Everything you need to know before traveling to Mexico City
Mexico City is experiencing a renaissance. It’s had a serious face lift. In the past, you may think of Mexico City as a gritty city. Today, it’s a city that rivals NYC. Yes seriously. The streets are extremely clean and you’ll find hipster cafes brewing pour over coffee, breweries creating unique craft beer and bars curating beautiful craft cocktails. It was even voted the top travel destination by New York Times in 2016. We spent New Years Eve in Mexico City and then came back after spending a month on the Yucatan Peninsula. This time we spent 10 whole days in this beautiful city. In this post, we’ll talk about some things we did, places we saw, food we ate, drinks we drank and why we will absolutely love to go back to Mexico City.
Brief Neighborhood Guide
Mexico City is similar to other major metropolitan areas. It is broken up into many neighborhoods, all with their own characteristics. We’re originally from NYC and found many similarities between the two major cities. These are the ones we visited and our thoughts on them.
Think Park Slope. Beautiful architecture, great bars and restaurants. Similar to Brooklyn cafes, we found pour overs and some other really creative brewing styles.
Similar to Roma, but think Williamsburg. Same style streets with beautiful trees and gorgeous colorful houses and buildings. The restaurants and bars are a bit more casual, yet still trendy, compared to Roma.
Think Upper East Side. Upscale and fancy. 5th Ave type of shops. Beautiful hotels and Michelin rated restaurants like Pujol.
Think Times Square. The hustle and bustle of Mexico City. Beautiful architecture, markets, shops, street food, restaurants, bars.
You’ll find Frida Kahlo Museum here. The home of Frida and Diego. The area is a bit quieter, residential but you’ll still find big authentic markets and beautiful parks.
Think Central Park. A must if you’re with a group of people or just want a romantic gondola ride. Grab a speaker and booze and hope on a boat to enjoy the atmosphere. You can relax alone on a boat, or party with a group
Mexico City is HUGE
As you can see, there’s a lot to see and do in Mexico City. You can easily live here for a year and still find new places to visit and explore. I haven’t visited more than half of the city! So if you’re there for a short time, do your research and create an itinerary before you go.
Feel free to email me or comment below with any questions or suggestions you may want specific to your type of travel!
What to eat/drink in Mexico City
Sabores Mexico Food Tour
This tour was AMAZING. We did the Colonia Roma food tour and got to explore Roma neighborhood while enjoying some delicious food and drinks. Our guide, Rodrigo, was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining! I’ll do a full blog post on the guide and link it here!
The absolute best thing about Mexico City is all the street food! You’ll find stands available 24/7. Some shut down but others open up later at night. The best part? You can find tacos for under $1, sometimes even 5 for $1.50 USD! And they weren’t just good for the price, they were some of the BEST tacos I’ve ever had in my life!… and I’m allll about #TacoTuesday!
There are Panaderias everywhere! So many freshly baked goods to find. We loved going to a Panaderia in the mornings to grab a croissant and heading over to a cafe for a cafe con leche. The bakeries are super fresh and delicious. Even the grocery stores have a huge bakery section and they’re absolutely gorgeous.
Neighborhoods Roma and Condesa are the best for bar hopping. I would suggest Roma for some trendy cocktail bars like Limantour, the first cocktail bar in Mexico City. I would suggest Condesa for a more casual night out. We found some super fun bars here and late night tacos! Also, try Mezcal, tequila’s smokey cousin. But think of sipping on a scotch not taking a shot of Tequila.
What to see in Mexico City
The key for a good view of Bellas Artes is to go across the street through the Sears main entrance, walk towards the back to the elevators and take it up to the 8th floor. Walk to the Cafe, buy a coffee and grab a seat on the gorgeous balcony. Tons of people will be dressed up and taking their pictures for the ‘gram so feel free to be super touristy!
Around the corner from Zocalo, you’ll find the perfect spot for sunset drinks at Downtown Mexico. There is a gorgeous restaurant but the real showstopper is the adorable rooftop bar that is open for public. The vibe was relaxed yet trendy. Prices were super reasonable and the food was amazing!
Frida Kahlo Museum
Also known as Casa Azul, was really special to me since I have a strong love for Frida Kahlo for being so ahead of her time. She was a true feminist before feminism was even a thing. Seeing the house she was born and raised in, and even died in, was pretty emotional. It’s super crowded so the best time to go is either super early or an hour before they close. I think an hour here is more than enough, unless you go there dressed up like I did and a bunch of people ask to take pictures with you lol
This was a true highlight of our trip. It was like Mexican Venice! There were huge gondola type boats that could hold up to 20 people called “trajineras” Locals come here to celebrate with their friends and families. They bring bottles of booze and speakers to party on the boat. It’s such a fun time! Adnan and I rented a boat for ourselves and even though people on other boats were partying, we still found the calmness of the river to be extremely romantic. We went during sunset so that definitely set the mood! We paid $1,000 pesos for 2 hours which is about $50 USD.
