My wise friend once old me, there are tourists and then there are vacationers. The former is usually includes jam packed itineraries, Tripadvisor review references and a stop at the usual tourist traps. The latter is usually relaxing, being tended to by staff, doesn’t require too much activity and likely to take place on a beach or resort. Then there is Mexico City. It just takes to you instantly. It's beautiful and relaxed. Modern and traditional. Raw and eloquent.
Our 5 year wedding anniversary was approaching and we had just returned from 3 weeks in Seoul and Thailand, where I originally wanted to go for our anniversary, so a big trip was out of the question. I was debating between Seattle and Mexico City and decided on the latter for a richer and more international experience. So against all US Travel advisory warnings, we took the leap. I was bit nervous prior to the trip but that went away quickly once we landed. Visnu and I both loved it. It was the perfect pace for our travel style and we can't wait to return. Have I mentioned yet how good the food is? And cheap!
I recommend going with no agenda, except for restaurant reservations, and just take in the beauty of the city, eat the delicious foods, stroll the tree lined streets and wander leisurely like a local. There were moments and places that are reminiscent of St. Germain, Paris, New York's West Village, West Hollywood and bits and pieces of Asia but richly unique in it's own charming way.
Places to stay…
I recommend staying in La Condesa or Roma Norte. I’m not sure the range of hotels available in these two neighborhoods but Airbnbs are surely the way to go here. I think Mexico City has some of the best Airbnb options out of anywhere in the world. The homes in these parts are beautiful, very affordable, quite modern and bursting with so much charm. The most desirable area in this neighborhood, for me, is around Amsterdam Avenue where you’ll find trendy eateries, cafes and beautiful homes. I've bookmarked some Airbnbs here + here.
Places to eat…
Pujol - rated one of the best restaurants in the world. I recommend trying the omakase menu at the bar. For $2350MP, it includes a 11ish courses and a pairing, and a little Tom Cruise show while the bartenders whips up your cocktails. The dining room is a lovely experience but may leave some room for disappointment. Usually at fancy schmancy establishments, I prefer bar seating over the dining room because the experience is more casual and laid back. The dining room, for me, sometimes feels a bit rigid and too formal for my liking. However, at Pujol the entire staff was so welcoming, nice and knowledgeable and they were so open to inviting dining guests into their pristine kitchen. It's a beautiful space and with a serene out door patio. If you can't score reservations, it's definitely worth the visit to the bar for drinks al fresco.
Contramar - This seems to be a fan favorite and was the most recommend restaurant for us. Their special fish, Ahi Tostada, anything octopus and fig flan were amazing are not to be missed.
Maque - This is a beautiful restaurant inside and out. It had quite the wait on a late Sunday morning. For me, the food wasn’t mind blowing but it was a solid meal and I’d recommend it highly for the ambiance.
Mercado Roma - Its a hip place with food international food offerings. I like to eat local food when I'm traveling so I was a bit disappointed to see it was mostly international food offerings. While all the stalls may have been good, we only had the paleta, Churros and pork tacos.
Tacos El Tizoncito - You’d be surprised to find out this was probably my husband and I’s favorite dining experience. We walked up to a communal bar table that sat both inside and out. The weather was perfect that evening and the staff was so nice. You also get a little show when the taco guy slices the pineapple from up above and catches it in the taco. I can’t vouch that this is the greatest tacos in Mexico, although they claim to be the creators of the al pastor, but we loved it.
Tostadas de Cocoyuan - If you visit the Frida Khalo museums, this food stall is a 3 blocks up in the Mercado Cocoyuan. There are several stalls selling tostadas so make sure you go to the right one. They take up 4 stalls in the center.
Some restaurants on our list but we weren’t able to go were Maximo Bistrot, Panaderia Rosetta, Tacos Tonos, Mercado San Juan
Places to see…
This one isn’t my fortay. I like to take in local neighborhoods as opposed to sights. However this is a home to a million museums and about an hour car ride to historical ruins and palaces.
Frida Khalo Museum - home of where there famed Mexican artist grew up and resided with husband Diego Rivera.
Museo Nacional de Anthropolgia - This is a gorgeous expansive museum and definitely the most worth checking out.
Luis Barragan House - home of famed Mexican architect Luisa Barragan. We didn't get a chance to visit but heard amazing things.
Museo Jumex - a new modern art museum
Teotihuacan - We didn't actually visit here and didn't feel so bad about it once we went to MNAC since there is a mini version on exhibit.
How to get around…
I was surprised to learn how bike friendly this was. Designated bike lanes and public bikes made getting around places so easy and it’s another great way to take in city without taking a toll on your feet Check out Ecobici to sign up for an account..
Uber is very accessiable and cheap. Our 30 minute UberX ride, usually 20 with traffic, was $6USD.
Lots of businesses, aside from most restaurants and nightlife, close early on Saturdays and Sundays. Double check the business hours of any place you want to check out.
Museums are closed on Mondays.
If you are withdrawing money at the ATMs, they use $ as the currency sign which makes it confusing for any Americans.
You don’t need to carry much cash. Most places take credit cards aside from street vendors. For a 4 day stay, I recommend not exchanging more than $100 USD. There are banks everywhere so if you run out, it’ll be easy to find an ATM.
If you need food recommendations, Yelp was pretty spot on. I think it’s contributed by both US and Mexican users.
If you are coming from the states, you’re accustomed to Mexican food being quite heavy and heartburn inducing. I found the food to be much lighter. I could probably eat double the number of tacos there than here.
Don’t go finding burritos. They are nowhere to be found.
The people are so nice. When a vendor couldn't understand me and vice versa, there was always a willing patron who jumped in to help translate.
It's not as scary as the US Travel Advisory warns. I'm sure there are plenty of places in Mexico that are but our experience in Mexico City, specifically in La Condesa, Roma Norte and Polanco neighborhoods the people are nice and felt safe. There are pretty much police officers on every corner.
If you go, I hope you have a safe and wonderful stay.