We left for Mexico City with friends of ours early Thursday morning and landed around 10am. Our fully-packed agenda started almost immediately after checking into the Meridien Hotel (located near the Paseo de la Reforma – see more below). We were in town for one of my best friend’s weddings – her and her husband are both from Central America, and chose this gorgeous city for the wedding – I am so glad they did.
Some of my favorite ‘to do’s’ include eating dinner at Morablanca in the trendy Polanco area, sipping on delicious sangria at La Casa de las Sirenas while overlooking Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral (so incredibly ornate and gorgeous), walking around the Castillo de Chapultepec (travel around the park via train), exploring the Saturday bazaar in the San Angel area, and getting lost in the treetops at the Condesa DF hotel rooftop bar.
I’ve created a travel guide to inspire you to travel to Mexico City and then help you plan your trip! Many of the recommendations below are from my older sister’s good friend, Marina, who is from Mexico City and also got married there earlier this year. We also received tips from a friend’s uncle who visits there often, and from a fellow blogger, Ashton, whose wedding site was extremely useful in planning our long weekend.
Click here to see a complete list of my travel guides, which includes Bali, Paris, Istanbul, Durango, Austin, Houston, Washington, DC and San Francisco. Up next? Athens. If you’re interested in contributing to Snapshots and My Thoughts for a city guide post, please contact me.
Must See Places
- Castillo de Chapultepec (“Chapultepec Castle”): Chapultepec Castle is located on top of Chapultepec Hill, located in the middle of Chapultepec Park at a height of 7,628 ft. above sea level. The site of the hill was a sacred place for Aztecs, and the buildings atop it have served several purposes during its history, including that of Military Academy, Imperial residence, Presidential home, observatory, and presently, the Museo Nacional de Historia. The castile is gorgeous and definitely worth the slight trek through the park.
- Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology): This museum is the most visited in Mexico. Located in the area between Paseo de la Reforma and Calle Mahatma Gandhi within Chapultepec Park, the museum contains significant archaeological and anthropological artifacts from the pre-Columbian heritage of Mexico, such as the Stone of the Sun (or the Aztec calendar stone) and the 16th-century Aztec statue of Xochipilli.
- Alameda Central Park: The Alameda Central park is a green garden with paved paths and decorative fountains and statues, and is frequently the center of civic events. The area used to be an Aztec marketplace. The park was created in 1592, and the name comes from the Spanish word álamo, which means poplar tree.
- Casa de los Azulejos (“House of Tiles”): The House of Tile is an 18th-century palace which was built by the Count del Valle de Orizaba family. What makes this palace distinctive is that its facade on three sides is completely covered in the expensive blue and white tile of Puebla state. The palace remained in private hands until near the end of the 19th century. It changed hands several times before being bought by brothers who expanded their soda fountain/drugstore business into one of the best-recognized restaurant chains in Mexico called Sanborns. The house today serves as their flagship restaurant.
- Zocalo: Zocalo is the main plaza of Mexico City, and it was once the main ceremonial center in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan and from the colonial period on, the main plaza or square in the heart of the historic center of the city. The plaza used to be known simply as the “Main Square” or “Arms Square,” and today its formal name is Plaza de la Constitución. However, it is almost always called the Zócalo today. Plans were made to erect a column as a monument to Independence, but only the base, or zócalo, was ever built.
- Frida Kahlo Museum: Also known as La Casa Azul (or Blue House), the museum is actually the house where she was born and also died. The nickname, Blue House, is due to the structure’s cobalt-blue walls. The historic house museum and art museum is dedicated to the life and work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It is located in the Colonia del Carmen neighborhood of Coyoacán. The building was the birthplace of Kahlo and is also the home where she grew up, lived with her husband Diego Rivera for a number of years, and eventually died, in one of the rooms on the upper floor. In 1958, Diego Rivera donated the home and its contents in order to turn it into a museum in Frida’s honor.