Paseo de la Reforma
Not only is this road absolutely beautiful, but there are a ton of shops and restaurants and bars as well as gorgeous architecture such as Angel de la Independencia. The grand boulevard is massive. Also, be sure to look up. There are some seriously gorgeous buildings here!
Casa de los Azulejos
The House of Tiles is absolutely gorgeous in person. When we walked away from Bellas Artes, we noticed a gorgeous building made of tiles and I started taking pictures without even realizing that this was actually what I wanted to see! So it is definitely worth seeing!
While you’re in Centro, walk to Zocalo where you’ll find the largest Mexican flag ever. This feels like a European city center with the gorgeous architecture all around. While you’re here be sure to check out Gran Hotel. They have a gorgeous stained glass ceiling that is definitely worth an awe.
Bosque De Chapultepec
Giant park with lots of beautiful architecture and buildings. You’ll also find a market, some street performers and the beautiful Castillo de Chapultepec. The castle is massive and definitely worth a visit!
The most dog-friendly dog park I’ve ever seen! The park is huge and has so many gorgeous photo ops. Theres a fountain in the middle, an arena where dogs play all day, and beautiful trees and flowers everywhere. Lots of monuments as well. Walk around, take it in and enjoy the great vibes all around!
Things I didn’t see but are worth visiting
Templo Mayor- Aztec ruins right in the middle of Mexico City
Palacio Nacional- We saw it from the outside but didn’t go inside. If you do go inside, you’ll find some of Diego’s best work
Lucha Libre- One of Mexico’s most popular sports to watch. Everyone raves about it!
Teotihuacan- Archeological site with Aztec Ruins. We just came from Yucatan where we saw a bunch of Mayan Ruins so we missed this one.
La Gruta- A restaurant near Teotihuacan. It’s in a cave and looks stunning!
Myth vs. Truth
Our views of Mexico were limited from resorts in Cancun and Riviera Maya where you’ll find a ton of nachos and margaritas and guacamole. We were wildly surprised to learn Mexico’s actual culture is nothing like the party life in Cancun. Here are some things we were shocked to learn:
Churros are not Mexican! They are an influence from Spain. It was actually pretty difficult to find GOOD churros in Mexico. El Murro is severely overhyped. We found the churros to be greasy and not doughy inside. Their ice cream churro sandwiches were great though!
Margaritas aren’t a big Mexican drink. I know, I was a little sad about this one. You can certainly find margaritas at a bar and some places make awesome margs, but for the most part, if you go to a restaurant, they probably won’t have margaritas. You’re better off getting and trying a mezcal cocktail.
Mexicans just get drunk and do drugs
So so false! We barely saw any drunk people anywhere. And we realized its because the drinks here are rather weak. I’m usually a light weight and even after 2-3 cocktils, I was barely buzzed. I started ordering a shot with my cocktails so I could limit the amount of calories needed to feel a buzz. Also, we didn’t see drugs anywhere. We’re from NYC and we know when drugs are being used. They have super strict laws about even having drugs on you. So I would steer clear of trying to buy any. You don’t want to end up in jail in a foreign country.
Mexicans want to move to USA
We thought everyone want to come to America, but it’s wildly inaccurate. They are super happy and comfortable in their beautiful country and don’t need English to survive. We thought since it’s such a major city, people would speak English, or at least somewhat. We found out that majority of the people didn’t speak English at all and we were glad we had the Google Translator app. So if you come to Mexico City, I suggest learning a few phrases.
Must know Spanish phrases in Mexico City
- “Hola” means “Hi”
- “Buenos Dias” means “Good Morning”
- “Buenas Tardes” means “Good Afternoon”
- “Buenas Noches” means “Good Evening”
- “Adios” means ‘Bye”
- Other ways to say bye or see you later: “Hasta Luego”, “Hasta la vista”, “Hasta Manana”
- “Como Estas” means “How are you”
- Usual response is “Bien, gracias. Y usted?” which means “I’m good, thanks. How are you?
- “Por Favor” means “Please”
- “Gracias” means “Thank you”
- “Bienvenido” means “Welcome”
- “Perdon” means “Excuse Me”, as well as “Sorry”
- “Cuanto Cuesta?” means: “How much?”
- Important to use when asking how much something costs
- “La cuenta, por favor?” means: “Check, please?”
- “Para Tomar?” means: “What would you like to drink?”
- “Para llevar?” means: “To go?”
- This one was useful for us when we were getting food to go, or things wrapped up after we finished a meal.
- “Habla Inglés?” means “Do you speak English?”
And of course, it’s helpful to download the Google Translator app for anything else you need translated. We found it helpful to ask people to speak into the google translator app and respond using it as well. It’s not always 100% accurate and could cause some confusion, but it gets the point across.
Peso: The Mexican Currency
At the time of writing this article, the exchange rate is $19.09 pesos to $1 USD
- 50 cents
We hope you enjoy your time in Mexico City just as much as we did! Please share your experience with us as well. We love hearing fellow travel stories!
If you have any other recommendations of things to do or see in Mexico City, drop them in the comments below!
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