What To Do In 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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