Sunset Zicatela Beach
A multi-coloured sunset of purples, pinks and oranges fill the sky in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

SHE ROAMS ABOUT

Puerto Escondido, Oax., Mexico

 

Mexico City is an incredible, historical, beautiful, cultural titan of a city and the world is starting to notice. With a reputation of fear waning and one of curiosity growing, more and more travelers are starting to flock here to see what the fuss is about. With a sprawling city this size [around 21 million people!] it’s important to know where to stay in Mexico City to the make the most of your time.


Teatro de Bellas Artes, Centro Historico
Teatro de Bellas Artes, Centro Historico

  1. Condesa - Roma

  2. Cuauhtémoc – Centro Historico

  3. Coyoacán


Map of Mexico City
Map of Mexico City

Condesa - Roma


Hands down the best place to stay in Mexico City is Condesa – Roma. This area is just west of the city centre and is comprised of two neighbouring barrios, Condesa and Roma, named for the countess who once owned this land. Arguably the centre of the city’s culinary scene with incredible restaurants, bars and cafes on every corner, it is also the trendier part of the city with plenty of galleries, green spaces and shops to explore. The gorgeous tree-lined avenues make it so beautiful and relaxing to walk. Along with the Art Deco and Porfirian [a mix of French, Roman, Gothic and Moorish] architecture, it feels like you’ve stepped through a portal to Europe.


Parque México Condesa
Parque México, Condesa

Condesa – Roma is a more gentrified part of the city which appeals to a multi-cultural blend of locals and imports alike. It is definitely the safest area of the city making it walkable for solo travellers and females and is well connected with easy access to public transport, Uber and of course, walking. Condesa – Roma has lots of stylish accommodation options to choose from with a wide variety of boutique hotels and AirBnbs. It does cost a little more to stay here but it’s worth it to be so well situated and safe.





Cuauhtémoc – Centro Historico


Cuauhtémoc [pronounced kwaw-TE-mok] is named for the former Aztec leader of the same name. It is the tourist, financial and historical centre, home to major government buildings, museums, and the Zona Rosa [gay neighbourhood]. Any visit to Mexico City will include a visit to this area. Centred around the Zócalo, the second largest public square in the world, this area has a number of astonishing historical sites such as the Teatro de Bellas Artes, Aztec ruins of the Templo Mayor, and the National Palace of Mexico, to name a few.


Angel of Independence Statue on the Paseo de Reforma
Angel of Independence, Paseo de Reforma

Being the centre of the city means it attracts all sorts of people. This is the part of the city where you may be stopped while walking to be sold things, convinced to choose a certain bar or restaurant, or targeted for the occasional hustle. A lot of political demonstrations tend to happen here so it is not uncommon to see temporary walls and an active police presence [for the record, I have never had any issues with the Mexican police]. There is also an active bar scene here with clubs in the Zona Rosa running into the wee hours of the morning and rooftop patios overlooking the beautiful buildings below.



There are many affordable and modernized AirBnbs to choose from here but I would make sure to research the specific area in detail and take a look at the Google Street View before booking. Avoid off-the-beaten-path areas and dark laneways when looking at locations. Hostels and hotels range from the low side to the luxury side. The higher end and safer accommodations tend be situated closer to the Paseo de Reforma, a large avenue that runs diagonally across the city connecting Chapultepec Castle to the city centre. With a little research Cuauhtémoc can be a great affordable option for the savvy traveller and is well connected to the rest of the city by public transport and Uber.


Coyoacán


Coyoacán is one of the oldest areas of Mexico City and actually remained independent until it was eventually absorbed into the city in 1928. It is the artistic hub of Mexico City, popular with bohemians and creatives, and was the home of renowned Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera whose house can still be visited as a museum today. Local artists gather in the square to sell their works and the mercados are bursting with colourful wares. This is the best part of the city to explore street food, especially elotes [Mexican street corn] and do some shopping for local artisan creations. The central garden is a popular spot for first dates and street performers. Everything from beatboxers to magicians to break dancers, there’s always something happening.


