well (we have had issues in other cities).
Getting Around: We either walked or took Uber everywhere. Uber is very, very easy and convenient. We did take the metro once, and it was clean (much cleaner than the NYC subway) and even had cars reserved solely for children and women. I would not hesitate to use the Mexico City metro again.
Street Food & Water: Even locals will tell you to be careful with the water in Mexico City, as many say that while the water is clean, the pipes are old and cracks in them can contiminate the water with things slipping through those cracks. People will also warn you about street food, although probably not the locals. I will say that we ate any and all street food and were not concerned about drinking beverages with ice in them. We felt totally fine until we left, and then did not feel well for a few days after our return. I would not do anything differently on visiting again, except being a bit more careful about the water.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Maria Condesa Boutique Hotel: Calle Atlixco 132, Condesa, 06170 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico. Boutique hotel with a good, safe location in Condesa. Free welcome drink and one complimentary drink and appetizer each evening. Complimentary breakfast with most reservations. The hotel is nice but the rooms are a tad bit dated.
Eat Mexico: The food tour we used for our tour of Merced Market ($90 USD/person) and Navarte at Night ($85 USD/person). Book in advance online, as the tours are limited and often book up. The company speaks perfect English and is very responsive. I would note that despite their warnings about the Merced Market tour, it is not nearly as dangerous as they make it out to be on the website.
Journeys Beyond The Surface: The company we used for our private tour to Teotihuacan. I did not think the private tour was necessary, but the company was responsive and timely.
Frida Khalo Museum: Londres 247, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico. Open 10 – 17:30 daily, except Monday and Wednesday. Closed Monday. Opens at 11 AM on Wednesday. Buy your tickets online in advance here. Tickets are for entry during a 30 minute window and you will probably still have to wait once you arrive at the designated time. Without a pre-booked ticket, the wait can be over an hour long. A standard ticket for a non-Mexican citizen is approximately $11 USD.
Museo Mural Diego Rivera: Balderas 202, Colonia Centro, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico. Closed Monday, open 10 – 18h every other day. Admission is approximately $2 USD, slightly more if you want to take pictures inside (worth the small extra cost it).
Torre Latinoamericano: Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 2, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico. Open daily 9h – 22h. Tickets purchased on the spot.
Broka Bistrot: 126, Zacatecas, Roma Nte., 06700 Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico. Open Monday – Wednesday 14:00 – 0:00, Thursday – Saturday 14:00 – 1:00, and Sunday 11:00 – 17:00. Reservations recommend and can be made through Open Table.
Alipus: Aguascalientes 232, Hipódromo, 06100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico. Open daily 13:30 – 23:00, until 1:00 on Friday and Saturday.
El Morro: Numerous locations throughout Mexico City. We visited the one inside the Rome Market, Querétaro 225, Colonia Roma Norte, Mexico City. Open 9 – 21h daily.
Panaderia Rosetta: Colima 179, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico. Open 7h – 21h daily, except Sunday, open 7h3 – 18h.
El Vilsito: Universidad at the corner of Petén.
ON A BUDGET
Mexico City is a budget traveler’s dream. The street food is cheap, yet so delicious, and restaurants are not even expensive. Attractions are also cheap, if not free.