5 Days in Mexico City

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Every February, Adam gets a few days off work for mid-winter break and we use it as a chance to escape the gloom and cold in the PNW and go somewhere sunny and warm. This year, we wanted to go somewhere we had never been before, somewhere with a different culture and language, somewhere relatively close, and somewhere affordable. After stalking Google Flights for weeks to see where the best deals were, we landed on Mexico City (CDMX), which we had heard amazing things about from friends. It also didn’t hurt that it’s basically the taco capital of the world and we looooove tacos!

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We spent three full days in the city, admiring the architecture, visiting charming neighborhoods, learning the history, soaking up the culture, and of course, eating a ton of food. We left the trip very full and sunburnt (oops), but oh so happy. To see everything we did in three days, watch our vlogs here!

Although we were able to see so much in three days, we did have to rush at times and there was also so much we wanted to see (errr…eat lol) that we didn’t have time for…it is the largest metropolitan in the Western Hemisphere after all! You could easily spend over a week in Mexico City, but in order stay true to our travel guide format, which caters to those with less time to adventure, here is our five day guide to Mexico City, which is a little slower paced than we traveled, full of the must visit sights, must eat tacos, and must explore neighborhoods.

Tips

Before we get started, there are a few things that are good to know before heading to Mexico City to make your trip even more enjoyable!

  1. Safety: We were a bit nervous going into the trip, and obviously things can happen anywhere, but we felt safe the entire time we were in CDMX. Sure, we visited some more run down areas at times and things are definitely different than the US, but we never once felt threatened or encountered a sketchy situation and the people were all very kind to us. There are areas you should definitely avoid, but if you stick to the main tourist areas you’ll be fine, just keep an eye out for pickpockets.
  2. Learn Spanish: We knew Mexico City would be predominantly Spanish speaking (that’s why we chose it after all–we wanted a different culture!), however, we thought that there would be a tiny bit more English spoken there. During our 3 full days we maybe spoke English to locals two or three times. Adam is pretty good at Spanish and we got by (mostly), but it was a struggle at times and we felt horrible for not being able to communicate. You don’t need to be fluent, but definitely do some Duolingo beforehand for some common phrases, especially ones involving ordering food.
  3. Get Pesos before you go: While a good chunk of places take credit cards in CDMX, a lot of the taco stands, markets, etc only take cash. We took $100 US in Pesos with us, which we exchanged at the Seattle airport, but we ended up getting another $20-$30 USD out in Pesos while there (and had to pay the ATM fees). It’s a tricky game figuring out how much you’ll need because you don’t want too much and to have to pay the fees to convert it back, so try to make a list of the places that are cash only, estimate your expenses, and get that amount out.
  4. Bring (and wear) sunscreen: We felt like huge idiots for not even thinking to pack sunscreen. Mexico City is 7,382 ft in elevation and it’s very, very sunny (without a lot of coverage) and we got so sunburnt! Please pack some sunscreen or buy some there so you do not end up like us!
  5. Ask for your check: We learned that it’s considered rude in Mexico if your waiter automatically brings you the check. This rule is pretty awesome because we never once felt rushed. However, we spent quite a bit of time during the first day or two waiting for our check to arrive…oops. ¿Puedo tener la cuenta por favor? will be a lifesaver!
  6. Getting around: Whenever we couldn’t walk, we Ubered. We never, ever Uber in our normal lives and hardly on vacation, but the Ubers were so cheap there (we had many $2-$4 rides) that it ended up being a great deal! Another option is to take the buses and Metro. The only reason we didn’t is because we heard that some people get pickpocketed on public transportation, which isn’t uncommon in a big city, but we wanted to be cautious with our camera gear. One other warning we heard is to avoid taxis because you can get ripped off, so stick to Uber instead, which usually is cheaper anyways.
  7. Be careful with the water: Avoid drinking non filtered water. We drank only bottled water, but had a couple ice cubes during the trip (oops) and got pretty sick afterwards and are pretty sure that is why.

Where to Stay

Mexico City is full of cool neighborhoods, which was one of our favorite parts of the city! Based on our experience, La Roma, La Condesa and Hipodromo are 3 hip, safe, and fun neighborhoods we would recommend checking out that are also close to the main must-see items on this list. Check out a list of lodging options for each below! PS: We found CDMX to be super duper affordable. We got our Airbnb for $71/night after all of the taxes and fees (~$50 before).

La Roma

La Condesa

Hipodromo

PS: If it is your first time staying at an Airbnb, click this link to get $40 off your first stay!

Day 1

Day 1 is full of tacos (yesss!), beautiful architecture, and history as you wander around Centro Historico!