Mexican flag hanging in a cultural garden
Casa de Cultura Jesús Reyes Heroles, Coyoacán

Coyoacán is located quite a ways south of the city centre, taking anywhere from 15 – 60 minutes to drive depending on traffic, and up to an hour on public transport. It also receives a huge influx of visitors from other barrios on the weekends, often up to 70,000 people. Coyoacán was ranked one of the best places in the country to live making it an excellent option for longer stays but it can come with a higher price tag than other parts of the city. The distance from other attractions and areas of interest mean it wouldn’t be ideal for travellers visiting for a few days or even a week, but should definitely be on the hit list for things to do in Mexico City.



Wherever you decide to stay in Mexico City, you’re in for a treat. This city has something for everyone and is sure to become a favourite and somewhere you’ll want to return to time and time again. A city of this scale deserves some forward thinking so take a look at my list of What to Do in Mexico City and get planning!


-Ashlea

She Roams About

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A city lights view of Mexico City and the Angel of Independence Statue.
View of the Angel of Independence Statue from Cityzen Rooftop Kitchen, Mexico City

Mexico City is the largest city in North America with a population of around 21 million as of 2021 and a history dating back 700 years. With a city of this size and scope it’s hard to believe most travellers only drop in for a weekend. I have spent weeks exploring this city and I’ve got your list for what to do in Mexico City that most people won’t tell you about.



1. Take a Free Walking Tour

2. Visit Sala Mexica

3. Sip Cocktails at Cityzen

4. Enjoy Dinner at Blanco Colima

5. Devour Churros at El Moro

6. Spend the Day in Coyoacán

7. Watch Live Jazz at Casa Franca

8. Pick a Side at Lucha Libre



1. Take a Free Walking Tour


Every trip to a major city should start with a free walking tour. This is the best way to orientate yourself with your surroundings and get local advice on how to spend your time. Estacion Mexico is a locally owned and operated tour company offering a variety of tours covering various areas of the city including Roma-Condesa, Coyoacán, Chapultepec and Centro Historico [Historic Downtown]. They also offer paid tours to Teotihuacan and Lucha Libre.


All tours run twice daily, rain or shine and are offered in both Spanish and English groups. I recommend taking the Roma-Condesa and Coyoacan tours to get a better grasp of these two amazing neighbourhoods. The Centro Historico tour is a great way to learn about the oldest part of the city but it is worth noting these groups tend to be a lot larger. Book your spot online and look for the hot pink t-shirts and umbrellas at your meeting point. Please note that while these tours are free it is customary to tip.



A busy historic street in Mexico City lined with ornate buildings.
A Bustling Pedestrian Promenade in Centro Historico, Mexico City

2. Visit Sala Mexica at the Museo Nacional de Antropología


Now that you’ve got a better grasp of the city you should probably learn a little more about the history you’re walking on. Mexico City is home to over 150 museums but if you only visit one I recommend the Sala Mexica (Aztec Hall) at the Museo Nacional de Antropología. Here you’ll see and learn about ancient artefacts from Mexican history and gain a better understanding of the figures often represented and why these are important. At the back of the large hall you’ll find the astonishing Aztec Sun Stone. This huge sculpture is more than 3 feet thick and over 11.5 feet in diameter.


The museum is located in the enormous Chapultepec Park and is open Tuesday through Sunday 10am – 5pm. Tickets are reasonable at $85 Pesos and the ticket agents speak both English and Spanish. It’s worth noting that the majority of the informational posts in the museum are in Spanish with a few English dotted throughout. While you’re in the area take a walk through Chapultepec Park, twice the size of New York’s Central Park. There’s a lot to do and see from a lake to the castle to a botanical garden.


A woman walks in front of an enormous Aztec Sun Stone inside a museum.
Aztec Sun Stone, Sala Mexica, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City

3. Sip Cocktails at Cityzen Rooftop Kitchen

There’s no arguing that Mexico City is beautiful and what better way to take it in than by a bird’s eye view at sunset. Cityzen Rooftop Kitchen is located on the 14th floor of the Sofitel in Reforma. The wraparound patio with glass walls is the perfect place to watch the city go from day to night. Aim to go Monday through Thursday between 4pm – 6pm and you are unlikely to need a reservation or have to wait for a table. The food and cocktails are excellent and surprisingly affordable with small sharing plates in the realm of $250 Pesos [$15CAD/$12USD] and cocktails about the same. The service is as good as the view and thoughtful touches like blankets and patio heaters will keep you cozy into the night.


