Mexico City was such a surprising delight. Two years later, I can still feel the vibrant energy, remember the incredible cuisine, and appreciate the culture that permeates through its streets. Our family vacations together every year, and despite my sister and I’s globetrotting ways, we prioritise the yearly trip.
When traveling with parents, we like having a base and not pack up every few days. Mexico City was perfect for this. Our 3-bedroom AirBnB in La Condesa served us very well. It was located a short walk away from Bosque de Chapultepec, a massive city park where we went for morning runs and evening strolls.
The neighbourhood has many delightful restaurants and cafés, and well located to arrive in other parts of the city via Uber or public transportation. Staying put in a place for a week gives us a taste of what it may be like to live in this neighbourhood. Our daily visit to the local café gives a welcome routine in an unfamiliar place.
Mexico City proper has so much to do that we only ventured out on two separate days to witness the ancient city of Teotihuacán, and experience a very amusing boat ride at the Xochimilco canals.
Our AirBnB host gave us a driver’s contact, who had a van that could take all 6 of us out to Teothihuacán, once the largest city in the Americas. The driver also served as a tour guide, taking us to souvenir shops and tasting tequila at 10am.
Upon arriving to the ancient city, we took our time to visit the museum, climbed all the stairs atop of different pyramids, and marvelled at this ancient urban sprawl. Be sure to bring sun protection. Once you step out of the caves and museum bit, there is no shade and the sun will do damage!
After lunch at a total tourist trap, our driver took us to Museo de Los Murales Teotihuacanos. The museum was interesting, but the wide variety of cactus plants on the premise was more memorable.
- How to Visit Teotihuacan Without a Tour | SightDoing
- The Best Pyramid Tours to Take in Teotithuacan, Mexico City | Culture Trip
Taking a Trajinera gondola down the Xochimilco canals may seem like a tourist trap, but it was one of the more authentic Mexican experiences we had. Upon getting to Xochimilco, there was a burst of energy with local markets. When we approached the canals, you couldn’t help but feel joyous by the colours and music.
There were many local families celebrating birthdays and various cheerful occasions on the boats. The atmosphere is vibrant, and how can it not be when mariachi bands are playing alongside? You can bring your own food and drinks and have a feast while the boats ride slowly down the canals, or you can buy them from the vendor boats. Either way, it’s a good time!
The light rail to Xochimilco connects to the subway, and is an easy ride from the city centre. Look for Xochimilco station on the light rail, and the Embarcadero is approximately 20 minute walk from the station, where you’ll get a taste of the high-energy market, and a chance to explore the town.
- Mexico’s Xochimilco Canals: A Guide to Riding on a Trajinera Gondola | Bucket List Journey
- A View of Mexico City Through the Xochimilco Canals | Culture Trip
Things to Do
Aside from the two days trips above, we spent the rest of the time in Mexico City. We walked around, A LOT, as this is the best way to get a feel of a new place. Pro tip: When I visit a city, I like to star all the places I want to visit on Google Maps, including restaurants & cafés. Download the map onto your phone to have an offline version. I then decide which neighborhood I want to explore for the day, and can make decisions on the go.
I am a fan of hop-on/hop-off buses in cities. They serve as a mode of transportation, but comes with an audio guide that gives interesting background information on various sites. Mexico City’s version of this bus was fantastic. It has 4 different lines, and covers all the major attractions and neighbourhoods.
You can buy tickets at any of the main stops. I recommend buying a 2-3 days pass when you first arrive to get a lay of the land first, then can later navigate the city via public transport.
We stumbled upon this at sunset. It was quite a majestic, not sure the ceremony itself or the golden hour light. In any case, well worth it.
A great place to learn about Mexico’s history. The collection is massive and very comprehensive. We spent an entire afternoon here and weren’t able to visit all the exhibition halls.
I really love photographs, so perhaps I am biased. Mexico City has plenty of museums, and among the many we visited, this one made an impression. No better way to learn contemporary Mexican history than through really beautiful photographs.
This private museum has an impressive collection. You can easily spend an entire day here. The modern architecture is breathtaking all on its own.
As mentioned, we were staying right by this park and really enjoyed spending time there. But beyond morning runs and evening strolls, the park houses many museums. We took half a day to visit Chapultepec Castle on top of the hill. Beside the architecture details and artwork, you also get a great view of the city.
This building is beautiful both inside and out. We bought tickets to a folk dancing show when we arrived in Mexico City, just to be able to enjoy this building more than taking photos. It did not disappoint!
Places to Eat
Saving the best for last. Mexico City’s restaurant scene was so unexpected in the best way! While some meals were better than others, I could honestly say we did not have a bad meal. Here’s a list of places that we were able to try:
- Azul – classic Mexican cuisine. Fancy-ish setting, but worth it! They have multiple locations across the city.
- Cafebrería El Péndulo – a great café and bookstore to spend an afternoon.
- Contramar – popular place for seafood. Don’t go during rush hour. A tad pricey, but quality food. When you ask for the dessert menu, they bring out an entire tray. Pretty hard to resist!
- El Antiguo Edhen – great place for lunch when you are wandering in the historical centre. Delicious Lebanese food, and great service! Be sure to end the meal with a Turkish coffee.
- El Resi – a neighbourhood restaurant serving up trendy Mexican cuisine. We ordered tapas style and shared, great value! Get a fancy coffee at the end. There is fire involved!
- Estación café – this café was right next to our AirBnB. We went daily, and I loved their cream cheese tarts!
- Gin Gin – fancy cocktail bar with decent food. Hip vibe!
- Hotel Condesa DF – the rooftop bar is relaxing and a quiet place to have a drink after a long day of touristing.
- La Barraca Valenciana – stop here for lunch when you head out to the Frida Kahlo museum. Great spanish tapas!
- Lardo – this Mediterranean restaurant was one of my favourites! The vibe is trendy but not stuffy. We sat at the bar and watched the chefs in their elements.
- Monsieur Croque – another neighbourhood joint in La Condesa. Solid French food in a relaxing and intimate atmosphere.
- Nevería Roxy – an old ice cream establishment with long lines on the weekends. We went on a week day, and it’s worth the hype.
Other Tips from the Blogosphere
- 16 Quintessential Mexico City Experiences | Sidetracked
- The Ultimate Guide to Mexico City (For First Timers) | Simplicity Relished
- The Eater Guide to Mexico City | Eater
- Mexico City: Pro Tips and Insider Tricks | Eater