Central Mexico has experienced a tourism renaissance in the past decade, with abating crime, temperate weather, inexpensive flights, and blooming cultural wonders to discover. Mexico City is one of the best places to start if you’re seeking to discover the inner soul of Mexico, which is beyond rich in heritage. While escapes to the coastal regions and popular tourist sites are always delightful, it is worth peeling back the onion and seeing what lies within the interior.
We flew Interjet from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Mexico City, which was an inexpensive and convenient airline. On the return, we flew American Airlines, which had excellent one-way award availability coming back, despite it being Memorial Day Weekend. While Mexico City airport is linked to the city’s metro system, but if you’re not arriving in the rush hour, taking Uber will not be a major hassle. It costs less than $10 to get from Benito Juarez international to Polanco, which is about a 20-minute ride outside of rush hour, 40-60 minutes during rush hour.
We stayed at the InterContinental Presidente in Polanco and were super pleased with our stay. The property was located walking distance from Bosque de Chapultepec Park, and on a relatively quiet street adjacent to other hotel properties like Marriott, the W, and Hyatt. Polanco is definitely a “ritzier” neighborhood in Mexico City, but despite its posh location, the InterContinental Hotel was less than $150 per night over the course of a 3-day weekend.
The amenities were fantastic, and the staff was extremely helpful. We had breakfast included which treated us to delicious, hot meals that we enjoyed in the restaurant’s Chapulina restaurant, located on-site. There are other restaurants at the property, including a fantastic French Restaurant (didn’t try but was highly recommended) open 24 hours. The hotel also has a great gym and a spa on the property. The one lacking amenity was a pool, which would have been nice to have in the afternoons when we wanted to cool off. Thankfully, the temperatures in Mexico City are fairly placid year-round, although rainy season is common during the months of June, July, and August.
Polanco is also nice because it is very safe and walkable, with plenty of fantastic restaurants, bars, and clubs located within minutes of the hotels, by foot. However, if Polanco is not your cup of tea and you prefer something more “bohemian,” then Condesa and Roma Norte are also highly recommended areas. These neighborhoods are also very safe, conveniently accessible via metro, and have a more hipster feel to them. AirBnB’s are also plentiful in Mexico City.
I traveled with my family, and as a group of four, it made more sense for us to use Uber rather than taxis or the metro. That being said, Uber is the best way to get around CDMX (this is the new “colloquial” name for Mexico City, after the name, “DF”, for “Distrito Federal,” was retired a few years ago). Ubers are plentiful and cheap, costing literally a few dollars to travel miles from site to site. And while Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world and is fairly spread out, the sites you’ll want to check out are located anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes from each other. As such, car transport comes in handy.
We were lucky that AT&T had provided our full coverage for this trip without roaming charges. This made it easy to receive phone calls from Uber drivers, or from restaurants, and for us to be able to connect at any given moment.
Taxies are also readily available in Mexico City, with pink-marked cabs that have a very distinguishable, “CDMX” sign on them. This way, you can be sure to take a designated cab around the city and not become a victim of scams or theft. However, expect to pay a premium for taxis, and it is a hassle to carry around cash and fumble around with it as you pay drivers.
There is so much to do in Mexico City and the surrounding areas, that you’ll have a tough time fitting it all in during a single visit. That is okay, though, because Chilangos, as the slang term for residents of CDMX, would love nothing more than to host return visitors in future excursions to their city. However, the place to start is to be sure that you take advantage of the foodie scene and make your way around from there.
This is what will make you fall in love with Mexico City: everything from seafood to vegetables to tacos to mezcal will capture your heart. The best thing to do is ensure you make time to do a walking food tour of the city, which is offered by a variety of tour companies. While the price per ticket may seem steep (ranging from $50-100 per person) the tours are well worth it, because you’ll get more than just a full belly. You’ll actually learn about the history behind the gastronomic revolution in Mexico that has taken place over several centuries. Moreover, the influences from the pre-Hispanic, post-Conquista, and contemporary periods have shaped the study and art of culinary practice.
We took the Sabores Mexico Food Tour of the Centro Historico, which I have reviewed in an entirely separate post altogether. This was one of several tour types offered, and of course, many additional tours are offered by other agencies. It is worth planning ahead and you must definitely book in advance, as these tours tend to fill up.
