Happy Holidays, friends! And hello new subscribers! Thank you for following the blog! I hope you like it.
A few weeks ago, we took our *last* trip of the year, to Mexico City! It’s somewhere we’ve been wanting to travel to for a while and the cheap tickets on Southwest were too good to pass up!
Mexico City was different from many of the other travel destinations we’ve visited this year. It’s a big, bustling, vibrant city that is much less touristy, probably because people are scared to go there. I admit, once people kept asking me if it was safe, I started to question it, but really, what is safe? Every place has its dangers. I think as long as you mind your own business and make good decisions, you’ll be fine in most places.
El Distrito Federal (as it is called in Mexico) kind of reminded me of New York. It seemed like there were a lot of tourists from other parts of Mexico as it was full of people who seemed like they were tourists but we saw ONE black person the whole time we were there and very few white folks. I don’t think we saw any people of other ethnicities. It also kind of reminded me of India (Bangalore, where I lived - can't speak to the whole country) because it was so busy and certain areas weren’t as developed.
We stayed in the historic center, at a hotel called Historico Central. You have to really enunciate the AL because they will think you're asking for the historic center (where it is) but you have to specify that it's the hotel. It’s not super well-known so if you end up staying there, make sure you have the address handy for taxi drivers. Other nice options we looked into were the W Mexico City and the Four Seasons, as well as several design hotels sprinkled throughout the city. I LOVED our hotel. It was cute, cheap, and conveniently located. The breakfast was really good and they had a *free* cafe that you could order food from at any time. That’s right! Free! All the time! They served sandwiches, tea, cakes and other desserts, and other snacking foods. You can’t drink the tap water in the city, and they had plenty of free bottled water available, which was also really nice. The hotel staff were very accommodating as well. The only negative aspect of the hotel was the thin walls. We didn’t have issues with the outside noise but grandma and grandpa in the room next door to us were getting busy one night and grandpa had a bad cough another night, and that was a little unpleasant to hear.
So, what did we do while there? We did a lot! I will say that traffic is a major hindrance, so it’s important to look at the map and plan activities in certain areas of the city, if possible. We did that and we still sat in a lot of traffic.
We visited the Frida Kahlo museum, which was definitely a highlight even though it was packed and the wait was pretty long. I have had an obsession with Frida over the last two years or so, so visiting her home and seeing her paintings in person was a real treat. They had an exhibit at the time, that showcased her clothing and discussed her disabilities, which was suuuper interesting.
We also went to a lucha libre fight (Mexican wrestling) , which was SUPER FUN. I will say that we got scammed by our taxi driver there with the tickets (he stole about 35 dollars from us - it’s a long story), so just be careful with the tickets. Best to buy them online or at the box office there, which we knew, but he was very persuasive. Anyways, the wrestling was super entertaining, definitely a must-do. The traffic was so bad once the fight was over (about 10pm on a Friday night), we got a taxi and the taxi driver told us it would be faster if we walked the 1.5 miles back to the hotel. So that’s what we did. I was a little nervous walking that late in an unfamiliar city, but we were fine, so that gives you an idea of how safety is in the city. I will say that there are a TON of police there - we saw at least 1,000 police that weekend, no lie - though I don’t know how helpful they would be if you were to have an incident that needed police attention.
In the historic center, there is a beautiful cathedral called Catedral metropolitana de la Ciudad de México (Mexican Metropolitan Cathedral) in the Zocalo, also known as Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square), which we walked to from our hotel. We visited it and got a tour (a guide will probably come up to you and offer you a tour and then ask for a donation at the end - it’s not free, FYI, but still worth it).
We also visited Casa de los Azulejos, located close to our hotel, which is a beautiful building covered in tile.
We also went to the Palacio de Bellas Artes which was *free* (not sure if it’s always that way) and saw some of Diego Rivera’s most famous works, as well as art from other important Mexican artists. His pieces have so much meaning and many were political statements, so try to read up on him before you go, to really understand what you’re looking at!
We ate a lot. We are huge fans of Mexican food, and I was lucky enough to get recommendations of places from a colleague who is from el Distrito Federal, so we visited as many of those places as we could.
Places we ate
- Azul Historico Central - fancyish restaurant in the historic center. There is an extensive menu with lots of traditional Mexican dishes. Really yummy food with fantastic presentation and service.
- La Casa de Las Sirenas - Beautiful restaurant, mediocre service.
- Cantina del Bosque - We came here for the lengua tacos and they did not disappoint. VERY hard to find - make sure you have the right address before you get in the car or use Uber. This is a local spot - don't expect to see any tourists. They are famous for their salted fish as well, which we did not have but looked fantastic.
- Bar la Opera - Pretty place but the food was just okay. Located in el centro historico. Ask about the bullet hole in the ceiling made by Pancho Villa.
- El Moro Churreria - A staple in the Distrito Federal. There are many locations, we went to the original one, located in the historic center. SO GOOD and SO cheap. Their menu features churros, different hot chocolates (the one we had reminded me of what we had at Angelina in Paris, for a small fraction of the price!), and other desserts. I would not skip this place when visiting.
Places we wanted to eat at but didn’t make it to:
- Pujol (make reservations when you book your flights, this place has a Michelin star!)
- Quitonil (same - reservations in advance)
- Cabrera 7
- Cafe de Tacuba
- Restaurante del Lago
Places we didn’t get to go to:
- Castillo de Chapultepec
- Floating Gardens of Xochimilco
- Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli
- Museo Nacional de Antropología (Anthropology Museum)
- Casa Luis Barragán
- Casa Gilardi
Helpful resources for planning a trip there:
- It’s probably best to go with someone who speaks decent Spanish. I used mine a lot while there.
- Uber is definitely a good idea, especially if your Spanish isn’t so good.
- Everything was so inexpensive! Definitely a plus. We ate and drank like royalty!
- Be careful and be aware. We were totally fine, but I’ve heard horror stories about Mexico, in general. It didn’t stop me from going and we’re planning to go back next year.
- Logistically speaking, I think it is easiest to get pesos from the ATM at the airport as opposed to trying to find an ATM in the city or a currency exchange.
- Definitely worth the trip, and would love to go back!
As evidenced by my list of things that we didn’t get to, we still have a lot to cover in the city. Still, it was a good weekend trip. I know I say this everywhere we go, but I would’ve loved to spend more time there. I think five days would’ve been a good amount of time to cover a lot of activities. I could definitely stay a week there, perhaps at a bigger hotel with a spa and restaurants, like the W or the Four Seasons.
All in all, it was a great way to end the travel year for us. The city has so much history and culture, is super walkable, and has lots of cute neighborhoods. Also, Mexican food is always a good incentive for travel. I'm so glad that we got to visit a part of Mexico that is less touristy, and look forward to our next trip back to el DF!