Earlier this year my husband and I spent an incredible month in Mexico, exploring Tulum, Cobá, Playa del Carmen, Cancún, Querétaro, and Mexico City. We were able to see so many beautiful places, eat lots of incredible food, meet some wonderful people, and went on some incredible adventures. We snorkeled in cenotes, climbed Mayan pyramids, ate dinners overlooking the jungle during thunderstorms, kayaked in the ocean, and relaxed on pristine, white sand beaches under the Caribbean sun. One of my favorite places, other than Tulum, was Mexico City. The colorful clash between people clinging to their cultural heritage while simultaneously trying to celebrate it and share it with the world, and the ever-growing number of soaring skyscrapers and other symptoms of modern society made Mexico City a place unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.
Read about How to Avoid Getting Sick in Mexico, here.
How to Get to Mexico City
Mexico City Airport (MEX) is one of the busiest airports in the world, and if you’re a frequent traveler, chances are you’ll have a flight routed through MEX at some point.
Getting Around Mexico City
Mexico City is a massive, sprawling metropolis, so while walking is fine when you know where you’re going and how far away your destination is from your origin, don’t hesitate to call an Uber (which is very popular in Mexico City). Most hotels have a shuttle service that can pick you up from the airport and save you the hassle of waiting for an Uber or Taxi. Be careful of fake taxis in the city. Official Mexico City taxis are neon pink and have ‘CDMX’ (an abbreviation of ‘Ciudad de Mexico’ which is ‘Mexico City’ in Spanish) emblazoned on the side. Fake taxis will drive you to ATMs in bad neighborhoods and try to extort money from you or threaten to strand you there, so don’t accept rides from anyone else, no matter how low their rates are. The beauty of Uber is that you can know and pay your fare in advance, and ensure that your driver is legitimate based on their ratings and reviews from other riders.
Where to Stay in Mexico City
Hotel Marquis Reforma served as our base during out stay in Mexico City, and it was absolutely beautiful. Complete with a large swimming pool and spa area for guests, as well as four restaurants, a bar, and an included breakfast daily along with as much bottled water as we could drink, it was the perfect place to stay in the heart of downtown Mexico City. The hotel also had a beautiful full service gym, a number of outdoor sun bathing decks high above the city, and the hotel was full of air purifying plants, which made a noticeable difference in the air quality inside the hotel. For roughly $125 USD per night, we were extremely satisfied with our stay.
Where to Eat in Mexico City
Mexico City has some INCREDIBLE food! We ate breakfasts in our hotel because it was really delicious and gave us more time for sightseeing, but we had some fantastic lunches and dinners! Read my guide on How to Avoid Getting Sick in Mexico to learn how we decided what was safe to eat or not, and how we stayed healthy in Mexico City.
Contramar (Seafood Dishes)
El K-Guamo (Seafood Tacos)
Lorea (Seasonal Spanish Tasting Menus)
Maximo Bistrot (French-Mexican Fusion)
Panadería Rosetta (Desserts)
Pasillo de Humo (Oaxacan Food)
Quintonil (Traditional Mexican)
What to Do in Mexico City
(museums, churches, tours, places to check out)
Mexico City has a number of amazing museums, like the National Museum of Anthropology, the Frida Kahlo Museum, Museum of the City of Mexico, Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlán, Modern Art Museum (Museo de Arte Moderno), Toy Museum, and the Museo de la Estampa were some of the amazing museums we visited during our days in the city. Every museum we visited had signs and information listed in both Spanish and English, making it easy for non-spanish speakers like my husband to enjoy the exhibits.
If you love architecture like I do, simply walking about the city will introduce you to the unique blend of just about every architectural style imaginable. From glittering, mismatched ultra-modern high-rises and post-modern exteriors that act as mirrors in the hot Mexican sun to crumbling victorian and Edwardian inspired architecture, and even some Islamic inspired façades, Mexico City is one of the most unique places to explore and learn about architecture in the world. The Palacio de Bellas Artes, Chapultepec Castle, National Palace, and the Ruins of Tenochtitlán are some of the most unique looking buildings and places in the entire city, and are each worth a visit in their own right.
