I think you need at least 4 days to get a good taste of Mexico City, but to delve in you need easily a week.
I don’t know what crosses your mind when you think about Mexico City.
But being brainwashed by American movies, I thought somehow of Mexico and its capital as a dangerous place. Fortunately for me, that’s completely wrong and luckily I was shown the true Mexico.
Everyone I’ve met during the last years who have visited Mexico raved about this beautiful country. After I met Mau in Bariloche last year and hitchhiked though Patagonia with him, we decided to meet again this year in his country of Mexico. I totally fell in love with Mexico City, its people, the food and the sights.
Museums in Mexico City
I visited quite a bunch of museums in Mexico City (CDMX – Ciudad de Mexico).
But these 2 are my favorite ones: Frida Kahlo Museum and the National Museum of Anthropology.
Frida Kahlo Museum
The Frida Kahlo house might be a little bit expensive for a low-budget traveler, but it’s worth the price. If you have a student card, you will get a huge discount. No one comes to Mexico City without visiting this museum.
Everywhere in Mexico, Frida Kahlo is an famous and honored woman. The museum is both the birthplace and place of death of Frida Kahlo. She grew up there and later shared it with her famous husband – the muralist Diego Rivera.
I highly recommend you to get an audio guide. Without the guide, there is scarce information in each room and you are going to miss a lot of stories and aspects about her life. I would suggest you take a break in her beautiful garden, in which she spent her afternoons with friends and guests.
National Museum of Anthropology
For every history buff, this museum is a must-visit. You will need at least half of the day to go through all the artifacts, information and interactive displays which will give you a great insight into Mexico’s ancient history.
My favorite parts of the museum were the Maya and Aztec rooms, make sure not to miss them if you are pressed for time. Especially in the latter case, you can see the Stone of the Sun. I visited the museum on a Sunday and it was free.
There are more museums to visit in Mexico. You will be spoiled with choices.
Many of them are free on Sundays.
Anyone who has the slightest interest in architecture should stop by the Soumaya Museum. This building will astonished you with its entire six-stories covered by 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles.
Coyoacan is probably my favorite neighborhood in Mexico City.
Cute little cafes shaded by large streets in a tranquil environment. Mesmerizing colorful colonial-style houses and little boutiques with hipster clothes. All of it expresses the charm of Coyoacan. You can either meander through the historic streets or you can go on a Coyacan Free Walking Tour.
But don’t miss a visit to the Mercado Artesanal Mexicano (Artisan Market). Watch musicians play in the open square in front of the church Parroquia San Juan Bautista. And eat as many tostadas as you can for 30 Mexican Pesos at the famous Coyoacan Market.
Food in Mexico
It is not very surprising that in 2010, the traditional Mexican cuisine was added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO (source: Wikipedia).
Mexico, especially Mexico-City, is a fooooood heaven!! Seriously, you can’t stop yourself from indulging in all this incredible variety of food. If you love food like me, Mexico City needs to be on your foodie-bucket-list.
In addition to that, there are plenty of cooking classes and food tours around the city. I suggest that you eat at food stalls and small shops instead of the (less delicious) restaurants.
Okay, I also admit I gave up my vegetarian/veganism to sample all the Mexican cuisine here.
FOOD YOU NEED TO TRY
Be sure to try tacos al pastor, pozole, tortas, quesadillas, sope/picadita, flan, enchiladas, conchas, tamales, churros, aguas frescas like tamarindo, horchata and so much more! Everything is extremely mouth-watering. You won’t understand Mexican culture if you don’t eat any Mexican food.
Even though I don’t drink much alcohol, you have to try Tequila and Mezcal while in Mexico. Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made of agave.
Chapultepec Park & Chapultepec Castle
Chapultepec Park is one of the largest parks in the city even with pathways for bikers and a pond with paddle boats. I got some exercise in this park by wandering around for a few hours. Moreover, you have heaps of food vendors along the way.
However, the main attraction of this park is its castle, which is perched up on a hill. I visited the castle on a Sunday with a free entrance fee (but consider how crowded it is at the same time). Plus you have a beautiful view of the city on the rooftop garden.
There are Ecobici bikes everywhere in the city and you can get a one-day membership for 99 Mexican pesos. With those bikes you can bike around 45 minutes for free.
I did already so many free walking tours in different cities around the world, therefore it was a pleasure to join the one in CDMX.
It’s a great way to know the hidden gems of a city, the history of the country and get to know some insider tips from your guide. Sometimes you will meet fellow travelers who will become your friends for life. I met Carlos in Montevideo on a Free Walking Tour and we met up again 4 months later at the Atacama Desert and Salar de Uyuni.
When I did the Free Walking Tour in Mexico City, we were only 3 people in September. So luckily for us, it was like a private guided tour.
The architecture downtown simply amazed me. The heart of the city is the Zócalo and it is one of the largest squares in the world. It has always been a gathering place for big events like Independence Day in Mexico, where the president holds his speech. It is flanked by the Metropolitan Cathedral to the north, and the National Palace to the east.
Buildings you need to stop by are the Ruinas del Templo Mayor, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Torre Latinoamericana, the Palacio de Correos de Mexico (Postal Palace of Mexico City), and Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles). Just to name a few places…
If you’re craving a night out, you should look around the La Condesa/ Roma neighborhood. For a fine dinner or lunch with a business partner you might swing by the neighborhood Colonia Polanco.
If you have more time you can visit Xochimilco, it’s 25 kilometers outside of CDMX. This neighborhood is well-known for canal ways and their floating gardens, where you can have a ride in the trajineras (a colorful long boat).
The highlight of my stay in Mexico City was this massive archaeological complex with the name Teotihuacan. It is one and a half hours northeast of Mexico City.
The main highlights are the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun.
You can climb up both pyramids to get a view of the whole ruins. It takes a whole day to visit Teotihuacan and the best time to get there is as early as you can, when the place is less crowded.
Sim-Card & Metro System in Mexico City
The easiest way to explore this large city is by metro. Basically, you can get anywhere with the metro and one ticket can be used for any distance.
One ticket costs only 5 Mexican Pesos ($0.26 USD).
There is always a guard standing at the turn styles of each station, just in case you might need help.
I am in Mexico for about 6 weeks, so getting a SIM card is very useful. I got my sim-card at one of the Telcel stores. My phone plan has 2 GB of data for one month and unlimited talk and text in Mexico plus unlimited access to all social media like Facebook, Instagram, etc. It cost me $279 MXN (15 $USD). You can top up anytime at Oxxo or 7-Eleven.
Southern Part of Mexico
While I am writing this article, I am sitting in a coffee shop in Playa del Carmen. (In my previous blog post, you can read about my travel in Cuba.)
Then I took a flight from Cancun to La Habana and came back to Cancun to explore more the southern part of Mexico like Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Chiapas, which you will read in one of my next blog posts.
And I hope this post can help you to orientate yourself a little bit around Mexico City and that you will have a splendid time in this fantastic capital!