Mexico City is a city you should have on your radar. It’s colorful, the weather is amazing, food is outstanding, people are friendly, there’s tons of historic architecture, and is filled with culture!
Mexico City is the perfect city to get a full vacation experience in a short period of time. What do I mean by that? You’ll get cultured by learning about the country's history, party, eat traditional food all while feeling relaxed by the easy vibes of the city. You can’t ask for more. I was in Mexico City for four and a half days (not including transportation) and it felt like that was a great amount of time to soak in the city. I could have easily stayed longer, so if you have the option to do so, take it! There’s a lot to do and even more to eat! Here are my must-see Mexico City sites, a list of food and bar recommendations, insight on where to sleep, plus the perfect outfit options to take on your trip!
WHERE TO SLEEP
We heard from many people that Zona Reforma or Zona Rosa were the best places to stay. We stayed at NH Collection Mexico City Reforma in Zona Rosa and highly recommend that hotel!! NH Collection Mexico City Reforma was incredibly modern and the staff were very helpful! We stayed in a suite which was a huge amount of space, well lit, and very clean. Their shower head is also amazing! This hotel was walking distance from amazing restaurants, bars, and the main city street. I could not have asked for a better location!
WHERE TO EAT
Mexico City has a lot of really great restaurants so narrowing down exactly where to eat was hard. It felt like there weren't enough meals to eat in a day when I was down there. I am a huge fan of Mexican cuisine so if you are too, you must try these restaurants. Make sure to check out my Yelp list for easy access to ratings and locations HERE.
Tacos, guacamole, crisp fresh tortilla chips, flavorful spices, endless sauces, juicy meats, and fresh veggies was all I ate for five days. Carbs and meats took over my diet but it was worth every bite.
For breakfast, we usually ate at the hotel or had something as light as a granola bar and fresh fruits. But if you are a breakfast lover, you must go to El Pendulo. It is a bookstore/ restaurant. The food is great and you can grab something to read over breakfast. They also have a cozy little back courtyard that is perfect for your morning coffee.
My first real meal of the day was really lunch. I craved fresh tacos everyday. There are tons of street vendors who sell hot tacos. You can't avoid the smell on the street. One taco stand you cannot miss is Taquería Los Cocuyos! Hands down the best tacos I have ever had. To be honest, I don't really even know what kind of meat I ate, all I know is that is was good! The full menu is in Spanish and there is no English version. The tacos are under $1 too!! I did not get sick eating any of the street food in CDMX.
El Cardenal is probably one of the highest rated restaurants I ate at while in Mexico City. It lived up to its reviews! The ambiance felt so homey- like I was going to my grandma’s house for dinner. The dining area is beautifully lit by huge wooden windows. We tried the veal to share and is was absolutely delicious. Crispy and perfectly fried out the outside, yet sot and juicy in the inside. It was very well complimented by their home- made sauces. Just a warning- the portion is huge so be prepared to eat!
Dinner was my favorite meal to eat in Mexico City. After a long day of walking around, a good meal was the best treat to end the day. Some of my favorite dinner spots were Pasillo de Humo, Comedor Jacinta, and Los Girasoles.
Pasillo de Humo serves some of Mexico City’s best traditional Oaxacan food. From the outside, it looks like a bar but the dinner seating area is located upstairs. You definitely have to try a dish with their homemade mole sauce! Also make sure to ask about their mezcal selection! They’ve got a lot to choose from!
If you’re looking for a quick yummy bite to eat, you have to try La Casa de Toño. It’s a chain favorite of the locals and I completely understand why! They start you off with complementary chips and salsas. Be careful, the salsas are hot! I had to order a Horchata which is a Mexican milk drink to calm down the spiciness. I recommend trying the tacos and their well-known soup! We (two people) ordered a lot of food and the bill only came out to $13 usd including tax and tip!
WHERE TO DRINK
Drink at Dualistas. This is an old hole in the wall spot where locals come for a drink after work. The floors are sticky, there is no ac, graffiti fills the walls, hard rock plays from the jukebox, and there is not a single tourist in site (besides the people who are really in for the experience). They don’t have a large selection of drinks because they only carry traditional drinks. Try the pulque- 'a Mexican alcoholic drink made by fermenting sap from the maguey'. It is a thick, smoothie like drink with the equivalent alcohol content of a mild beer. Have a few of these and you might be on the floor. It’s easy to knock back a few because it doesn’t taste like alcohol at all!
The nightlife in Mexico City was bigger than I expected. Bars stayed open quite late and were always full. One of my favorite bars I went to in Mexico City was Bósforo. Dark, small, and very mysterious. I loved the vibe of this bar and the mescal selection was amazing! The serve mezcal in shot glasses with a slice of orange. Be prepared to stand and get cozy next to a candle as the space is quite little.