Mexico City Markets
The markets (or mercados in Spanish) are a quintessential part of visiting Mexico City. Visitors can buy just about anything from street vendors around the city. Mercado Coyoacan was one of the more expensive and safer markets in the city, and we bought a few bags of spices, and a woven handbag here, and spent quite a bit of time talking with stall vendors who wanted to know what it was like to live in Michigan. They were very kind and helped us navigate through the city, and everyone we asked had the same advice about places we should avoid (see below section on what not to do in the city).
Milan 44 Market is situated inside of a large glass building, and reminded me a lot of California. Inside we found organic produce and pressed juices, smoothie bowls, and just about everything else that comes to mind when you think “organic hippies”. It was a beautiful place to stroll and explore local produce like mangos, tortillas made from cacti, pitaya fruit, Jicama, and even “healthy” candy, which the stall vendors claimed had healing abilities.
Sonora Mercado was not at all what we expected it would be. The first two markets we visited were very wholesome and downright organic compared to this seedy witchcraft market we accidentally found ourselves in during the third day in Mexico City. Everything from live animals advertised as “perfect sacrifices” and bones hung on garlands to incense and spell books were for sale here. Our curiosity led us just down the street, but not much farther, because the sales people here were very aggressive and kept asking if I had a camera, and if I wanted to take pictures, which seemed like a red flag to me, so we ended up leaving without buying anything. Not that there was anything we really needed here anyway. If you’re looking for just about everything one could imagine for spell casting and voodoo rituals, Sonora Market is where you should go. If that’s not your thing, there are many other places to visit in Mexico City!
How to Stay Safe in Mexico City (Places to Avoid)
If you read my blog regularly, you know that I generally keep my posts positive and only talk about the things I loved doing and seeing. Mexico City will be the rare exception to this, because I can’t in good conscious talk about how much I loved Mexico City without warning fellow travelers about the potential dangers in the city. Sadly, parts of Mexico City are hot beds for illegal activity and violent crimes, and it would be irresponsible of me to ignore these dangers and pretend there is no risk here. We avoided these places and never had any issues in the rest of the city, but we had information to make choices we felt comfortable with, and I want my readers to have the same information we did.
While we were safe the entire time in Mexico City, and never felt unwelcome or out of place (except for Sonora Market), we were warned by a number of other guests at our hotel, hotel staff, and even locals to avoid a few neighborhoods during the day, and to make sure we were far away from the same places once the sun started to go down, especially because we stood out so much by being paler and taller than everyone around us.
Tepito, a neighborhood famous for its black market and gang activity was a place everyone told us to steer clear of during the day and at night. We were warned that everything sold here was fake or stolen off of tourists. This neighborhood is right off of the Centro Histórico, Historic City Center, so just use a map and stick to where other tourists are if you don’t want to get lost and accidentally end up in the wrong neighborhood.
Colonia Doctores is where tourists and locals alike go to see Luchadores fight (this is where the fighters duke it out while wearing brightly colored leather masks). We were told it’s a great place to find good deals, but to avoid this place with a camera or while wearing clothing other than jeans and a plain t-shirt, because it is one of the most common places to get mugged or pick pocketed for people who stand out or look well off. We decided to avoid it altogether, just to be safe. While it is mostly safe during the day, we warned to leave before the sun begins to set, because that’s when unscrupulous characters begin to come out, and things can become very dangerous, very quickly.
Itzapalapa is the neighborhood with the most violent crimes against locals and visitors alike, so we also made sure to avoid this area, even during the day. The hotel staff said “never go here”, so we decided to trust their advice.
Be sure to ask hotel workers or other travelers, and do some research on your own, to figure out the best routes to get from one place to the next without wandering into a dangerous situation.
Landmarks in Mexico City
Ángel de la Independencia Monument
Banco de Mexico
Frida Kahlo Museum
The Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)
Monumento de la Revolución
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Plaza de la Constitución aka Zócalo
Ruins of Tenochtitlán
Day Trips from Mexico City
Aztec Pyramid of Tenayuca (Outskirts of Mexico City)
Cuicuilco Archaeological Site (45 minute drive from Mexico City)
Izta-Popo National Park & Volcano (2.5 Hour Drive)
Mexican Highlands (Varies)
Rainbow City of Puebla (100 Miles Away)
San Miguel de Allende UNESCO World Heritage Site (4 Hour Drive)
Taxco Colonial City (3 Hour Drive)
Teotihuacan the City of the Gods (30 Miles Away)
Farewell, fellow adventurers!
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