After years of reading rave reviews, I finally made it to the capital city of Mexico.
There are endless lists, guides, and maps, especially from New Yorkers and Californians on CDMX. Read them! This is my particular view on the city and intentionally leaves out more common recommendations like the National Museum of Anthropology and the Teotihuacán ruins.
Learn Some Spanish
CDMX is a Spanish speaking city. Unlike Amsterdam, Montreal, or Hong Kong where you can get by on English, you will need some Spanish in Mexico city. Brush up on the language basics or keep Google Translate handy.
Book the Taco Bar at Pujol
Ok, fine. I’m starting with an obvious recommendation, but only because I really mean it. Absolutely have lunch at Pujol, one of the top rated restaurants in the world. Book yourself for the 1:30 Taco Bar, which is a 10 (?) course lunch for about $200. The lunch includes many riffs on classical Mexican dishes, excellent wine or beer pairing, a 5+ year old mole, never-ending desserts, and world class service, sight, smell, touch, and of course taste experiences. Get ready to eat some bugs! I absolutely recommend the Taco Bar over pre-fixe menu at the tables. It’s more relaxed and has a wider variety of tastes.
With so many drink pairings, you’re bound to pee a few times. I sure did. Enjoy the toilets: the lighting, scent, and sounds are a tropical delight. Our table spent a couple hours after the meal on the lush green patio digesting and trading stories. Take your time and soak it in, they’ll wait for you to request the bill.
After lunch, saturate your senses with a stroll around the corner to Xinu, a local, boutique fragrance shop. While yes it is pretentious, the curators source from local plants, and offer a full tasting menu of scents and ecological boutique packaging.
Take a Yoga class in Spanish
Mexico City, like most cities, has what seems like infinite yoga studios. On this trip, I took my classes in Spanish. Over time I’m realizing Vinyasa classes are the easiest to take in a foreign language since the sequences are somewhat predictable and often rely on Sanskrit for the brass tacks information.
Green Yoga – I attended the Juárez studio for a Yin class the day I landed. Their first course is free so you have little to lose here. The studio was bright, clean, and friendly. My particular instructor was somewhat transactional from pose-to-pose, but I still left feeling refreshed, stretched, and reconnected. Immediately next door is Cicatriz Cafe, perfect for a coffee, snack, dinner, or drink.
Blanco Yoga – While Green Yoga wins on physical space, Blanco offered more skilled instruction, deeper poses, and more cohesion flow-to-flow. The Condessa studio itself was less inviting but none of that mattered once I began the practice. Highly recommend! Around the corner is Pasteleria Suiza with some stunning desserts, especially the puff pastry cream pies.
Most of the big museums are situated by the park. I’ll skip my review on the big ones and recommend:
James Turrell at Museo Jumex – He has several new installations on view including previews from Roden Crater. Be sure to book in advance. I recommend taking the first showing at 9am before the crowds.
Skalar – Kangding Ray and Christopher Bauder, Berlin artists, brought an immersive light, sound, techno installation to CDMX. If you’re into electronic music or immersive art, it’s worth the trip to Fronton Mexico.
Galería OMR – Lovely multi-floor gallery in Roma presenting local artists and contemporary work in a brutalists space and lush garden in the back. It’s near Rosetta Panaderia and the Museum of Objects, if you’re in the neighborhood.
Mexico City Tower – Ride up to the 37th floor for a drink and stunning view of CDMX. While I don’t usually spend time at these kinds of tourist traps, it was a nice place to rest after an afternoon in the Zocolo and shows how truly expansive Mexico City is! Check it out.
National Palace – Home to a huge Diego Rivera mural and several smaller pieces, this spot is unmissable. The wikipedia page on the History of Mexico mural was enough to help me orient the vast range of imagery. Murals aside, there’s a gorgeous desert garden, interesting sculptures, and lazy cats enjoying the sunshine.
Roma Norte and Condessa didn’t have as many boutiques as I hoped for. However here’s some cuties for ya:
Carla Fernandez – fabulous haute couture designer. Though she’s outside price my range, the brutalist architecture of her flagship Juarez location is worth the trip alone. I enjoyed seeing a Mexican expression of avant-garde style.
Mercado Sabado – This Saturday Market was a day of commercial indulgence for me. Though it’s clearly marketed for tourists, the food, art, and wears are indeed local and well crafted. They range from street to boutique prices and is not far from here is Frida Kahlo’s home museum and neighborhood.
Xinu Perfumes – see review in the Pujol section
Utilitario Mexico – Simple home goods (around the corner from Green Yoga and Cicatriz)
The Shops at Downtown – Nice spot for window shopping, especially if you spend a historic afternoon at Zocolo. Azul Historico here!
180 Shop – has your hipster basics covered and is across the street from Rosetta and the Museum of Object.
Dining Quick Hits
You could come to Mexico City and only eat. I won’t even try to compete with the dining and taco guides. So here’s my quick hits on what to try and what to skip:
Azul – I much preferred the environment at Azul Historico to Azul Condessa. We ate at Condessa. The service was transactional but the mole was some of the best we’ve had. I regret ordering the enchiladas after I tasted the yellow mole and perfect steak.
Kura Izakaya – I highly recommend visiting Kura for a few Japanese bites. We had the delectable Chutoro Tuna and tea after a quick taco dinner. The interiors are beautiful and include a lush green garden en route to the bathroom.
El Moro – great spot for churros on the go, though a bit too crunchy for my taste. However, Pujol will ruin your churro palate for life in the best ways. If you go get the dark, not light, hot chocolate. Cute tote bags!
Rosetta Panadería – This bakery has serious Tartine vibes. If you’re in CDMX for a few weeks, this is a good dip into European breads and croissants. But if you only have a short time in Mexico, keep your eyes on the tortilla prize.
El Califa – no idea why people keep recommending this chain. Skip it.
Tacos – I don’t think we/I aced it on the taco front. There’s a lot of great guides here and my favorite bites were from unnamed street vendors.
Travel by car, bike, and train
Most guides recommend ubering everywhere since the cost is so low for travelers from the US and Europe. Do this instead of taxis.
I quite enjoyed taking the metro (about $0.25 USD a ride) during rush hour. My friend noted that each of the stops also includes a visual icon which I appreciated from a design, accessibility, and literacy perspective. This can be the better option when traffic is awful.
Uber Jump bikes are fairly pervasive around Roma Norte. On such a short trip, this nice pedal-assist ride let me see a lot of the neighborhood while preserving my energy. If you don’t have experience with acute driver awareness and city-biking, I do not recommend this option for you.
CDMX is Credit Card Friendly
Most shops and markets took credit cards. I only used cash on hands for street taquerias. If you plan to shop from local artisans, they pay an extra tax for credit cards, so the cash is appreciated.
Double check your Airport Terminal
Double check your departure terminal upon departing home. Some flights fly to the US from Terminal 1 (International) and some from Terminal 2. You’ll need to take a train to change terminals!