Click here for a Google map of the main attractions and restaurants
Do and See
This neighborhood is known for nice shops, great restaurants and good people watching. Popular activities in this neighborhood include going on a walk through Parque Lincoln and down Ave. Masaryk for good shopping. Stop by Tane on Ave. Masaryk for silver jewelry and home decorations, or visit the outdoor shopping mall Antara where you will find a few stores not available in the US (Purificacion Garcia, Uterque, Massimo Dutti and Rapsodia). Another one of the main attractions is Castillo de Chapultepec, which is the beautiful castle in the Chapultepec Park. Enjoy the view from the top while you learn about the history of Colonial Mexico. Nearby, you’ll find the National Museum of Anthropology and The Museum of Modern Art.
Colonia Roma and Colonia Condesa
Do and See
These neighboring colonia’s are known for their architecture – a lot of the streets are similar to ones you would find in Europe. Walk down Colima Street, Orizaba Street, Parque Rio de Janeiro, Parque Mexico, Parque Espana, Casa Lamm and Ave. Alvaro Obregon for gorgeous scenery.
Eat lunch or dinner at Los Panchos, Contramar (best tuna tostadas in the city and phenomenal sangria), Maximo Bistrot, El Califa, Rosetta or Romita Comedor. You should get drinks across from Contramar at a restaurant called Fisher’s and sit in the enclosed front patio.
Paseo de la Reforma
Do and See
Every Sunday, Paseo de la Reforma is closed to cars until 2pm which makes it the perfect day to walk (or bike) from Polanco to the Historic Center. Walk through Alameda Central Park and arrive at Bellas Artes, the performing arts center. Take the Street 5 de Mayo, where you will pass by the House of Tiles, a few blocks to the Zocalo (Constitutional Plaza). Visit the Cathedral, National Palace (with murals by Diego Rivera inside) and Templo Mayor. Stop by Dulceria de Celaya, which is a very cute candy shop with over 150 different types of Mexican candy
Get drinks at Bar Milan – their mojitos are legendary, and this bar is voted one of the best in the city.
Colonia San Angel
Do and See
This neighborhood is known for its narrow cobblestone streets and is an oasis in otherwise bustling Mexico City. You should visit the Frida Kahlo Museum in the nearby suburb, Coyoacan. In addition, go to the market on Saturday – so many amazing gems to be found.
Tips when visiting Mexico City
- Money: The easiest Peso denominations to carry around are 20 (blue) 50 and 100 (red). Once you break some 100 peso notes, you’ll have some 10 peso and 5 peso coins, which are good for tipping.
- Water: The trick to staying hydrated while visiting Mexico City is to buy several liter bottles of purified water at one of the local convenience stores and carry one wherever you go. There is a big convenience store chain called OXXO, and they are everywhere. There are also tons of independent grocery/convenience stores called abarrotes (which means groceries). They are everywhere and mostly look like a storage room filled with junk – but they sell everything and all have an abarrotes sign out front. There will be an OXXO or an abarrote store within a block of your hotel.
- Taxis: Make sure to take hotel taxis, and try to make an arrangement with one to use him for the whole day. Ask the hotel concierge to quote the price of your journey if you’re taking a private car without a meter. Also, when you are at a restaurant or bar, ask your waiter or the maître ‘d to call a cab for you. This is common practice and safe. Also, make sure that you tip the doorman, cab drivers, etc. a blue note (100 pesos or about 80 cents) or a red note (200 pesos).
- Attire: People dress up to go out at night – it’s a very well-dressed city.
- Sidewalks: Walking on sidewalks in Mexico is a heads up experience. There are always sharp objects, wires, rebar and hard stuff hanging off roofs, doors, walls and telephone poles that are easy to walk right into, as there are holes, cracks and trip hazards on the sidewalks. Walk slowly and pay attention to where you’re stepping. Also, remember that cars rule in Mexico City, so cross at lights and look both ways if you decide to step off the curb.
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