Mexico City, Mexico
There are two words come to mind when I think about Mexico City. Tradition and contrast. You have beautiful mountains surrounded by insane traffic, upscale trendy neighborhoods directly next to the chaos of downtown and new modern buildings that tower over the old haciendas from the 1500s. Mexico is also rich in culture and continues to preserve their century old traditions like religion, holidays, arts and most importantly - food! From tiny taco stands to michelin star restaurants this city does not disappoint when it comes to its cuisine.
NEIGHBORHOODS TO EXPLORE
Polanco - This is where you will find the 5th Avenue of Mexico (aka Avenida Presidente Masaryk). It’s crawling with wealthy ex-pats and super trendy (and expensive) shops and restaurants. I come to this neighborhood when I want a taste of home. It's also where you'll find The Museum of Anthropology, Chapultepec Park and Soumaya Museum. Restaurants not to miss - El Japonez (sushi), Eno (cafe with seasonal ingredients), Pujol (ranked 17th best restaurant in the world) and Catamudi (best for brunch).
Condesa & Roma: I consider these two areas of the city (which are located next to one another) to be the Williamsburg of Mexico. This neighborhood is super trendy and full of coffee shops, boutiques and local eateries. Don’t miss - Churreria El Moro for it’s famous churros and hot chocolate, the Sunday Farmer’s Market (Mercado El 100) for fresh seasonal goods you can’t find at the grocery store, Mercado Roma for an Eataly-inspired food hall and Goodbye Folk for a well stocked selection of vintage finds.
San Angel - One of my favorite neighborhoods in the city, San Angel is a quiet and quaint area with ivy covered houses and cobblestone streets. It is most famous for its Saturday Bazaar market, which sells everything from handicrafts and paintings to textiles and baskets. Other fun things to check out - Mercado Del Carmen (artisanal food market), San Angel Inn (go for brunch and sit in the beautiful garden) and Diego Rivera’s Studio where him and Frida Kahlo would spend a lot of their time.
Coyoacán - This area is full of rich history and is most famous for being the neighborhood where Frida Kahlo’s home is located. It is relatively peaceful during the week, but it becomes crowded and festive on weekends and holidays. You can spend an entire afternoon walking around the twin plazas and the vibrant streets. Things to do: try the street food, especially “elote” which is roasted corn with mayo and tajin, visit San Juan Bautista Church, grab a coffee at the trendy Café Avellaneda and of course take a tour of Frida’s house (but watch the movie before you go because all signs are in Spanish)!
Centro Histórico: This is Mexico City’s “downtown” area and is most famous for its Zócalo or main plaza. It extends for a number of blocks and is the largest plaza in Latin America. The historic center is where you will find The Metropolitan Cathedral, Palacio Nacional (home to many of Diego Rivera’s art and where the President of Mexico works), Barrio Chino (Mexico’s Chinatown) and La Ciudadela (my favorite handicraft market in the city). I also recommend grabbing drinks on the rooftop at La Casa de las Sirenas (the food is mediocre but it’s worth the amazing views of the church).
Take a Cooking Class: A big part of Mexican culture is the food! I highly recommend spending the day with Chef Raja through Airbnb Experiences. After a trip to the local market, he'll teach you how to make Tacos al Pastor in his beautiful family home.
Experience EatWith: If you’ve never tried an EatWith experience before, Mexico City is a good place to start. Basically you sign up to have dinner at a local’s house and you dine with a bunch of strangers. It sounds strange, but honestly it’s the perfect way to meet new people and try an authentic Mexican meal.
Take a Boat Ride: Floating down the canals in Xochimilco is one of my favorite Saturday activities. Grab a group of friends, some beers and music and enjoy a peaceful escape from the city. Tip: be sure to try some local food sold by floating vendors on the water.
Tour Chapultepec Castle: Museums are not really my thing, but castles I can do! After a quick walk up the hill to the top of Chapultepec Forest, buy a ticket to enter and hire a private tour guide to show you around. They give you a two hour tour around the grounds and explain the rich history surrounding the area.
Visit the Markets: Mexico has hundreds of markets around the city depending on what you’re looking for. Here are some of my favorites: San Juan Market - traditional Mexican market in the historic center of Mexico City that known for specializing in gourmet and exotic foods, Mercado Jamaica - the biggest flower market in the city, also sells fresh fruit, La Ciudadela - a traditional style Mexican market which specializes in the sale of artisan handcrafts and folk art and El Bazar Sabado - held every Saturday in San Angel, mostly sells an array of arts and crafts.
Churros at El Moro: Technically churros originate from Spain, but in my opinion Mexico is close behind in second place. Visit El Moro for some tasty fried dough dessert and add a cup of hot chocolate on the side.
Frida Kahlo Museum: Known for her folk art style self portraits and recognized as an icon for feminists, Frida Kahlo was an important Mexican figure in history. Her family’s old house located in Coyoacán has now been turned into a museum. It’s super interesting to see the place that inspired so much of her work. But make sure you watch the movie before you go so you can learn the background of her story, as all signs in the museum are written in Spanish!
El Chico: If you have enough time to venture outside the city, you should consider taking a camping trip to El Chico National Park. As a local, I crave fresh air (because the city is seriously polluted) so this is a great option if you want a slice of nature.
Huerto Roma Verde: I stumbled upon this super cool organic, urban garden located in Roma/Condesa. With a hippie vibe, it’s a nice oasis from the busy city and a fun afternoon activity to wander through the gardens.