This place is fancy and unpretentious at the same time. There is no dress code and you’ll see most patrons in nice but casual attire. When you arrive in the lobby security will give you directions to reach the roof, up two different elevators. You may also have to pass through a metal detector like at the airport.


A pink iced cocktail topped with a rose petal sits on a table overlooking the Mexico City skyline.
Montparnasse Cocktail, Cityzen Rooftop Kitchen, Mexico City

4. Enjoy Dinner at Blanco Colima

If there is one thing Mexico City does well it’s hospitality. Almost everywhere you go you’ll be met with warm and attentive wait staff eager to please. The level of service can make everyday restaurants feel that bit more upscale. While there is no shortage of restaurants to choose from I found myself returning to one time and time again. Blanco Colima is located in a beautiful restored mansion in Roma Norte at the corner of Orizaba and Colima. The food is incredible, bridging the gap between traditional Mexican and modern European cuisine. They offer Spanish and English versions of the menu and some English-speaking staff members to make the foreign experience easier.


One of my favourite things about this restaurant is that they serve additional mini-courses between each course. You will start with an amuse-bouche of artichoke hearts eaten with your hands, which to this day is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever tasted. You’ll also enjoy a gorgeous homemade bread, and a mini dessert milkshake. While the whole menu is fantastic I recommend trying the Manchego cheesecake for dessert which they are known for and it is pretty unique. If you like risotto, ask for the mushroom risotto which is off the menu. This dish is an umami flavour bomb, an unexpected orange colour and the best risotto you’ll ever have. Reservations are not required during the week but there does tend to be a wait on Friday and Saturday nights.


An ornate dining room with high ceilings. A waiter stands on the patio serving a woman in the sun.
Blanco Colima, Mexico City

5. Devour Churros from El Moro


No trip to Mexico City would be complete without enjoying a local favourite, churros. Churros are long pieces of dough fried in hot oil and served with sweet toppings like cinnamon sugar and chocolate. Churrerias are a dime a dozen in Mexico City but any local will tell you not to bother unless you’re going to El Moro. El Moro has been churning out churros in Mexico City since 1935. The famous churreria was started by Spanish immigrant Francisco Iriarte who is credited with introducing the tasty treat to Mexico. There are locations dotted around the city and every one almost always has a line of locals waiting.

The churros are big which makes them perfect to share. Order a paquete or packet for $93 Pesos [$6CAD/$4.50USD] which gets you four churros and a hot or cold chocolate - I recommend a Mexican hot chocolate which is lightly spiced. The churros come in azucar and canela which is regular sugar or cinnamon sugar and you can add dipping sauces. There are three sauces available, chocolate, condensed milk and cajeta which is a delicious Mexican caramel sauce made of goat’s milk.


A white plate with four churros, a mug of Mexican drinking chocolate and two dipping sauces.
Churros and Mexican Chocolate, El Moro, Roma Norte, Mexico City

6. Spend the Day in Coyoacán


Coyoacán is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Mexico City, located 10km/6.25m from the Zocalo. The bohemian vibe makes this part of the city worth at least a day trip. Visit the Frida Kahlo Museum which is in her actual home and is a fascinating insight to her life. You will need to purchase tickets in advance as they do sell out.


Visit the Mexico Diseña Bazar inside the Iglesia San Juan Bautista in the main square. At this market you’ll find the best shopping in the city with unique items created by local artisans. You’ll find clothes, candles, jewellery, snacks and more. The market runs Saturdays and Sundays, just look for the large inflatable dolls marking the entrance.


This is also the best place to try some street food. Head into the Mercado Coyoacán and make your way to the centre of the market where you will find the most popular local street food vendors. You’ll also want to try steamed elotes [not the grilled ones] which is Mexican street corn on a stick, overed in crema and salty spice.



