Hey friends! Mexico City has been top of my travel wish list for many years and thankfully it was on my sister’s too. She’s been studying Spanish and really wanted an opportunity to test out her skills. I of course was along for the food and culture. With both of us aligned on the destination, we booked our trip to Mexico City for mid January flying AeroMexico. It was a short weekend trip so we did not get to see it all. I do however intend on going back soon, but in the meantime here is my Guide to Mexico City.
About the City
For this city, I think it is important to know/understand a little background. Mexico City holds a lot of titles. It’s the capitol city plus the largest city in Mexico. It also holds the claim as the largest population in North America, yes it’s bigger than New York City. With a founding date going back to the 1300s Mexico City is often called the oldest major city in North America too.
Here is another fact that you probably should take heed to. It has the highest elevation of major cities in North America. Yes, higher than Denver. And that elevation ain’t no joke! In one instance we walked up a flight of stairs with masks on and got so winded we had to sit on a bench for five minutes to catch our breath. I’ve never felt so out of shape in my life.
In terms of culture and vibe. This is one Mexican city that does not seem to be made to appease/attract American tourists like the beach towns. It is unapologetically who it is, take it or leave it. The other part of the culture to me is the color. From the cabs to the murals, there is color everywhere. Arriving to such a beautiful colorful city immediately puts you in a good mood.
Where to Stay
People told me a couple of things about traveling to Mexico City. They said it is more luxurious than the American media will lead us to believe and that things are way cheaper there than back home. In my mind that meant I could get luxury on the low! Well it did not quite break down that way as some of these American hotel brands are definitely charging American prices in Mexico.
But my sister and I fell in love with the Four Seasons. Decided to go for the splurge which we rarely do. I mean we happily stayed in a hostel in Rome for example. We watched the prices on hotels.com and waited for it to drop into a somewhat reasonable range. At the Four Seasons we enjoyed turndown service, the amazing restaurants and bars on property. If you can do the splurge it’s worth it to me. If you can’t, be sure to visit because their courtyard is a thing to see!
Besides the Four Seasons, we encountered so many great hotels and also heard that the St. Regis is a sight to be seen too. There were a lot of hotels on Reforma and it was close to so much stuff. I would also recommend the Roma Norte area for hotels or hotels near Polanco. For Airbnbs, I really cannot speak on that for Mexico City and I am kind of shying away from those for the time being.
Where to Eat and Drink
As a foodie, you know I came looking for the best restaurants. Mexico City is home to several world renowned restaurants including a few Michelin rated places. Restaurants like Pujol have worldwide acclaim and about a three month reservation wait, so book those ahead of time.
Fifty Mills at the Four Seasons
No one told me this, but once I arrived I learned very quickly that Mexico City does a cocktail WELL. Fifty Mills which was in our hotel, was a great example of this. So many great cocktail options and one of the best margaritas I’ve ever had.
A beautiful restaurant near the Roma Norte area. We enjoyed the space, cocktails and their food. We went during a slower time, but I imagine it is a lot of fun at some of their busier times.
Zanaya at the Four Seasons
Our first meal in Mexico City was here and I instantly fell in love. They have a decent lunch/dinner menu but where they shine? Their unlimited brunch on Sundays. There are stations set up around the courtyard, live music plus a menu full of other items that were included. I can’t even begin to tell you what I liked. There was SO much good stuff.
This may have been my favorite restaurant in Mexico City. It puts you in the mind of Barton G’s in terms of how they display the food, but with less kitsch. From the tableside cocktails to the mariachi that showed up halfway through our dinner. Then the desserts which were displayed in a churro and ice cream cart. So fun! Porfirio’s is in Polanco which some call Mexico City’s Beverly Hills. It reminded me more of West Hollywood though. All the same, an area to check out and a great restaurant as well.
Gin Gin Roma Norte
Gin Gin has several locations in Mexico City and made it to just about every “best bar” list we found. The accolades were well deserved. Their drinks were amazing and such a fun atmosphere. The food was just okay to me, but I would go back for their cocktails!
El Moro Churro
I will tell anyone who will listen, Spain may claim they created churros, but Mexico perfected them! It is set up a lot like Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans plus open late. Make sure to visit.
We made quick stop for ice cream at Helado Obscuro. Here, they have great regular ice cream and ice cream infused with different liquors.
I have a sensitive stomach so I generally avoid street food, but I took a risk in Mexico City that was worth it. About a block away from our hotel there were several food stands that just called my name as we walked by. We grabbed a small taco that was less than one USD. Then I had to get a quesadilla because the owner was rolling out blue tortillas by hand right in front of us.
Mexico City is HUGE with so many different neighborhoods. Our hotel was off of Reforma the major boulevard that was walkable. For the most part though we took Ubers. They were much cheaper than the traditional pink cabs averaging about two American dollars for each trip.
What to See and Do
We found a tour on Airbnb Experiences that provided us transportation there and back, lunch in a cave and a tour at the Teotihuacan pyramids. I do think it is a must stop on your trip. It is so pretty!
National Museum of Anthropology
Named one of the best museums in the world, the National Museum of Anthropology is beautiful and covers an interesting time in human history. If you can, visit before your tour to Teotihuacan so you can learn more about the ancient society.
Frida Kahlo Museum
I did not actually get to see the museum because the website kept crashing. There is a restaurant where you can buy tickets if you arrive earlier. Other tip, have your hotel concierge get the tickets for you.
Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace
In this area you will feel like you are transported to Europe after a two hour flight. The square looks so much like Madrid, which makes since considering Mexico’s colonial history. We found this area late on our trip and did not make plans to tour inside, but there is more to see inside of the buildings.
Located walking distance from the Cathedral, Bella Artes is a palace built in the early 1900s. We also did not go inside, but the area outside is so pretty and had good people watching.
Another Airbnb Experiences find, a taco tour! Our tour went through local spots in downtown Mexico City. It also provided us interesting history on the influences for some of our favorite tacos. I will not share all of the taco spots we visited to encourage you to go on this tour, but they were all great and unique.
When I asked my instagram audience their questions for Mexico City, the number one question I got was about safety. As I address this I think we have to acknowledge that two things can be true. Mexico has dealt with violence, much of which is related to the drug trade that ironically supports the drug habits of Americans. The other piece is that American media has played up these stories often times with racist tropes and stereotypes.
As such, as tourists we have to find the balance. During my stay, I felt safe the entire time. We did not traverse through the streets late at night. We ubered a lot. Followed typical uber protocol such as asking their name and checking the license plates. We went on tours through Airbnb and also checked with our hotel concierge when we had issues. In short, do not be stupid and follow basic safety travel rules.
The other aspect of safety as Black women is this, we did not stand out there. A colleague once told me that as American minorities we are the global majority and should act like it. Mexico City is a place where you visually see this. Here groups that we would divide up in America as White, Native American, or Black all speak Spanish and identify as Mexican. And as an African American, the assumption is that you are probably just Afro Latina. You’ll know this because everyone will greet you speaking full Spanish. Blending in is always one of my go to travel safety tips.
In short, Mexico City is great… go soon!