Sunday Farmers Market: Trying to find fresh, organic produce in Mexico City can be daunting, but the farmers market in Roma is a good place to start. You can find a range of interesting food (which is otherwise hard to hunt down) like vegan tamales, kale and fresh smoked salmon.
Discover the architecture of Luis Barragán: This Mexican architect and engineer is known for his contemporary design and color blocking techniques. His House and Studio, also known as Casa Luis Barragán, is located in the Miguel Hidalgo district. Make sure you book an appointment before visiting - walk ins are not allowed!
Paint your own Alebrijes: Learn the history behind one of Mexico’s most traditional handicrafts then grab a brush and try your hand at painting your own.
Visit the Teotihuacán Pyramids: Located just 40 km outside the city, the mysterious Teotihuacán Pyramids were built around 100 BC as the centerpiece of an enormous ancient city. Make your first stop The Temple of the Sun so you can climb all 248 steps before the sun is blazing hot. Tip: avoid the crowds and get there right at 9 am when the doors open.
Lardo: This beautiful spot reminds me of dining in a French bistro and it's perfect for any meal of the day. The menu is made up of fresh, seasonal ingredients in a simple preparation. Try the chorizo and burrata pizza, baked cauliflower salad with raisins and hazelnuts and the roasted vegetables in green curry.
Carolo Santa Fe: Don’t let the strange concept of half furniture store, half restaurant throw you off. And while this spot may be more expensive than your average taco joint, I assure you it’s worth every penny! I recommend trying the “menu for two”, which allows you to taste multiple dishes including: tuna tartar crisps, ribeye tacos, grilled artichoke, mushroom croquettes and the french dip. Also, if you’re a fan of Carajillos (pronounced “kah-rah-HEE-yoe”) they make an amazing one!
Rosetta: Located in a beautiful old mansion in Roma, Rosetta is a must when dining out in the city. It serves up daring and unique Italian dishes including bone marrow, black tagliolini with octopus and pink peppercorn ice cream.
Fonda Fina: I love the decor and the atmosphere here is always warm and welcoming. The cuisine is upscale Mexican, where you can find traditional dishes with a gourmet twist.
San Angel Inn: Simply put, San Angel Inn serves traditional Mexican food in a beautiful garden setting. Located in one of my favorite neighborhoods, this place is the perfect spot to come for brunch with your mom. They only take reservations over the phone before 10 am on weekends, so make sure you book early and specifically ask for a table outside.
Chetito: This gourmet taco spot on the border of Condesa and Roma is my favorite place to grab a quick bite with a side of handcrafted cocktails. Try the house taco, “Chetito” with Arrachera (hanger steak), caramelized onion and goat's cheese.
La Coyoacana: This popular cantina is located in the heart of Coyoacan. During weekends the line can be as long as 3 hours (and you can’t make reservations). The food is traditional and the Mezcal is delicious. Make sure you grab a spot on the coveted terrace, surrounded by lush greens and live a mariachi band.
La Casa Las Tacos: This is a perfect alternative for when La Coyoacana is too busy. Located just around the corner from the main square, it serves up authentic Mexican dishes and yummy margaritas.
Tori Tori: If you’re looking for a change from traditional Mexican food, sushi is always a good alternative. Tori Tori, located in Polanco, is on the expensive side, but the dishes are so fresh and authentic.
Mog Bistro: Another option for sushi and Japanese food is Mog Bistro. The super affordable menu draws a large hipster crowd from the neighborhood. It's always packed, so come early. Tip: the upstairs is set up like a traditional Japanese restaurant where you must take off your shoes upon entering and sit on the floor.
La Pitahaya: This place is tucked away in a cool food market located in Roma. It serves up creative, delicious (and pretty) pink vegan tacos on beet tortillas. I recommend ordering the “choice of 3” so you get to try a bit of everything!
Paramo: Located on the first floor above street level, this cozy space is divided into two areas: a series of small rooms for those who want to eat and chat quietly and a huge terrace for partygoers looking for a scene. Open only at night - don’t forget to try the tacos!
Balmori Rooftop: This trendy rooftop is always packed and requires a reservation. While it may seem like more of a bar vibe, the food here is insane. A DJ usually spins from Thursday - Saturday.
Licorería Limantour: This is a fun place to come after work or before heading to the nightclub. Here you can find super creative cocktails served in everything from giant seashells to pineapples.
Gin Gin: If you are a fan of G+T’s (like me) this is the place for you. This kind of pharmacy disguised as a bar, serves every kind of spin on the classic gin and tonic. My favorite is the Acapulco Golden made with pineapple juice, coconut water and sage.
"El Tigre” Rooftop at Hotel Casa Awolly: This eclectic hotspot is always filled with trendy, creative types. I love the open air tropical vibes and tasty cocktails.
Hotel Condesa DF: With old world charm and creative design, Hotel Condesa DF is the Mexican version of the Ace Hotels. It has an amazing rooftop bar, which is always full of locals hanging out after work and on weekends.
CHAYA B&B Boutique: This super cute and unique B&B is located in the heart of Mexico City, facing Alameda Park. Chaya was designed by travelers for travelers, so it’s a great place to meet other voyagers. Perks: complimentary breakfast and beautiful rooftop views with hammocks!
Take Uber: The safest and cheapest way to travel around the city is by Uber. I’ve heard mixed reviews about taking the metro, which is usually jam packed with people, so I tend to avoid this option.
Eat all the food (even if it scares you): Seriously, a big part of the Mexican culture is the unique cuisine, so be adventurous and try everything - except the tap water!