  1. Kickoff your trip with coffee at Quentin, a cool little coffee shop in Roma Norte.
  2. For breakfast, go to El Cardenal, which is said to be one of the best breakfasts in CDMX!
  3. Head to Zocalo, a huge plaza in the middle of Centro Historico that was a gathering place for the Aztecs. Here you’ll have a great view of the Cathedral, the National Palace, and a massive Mexican flag waving in the wind (for some reason it wasn’t up when we went).
  4. Explore Templo Mayor, which are ruins right in the city! We thought these ruins were really cool, especially with the city surrounding them, and there was also a really nice indoor museum to escape the heat.
  5. Continue walking around and admiring the beautiful architecture. We suggest making a quick pit stop to Plaza de Santo Domingo.
  6. For lunch, we highly, highly recommend doing your own mini taco tour!
    • First stop: Tacos de Canasta Los Especiales (cash only), which are tacos that are pre-made and steamed in large baskets (canastas). They are cheap, super quick, and definitely not fancy, but a fun experience!
    • Second stop: Taqueria los Cocuyos (cash only) for suadero tacos! This taco stand is a bit different than the others–you can get eye tacos, intestines, etc. We aren’t that brave, so we got suadero, which is a meat between the belly and thigh and it was delicious!
    • Third stop: Walk down the block to El Huequito and get the El Pastor Especial. It’s a mountain of pastor with cheese and a bunch of tortillas. If you’re with someone else, definitely just share one!
  7. If you still have room in your stomach, head to Pasteleria Ideal and try to choose between their many delicious looking desserts.
  8. Visit the most beautiful post office we have ever seen, Palacio Postal. This is a quick stop, but an absolutely stunning building! For another quick photo opp after, head over to House of Tiles.
  9. Walk over to Palacio de Bellas Artes, one of our favorite buildings in CDMX. There’s a beautiful park (Alameda Central) next to it as well. Explore the area from ground level and then walk across the street to Sears Department store, go up to floor 8, grab a coffee at Don Porfirio, and enjoy a view of Bellas Artes from higher up!
  10. You may or may not be hungry after your taco tour earlier, but if you are hungry, head to Mercado Roma, a really cool hipster food market to have an assortment of dinneroptions.

Day 2

On Day 2, escape the city for the day to explore the incredible pyramids of Teotihuacan!

  1. Grab a quick breakfast and coffee at Panaderia Rosetta. We hear the guava roll is delicious!
  2. After breakfast, head to the Autobuses del Norte station (we Ubered there) to make the journey out to Teotihuacan. This blog post was extremely helpful in figuring out where to go to get on the bus. Basically, once you enter the station, go all the way to the left and look for Puerta 8. Just to the right of it is the stand to buy your bus passes. You go through security and then are directed onto the correct bus. It’s easy and was an affordable way to get to the ruins!
  3. Spend the rest of the morning and afternoon wandering around Teotihuacan. This was our favorite part of the whole trip!
  4. Whenever you start to get hungry, make your way to La Gruta, a restaurant in a cave at Teotihuacan! To get there, follow the signs to the museum behind the Pyramid of the Sun and take the exit out of the park (I believe it’s exit #5). You are allowed to re-enter, don’t worry! Once you exit, go to the left, where you’ll see a small museum across the street. Down that road to the right of this building you’ll see a side street with a sign for La Gruta. We recommend getting just a couple appetizers, especially the massive bowl of guacamole!
  5. Head back to the ruins after your lunch and continue exploring!
  6. Once it’s time to go, take the bus back to CDMX. You get on the bus in the same area you were dropped off, so make sure to pay attention when you get there in the morning so you don’t get lost.
  7. After arriving at the bus station, take an Uber (or your preferred method of transportation) to Biblioteca Vasconcelos. This is the coolest library we have ever seen! It’s very futuristic and a fun place to wander around and relax for a bit.
  8. For dinner, hit up two of our favorite taco stands from our trip! First up, Tacos Manolo, for some pastor and something a bit more unique called tacos Arabe, which was more of a middle eastern flavoring. Second, walk about 8 minutes down the street to El Vilsito (opens at 8 PM), our FAVORITE taco stand of the whole trip! This is an auto repair shop by day and taco shop at night. Their pastor is amazing and the environment is great!

Day 3

After two crazy days, slow things down a bit on day 3 by eating your way through a couple awesome neighborhoods.

