Don’t call them Chilangos!
Mexico City is probably the biggest city I’ve ever visited in my whole entire life. It’s probably normal for me to say that because I come from a small island, but you will have to visit in person to know that I’m not exaggerating at all. I went to Mexico City 2 times, and I feel like I only knew a very small part of the city. So in this article, it’s not going to be a thorough city guide, but mostly my personal experience and places I’v been.
Here are some things that I recommend travelers to do in Mexico City (especially for those who have little time like me)
- Save an entire day just for museums
I still don’t know whether Mexico City or London is the city with the most museums, but the title doesn’t matter, in Mexico City, you will definitely have tons of choices when thinking about going to museums. And from the most famous National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología) to the peculiar Tattoo Museum, the city sure satisfies people with different interests and preference.
The Museum of Anthropology is amazing. It’s HUGE and you will have to save at least 3 hours to have a sort of complete tour.
Another museum that I love is the Frida Kahlo Museum, known as the Casa Azul (blue house). Frida and her family and her husband Diego used to live in this beautiful blue house, and you will be able to have a better understanding of her life as an extremely talented artist and as a woman who had a extraordinary life full of love and pain.
- Take a long walk in the area near Zócalo
Zócalo is the historic center of Mexico City, there are a lot of things to see just around this area: La Catedral, Palacio Nacional, Templo Mayor, Palacio de Bellas Artes… It’s such a vibrant area, make sure you spend a good afternoon here, and wait until the sky gets dark, Palacio de Bellas Artes is even more beautiful at night! And don’t let the map trick you, everything seems to be just to around, but it really takes a long walk to see everything, so definitely put on a pair of comfortable shoes before leaving your hotel/hostel!
- Street food deliciousness
I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of street food! Mexico City is full of food stands with fresh juice, tacos, tamales and just about everything.
Late night taco stands is my savior after a crazy night of dancing!
Other than food stands, my couch surfing host took me to a cantina to have a full traditional Mexican experience, which I absolutely love! It’s not fancy that I guarantee you, but it’s the place to have the best food to snack on and have a good chat with friends or even the people there. The cantina I went doesn’t have a menu, all you need to do is ask! I had great flautas, pozole and a couple cups of beer, when we were about to leave, I asked the owner how much the food was. And he told me that I didn’t have to pay for the food, just the drinks. I was confused and surprised, my host Ana told me that usually this kind of cantina was opened just for close friends and family of the owner, so they charged for drinks only and the food was more like something the owner’s treat. The owner said it’s like asking the guests to pay for food and drink when you invite them over, it would be a weird act to do so… And apparently this habit passed on. Of course, the cantina did look a bit exclusive from the outside, maybe not a lot of people would go in if they don’t know the owner. Still, it was an amazing experience!
(A lovely group photo with the Ana, her friends and the owners ↑)
(←The door from the outside, I would never have gone in myself)
- Discover chic and hipster cafes
Other than good food, coffee is another must in my daily life, and despite the fact that I need coffee everyday, I don’t drink 3 in 1 coffee or coffee in oxxo just to help me live through the day, I’m quite picky in terms of the quality of my coffee. Luckily in Mexico City, there are many great cafes where you can get your daily dosis of caffeine, especially in the more hipster areas such as Condesa or Roma Sur.
Cute plate and cups with puns! (On the left: Pan comido, bread being eaten = a piece of cake) (On the right: I wish it rained coffee!)
My personal favorite is a small cafe called Chiquitito Cafe, literally meaning “very tiny cafe”. Although it’s a small cafe, it’s not hard to find, located just next to a pretty big street Calle Alfonso Reyes. They serve amazing pastry that goes perfectly well with their high quality coffee.
La Casa del Pan is a bakery/cafe, the coffee is alright, but their bread… Delicious and so cheap! I promise that they have the best concha I’ve ever had in Mexico. It’s located in Coyoacan, pretty close to Frida Kahlo’s blue house, so remember to pay a visit to this place after the tour at the Casa Azul! (I don’t have the photo of the bread because I finished it before I realized that I wanted to take pictures of it…)
- Climb the Sun and Moon Pyramid in Teotihuacan
Technically it’s not in Mexico City, but it only takes you about an hour to reach the archaeological sites of Teotihuacan from the north bus station, you go all the way to the end of the desks and you’ll find Teotihuacanos, where you can purchase your round trip ticket, and the bus leaves pretty frequently, about every 20 minutes.
When you’re inside the archaeological sites, you’ll be amazed by its size: it is, I mean it was a city that is almost preserved completely, so you’re basically entering a city, not some kind of small park or museum. And it’s exactly the cool part, you’ll be walking in an ancient city which people believed to be the place where Gods were born. After following the main path, the Path of the Dead, you will see the breathtaking Sun and the Moon Pyramid. The Sun Pyramid is slightly bigger than the Moon Pyramid, you will need some energy to go up the pyramids since they both have a lot of stairs and quite steep, too, but the view from up there is definitely worth your while! And save at least 3-4 hours to enjoy this great archaeological site without the rush.
- Weekend getaway to Los Dinamos
If you get tired of the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, have a little getaway to National Park of Los Dinamos, which is just an hour away from the city. It’s a big park with different sections, for the first couple of sections you can do picnic and make good use of the huge grass fields, and the further you go, you’ll find more hiking tracks and even rock climbing spots. The woods is perfect for hiking or just easy walks, it’s surprisingly quiet and with very small amount of people, so no doubt it’s the ideal place if you need to escape from the big city for a while. You can also find little cabins where they offer delicious and affordable meals with freshly captured trouts in the mountain.
- Stop by El Ángel de la Independencia during weekends
The Reason why you should stop by this famous landmark is because you will see the Mexican tradition “quinceañera“. We’ve heard of sweet 16, but in Mexico, when girls turn 15, they throw a big party and they will pick the most exaggerating dress to put on. And in Mexico City, these girls who turn 15, will go to this landmark and have a photo shoot with friends in the exaggerating and probably overly dreamy dress. So the interesting scene would be young girls in their huge dress trying to cross the crazy big road in front of the Angel statue, and obviously they are also trying to learn how to walk in heels at the same time.
- Witness the crowd of the metro
Mexico City is a big city, which I have mentioned several times in this article, so it’s not hard to imagine that the how big an amount of people rely on public transportation to move around. It’s always crowded in the metro, but it gets from crowded to spaceless during peak hours, it’s hard to imagine unless you see it or be there in person… Very dreadful situation if you need to commute at that time, I DO NOT want to get in the metro during that hour. Aside from the chaos sometimes, it’s a must to use the metro since the traffic is usually very bad.
- Get lost in the city
First of all, what I said doesn’t mean to get yourself into a ghetto area, always stay alert, be cautious and be prepared like what you would do everywhere else. What I recommend you to do is to discover places that is probably off the guide book, there is so much to see in this city, I always stumbled into some really interesting places when I was just randomly walking around. And Mexico City is a place where you should slow down your pace and take a look around, you’ll see many beautiful corners hidden in unexpected places.
Have fun exploring Mexico City!