Mexico City: More Than Mariachis

March 14, 2017

Mexico City, also known as CDMX, is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a little crazy—to have spent so much of my life crossing oceans in search of faraway cities—only to fall in love with a place so close to home. It’s the only city outside of the USA I have traveled to more than once, and plan to visit again and again (and again).

The love started in 2016. Anthony and I were on the last leg of our RTW trip and searching for flights from Santiago, Chile to Guatemala. While looking, we discovered it cheaper to fly from Santiago to Mexico City first, before catching a flight to Guatemala, so we booked.

Having only ever been to the US/Mexico border, as well as a few tourist beach towns, I had no idea what to expect of CDMX—one of the largest cities in the world. I’ll admit that, at first, I was in it for the food and the margaritas (so cliché, I know), but during our short, 4-day visit, I fell in love with a lot more than tacos. And in February, we returned for our second stay.

Wondering why I am so enchanted with this often overlooked place? I’m happy to tell you.

First, I love that Mexico City sits at over 7,000 feet in elevation (higher than Denver). A mountain girl through and through, I’m drawn to colder climates and places with four seasons. Spring, the one season I have experienced in CDMX, brings chilly mornings that beg for scarves and cups of artisan coffee—which are plentiful. The days are warm enough to shed your jacket and soak up the sun, but never too hot for comfort. Blossoming trees line most sidewalks, boasting vibrant purple and pink flowers.

I also love the art and history, exploring the numerous museums and monuments. (Fun Fact: CDMX has more museums than any other city in the world) With various indoor and outdoor markets, I can spend hours wandering around, talking with vendors, and purchasing more textiles and pottery than could ever fit in my suitcase.

Of course, I love the food—I mean, who doesn’t love street tacos?  And it doesn’t hurt that I can eat like a queen for less than a few dollars.

And I love the language. I’m not bilingual (yet), but I enjoy conversing and improving my Spanish. Whether chatting with cab drivers, asking for directions, or skimming novels in Librería Porrúa, Mexico City is a comfortable place for me to practice and learn.

Finally, I love the people. I have experienced only kindness and hospitality in this city; the importance of family in Mexican culture draws me in. If (or when) Anthony and I move abroad, this place is near the top of our list.

As you can see, I could go on and on, reiterating how much I love Mexico City and trying to convince you all to plan a visit, but I will leave you with a few of my favorite places instead. This list isn’t comprehensive, and I recommend reading other guides (as well as just wandering and finding your personal favorites), but here is a basic guide to a not so basic city. ¡Buen Viaje!

Eat

mexico city

Taqueria El Greco

Hands down my favorite place to eat (so far) in Mexico City. I’m not a foodie unless it is authentic Mexican or Greek food, and Taqueria El Greco is the happiest of marriages of my favorite flavors. If you are in CDMX, you must visit.

La Guapachosa

A new find on our most recent trip, La Guapachosa is fantastic food for an affordable cost. They serve delicious craft beer (which if I understood correctly they brew off-site), as well as some of the best totopos y salsas I’ve ever had. Great for lunch or dinner…or both.

Street Food (Obviously)

Mexico City has some fantastic restaurants, but the street food is hands down the best. You will see it everywhere, at all hours of the day. I recommend tortas and flautas. You can (and should) also try nopales or cactus paddles. Check out this guide from Eater for help navigating the street food scene. Buen provecho.

Mog Bistro

If and when your stomach needs a break (no shame, you’ll be back tomorrow), check out Mog Bistro. Just trust me.

LALO

Huevos Rancheros anyone? Head to Lalo for breakfast or brunch. It’s pricier than I prefer (think Snooze) but worth it.

The Camote Man

It all began on a stormy night in March 2016. We had hunkered down for the night, tired from our final day of walking and exploring the city. Just as we were about to turn in, a faint whistle sounded in the distance. My ears perked, but when the sound didn’t return, I told myself I had heard things. A few minutes passed though when I heard it again. It was still faint, but definitely there: a sharp, high pitched whistle fighting to be heard in the storm. By the time I turned to Anthony he was already lacing up his shoes; he had heard it too. He would spend the next fifteen minutes running around like a madman in the rain, chasing the one they call The Camote Man. 

The Camote Man is one of the best parts of Mexico City. He (although there are many of them) is a man who pushes a small, wood-burning cart (hence the whistle) selling Camotes, or baked sweet potatoes drizzled with sweetened condensed milk and cinnamon—it’s delicious. He can be hard to find, but just follow the sound of the whistle when you hear it, and you will be feasting in no time.

See

*With so many places to see, this is a short list of my favorites.

mexico city

Hop-On Hop-Off Buses

I don’t like looking like a tourist when traveling, but Hop-On Hop-Off Buses are where it’s at—especially in a city as large as CDMX. I recommend TuriBus, although we did the Capital Bus on our first trip and that one was enjoyable as well. For the price, it is one of the easiest and quickest ways to travel between neighborhoods and see all the best sights.

 

Frida Kahlo Museum

A must, must, must see. If you are not familiar with Frida Kahlo, Google her. And then visit her home, which is now a museum.

Museo del Templo Mayor

This ancient Aztec capital (once known as Tenochtitlan) was discovered underneath the Metropolitan Cathedral in the 1900’s and excavated in the 70’s. It sits right in the heart of the city and continues to be unearthed today. For a small price, you can walk through the ruins, as well as spend a few hours in the museum. A humbling, educational, and memorable experience that I highly recommend.

Monumento a la Revolución

Located in Plaza de la República and the heart of Mexico City, the Monumento commemorates the Mexican Revolution. Visit it for the history and the views.

 

Shop

mexico city

Casa Fusion

Are you looking for artisan products? Casa Fusion is your place. A large house with many small stores, you can buy handmade soaps, shoes, bags, jewelry, and more. And if you are on a budget (like me), you can relax in the quiet courtyard with a cup of artisan coffee.

Markets

I’m a sucker for markets, and I love to barter — especially for rugs and textiles. Markets are also perfect for trying new foods and expanding your vocabulary. There are many in Mexico City, but my two favorites are Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela and Mercado La Merced.

Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela has, in my opinion, some of the best textiles and authentic-looking decor.

Mercado La Merced is excellent for food. Anthony made me try crickets here, which I was not thrilled about, but it seemed to amuse the vendors. This market is always buzzing and is a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with Mexican ingredients and local cuisine.

Relax

La Lavanderia

La Lavanderia is dark, alluring, and the perfect spot to relax after a long day for a glass (or two) of the best Mezcal in the city.

El Mayor

After visiting Museo del Templo Mayor, walk across the street to El Mayor, a chic rooftop bar overlooking the ruins. You will have to wander through a cozy bookstore first, before taking an elevator to the top. There is indoor and outdoor seating, opt to sit outside for the views. I’m more of a beer girl, but I hear the cocktails are delicious. Also—get the guac.

Parks

Although Coyoacán is arguably a favorite amongst travelers, wherever you find yourself in Mexico City,  there is sure to be a beautiful park nearby. Take advantage of the benches, people watching, and free wifi. Also, you will notice vendors selling peanuts to kids so they can feed the squirrels—it’s the best.

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