6. Watch Live Jazz at Casa Franca


Tucked away in Roma Norte, behind an unmarked door, above a pizza bar you’ll find Casa Franca. The beautiful dimly lit speakeasy style bar has cozy velvet seats, excellent cocktails and is home to the best jazz experience you’ll have in the city. Casa Franca is open Wednesday through Saturday, cover is usually $100 Pesos [$6CAD/$5USD] and is added to your bar bill at the end of the night. You’ll need to get your name on the list so use Whatsapp to text one of the two numbers to be added. Head to Pizza Franca in Roma Norte and look for the lady on a stool outside some large, unmarked doors. You can see the full lineup of upcoming shows on their Instagram which is also where you'll find the Whatsapp contacts.


A dimly lit bar lounge with plush velvet chairs and a crystal chandelier.
Casa Franca, Roma Norte, Mexico City

8. Pick a Side at Lucha Libre


Whether you’re into wrestling or not Lucha Libre is an unmissable experience. Lucha Libre is professional wrestling and in recent years was designated an intangible cultural heritage in Mexico City, dating back to the late 1800s. The wrestlers known as Luchadores wear masks and are usually divided into two groups, the rudos and the técnicos, or the bad guys and the good guys. The atmosphere is electric with the crowd being very vocal about who they are rooting for. The match I saw was highly dramatized with some luchadores riding in on fire-breathing motorcycles and flipping into the ring.


Although you can purchase tickets on your own it is best to take an organized tour as the Arena Mexico can be very busy and overwhelming. $800 Pesos [$49CAD/$38USD] will get you a great seat, a guide, your own Lucha Libre mask to keep, a pulque tasting [sort of like a fermented tequila] and live music. This is a major part of Mexican culture and a really fun experience for fans and novices alike.


A large crowd surrounds a wrestling ring under red lights as the masks wrestlers run toward each other.
Lucha Libre Wrestling Match, Arena Mexico, Mexico City

Believe me when I say Mexico City is world-class. There is so much to do and see here that I wouldn’t recommend visiting for any less than three full days. The city is large and sprawling so consider navigation time when you plan your days. Often distances can be too far to walk and there is a known traffic issue so allow extra time to get from A to B. Until next time!


-Ashlea

She Roams About

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Updated: Feb 7

Most travel professionals and avid travellers alike, will agree that the best way to kick off a city stay is with an orientation tour. I have lived in and travelled many of the world’s largest and liveliest cities so believe me when I say there is a right way and a wrong way to experience every city. One of my favourite ways to start off on the right foot is by taking a walking tour guided by locals. Most major cities around the world will offer something like this in various forms such as private guided tours, foodie tours, bar crawls, etc., but my recommendation to get started is to find free walking tours. Naturally, when I booked my trip to Mexico City, that’s the first thing I looked for.


Ashlea from She Roams About standing outside Frida Kahlo Museum smiling with one arm in the air.
Ashlea, She Roams About Outside the Frida Kahlo Museum

Representing any business as offering a service for free always sounds a bit too good to be true so I want to explain why a company would choose to do this and why it’s so great for travellers when they do. The business model for a free walking tour is really simple: Offer the tour for free to entice people to book, then do such a great job they’ll want to pay for your service anyway. It’s a win-win!


It is important to realize that free walking tours are not charitable enterprises. These are cash businesses that allow the customer to determine the value of the tour for themselves, rather than paying a set ticket amount. Because of this, guides typically go above and beyond to provide an outstanding experience and earn the best possible tip from each tour. Another reason why I love these tours is because it gives you a chance to chat with a local guide and get recommendations on things like where to eat, where to find the best coffee and other local tips that may be buried deep in the internet.


Mexico City, known locally as CDMX, is actually the largest city in North America with a population of around nine million people as of 2021 and a history dating back almost 700 years. Trying to blindly explore a city of this scale, on your own without prior experience is just not a good use of time. In fact, the most common mistake people make when visiting Mexico City is that they don’t allow enough time. Not realizing the expansiveness of the city geographically, the traffic factor and the fact that there is such an array of things to do and see, can leave travellers wishing they had planned better. Free walking tours are a great way to fast-track orientation and get local opinions on how to spend your time.


