For many Americans, travelling to Mexico usually means “I’m going to drink margaritas at a touristy all-inclusive beach resort and most likely not leave the premise until check out.” However, I encourage everyone to shift his or her attention from Cabo or Mayan Riveria to Mexico City, so tell your significant other to put away his Tommy Bahama button up and flip flops and to get ready for a city with a booming art scene and culture on every corner.
Where to stay
One of the most attractive reasons to travel to Mexico City is because of its affordability. You most likely won’t find yourself staying at a Best Western here. There are many great options of boutique hotels that have each have their own charm to them. We spent four nights in the swanky W Hotel located in the heart of Polanco. The chrome art installation in the center of the lobby to the neon green lighting under the beds were just a few examples of the contemporary décor found in this hotel.
If you’re looking for a hotel in the heart of the distrito federal (D.F.), check out Hotel Downtown Mexico. As the name states, you’ll be walking distance from the zocalo and even be able to see the very instagrammable vertical garden from your balcony.
What to eat
After the churros, tacos, and mescal, I questioned why I decided to pack tight-fitting clothes for this trip. Here’s a short list of recommendations.
- Churros Jordan: If you’re in Coyoacon, make a pit stop at one of the many Churros Jordan stands. There you will find not only crispy fried heaven, but that also dunked in your choice of topping that can range from chocolate to tequila.
- Azul: One restaurant recommendation can be found in downtown Mexico City called Azul. The name is fitting for the décor that has winding Laurel trees wrapped with bright blue twinkling lights and blue dish ware on each table. The open-air restaurant specializes in moles. I suggest the mole negro and enchiladas rellenas de hongos. Both were enough for two people to share with the complimentary basket of warm rolls and fresh salsa.
- Sylvestre: Sylvestre has a mix of Argentinean and Mexican food. With a cigar room, library and chandelier dangling in the entranceway, Sylvestre’s ambiance was that of eating in a luxury townhouse. Both were walking distance from our hotel in Polanco, which is no surprise considering Polanco’s reputation for fine dining and shopping.
- J by Jose Andres: Conveniently enough, this restaurant was just a few flights of stairs away from our hotel room. The food was almost too beautiful to eat, but you better believe it was barely on the table long enough for us to snap a photo.
- Ivoire: We stopped at Ivoire for dinner and the traditional brasserie didn’t disappoint. If you request the balcony seating you can enjoy your meal with a view of Lincoln Park. I will admit by day four, my palette was craving something other than a taco and meat, so I opted for the seafood risotto. If you’re taste buds are craving something other than traditional food faire Ivoire is a good stop.
What to do
Mexico City isn’t just for foodies. The city’s history and culture is flowing throughout and hard to miss. The old architecture combined with contemporary street art make the city an intersection of old and new. Below are my recommendations:
- Frida Kahlo Museum: The house of famed artist Frida Kahlo (I guess Diego Riviera’s house too, but we all know who the real star is) is something to add to the itinerary. Tip: Buy your tickets in advance and avoid waiting in two lines.
- The Zocalo: To really get a feel for Mexico City, or as the locals call it D.F., you need to spend an afternoon in the Zocalo. It has been the center of D.F. even before the Spanish arrived. It’s one of the largest city squares along with Moscow’s Red Square and Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The cobblestone streets are filled with people and shops – some you’ll recognize like Zara and Addidas, mixed in with other local shops. The Calle Madero pedestrian thoroughfare connects the zocalo and the Palacio des Bellas Artes. If you want to soak in some culture stop in the Palacio des Bellas Artes.
- Teotihuacan: About thirty miles from D.F., lies Teotihuacan. Here you will find the largest pyramids this side of the Valley Nile. Tip: bring water and dress for a workout. I will admit deciding to go out the night before we took the trip out to the pyramids wasn’t the best strategy. We may have walked ¾ of the way to the top before having to step aside and let others pass us by.
- Xochimilco: Coming to Xochimilco was the perfect afternoon activity. Spend the day cruising in a brightly colored trajineras (boat that looks like a gondola) down the historic canals. Sounds fun, right? It gets better. If you’re hungry, no worries, there are plenty of other boats selling everything from tacos, tortillas, and micheladas. There’s even live entertainment of Mariachi bands floating by.