about the city
México lindo, oh how te amo. If you haven't been to this city, move it to the top of your list ahorita. It's hard to describe the pure romance of CDMX (Ciudad de México, my fellow gringos). It was true love at first sight for this city and me. She wooed me with her street corner cafés, tree-lined boulevards, sweet smells of pasteles from the panaderías, bright colors of the mercados, and the sounds, and the sounds of laughter and conversations floating out of the taquerías. Heart eyes for días and días.
With a greater metro population of over 21 million, CDMX is llena de vida (full of life). Come for the tacos al pastor, tamarind margaritas, mariachi serenades, and colorful textiles. Stay for the award-winning food, late night terraza cocktails, and international cosmopolitan vibes paired with laid-back strolls through the parks that dot the entire city.
Before you go
Mexico City went through some terrible earthquakes in recent years. For the most part, things are okay and recovering, but the Roma area, where many of my recommendations are located, definitely took a bit of a hit. You will see some damage throughout the neighborhood, but don't let this stop you from going. If anything, now is the perfect time to go to help local businesses recover through economic stimulation.
where to stay
AirBnB- By far, I recommend AirBnB for staying in Mexico City. The site is full of fantastic options at very affordable prices. If you want to get a feel for local life, this is the way to go. AirBnB has also done a tremendous job at putting together neighborhood guides for D.F. You can get a sense of the area before you even step foot there. Recommended neighborhoods: Roma Norte (hipster, lively, close to restaurants, cafes, museums, parks, nightlife) or Condesa (posh, full of parks and cafes, quieter).
B&B- The Red Tree House: I have never personally stayed here, but I have only heard the best of things from friends. Book early because it fills up quickly.
Hotel- Galeria Plaza Reforma: I got an awesome Hotels.com deal for ~$90/night for a king bed room. Rooms are very clean and modern, beds are like clouds, there’s a rooftop pool that overlooks the city, and a small gym. It’s a block from the Angel de la Independencia and two blocks from a road closed to cars with great nightlife and restaurants in Zona Rosa (known to be the gay neighborhood but full of all types of people). Perfect, walkable location.
what to do
Teotihuacan- Don't pay for an organized tour. Total waste of money, and then you're stuck with an annoying guide. You can catch a bus from the México Norte station (just Uber there). Definitely eat at La Gruta, one my absolute favorite restaurants in the world, and then just take the bus back. You can also Uber there and back, but it's not as cheap if you're doing it solo. Doable if with a small group. If you have a hard time getting an Uber to take you back, just catch the bus.
Xochimilco- These canal boats are SO FUN. You can rent a full one for MX $350 (~$17 USD) or split one with people (would work better to split on weekends) for MX $40 (~$2 USD). You can also Uber to the port. You get on a fun colorful boat, they take you down the canal, and then small boats come up to you with mariachis, food, beer, and things to buy. It's a blast. Great for birthdays or other celebrations.
Coyoacan- This neighborhood in Mexico City feels like another city entirely. It's more like a small colonial village with tons of artisan markets, churro stands, street food, plaza with performers, beautiful church, etc. Frida Kahlo's house/museum is in the neighborhood. You can do that while there too. Buy the tickets online beforehand (you don't actually have to print them), or else you'll be waiting in line for over an hour.
Ángel de la Independéncia- Do this on a Saturday morning because they close off the giant roundabout and Reforma (their main boulevard), and everyone is walking and biking around, and they have giant Zumba classes. Rent an EcoBici!
Centro Histórico- Start at Bella Artes and wander around the square, walk across to the Sears building and grab a coffee from the cafe on the 8th floor for the best view ever. Walk to the Zócolo (the central plaza of the cit) and stop by all the old churches that are sinking into the ground along the way.
Museo Nacional de Antropología- This anthropology museum is one of the best you will find. Located in Chapultepec Park (CDMX's "Central Park"), you can explore the park while you're at it. The museum takes you through the full history of Mexico and all of its different states. It its a great way to learn more about Mexico and will take you a couple hours.
Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle)- This old castle now houses the National History Museum, and while those exhibits are great, come for the beautiful grounds and stunning view. Totally worth it! This is a can't miss.
where to eat
La Gruta- This might win the award for my favorite restaurant in the world. Set in the cave just outside of Teotihuacan, you must make the stop here if you are trekking out to the pyramids. It's the most magical of scenes with candles glistening off the interior of the cave. If you want some delicious traditional Mexican food, this place hits the mark. Don't miss out on the tamarind margarita. You deserve it after climbing all the steps of the pyramids!
Contramar- If you like seafood, make sure to stop in at Contramar. This place is only open for lunch, which Mexicans tend to eat around 2:00. Order their fish of the day, which isn't cheap, or choose one of their dishes off the menu.
El Péndulo- They call this CDMX chain a "cafebrería," which is a cross between a café and a librería (bookstore). Get the machaca breakfast while browsing the huge selection of fun books to practice your español.
Mercado Roma- A fun, trendy, hipster spot with lots of pop-up restaurants inside. Each person can grab what they want and meet in the middle to join together for your feast.
El Califa- This place is a casual taco chain, and I can't get enough of their tacos. They're different than any other tacos I've had (which at this point is thousands). Get the pechuga con queso (chicken breast with cheese) taco and pour on the sauces and condiments that come along. My mouth is watering just thinking about that taco! Just trust me on this one. Everyone I've ever taken here just loves it.
Azul Histórico- There are several Azul restaurants, but Azul Histórico in the, you guessed it, historic district, is a
good stop while you're checking out the Zócolo. Set in the center courtyard of a beautiful old building, this place makes you a little confused whether you're indoors or outdoors in the best of ways. Watch women hand making the tortillas and be in awe when your tortilla soup is served in a huge ceramic lady skeleton. Such a beautiful scene for some delicious upscale Mexican food!
Maque- This is my absolute favorite breakfast spot! They usually have mariachis, and it's right next to Parque Mexico, so it's great for people-watching skinny hipsters and wealthy women decked in pearls. Don't skimp on the small pastries that come with many of their breakfast (juice, egg dishes, and café americano).
Rococó Cafe- This small, artsy café is right next to Parque Espana and has some of the best coffee I've ever tried. Get the "best macchiato" - their specialty and phenomenal!