Mexico City, also known as CDMX, is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a little crazy—to have spent so much of my life crossing oceans in search of far away cities—only to fall in love with a place so close to home. It’s the only city outside of the USA I have visited more than once, and plan to visit again and again (and again).
The love started in 2016. Anthony and I were on the last leg of our RTW trip and searching for flights from Santiago, Chile to Guatemala. While looking, we discovered it actually cheaper to fly from Santiago to Mexico City first, before catching a flight to Guatemala, so we booked.
Having only ever been to the US/Mexico border, as well as a few tourist beach towns, I had no idea what to expect of CDMX—one of the largest cities in the world. I’ll admit that, at first, I was in it for the food and the margaritas (so cliché, I know), but during our short, 4-day visit, I fell in love with a lot more than tacos. And in February, we returned for our second stay.
Wondering why I am so enchanted with this often overlooked place? I'm happy to tell you.
First, I love that Mexico City sits at over 7,000 feet in elevation (higher than Denver). A mountain girl through and through, I'm drawn to cooler climates and places with four seasons. Spring, the one season I have experienced in CDMX, brings chilly mornings that beg for scarves and cups of artisan coffee—which are plentiful. The days are warm enough to shed your jacket and soak up the sun, but never too hot for comfort. Blossoming trees line most sidewalks, boasting vibrant purple and pink flowers.
I also love the art and history, the numerous museums and monuments to be explored. (Fun Fact: CDMX has more museums than any other city in the world) With various indoor and outdoor markets, I can spend hours wandering around, talking with vendors and purchasing more textiles and pottery than can fit in my suitcase.
Of course I love the food—I mean, who doesn’t love street tacos? And it doesn’t hurt that I can eat like a queen for less than a few dollars.
And I love the language. I’m not bilingual (yet), but I love conversing and improving my Spanish. Whether chatting with cab drivers, asking for directions, or skimming novels in Librería Porrúa, Mexico City is an easy place for me to practice and learn.
Finally, I love the people. I have experienced only kindness and hospitality in this city, and I am so drawn to the importance of family in Mexican culture. If (or when) Anthony and I move abroad, this city is near the top of our list.
As you can see, I could go on and on, reiterating how much I love Mexico City and trying to convince you all to plan a visit, but I will leave you with a few of my favorite places instead. This isn’t comprehensive, and I recommend reading other guides (as well as just wandering and finding your own favorites), but here is a pretty basic guide to a not so basic city. ¡Buen viaje!
Taqueria El Greco
Hands down my favorite place to eat (so far) in Mexico City. I’m not a foodie unless it is authentic Mexican or Greek food, and Taqueria El Greco is the happiest of marriages of my favorite flavors. If you are in CDMX, you must visit.
A new find on our most recent trip, La Guapachosa is fantastic food for an affordable cost. They serve delicious craft beer (which if I understood correctly they brew off-site), as well as some of the best totopos y salsas I’ve ever had. Great for lunch or dinner…or both.
Street Food (Obviously)
Mexico City has some amazing restaurants, but the street food is hands down the best. You will see it everywhere, at all hours of the day. I recommend tortas and flautas. You can (and should) also try nopales, or cactus paddles. Check out this guide from Eater for help navigating the street food scene. Buen provecho.
If and when your stomach needs a break (no shame, you’ll be back tomorrow), check out Mog Bistro. Just trust me.
The Camote Man
It all began on a stormy night in March 2016. We had hunkered down for the night, tired from our final day of walking and exploring the city. Just as we were about to turn in, a faint whistle sounded in the distance. My ears perked, but when the sound didn’t return, I told myself I was hearing things. A few minutes passed though when I heard it again. It was still faint, but definitely there: a sharp, high pitched whistle fighting to be heard in the storm. By the time I turned to Anthony he was already lacing up his shoes; he had heard it too. He would spend the next fifteen minutes running around like a mad man in the rain, chasing the one they call The Camote Man.
The Camote Man is one of the best parts about Mexico City. He (although there are many of them) is a man who pushes a small, wood-burning cart (hence the whistle) selling Camotes, or baked sweet potatoes drizzled with sweetened condensed milk and cinnamon—it’s absolutely delicious. He can be hard to find, but just follow the sound of the whistle when you hear it and you will be feasting in no time.
*With so many places to see, this is a short list of my favorites.
Hop-On Hop-Off Buses
I don’t really like looking like a tourist when traveling, but Hop-On Hop-Off Buses are where it’s at—especially in a city as large as CDMX. I recommend TuriBus, although we did the Capital Bus on our first trip and that one was great as well. For the price, it is one of the easiest and quickest ways to travel between neighborhoods and see all the best sights.
Frida Kahlo Museum
A must, must, must see. If you don’t know who Frida Kahlo is, Google her. And then visit her home, which is now a museum.
Museo del Templo Mayor
This ancient Aztec capital (once known as Tenochtitlan) was discovered underneath the Metropolitan Cathedral in the 1900’s and excavated in the 70’s. It sits right in the heart of the city and continues to be excavated today. For a small price, you can walk through the ruins, as well as spend a few hours in the museum. A humbling, educational, and memorable experience that I highly recommend.
Monumento a la Revolución
Located in Plaza de la República and in the heart of Mexico City, the Monumento commemorates the Mexican Revolution. Visit it for the history and the views.
Looking for artisan products? Casa Fusion is your place. A large house with many small stores, you can buy handmade soaps, shoes, bags, jewelry, and more. And if you are on a budget (like me), you can relax in the quiet courtyard with a cup of artisan coffee.
I’m a sucker for markets and I love to barter, especially for rugs and textiles. Markets are also great to try new foods and learn new vocabulary. There are many in Mexico City, but my two favorite are: Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela and Mercado La Merced.
Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela has, in my opinion, some of the best textiles and authentic-looking decor.
Mercado La Merced is great for food. Anthony made me try crickets here, which I was not thrilled about, but it seemed to amuse the vendors. This market is always buzzing and is a great way to familiarize yourself with Mexican ingredients and local cuisine.
I love this place. We spent at least half an hour here, trying out face masks and having our skin lathered in lotion by the friendly, enthusiastic sales associate. Lush sells handmade, organic cosmetics and bath products and I purchased the Karma Komba shampoo bar while here and have used it ever since. I plan to order more from the online US store or just use my obssesion as an excuse to take another trip…
La Lavanderia is dark, alluring, and the perfect spot to relax after a long day for a glass (or two) of the best Mezcal in the city.
After visiting Museo del Templo Mayor, walk across the street to El Mayor, a chic rooftop bar overlooking the ruins. You will have to wander through a cozy bookstore first, before taking an elevator to the top. There is indoor and outdoor seating, opt to sit outside for the views. I’m more of a beer girl, but I hear the cocktails are great. Also—get the guac.
There isn’t one specific park—although Coyoacán is arguably a favorite amongst travelers—but wherever you are there is sure to be a beautiful park nearby. Take advantage of the benches, people watching, and free wifi. Also, you will notice vendors selling peanuts to kids so they can feed the squirrels—it’s the best.