WHAT TO DO:
1. Frida Kahlo museum, aka Casa Azul:
- The paint colors are bright, and the gardens/foliage are lovely. You’ll get an inside look at her studio where she created her art, her personal living areas, and a look at her personal diaries. They also have a great display of her clothing! To take pictures inside the house, not just in the courtyard, you have to pay a small fee of 30 pesos which is totally worth it!
- It's generally best to get your tickets online ahead of time so you don't end up on a long line behind a bus load of tourists! I didn’t do this and when I showed up to the site. There was a three hour wait. HOWEVER, I got lucky and bought a 2-in-1 pass for Casa Azul and Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli for 150 pesos and got instant entry. In the ticket price, it included a bus to the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli and back. For an extra 30 pesos, you can take photos inside both sites.
- I took an Uber to Casa Azul from Zona Rosa for $12 round trip. I highly recommend this route unless you are quite familiar with the MXCD transit system.
- While you're in the area, enjoy the main square of Coyoacan. There are markets, great churros, and just a generally pleasant vibe.
2. Teotihuacan pyramids:
- Definitely go in the morning! Fewer people, not as hot, and extra beautiful. I got to the site around 9am which was the perfect time. When I was on my way out around 2pm, it was hot (I got a little sunburn) and it was getting pretty packed.
- It’s very cheap to take a bus (there are various companies) from Central de Norte, a main bus terminal. It's about an hour ride.
- Tip: make sure to wear sneakers or shoes with good grip. The stairs at the pyramid are very steep and slipping is very easy. I’m 5.2 ft and the stairs were the length of my shin, not joking! There are ropes to hold on to. Also, make sure to wear sunblock and reapply midway. The sun is very strong and there are no shaded areas.
3. The Angel of Independence
This is probably the most iconic places in the city. It's in the middle of Paseo de la Reforma which is a major street in Mexico City.
While I was on Paseo de la Reforma, I saw a protest going on which I found really cool. It showed the passion of the people. This street is also filled with signs/ images of historic moments.
This is the main square downtown with government buildings. It is a must-see for CDMX history and sites! You can’t miss this area.
- Palacio de Gobierno: fantastic murals inside and is a really pretty Spanish style of architecture.
- Murals by the famous Diego Riviera are all over the second floor. You cannot miss this!
- Catedral Metropolitana: so old and beautiful and great for pictures. You can actually go on the roof for a small fee!
Tip: while visiting the government area, make sure to carry some form of ID. You will need it for entry
5. Chapultepec Castle & bosque.
The bosque (forest) is a huge park, bigger than Central Park in NY. It has gardens, museums, and fun things to do like paddle boat, bike rides, etc. At the end of the park, on the top of the hill, is one of my very favorite spots from the trip, the castle. It's a stunning piece of architecture- inside and out. You also get insane views of the city because it's up on top of a hill. This is another great place for pictures!
6. Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is insanely beautiful inside and out. Pro tip from a local: if you go to the Sears across the street and grab something from their cafe (on the god-knows-what floor), you get a perfect view of the palace from above, which means you'll capture the brightly colored glass roof.
If you have time, go see the ballet! It was beautiful and so entertaining. it is not like your traditional American ballet, it is more of a Mexican local dance.
Across from Bellas Artes is the Palacio de Correos, another really beautiful old building.
7. Other great things to do:
- Generally the Condesa neighborhood is known for being scenic for its bohemian vibe, little parks, etc.
- Santa Maria la Ribera + Kiosco Morisco: a little neighborhood with a small-town feel. The Kiosco is a really cool pagoda-ish thingy that was built for a World's Fair. The area around it is cute and also the site of a geology museum.
- The Museo Tamayo is also cool and modern and a great place for pictures and to enjoy the (sometimes weird) art.
- Uber is your best friend. It's quite cheap, reliable, and will quickly/ safely get you where you need to go.
- I didn’t get a chance to ride the metro system but I’ve heard good things about public transportation in Mexico City. One thing I do know is that it’s cheap!
- Ask for WiFi passwords. There is WiFi everywhere. I never used my international service.
- Make sure to load up on sunblock. Being brown, I thought I could get away with just applying in the morning but after being out in direct sunlight for over 5+ hours catches up with you.
- Take a screenshot of you hotel and it’s cross streets so if you need directions, you can have an image to show. Many of the streets are very similar to each other.
WHAT TO WEAR
Mexico City is hot! But the good kind of hot where the sun feels good on your skin. But as far as wearing clothes in the heat, I recommend wearing shorts, easy loose fitting dresses, linen tops, and light weight cotton clothing.
When packing for Mexico city don’t be shy to take a lot of color. The city is filled with art murals and colorful buildings-even homes are painted in pink red and yellow!
Regarding shoes, I’d take a pair of sneakers to do intense walking in. You’ll need it for the Teotihuacan pyramids. You’ll also want a pair of sandals. I love Birkenstocks and block heeled mules for walking. The taxi and Uber’s there are incredibly cheap so don’t be scared to pack a pair of heels for a night out.
And of course we can’t forget the sunnies and swimsuits. Shop some of the items that I took to Mexico City below