I’ve written about my love for Mexico City here and here, but I wanted to write a more detailed guide about some of the best things the city has to offer so everyone can enjoy it. Whether you’ve got just a few days or a couple of weeks in Mexico City here’s my pick of the best things to see, do and, most importantly eat.
There are so many places to see in Mexico City! Apparently it has more museums than anywhere else in the world and I believe it! And that’s not to mention the parks and monuments – if there’s one thing Mexico does well apart from food its public spaces. I didn’t get around to all of them – although I gave it my best shot! Here are my favourite places to see when in the city.
Museo Nacional de Arte (National Museum of Art)
I’m not an art aficionado by any means – in fact to be honest I find a lot of art kinda boring, but this place captured me from the moment I walked through its giant doors and caught a sight of the winding wooden staircase. The architecture and detail in every corner took my breath away. There’s everything here from ancient Greek sculptures to 18th century Mexican works to modern pieces from throughout Latin America.
Plaza de las tres culturas (Square of the three cultures)
I didn’t go here until my last week in Mexico City but I’m so glad I did. If you can, go on a weekday because the queue here on the weekends is crazy long. Here you can walk through the ruins of Aztec temples – some of which have an incredible amount of detail remaining! The pass includes entry to an excellent museum which you enter right after the ruins, and also a couple of other museums that are a bit confusing to find (especially when you’re hungry) but well worth the effort.
Palacio Nacional (National Palace)
I’d heard so many good things about the National Palace that I didn’t really want to go (does anyone else do that?) but I’m really happy I did because it was awesome. Diego Rivera’s gigantic murals were the highlight – you can seriously just stare at them for ages and keep finding new things that make you smile. But I also loved the exhibition of masks from all around Mexico and the original courthouse was pretty cool too! To enter someone in your group needs to hand over their passport – it’s kept securely and you get it back upon exiting. The line is super long on weekends so go early in the morning or during the week if you can.
Visit Teotihuacan pyramids. These are very cool and very accessible. You can take a tour there which also includes a trip to a village where you can see an ancient church and taste some mezcal – or you can pay a tenth of the price and catch a metro and then a bus there. However you do it, just get there because they’re fantastic.
Explore Chapultepec Park – and give yourself a whole day to do so! This place is huge, I mean really huge! There’s so much to see and do here – pick up some souvenirs at the markets, feed the squirrels, admire the architecture of the Chapultepec castle, visit the zoo, peruse the anthropology museum (see above), try your hand at paddle boating on the lake, ride the roller coasters at Feria de Chapultepec or just sit under the shade of a large tree and observe the native wildlife and people going about their daily business.
Go up the Torre Latinoamericana (Latin-American Tower) building. Catching the elevator to the top of this building will give you the best views in the city – that may not sound that exciting to you (it didn’t to me!) but trust me, you’ll be glad you did it. You’ll appreciate just how big the city is and how beautiful it is too.
Walk or Run at Coyoacan Neighbourhood. Coyoacan is easily my favorite part of Mexico City. You actually forget you’re in the city because it’s so chilled out and peaceful here. Coyoacan Park is absolutely gorgeous. Not only is it a beautiful place to exercise – there is a 4 kilometre walking/jogging track, but there are extremely tame squirrels to feed. And there’s a pretty cool artisan market in the town centre too.
There are so many delicious things to eat in Mexico City – and there really is something for every budget. I occasionally splashed out on a nice meal but tended to stick to the cheap street food options which honestly really were some of the best meals I ate.
Pozole The best way to describe this is a hearty soup. It’s a thick soup with a base of hominy – giant corn kernels – to which you can add basically whatever you like. Popular additions include shredded pork, tortilla chips, avocado, radish slices, sour cream and various salsas. It is DELICIOUS and very substantial. The best pozole we ate was at La Casa Toña. We actually caught three subways and walked for 20 minutes to get there (cause that’s the kind of thing I’ll do for good food) and we were not disappointed!
Tacos. There are a few different kinds of tacos you can get in the city – all of which are delicious. The two most common are pastor (pork) and súaderno (beef). You can also get chorizo, goat head, kidney & liver – but these are much less common. Look for a busy taco place as these are usually the best and safest. The best place we found was on the corner of Juarez and Indepencia outside a pizza shop. AMAZING. And I loved that the guy who served us each night was completely unfazed that we were there – other vendors seemed to get a little spooked at having ‘guapo’ customers.
