Mexico City (or DF if you want to be accurate) is bloody amazing. The first time we visited this magical place we only stayed about 12 hours (due to some poor planning on my part). We got a taste of what this rad city had to offer and when we remembered we had an airplane voucher that was quickly expiring, we decided to book a long weekend to get out of the country and eat our faces off. So we did that. And now I can barely type this entry because my fingers are like gigantic sausages.
DF is extremely large. You may look at a map and assume something is walkable, but it’s definitely not. We traveled to at least 1-2 boroughs per day and there are wonderful things to eat, do and see in each.
Downtown Mexico: Located in Centro Historico, if you want to be in the hustle and bustle of the main downtown area, you MUST STAY HERE. We found it doing some research and then received some real-life feedback from our neighbors who stayed here. Anywhere that gives you a shot of Herradura reposado tequila at the check-in desk when you arrive is A-OK in my book. Downtown Mexico is almost a city in itself- courtyards, restaurants and candles everywhere, this place has anything you would need. The rooms are fantastic, the vibe is killer and the location is epic. Also, Israel is the best- he took us to our room and walked us to our favorite place in the hotel to get a drink.
Hotel Villa Condesa: This is where we stayed the second time and while a little less regal, this hotel and area quickly became our favorite. It’s located in the La Condesa borough which is MUCH less crowded, more quiet, full of tree-lined streets, couples walking there dogs…overall one of our top two boroughs. The hotel itself is only a handful of rooms- all different, so choose wisely- in an old mansion. Hector at the front desk is super knowledgeable and quickly became our local tour guide, giving us tips, planning our days for us and promising to call us when he came to Santa Monica to get a beer with us! The location is walking distance to restaurants, bars, the main castle in town…even music venues! The hotel was full of travelers, young and old who we nice, interesting and respectful. The hotel offers breakfast as part of your room rate every morning in the quaint courtyard and it’s absolutely delicious. Every night before going out to dinner, my husband and I sat outside in the courtyard drinking beers and playing cards by candlelight. It’s truly a hidden gem.
La Botica: This is a hard-to-find mezcal bar in Downtown Mexico (the hotel). Get there early for a window seat, ask for the bartenders recommendation and order the grasshoppers. They aren’t what I would call “good,” but they are a local favorite (and you get to try grasshoppers).
Hotel Condesa: A sister hotel to the Downtown Mexico Hotel (part of Grupo Habita), this is around the corner from La Villa Condesa Hotel. Much more grand and definitely more of a scene, head straight up to the roof, grab a couch and a tequila, and watch the sunset over the rooftops of DF.
Mundana: Located in downtown, this is a hidden mezcal bar which a cool, rough vibe. It’s tucked away in a little indoor, plant-filled building with small shops. Listen for the BOMB loud music coming from it, pick a cocktail, look at the jugs of mezcal along the wall and be prepared for bugs in your drink. Big ones. Like really big ones.
Centenario 107: A perfect place to stop after wandering the cool markets and streets of Coyoacan. It had an extensive craft beer list which was a nice change after the multiple Sol and Negro Modelos we consumed. Sit in the back bar under the ivy covered roof. By far, coolest bathroom I’ve been in, in awhile.
Contramar: Wow-we’d heard a lot about this place and it lived up to it’s expectations. Walking distance from our hotel in Condesa, this was our first eating stop. Grab a table outside and get yourself a marg and a tostada de atun (tuna tostada), stat. You will NOT be sorry.
Pujol: The only fine dining experience we chose to participate in (though there are MANY others). After reading about Enrique Olvera, then seeing him in Chef’s Table, I knew I had to go. Make reservations WELL in advance (like, months- set a reminder) and just show up for an adventure. It’s 6 courses (though many have multiple components to them) and is most well-known for it’s mole. HOT TIP: Go extremely hungry and pace yourself. We became uncomfortably full and found it difficult to finish every dish towards the end. There is a knowledgeable sommelier, wonderful aperitifs and a more casual atmosphere than one might expect from one of the top restaurants in the world. Worth the planning and the cost. An experience we will never forget.