  1. Grab breakfast at Chilakillers (cash only and closed Mondays), which has awesome chilaquiles OR at El Esquina de Chilaquiles (cash only), which is food cart selling tortas stuffed with fried chicken, chilaquiles, and salsa. It’s crazy popular and the lines get long, so get there right when they open at 8 AM!
  2. Coffee at Chiquitito Cafe, a cute and tiny little coffee shop in Hipodromo!
  3. Spend the rest of the morning wandering around Hipodromo and La Condesa. Make sure to make a stop at Parque Mexico, a beautiful city park!
  4. After you’ve worked up an appetite again, grab fish tacos at El Pescadito. Don’t get too full though because you’ll want to save room for the next stop!
  5. Our next stop only applies if you’re visiting a Friday-Sunday, but if you are, you must get barbacoa at El Hidalguense (cash only). It’s so so good! We ordered ¼ pound to share and it was the perfect amount for a snack!
  6. Now that you’re stuffed, make your way to Roma Norte! We loved this neighborhood with its tree lined streets, parks in the middle of the road, and cool architecture. The best part of exploring these neighborhoods is just walking around and seeing what you find! While you’re there, keep an eye out for some murals!
  7. Dinner at Contramar (make reservations). This is one of the most popular restaurants in CDMX and people rave about their tuna tostadas!

Day 4

Day 4’s adventure is in the charming neighborhood of Coyoacan, located a little bit out of the main area of the city, but full of culture and lots of great food!

  1. Head to Coyoacan for the day! We ubered there for pretty cheap, but you can also take a bus there (it’s a tad longer of a journey though).
  2. First thing’s first: COFFEE! We loved Cafe Negro! It’s decor was out of Kathryn’s dreams and the coffee was great too! You can also grab some breakfast here too!
  3. Wander through the park across the street, swing by the beautiful catholic church, and Plaza Hidalgo. We loved the smaller town feel of this neighborhood and the colorful buildings!
  4. Next stop: The Frida Kahlo Museum! This is a very, very popular attraction in Coyoacan and the lines can be crazy long, so buy your tickets in advance. We also recommend trying to go right when it opens. Note: closed on Mondays
  5. After the museum, visit Mercado de Coyoacan! This market is really cool and full of food vendors, flowers, spices, and clothing items to buy (make sure to have cash!). We arrived a little too early and didn’t get to experience it fully, since not everyone was set up yet. However, here are a few must try items: Tostadas, elotes, and Tlacoyos. The quesadillas there also looked amazing and if you’re brave…try some grasshoppers! Warning: a lot of stands do not like you taking photos, so be on the lookout for signs.
  6. Another very popular spot in Coyoacan that you must try is Cafe el Jarocho (cash only). This coffee shop has been around since 1953 and one of the best drinks to get there is the Cafe de Olla.
  7. If you’re not totally stuffed, continue your food adventure at Picnic Helados. This cute little stand is tucked away from the busier part of Coyoacan and has a handful of delicious flavors to choose from. It’s perfect for those hot CDMX days!
  8. Head back to your Airbnb and rest for a bit before dinner!
  9. For dinner, we recommend doing something a tad nicer and eating at La Capital. Make sure to try their mole enchiladas!

Day 5

On your final day, explore one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere, Chapultepec!

  1. For your last day, treat yourself to a nice breakfast at Lardo.
  2. Grab coffee at Cardinal Casa de Cafe! We loved this little outdoor/indoor coffee shop!
  3. So this next item may not make a lot of sense geography wise or maybe even time wise, but it’s one of our must-dos and worth going a little out of the way and eating more. 🙂 Grab carnitas tacos at Taqueria El Abanico. They open at 10 AM and they get crazy busy in the afternoons, so go early and enjoy a delicious taco (or two…or three…we don’t judge!)
  4. Explore Cafebrería El Péndulo, a really cool book store!
  5. Walk down Paseo de la Reforma and see The Angel of Independence Statue.
  6. Spend the rest of the day at Chapultepec Park. This park is massive, but here are a couple recommendations of things to do!
    1. Visit the Castillo de Chapultepec, which is home to the Museo Nacional de Historia. Admire the views from the castle and the cool history inside of it!
    2. Explore the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. This is said to be the best museum in the city and we thought it was awesome!
    3. Go for a paddle boat ride on the lake!
  7. After exploring the park, have some pozole at La Casa de Toño. We really enjoyed this lighter and comforting meal after eating a ton throughout the trip!
  8. End the trip with a bang and indulge in the best dessert ever, churros from Churreria el Moro! Kathryn cheated on her gluten free diet because these were so dang good and she couldn’t resist! Get one of the dipping chocolates for your churros and if you’re feeling crazy, get a churro ice cream sandwich too!

If you have extra time…

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2 Comments

  1. Suzanne on February 24, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Such a beautiful city with so much to offer…amazing architecture and history, beautiful landscapes, parks and neighborhoods and delicious tacos and treats! What more could you want when visiting a new city!

    • Kathryn Frazer on February 24, 2019 at 10:50 am

      It’s a food (especially tacos) and history lover’s paradise!

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