Mexico City is the densely populated, high-altitude capital of Mexico. It’s known for its Templo Mayor (a 13th-century Aztec temple), the baroque Catedral Metropolitana de México of the Spanish conquistadors and the Palacio Nacional, which houses historic murals by Diego Rivera. All of these are situated in and around the Plaza de la Constitución, the massive main square also known as the Zócalo. There are also other famous murals in the beautiful Palacio Bellas Artes about 10 minutes walk from the Zocalo.
The city is vast with a city population of close to 9 million and in the metropolitan area around 22 million. There is a very cheap transport system with extensive metro and bus systems but these are not the easiest to navigate for visitors and do not serve the areas where you may choose to say such as Condesa and Coyoacan.
You may find that the altitude effects you for the first 24 hours or so and you may feel slightly light headed, don’t do too much on the first day and you will soon feel fine.
There is an excellent tour bus service which has three routes and covers most of the major sites, a two day ticket is a great way to get around the city. Taxis should not be picked up in the street, hotels and restaurants will phone them or use Uber, very reliable and very cheap.
Arriving at Mexico Airport there are various taxi desks which are reliable, we used two different companies Sitio 300 and Nuevo Imagen, the latter offered better rates. We used Uber to the airport and the rates were very cheap. Unfortunately arriving at the domestic terminal there was no wi-fi access which meant we had to use one of the taxi desks.
Check out the usual booking sites such as www.booking.com or www.hotels.com we took advice from a friend from Mexico City and chose to stay in Condesa at the start of our trip and Coyoacan at the end, both areas have a lovely feel to them and are full of bars and restaurants which means you can do your site seeing during the day and relax locally at night, the only downside is that both lack good public transport links to the historic centre.
In Condesa we stayed at Casa Condesa Alamtlan 84, www.condesaamatlan.com.mx which is a lovely small B&B, with excellent staff and a great location. In Coyoacan we stayed at Casa Jacinta Guest House, www.casajacintamexico.com another lovely small B&B, again great staff and an excellent location.
We had considered staying in the Historic Centre at the end of the trip but were very glad we opted for Coyoacan, the historic centre was fine during the day to see the many site in the area but were happier in the more relaxed areas.
Mexico City has a great reputation for food and there is everything from two of the top twenty restaurants in the world to street food on every corner, twenty four hours a day, and everything in between.
Condesa, Roma & Polanca
Quintonil, Av. Isaac Newton 55, Polanca, is currently number eleven in the world and we chose it over Pujol because it had an a la carte menu and not just a tasting menu and also because of comments regarding the service. It was excellent, a very relaxed setting and the food was fabulous, glad we chose it as our special meal in Mexico City, obviously booking well in advance is required.
Contramar, Calle de Duarngo 200, Roma Norte, is an easy walk from Condesa, it was highly recommended for fish and seafood and we managed to book a table for a late lunch as it is only open until 6.30 pm except on Friday and Saturday. Loved the atmosphere and the shrimp cocktail and crab tostadas were top notch.
Cabrera 7, Plaza Luis Cabrera 7, Roma Norte, we found this while exploring the lovely Roma Norte area and initially stopped for a drink but enjoyed the atmosphere & setting so much we stayed for a very enjoyable lunch.
Mercado Roma, Calle Queretaro 225, Roma Norte, is an upmarket food court, as so often found in cities these days, there is a wide variety of places and some well known names, there is a roof top beer garden popular with a young crowd.
Cerveceria de Barrio, Av. Vincente Suarez 38, Condesa, is part of a large chain but don’t let that out you off, the food and drink is good, they are very popular and we tried several during in our time in Mexico City.
El Centenario, Av. Vincente Suarez 42, Condesa is the only old school cantina left in the Condesa area. At weekends it is very popular with a mixed crowd and lots of Mariachi bands giving it a great atmosphere, it is much quieter during the week.
Vinopremier, Fernando Montes de Oca 6, Condesa, was a chance find with an excellent selection of reasonably priced wine by the glass and bottle and also with a selection of food. The only drawback was a habit of shutting early if they were not busy.
Pulqueria Insurgentes, Insurgentes Sur 226, Roma Norte, pulque (see below) is having a resurgence in Mexico and having been recommended to try the flavoured varieties called “curado” we sampled them in this cool bar. Really enjoyed the flavours on offer & sorry we never got to try Las Duelistas in the Historic Area, the reason being it was too full to get in the door !
Pizza Perro Negro, Parque Espana 3, Roma Norte, only stopped for a drink but good reports of the food, not just pizzas, although the heavy metal music may not suit everyone.
