Here’s why you should visit Mexico City – Ciudad de México
Have you wanted to go to Mexico City – Ciudad de México? Mexico city is one of the largest capital cities in the world. Internationally, Mexico City has become one of them most exciting travel destinations with trendy chefs and fashion designers making a world class mark. Traditional and haut cuisine are abundant and delicious. And you’ll discover the joys of mezcal and premium tequila at trendy bars.
Just having come back from 8 days in Mexico City, here are some of the highlights and tips for a visit to la Ciudad de México.
From Vancouver, BC there are a few non-stop options. Aeroméxico and Air Canada both offer nonstop flight. A nonstop flight YVR-MEX is approximately 5.5 hours travel time.
The cost for economy is anywhere from $650-$1000 return. Aeroméxico offers cheaper fares. I actually got a Business Class (Clase Premier) rt flight on Aeroméxico for $789 CAD YVR-MEX on a Boeing 737-800. That’s a great price! My seat was in row 3, and was super comfy recliner with a leg rest. Aeroméxico along with Delta are part of the Skyteam air alliance. Perks for flying Aeroméxico in Business class meant I got access to the new Skyteam Lounge at YVR, and of course the usual priority boarding and theoretically priority baggage!
Traveling Around Mexico City
Ay dios, the traffic!! Be prepared to sit in stand-still traffic. We used Uber extensively. The convenience of being able to enter the destination online, and pay online took the hassle out of haggling in Spanish. (There was no Lyft when I visited.) The total for our 8 days using Uber to and from the airport, several rides from the city centre to accommodations, and a few city trips across to different areas all totalled up to under $70 CAD. I understand that the Metro is very good, direct and inexpensive, but I was a little apprehensive to try it.
Where To Stay in Mexico City
What are your interests? I wanted to visit the plethora of fantastic museums and historic sites downtown, but I also wanted to experience some of the quieter and more hip parts of town. I stayed in the Historic Centre for a few nights at the classic Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de México, then later moved to an AirBnB in Roma Norte.
The Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de México is in a fantastic location overlooking the Zócalo. It is pricy for Mexico City, for my premium luxury Junior Suite with Zócalo View king bed room I paid around $300/night CAD. But really when I think of what a standard US hotel room is, this was a much nicer experience, so convenient for sightseeing, and I was pampered in this classic old hotel. The hotel has a restaurant on the 5th floor rooftop, La Terraza that overlooks the Zócalo. It was fantastic for Sunday Brunch, and coming back after a long day of sightseeting and enjoying a huge margarita from their extensive selection. I wish I had stayed 3-4 nights, but onwards to the AirBnb.
Where hotels offer pampering, iconic architecture, and prime locations, Airbnb’s offer a quieter, self sufficient, blending experience. There are a neighbourhoods in Mexico City that are safe, exciting, and very interesting for visitors. La Condesa, Roma Norte, and Polanco are a few popular areas that are popular with travelers. I chose Roma Norte, mostly arbitrarily because of the Airbnb suite I found and because there are a lot of great restaurants and bars in the area. I was not disappointed. In fact Roma Norte was crawling with english speaking foreigners. Swank restaurants catered to a majority of visitors, and the prices reflected that. So you can go super gourmet if you like, or you can stick to street tacos, and be very satisfied. In the evenings, I loved strolling past the trendy bars along Colima street, as well as promenading along the wide Av. Álvaro Obregón where there were a number of established and louder restaurants and bars.
About the elevation in Mexico City
Mexico City sits at 7,349 feet — that is more than 2,000 feet higher than Denver. And as Vancouver, BC is 0–501 ft, that means there’s a little bit of huffy-puffy the first few days. If you plan to climb the pyramids in Teotihuacán, do it a few days after you’ve acclimatized to the elevation.
Funny thing was I did not really suffer much elevation sickness when I arrived in Mexico City. But on my return to a high-presser, sea level Vancouver, I suffered a horrible headache and some nausea for about a half day. (unpleasant.)
What to See in Mexico City
Wow, so many things! So many great museums, art galleries, theatre, music, markets, archeological sites, street food, restaurants and bars. Whatever you’re interested in, you’ll find it.
Note: Museums are closed on Mondays!
Museo Nacional de Antropología – National Museum of Anthropology
The Museo Nacional de Antropología is a treasure of the cultural artifacts and history of Mexico. In addition to the gobsmacking artifacts, the architecture is also breathtaking. I spent 5 fascinating hours there, and didn’t see everything, and I had to take a refreshment break at the very nice open air patio restaurant at the museum.
Admission is $75 pesos.
Frida Kahlo Museum Casa Azul and Coyoacán
If you have any interest in Frida Kahlo, then, Yes, the Museo Frida Kahlo is a must! It offers that real life, tangible experience to walk around her life. To see first hand, her art, her studio, her and Diegos house. Be warned though, it is so crowded! It’s best to buy tickets to the Frida Kahlo Museum online in advance, to save 20-30 minute wait outside the entrance in the hot sun.
TIP: Rewatch the Frida (2002) movie on Netflix after, and enjoy seeing where you’ve been!
Admission is $250 pesos.
While you’re there, visit the Mercado de Coyoacán – Coyoacán Market, just two blocks away from the Frida Kahlo Museum. The Coyoacán Market is a lovely market, not too big, but vibrant with flowers, meats, dry goods (try the spicy peanut mixes and the sal & lemon crickets!!), crafts, and market foods!! I wish I’d stayed longer, and bought all my souvenirs here! Coyoacán is a beautiful neighbourhood to just explore.
Castillo de Chapultepec – Chapultepec Castle
If you want to stretch your legs and get above it all, visit Chapultepec Castle. It was build in 1841 as the summer house for the viceroy. It now houses the Museo Nacional de Historia (National Museum of History). More than the historic paintings and objects, the pleasure is in strolling the extensive grounds and taking in the views of Mexico City.
Admission is $75 pesos.
The Zócalo, Plaza de la Constitución
The Zócalo is the main square in the centre of Mexico City. In pre-colonial times, it was the centre of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. Important buildings along the Zócalo plaza include the Catedral Metropolitana to the north, the National Palace to the east, the Federal District buildings to the south and the Old Portal de Mercaderes to the west, the Nacional Monte de Piedad building at the north-west corner, and the Templo Mayor archeological site to the northeast is just north by the Catedral.
Street Food in Mexico City
My only advice is, if you see a line up of 3 or more people at a food vendor, get in line and enjoy the food! Along with fantastic tacos and tamales available from street vendors, some of my new found favourites are Tlacoyo, Sopes and Churros.
Would you go to Mexico City? Are you thinking of going?
It is a huge city, with a huge population of around 9 million. The population encompassing the whole metropolitan area is around 22 million people. I felt safe while I was there. I did not carry anything except my phone, my driving license, and a day’s worth of cash with me. No purse or jewelry. Just a canvas grocery back to hold things I purchased during the day. I did not witness any crimes, or any street people.
While I dined along the Avenidads, strolling musicians would come by and play and sing, and it was customary to give them some change after (10-20 pesos). There were some people who asked for money, just saying ‘no gracias’ was enough.