In mid-march, my husband and our friends from San Diego headed out for a long weekend to Mexico City. Because nothing says, “Happy St Patty’s Day!” like a trip to Mexico, right? 😉 It was a first time visit for all four of us and we had all been prepped that we were going to love this sprawling city. But I honestly, I didn’t expect to fall so head over heels!
We arrived via a direct flight from Tijuana (thank you, border city!) and stayed at the W in Polanco. Over the next few days, we packed in a ton of sights and activities — Anthropology Museum, Pyramids, Lucha Libre — and ate our way through the town — everything from Pujol to street tacos. All in all, I was so thoroughly in love with the city, and can’t wait to come back in the summer or fall!
Check out my recommendations and insider tips below and be sure to add your favorite spots in the comments section. Viva la Mexico!
FIRST TIMER’s GETAWAY GUIDE TO MEXICO CITY:
♦ Get Active
♦ View From Above
♦ How to Get There
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Be street smart. Mexico City upped their security measures drastically in the last couple of years, and you can tell this by the police presence and usage of cameras for surveillance. However, be smart about keeping an eye on your possessions and don’t wear anything too flashy.
- Higher altitude and cloudless skies during dry season demand extra sunscreen and a hat. Bring yours or purchase at a pharmacy in the city.
- Polanco, Condessa and Roma are hip neighborhoods and shorts and flip flops are not recommended.
- Most museums are closed on Mondays, so that’s a great day to shop or head to the Teotihuacán Pyramids.
- Cash is king. Restaurants, hotels and most stores take credit cards, but having small bills and coins on hand is essential for smooth transactions.
- Reservations never hurt. Make yours online in advance for dinners out, or ask your hotel’s concierge to make them for you. The W was extremely helpful here for us!
Climb a Pyramid
For your first trip to Mexico City, do not miss a half day trip to the Teotihuacán Pyramids. Located about 90 minutes from Mexico City, the Pyramids are a pre-Aztec UNESCO World Heritage site and offer both a killer glutes workout and a big dose of history. The largest of the pyramids is the Pyramid of the Sun, and often times the line to the top wraps around the middle base.
Walk the Park
Mexico City has a plethora of parks and green spaces. The largest and most versatile is Chapultepec Park. There are endless paths, areas to go rent paddle boats and a series of museums (see Get Cultured section). Vendors are stashed along the routes with provisions — fried tasty items, waters, ice cream and agua frescas.
- Pujol — What can I say? This changed mole for me forever and was my favorite meal of the trip! Pujol was credited for putting Mexico City on the map for fine dining, is ranked on the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants in the World and was showcased in Netflix’s Chef’s Table series. Pujol features modern Mexican cuisine via a tasting menu and has cool, hip space with a view of their garden. Reservations in advance are a must. https://www.pujol.com.mx/en/
- Rosetta — Mexican-Italian fusion for the perfect late lunch (this means 2:30p or after). Sip on some wine as you soak in the feeling of being in a European courtyard. We recommend ordering lots of the small plates to try everything. http://www.rosetta.com.mx/restaurante-en/rosetta.html
- Lalo! — Hip breakfast / brunch / lunch spot in Condessa. They don’t take reservations, but you can put your name down and walk the cute streets nearby while you wait or order coffees and juice at their bar to pass the time. Our favorite was the green juice (cactus, celery and kiwi) and the huevos con chorizo. http://eat-lalo.com/
- Maison Belen — Charming Mexican-French fusion for breakfast / brunch. Sit outside and enjoy the people watching while snacking on their divine pastries. https://www.instagram.com/maisonbelen/
- The Comrade — Craft cocktails and bites with outdoor and indoor seating. The perfect pre-dinner spot while you’re in Polanco. http://www.thecomrade.mx/carta.html
- Street Tacos — a must! There are dozens of recommendations food blogs have here, but our favorite was just on a corner in Condessa. They were so friendly and even comped us our first taco.
- Pulque — Trying this spirit is a bit of an adventure. White and a little thick, this drink is made from fermented sap of the maguey agave plant, and spoils quickly (no shelf life, sorry!).
VIEW FROM ABOVE
There are two vantage points you cannot miss in Mexico City: the view from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacán (see Get Active section) and the cityscape seen from Castillo de Chapultepec.
The modern, hip W was the perfect hotel for our trip, and I couldn’t recommend it more. The whole staff, and especially the concierge, were so friendly and the modern vibe had us always in a good mood. We also loved the view from our rooms — a glimpse into the nearby Polanco. Location is everything and the W is a stones throw from dozens of cafes, galleries and places to grab a drink in Polanco. It also is within walking distance of Chapultepec Park, where you can visit museums, take a paddle boat out or tour the Castle. Couldn’t recommend it more! http://www.wmexicocity.com/
- Museum of Anthropology: This museum is gorgeous inside and out. It covers an incredible amount of Mexican history, with floors dedicated to the indigenous peoples, their culture and customs, and most notably the many pre-Hispanic and even pre-Mayan and Aztec artifacts. http://www.mna.inah.gob.mx/
- Zocalo is the historic center where you can visit the Catedral, the Templo Mayor and see Diego Rivera mural of the presidential palace.
- Casa Azul / The Museum of Frida Kahlo: Lovers, artists and revolutionaries, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera certainly made their mark on history. Frida Kahlo’s house, Casa Azul and monument are must-see stops for your first time in Mexico City. Insider tip: buy your tickets (boletos in Spanish) online in advance (times begin every half hour) to avoid wasting time standing on line. http://www.museofridakahlo.org.mx/
- The Sanborns de los Azulejos, is a chain department store owned by Carlos Slim built in a historic building with beautiful architecture and old Mexican tile. Nice place to check out and grab a coffee on the way to Palacio de Bellas Artes.
- Placio de Bellas Artes: – Beautiful architecture with another Diego Rivera mural and other exhibits. Insider tip: on the 8th floor of the art-deco Sears (across the street from the Palacio de Bellas Artes) you’ll find a small café with a balcony overlooking the Palacio and its lovely manicured gardens. http://www.palacio.bellasartes.gob.mx/
- Lucha Libre: Masks, giant beers, crazy pumped crowds… what more could you ask for?! A night watching lucha libre at Arena Mexico is a must for any first timer to Mexico City. Root for the Técnicos (“good guys”) or the entertaining rudos (“bad guys”) and be prepared to be shocked, awed and in fits of laughter.
- Mariachis: Plaza Garibaldi is near the historic center and has Mariachis out every night that can serenade you, for a fee. And who doesn’t love to be serenaded?!
HOW TO GET THERE (& BACK!)
Mexico City and it’s airports are massive. From San Diego, we crossed the border via CBX and took the tunnel directly to the Tijuana Airport. From there, we passed through security and headed to our gates. Then, it was a quick 3 hour flight and we touched down in Mexico City. Check out my full guide for crossing here.
We have so much left to explore in Mexico City — restaurants, neighborhoods and museums — and can’t wait to get back soon! Be sure to comment below with your favorite not to miss adventures in Mexico City!