Grilled chicken. Admittedly grilled chicken doesn’t immediately sound exciting but trust me – crispy yet succulent chicken served alongside a crunchy coleslaw and pickled chilies on fresh tortillas – is amazing! Truly.
Quesadillas. Quesadillas are the perfect snack. They’re tasty, cheesy, small and they cost less than a dollar. And they’re yum!! You can get lots of different kinds although the most common is just a plain cheese one (with the addition of salsa or pickled chillies). Other variations include cheese with zucchini flower, chorizo and shredded chicken.
Tortas. Mexico’s version of a sandwich, and as delicious as that likely sounds. You can get pretty much any flavour combination you want – ham & cheese, chicken, chorizo & cheese, beef, tomato & cheese. They’re endlessly customisable, they come toasted and they cost about a dollar.
Pastries and sweets. I’m not entirely sure why Mexico City has such amazing bakeries – because other places we visited (Oaxaca, San Cristobal del las Casas, Tulum, Puebla…) didn’t have anything like what’s on offer in the city. First off the bakeries are huge! You grab a tray and walk around trying not to salivate over all the different options while you load yourself up with whatever you want, take it to the counter where it’s bagged and you’re given a receipt and then you go and pay at the cashier. It’s a slightly complicated process but that’s just Mexico. What’s important is that everything you buy will be DELICIOUS.
Calle Regina is the best place to go in the city if you’re looking for some bars. It’s where all the cool kids hang out sipping cocktails, glasses of wine or shots of mezcal. There are interesting murals and some cool art installations to look at too.
If you’re prepared to go a little out of the city then the Condesa neighbourhood is great; it’s a street lined with craft beer bars and American style restaurants. You can do tastings here too.
If you’re just looking for some beers to take back to your hostel then the Oxxo have good prices. They have a deal for 4 regular beers (Tecate, Dos Equis, Indio…) for 55 pesos.
There are too many markets in Mexico City to count. Some of them are specialized like the one in Plaza San Jacinto which sells only artwork. There are two big ones La Lagunilla Market & Mercado de la Merced Nave Mayor, where you can buy pretty much anything (literally – I saw a guy walking around selling rolls of sellotape – all kinds of sellotape) but they’re very easy to get lost in, and a little on the shady side. In other words don’t go alone, take someone with you preferably someone who has a good sense of direction and a big beard to scare off any would be pickpockets.
For anything you can’t find in a market you’ll find it down the main tourist street Avenue Francisco I Madero.
Massiosare El Hostel
We stayed in only one hostel for the six weeks we were in the city but we loved it – and we talked to numerous people who had stayed elsewhere but told us that for the price it was the best accommodation option in Mexico City. There’s a rooftop terrace where you can read, sunbathe, practice yoga or drink at the pop up bar on Saturday nights. There’s free breakfast every morning; fruit, pastries, coffee and juice. There are two adorable cats Luke and Leia who will alternate between attacking you as you and snuggling into you – they’ll also try to sneak into your dorm and sleep in your bed. There’s a tiny but well stocked kitchen to use, clean bathrooms and showers in each of the dorms, comfortable beds and extra blankets if you need them. There are two common areas – one with beanbags, a table, a large bookshelf, a TV and DVD Player and Nintendo to use. It’s in the middle of an industrial area so it’s quiet at night – two blocks from a busy street food area and two blocks from Juarez metro station. The staff here are lovely – really lovely, don’t hesitate to ask them for anything. Having said that – they’re hardly ever actually at the desk. If you arrive and there’s no one around trudge down the four flights of steps and turn right into the vegan cafe next door – there you’ll find the lovely Gus who is the owner of the hostel. He’ll come right up and show you around.
They like to play and fight – and also sleep on you.
So there you have it – my take on the best things to see, do, eat and where to stay in Mexico City. I love that city so much, it has a vibrancy that I haven’t found elsewhere yet. If you have the chance to go I’m positive you’ll fall in love with it as much as I did!
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