Cerveceria de Barrio: Recommended by our wonderful front desk dude at our hotel, this is a local jam in Condesa. We went late night for a few fish tacos and a couple beers after seeing a show at Plaza Condesa (OCESA) down the way. Highly recommended for a late night scene and some of the best salsa I’ve had.
Tacos Hola: A great spot in Condesa with very little seating- we slammed a couple tacos standing on the street. They were amazing and saucy and delicious.
El Tizoncito: This is actually a chain, I learned (you will see a few) but the one on Calle Campeche in La Condesa has the best people watching. The al pastor here is BONKERS and why we visited multiple locations multiple times. If you like pastor, GO HERE.
Chapultepec Taco Stands: After visiting the Castillo de Chapultepec drop by the taco stands near the lake where people are paddle boating and refresh yourself with a Mexico Coke and a couple tacos.
Los Sifones: In Coyoacan (about a 20 minute walk from Frida Kahlo’s house) is this bustling restaurant with fantastic dishes. Rumor has it the owners “invented” the square tortilla. They have wonderful soups, tacos and are known for their mocaljetes (a Mexican hot-pot, if you will).
El Hidalguense: Located in Roma Sur, this place has the BEST barbacoa in blue corn tacos. Live mariachis, delicious Palomas and a salsa buffet right at your table- definitely pop in for lunch.
El Huequito: In Centro Historico, we popped by this place for tacos before wandering the Zocolo and huge plazas and parks in downtown. Great tacos campecho and really nice folks who work there. Highly recommended for tacos and beers.
Taqueria Tlaquepaque: Just look for the line of folks and you’ll know you are there. We just stopped on the street and slammed a couple tacos each.
El Castillo de Chapultepec: Located in between Polanco and La Condesa in a HUGE park, wear your walking shoes and get up there early (the lines were SUPER crazy when we left). It’s the old castle overlooking the whole city that the President used to live in. The views are great, the rooms are really neat to check out, the gardens are breathtaking- overall it’s a great overall adventure. After you are done with the castle, walk around the park, rent a paddle boat on the lake, shop. Weekends are the most lively- full of families and vendors and music.
Frida Kahlo Museum: We hear it’s cool, but go early or buy tickets online. The lines were around the block by the time we got there, so we just admired it from outside (and then went to eat, obviously).
La Plaza de Belles Artes: A rad museum in centro historico. We had a great time looking at Deigo Rivera’s and revolution-inspired art.
Check out the markets: We visited quite a few (mostly indoor) markets. Hold onto your valuables and get lost in the rows of pinatas, food stalls and clothing boutiques.
Just walk: Mexico city is like Europe…in Mexico? The architecture is phenomenal and the best way to see it is to just explore!
Luckily for us, during our first trip there we sat next to a Mexico City local on the plane- born and raised- who had very little control over the volume of his voice. He was a very interesting businessman and spent the entire flight from Nicaragua to Mexico City shouting with/talking to an English boy sitting next to him. Elliott napped and I eavesdropped. Between him and some blogs I read, I learned some rad tips:
Mexico City Airport has two terminals-one is for flights coming in from the US (#gringos) and one is for anyone arriving from Central or South America. If you arrive at the former (coming from the US), expect a pretty typical Mexico airport experience, however if you arrive in the other one, DEFINITELY DON’T check a bag. For any flights entering in Central or South America, there is a 1 hour baggage check added where people on the ground physically look through your luggage before it makes its way to the conveyer belt. Then you get in a separate screening line to get out of the terminal.
There is an area with “authentic taxi” stands- look for signs to there. Once there, people at different booths will just start shouting at you. Pick one that you like and tell them where you are going. You will pay, get a receipt and you will then walk outside and look for your taxi company where you get in the car, wait in line and they take you to your destination. Other than a little wait, we had no issues and the raddest taxi driver ever who I loved.
Every local will tell you to Uber. It’s safe, it’s reliable and it’s CHEAP AF. We got the fancy Uber every time we had to go somewhere and to drive 40 minutes from one hood to another in an Escalade typically cost us $5, total.