Mexico City, the second largest city in the world, is a city full of fascinating history. There is so much to see and do in such a small area that no matter which corner you turn, you’ll find something interesting and unique. Up until recently, it has often been overlooked by travelers because of its criminal reputation–a reputation that might have been true at one point, but now doesn’t really apply to any of the areas a visitor might go. In addition to the interesting sites, you’ll quickly realize just how amazing Mexican cuisine can be. Of course, if you’re American, you’re already sort of familiar with “Tex-Mex” or “Cali-Mex” food, which can be good in its own way, but the food here is so amazingly good that sometimes when I look back, I want to return just to eat.
See & Do
- The Angel of Independence(El Ángel de la Independencia): The symbol of Mexico City, the Angel of Independence commemorates Mexican Independence right in the heard of Zona Rosa. You can go up to the monument, but you’ll have to time your crossing with traffic and make a run for it, as there doesn’t seem to be any “official” way to cross over to it (note: locals seem to cross over in the middle of the intersection on the eastern side, although there’s no marking on the road). Looks really nice at night when it’s lit up.
- Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral(Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de México): A huge cathedral in the heart of Zona Historico. The largest in Latin America. It has many similar features to a Spanish style cathedral, but also retains its own unique Mexican flair. It’s not as pristine and well kept as cathedrals in Europe, but that instead gives it some kind of charm. When we went, there was a net put right under the dome to catch falling pieces. I’m not sure whether that was done because of earthquakes, or because they can’t afford to maintain the dome (which I’m sure is expensive). Entrance is free, you can walk right in (and you’re free to donate some money as well). There are other touristic activities right outside, like traditional Aztec dancing, etc.
- Zócalo(Plaza de la Constitucion): One of the largest squares in the world–at the time we went, it was set up as a sort of winter theme park (of course, it was still around 70 degrees during the day so it didn’t exactly feel like winter). It’s even old enough to have been used as a public square by the Aztecs.
- Palacio de Bellas Artes: Huge cultural center and art museum in the heart of Mexico City. It’s used for many exhibitions on a nightly basis, and it’s adjacent to a decently sized city park which is good to stroll around. Lots of people out front relaxing and enjoying the weather–we saw a few wannabe wordsmiths walking around looking for people to pay them to rap, which was pretty cool. Inside the Palacio, there is an art museum which you can pay to enter. It contains the famous Diego Rivera mural called Man at the Crossroads (the original was destroyed by the Rockefellers), which, if you’re into Diego Rivera, is worth paying admission to see.
- Torre Latinoamericana: 44 stories high, this tower is considered an engineering landmark not due to its height, but because it’s the world’s first large skyscraper that was built on an active earthquake zone. It’s one of the few buildings in the area that survived the huge earthquake in 1985. Not too expensive(110 pesos) to take the elevator up to the top to enjoy the endless sprawl of the city in the distance.
- Garibaldi Square(Plaza Garibaldi): Kind of sketchy, but a good place to see authentic mariachi bands who will play a song for you for a few pesos in the evening time. If you want a meal or a drink, go to El Salon Tenampa (the mariachi artists will be in and around). Don’t bother with any other place unless you’re looking to get ripped off. Also, be careful walking outside around this area at night.
Eat & Drink
- Fonda Margarita: A “Fonda” is a mom and pop restaurant, and Fonda Margarita is famous for their local Mexican breakfast. We headed here first thing in the morning as soon as we got off our red-eye flight, before even dropping off our luggage. There are different specials every day, but whatever you get, the food is so amazingly delicious and also extremely cheap. The questionable looking bean paste in the picture above tasted a bit salty, but we’re kind of slow and didn’t realize that you’re supposed to spread it on the tortillas before eating the rest of your meal (oops), we only realized that near the end.
- La Casa de Toño – Zona Rosa: Another restaurant we realized is all over the city after eating here. We went to the Zona Rosa location, which is known for being open 24/7. When we went in, there wasn’t much of a wait, but by the time we left, there was a huge line outside of people waiting to get in. The soup is famous here (comes with a bunch of stuff). We also tried the flautas, enchiladas, tacos–basically, a lot of stuff. Including dessert. So good.
- Pastelería Ideal: Concha! So cheap. 7 pesos each.
- El Moro(Churrería El Moro) After our sub-par churro experience in Spain, it was so nice to be able to enjoy some delicious Mexican churros at a reasonable price. These El Moro restaurants are everywhere, and you can’t go wrong ordering a coffee or hot chocolate and a warm plate of churros.
- La Mascota: A cantina! The way cantinas work is that you just order and pay for the drink, which is more expensive than normal (i.e. a beer may be 70-80 pesos), but once you do that, you can get as much food as you want for free. We kind of got scammed into ordering mezcal (the most expensive drink on the menu) as well as tipping a little more than we should have (since we were buzzed from the above mezcal), but in all reality it was still a much cheaper drink and meal at a good quality than we’d ever hope to get at home. Note that this area does seem to get extremely quiet after dark (in the historical district) so be a bit mindful if necessary.
- Hotel Marquis Reforma: Top tier hotel for very reasonable prices. Room was really nice (not too huge, but nice). People seemed very attentive and friendly, and also fluent in English. There was a bit of a mixup with the bill as they seem to choose the currency that gets them the most amount of money (either dollars or pesos, and they use their own made up exchange rate–make sure you do the math yourself), but besides that, for this price it’s in a great location and the service and quality of the room is truly excellent for the price.