Ardente Pizzeria, Calle Laredo 13, Condesa, again only stopped for a drink but great friendly service and the food looked excellent.
Guadaloupe Reyes, Calle Atlixco 100, Condesa, bikers and wrestling seem to be the two themes but don’t be put off a fun bar with friendly staff and customers.
Cantina Tio Pepe, Independencia 26, Centro, this old school Cantina is worth seeking out, it is a real gem. Drinks of all sorts are available and if you want food they have a menu for a place nearby who will deliver the food.
Bar Corona, Calle Bolivar 24, there are a couple of outlets in the historic centre, we tried this one only for drinks but the place was busy with locals eating. Service can be a bit slow, but this is not uncommon.
El Mayor, Libreria Porrua, Republica de Arnetina 15, above the Porrua Bookshop and overlooking the Templo Mayor this is a great place for a drink or food and take in the view. There is a café and a more formal restaurant, we only tried the café for a drink and snack.
Cantina La Coyoacan, Calle de la Higuera 14, Coyoacan, this is a great cantina, excellent food and drinks and mariachi bands. The patio area is very popular and it can be hard to get a table as it seems to attract well known & well connected locals. However it is well worth it if you can manage to get a table.
Los Danzantes, Parque Centenario 12, Coyoacan, is owned by the same people as the well known & excellent one in Oaxaca but what a disappointment, the wine list was either not available or wildly overpriced and the food average, not recommended.
El Jardin de Pulpo, corner of Ignacio Allende & Malintzin, by Coyoacan Market, this is a fun place to try fish and seafood at outside long shared tables.
La Bipo, Malintzin 155, Coyoacan, this Cantina & Bar is a tribute to Mexican 60’s pop, we only went for drinks but were impressed by the friendly service. Menu looked good so worth seeking out.
El Hijo del Cuervo, Parque Centenario 17, Coyoacan, we enjoyed this bar both during the day and in the evening, very popular and also has live music in the back part of the building.
Cervecaria de Barrio, Parque Centenario 9, Coyoacan, didn’t enjoy this branch as much as the one in Condesa but the food and beer was just as good.
Tequila is probably what springs to mind when you think of Mexico and there is certainly a lot drunk with meals and in bars. A relation of Tequila is Mezcal as both come from the Agave plant although are produced in different ways and from different areas of the country. Mezcal has a smoky flavour and is richer and sweeter than Tequila. To confuse matter a third drink is also produced from Agave called Pulque, it is a creamy, yeast type drink, low in alcohol content but almost died out when beer became popular. There has been a revival and flavoured pulque, called curado is becoming “trendy” and the flavoured varieties are very enjoyable.
Beer is very popular, many of the main brands like Corona, Sol, Modelo and Pacifico are owned by the big breweries but they are still worth trying and craft beer is becoming very popular.
Frequently drunk are Micheladas, beer with lime, ice, spice and clamato juice or similar. Made with the right proportion of beer to juice it is actually a really enjoyable drink.
Wine in Mexico is gaining popularity and there are of course imported wines readily available, prices seem to vary hugely. Mexico has also become more a producer of wine in recent years, we tried both white and red and in general I liked the whites we tried the reds I found less successful.
Mexico City has more museums than any other capital city in the world, I was particularly keen to see the mural painted by Diego Rivera and also by Siqueiros and Orozco and there were two places in particular to visit.
Palacio Nacional to see Rivera’s History of Mexico is a must, however you need to have photographic ID and for visitors that is a passport, only one is needed per couple but it is handed over when you enter and collected when you leave, entrance is free.
The Palacio de Bella Artes cotains Rivera’s Man at The Crossroads, originally painted for the Rockefeller centre in New York but rejected by them after an image of Lenin was included. This and the other murals in the building are amazing as is the building, there is free entrance on Sunday.
Chapultepec Park contains a number of fantastic museums including the Museum of Anthropology, Mexico city’s most visited museum.
The Templo Mayor is another popular site to visit as is the Teotihuacan archaeological complex situated about 40 kilometres outside the city.
The Frida Kahlo Blue House museum is situated in the lovely suburb of Coyoacan, booking on line is advised to avoid the queues. Also close by is The Trotsky Museum, including the house where he lived and was murdered.
Coyoacan Market is a great place for shopping for gifts and souvenirs, it was really good being able to walk round without being hassled as you can get in some places abroad when you set foot in a market. Thought the choice and prices were much better than the nearby Artisan Market.