An Estacion Mexico tour leader leads a group of tourists through Mexico City.
Estacion Mexico, Free Walking Tours Mexico City

While there are several companies that offer free walking tours in Mexico City, I opted for a local company called Estacion Mexico who I found through a Youtube video and had excellent reviews online. Estacion Mexico offer a variety of tours covering various areas of the city including Roma -Condesa, Coyoacan, Chapultepec and Centro Historico [Historic Downtown]. They also offer paid tours to Teotihuacan and Lucha Libre. All tours run twice daily, rain or shine and are offered in both Spanish and English. It is important to note that the Spanish and English tours, although they run at the same time, are separate groups. Of the four free walking tours of Mexico City that Estacion Mexico offer, I took three during my time there: Roma-Condesa, Centro Historico and Coyoacan.


Admittedly, I was somewhat apprehensive about exploring Mexico City as a solo female traveler. Mexico has an unfair and inaccurate reputation for danger and violence and I wasn’t sure what to expect. My free walking tour of Roma-Condesa was about to allay all those fears.


A pedestrian walkway in Mexico City lined with trees.
Pedestrian Walkway, Roma Norte, Mexico City

The tour meets at the north-west corner of Avenida Cuahtemoc and Puebla. I was greeted by two friendly locals in hard-to-miss hot pinks t-shirts holding even harder to miss hot pink umbrellas. We waited a few minutes and then divided off into our English-speaking group of four. Our tour guide was Javier, a Mexico City local with an infectious passion for his hometown. Having lived in the US on and off since childhood, Javier’s English was near perfect, clear and easy to understand. He had a warm ease about him that encouraged conversation throughout the group and dispelled any of the awkwardness that comes with being thrust into a group setting with strangers.


An old church in Mexico City
Rectoria San Francisco Javier, La Romita, Mexico City

We headed off down an unsuspecting laneway with Javier at the helm until we came upon our first stop, a historic church tucked away off a busy thoroughfare. It was here that Javier explained the barrio we were in, why it was unique and gave context to some of the history of the area before embarking on a meandering trail through the beautiful neighbourhoods of Roma and Condesa.


The tour offers something for everyone. As we wandered trustingly through the streets of Roma and Condesa Javier made a point to get to know each member of the group. I am a foodie so he made sure to point out the best places to eat, another member of the group wanted to know where the best clubs were, another enjoyed street food, and another liked architecture. Effortlessly, our trusty guide catered to each of our individual interests, all the while teaching us about the culture and history we were experiencing and helping us plan how we should spend our remaining time in Mexico City.



After around two and a half hours we found ourselves at the Parque Mexico, a large and lively community space. To call Parque Mexico a “park” would be a gross understatement. It features towering palm trees, hanging egg chairs for reading, space to roller skate and play games, food vendors and WiFi. During the tour we had each compiled a list of places to revisit; beautiful parks, ornate churches, quirky museums, enticing cafes, the list goes on.

I slipped a generous tip in the woven bag and turned to look at Mexico City with new eyes. No longer daunting, I was seeing the city for what it truly was, historic, diverse, surprising, and full of possibility. Javier and Estacion Mexico had made me feel not only safe, but welcome here.


Parque Mexico, Condesa, Mexico City
Parque Mexico, Condesa, Mexico City

The next two days went in a blink and then I was back at the airport for a flight to Oaxaca but Mexico City had stolen my heart. I flew back three weeks later to spend another two weeks using Roma as my base and the love affair continued. Had I not have been introduced to this city by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic local guide I’m not sure I would have ventured much further than a few blocks radius from my accommodation. Instead, here I was sipping cocktails in a hidden jazz bar, devouring Manchego lava cake in a buzzing restaurant, and happily spending my pesos at an artisan bazaar. I can’t wait to get back for my next visit.


-Ashlea

She Roams About

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