There are few cities in the world that boast as many replete museums as Mexico City. One place to allow yourself to become floored by the level of detail is the National Anthropology Museum, which can be done over the course of several days. We spent an afternoon there and barely scratched the surface, but were able to cover at least the first floor. The Frida Kahlo museum is also worth a visit, although it is located in a separate neighborhood called Coyoacan, and indeed it is highly recommended to purchase your ticket well in advance, else suffer through waiting in line for hours.
As I mentioned previously, Bosque de Chapultepec is the city’s version of Central Park, stretching for miles and unifying neighborhoods around the city. At all hours of the day, you’ll find joggers, cyclists, dog-walkers, ice cream vendors, and other sun-soakers inhabiting this beautiful green space. There are miniature ponds, islands, and sculptures that adorn the area. It’s a very peaceful and relaxing place to spend a warm, sunny day, or just to relax, picnic, and decompress.
Day trips from Mexico City to Taxco, Teotihuacan, Puebla, and Cuernavaca are also worthwhile and plentiful. I’ve been to all but Puebla during prior visits to Mexico, and all are a must-do if your vacation time allows for it.
In the Centro Historico, which is essentially the older neighborhood of the city where you can get a real local flavor, you’ll want to bring your walking shoes and explore the monuments. The zocalo in the center of the city is where crowds gather, similar to what you’ll find in Puerto del Sol or Plaza Mayor in Madrid, or the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Strolling through the streets and making stops at the Palacio de Bellas Artes along the way, you’ll notice the designs and motifs on the buildings give the city an extremely European flavor.
If you have the time, take the elevator up to the sky bar at Torre Latinoamerica, which is a tower next to the zocalo with a restaurant/bar at the top, offering breathtaking 360-degree views of the city. Like other roof-top bars, this one will be a tourist trap if you just simply want to enjoy the views, meaning do not go to the observatory, as you’ll wait in line for a long time. Instead, just go straight up to the bar area and enjoy the same views over a cold drink.
Food and Drink
We were able to sample foods in multiple places that gave us a great, well-rounded dose of Mexican cuisine. We also got to check out the bar scene to see how libations flowed in the Mexican capital. Here are some of the places we tried out:
We stumbled across this restaurant and decided to go-big or go-home with regards to trying out Oaxacan food. We sampled duck enchiladas with mole sauce, pork tacos, edible zucchini flowers, fresh ceviche, and of course, washed it down with a few glasses of mezcal. Our friendly wait staff discovered that we had just landed in Mexico from the U.S., and decided to give us a chance to try chapulines, or grasshoppers. When in Rome!
We initially came here expecting to just have drinks prior to dinner but wound up having so much fun we decided to stay and order main courses here. We were shocked by how delicious the tacos were, sampling out pastor, tiburon (shark meat), fish, sea bass, and chicken tingas, while also sampling a sumptuous array of vegetables, like roasted cauliflower, and then having some fresh churros as a sinful way to end the meal. The servers also brought me some mezcal to try out, which was chased with an orange rind and tamarind candies.
We would never have known about this place had we not met up with some friends who were locals to Mexico City, and suggested we have brunch here when we got together. This place is located right on a lake in Chapultepec park and offers an eye-popping buffet where you can get everything from freshly-made omelets to quesadillas to skirt steak to pancakes, all made-to-order, along with fresh fruits, incredible Mexican sweet bread, delicious beans, cheeses, and confections to finish it all.
We spent an afternoon in Coyoacan, which is a more modest neighborhood south of the city, and also the home to the Frida Kahlo museum. On virtually every corner, there are street vendors making fresh tortillas, selling elote (roasted corn with cheese, crema, and seasoning), fresh coconuts, and just about everything in between. It is worth doing a walking tour of this neighborhood and sampling various delicacies. Best thing? This is where all the locals hang, and you’ll blend right in as long as you love delicious food.
This venue specializes in serving hundreds of varieties of gin, in a swanky two-floor atmosphere with a semi-covered rooftop. It is dimly-lit and offers a “prohibition-era” speak-easy feel, with servers dressed up in fedora hats and suspenders. They have a huge wealth of knowledge on their cocktails and drink recommendations. Gin-o-phobes fear not! There are plenty of non-liquored drinks, mocktails, beers, and wines also available on selection.
This is a beautiful space located in the up-and-coming Roma Norte district. We came here for a happy hour in-between museum visits (hey, we were thirsty!) and enjoyed the incredible indoor decor and the funky artwork on the walls. The bar is also located in a food mall that is worth exploring as well.