THREE-DAY WEEKEND IN MEXICO CITY
First time in Mexico (ish)!
Well technically I went to Tijuana once… but for like an hour. Being an undergrad in San Diego and its proximity to the border, I felt obligated to cross the border before I finished university just to say I did it.
However, let’s be clear, that doesn’t count as traveling to Mexico. That’s like claiming to have visited a country while stuck at the airport on a layover. It’s hard enough to get a feel the culture of the city or country in just a few days, let alone a few hours!
Since that short trip was my only comparison prior to this, I definitely felt like Mexico City was a better representation of the heart and soul of our southern neighbor. I had a chance to really experience the culture, the food, and the people this time and in the capital no less.
We found reasonably cheap flights from Chicago to Mexico City over Easter weekend – and vamos, we were off! My friends and I tried to visit as many places as we could considering our limited time. There is no question that we will have to come back, but we accomplished a lot in 3 days.
GETTING TO MEXICO CITY
Mexican carriers AeroMexico, Volaris,and Interjet have daily direct flights from Chicago to Mexico City. I love the fact that it “only” took four and a half hours to be somewhere with a totally different culture.
I either usually have to fly 15 hours across the Pacific or 9 hours across the Atlantic to feel like I’m really somewhere foreign (Montréal and Quebec City would be the exceptions, but still…).
1) WHERE EVERYONE AT?!
As I mentioned earlier, we traveled to Mexico City during Easter weekend (or Semana Santa in Spanish). We didn’t expect the city with a population of 21 million or so would be so empty!
Given that Mexico city is the largest metropolitan area in North America, I had mentally prepared myself for traffic jams, crowded sidewalks, the standard big city pitfalls. However, the roads and highways were literally deserted and we breezed through traffic as if we were the only ones in town.
We later learned that during Holy week, majority of the locals go back to their “pueblos” – or villages. And those who stayed in the city, were definitely not out and about, opting rather to stay in and enjoy the holiday with their families. There were plenty of restaurants and shops that were closed from Thursday to Sunday, which were the days we were there.
2) Dangerous? Really?
Before leaving for Mexico City, a few people warned me about the crime and suggested to be a little bit more vigilant than usual. It actually reminded me of the same advice from friends when I traveled to Rio de Janeiro: Pay close attention to everything that’s happening around me.
After my stay in Rio de Janeiro, I definitely understood why people warned me since my bag was stolen. I also have some friends of friends who got mugged out in public.
Mexico City, on the other hand, did not justify the warnings I’d been given. Not once did we ever feel unsafe or at risk, even when we were walking home late at night.
3) Super clean!
The whole city was spotless – every road and tree-lined street corner we turned to was spic and span!
I’m not exactly sure why I expected otherwise – perhaps the image of Tijuana left quite a lasting impression (even though it’s been years since I’ve been there) and influenced my expectations of Mexico city.
Granted, the city was pretty empty and there were less people…. But still….
4) Culture and strong tradition still in-tact
Usually, when you hear of a big cosmopolitan city, you imagine bustling streets with people stomping around on concrete from every direction without many traces of the local customs and traditions. It feels like if you’ve been to one big city, you’ve been to them all sometimes.
But this was not the case with Mexico City.
While the city itself is very cosmopolitan, walking around neighborhoods such as Historic Center and Coyoacan offer that experience of authentic Mexican culture, customs, and traditions. Mexico City keeps it authentic with charming cobblestone streets dotted with Spanish colonial architecture, food stands serving delicious Mexican street food, and museums paying homage to legendary artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
*Insert latina woman dancing emoji*
Since we only had three full days in Mexico City, we only really got to know three (maybe quatro) neighborhoods (or barrios) of the Mexican capital. But out of the dozens or so neighborhoods in Mexico City, my favorite would be…
I particularly love this neighborhood because it has so much character, culture, and energy that feeds your adrenaline when exploring a new city for the first time. I remember getting out of our Uber and seeing colonial architecture splashed with vibrant colors that you typically see in enchanting cities like Havana, Cartagena, or old town San Juan in Puerto Rico.
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One of my favorite barrios (neighborhood) in Mexico City – Coyoacán. I love the colorful vibe and charm of this place – peppered with parks and restaurants with outdoor patio, with the occasional mariachi band serenading as you munch on your hearty Mexican meal. This neighborhood is also the birthplace of Frida Kahlo!! — ?Mexico City, Mexico ??
Coyoacan is where I discovered my love for elotes – which is just basically corn stripped from the cob and served in a cup, grilled and charred and slathered with creamy sauce and seasoned with your preferred Mexican spices. I even discovered elotes as a soup. And as the basics would say – “this literally….like literally changed my life.”
If you want that typical “pueblo” experience – then definitely spend a chunk of time in the Coyoacan barrio.
Check out AirBnB’s guide and description to each of the neighborhoods in Mexico City below:
Mexico City is quickly gaining recognition for its restaurant scene – and for a good reason! The city has a restaurant for every mood, taste, and ambiance – a sure find whether you are feeling bougie, modern, traditional, or everything in between.
Quite honestly, I think we spent the majority of the time eating street food (hmmm elotes….).
But we tried two restaurants that we truly enjoyed:
Azul Condesa – Condesa Neighborhood
Probably one of the best tortilla soups I’ve had to date. They also have an interesting menu if you’re looking for something really experimental on your vacation (guacamole with crickets, anyone??).
The vibe is perfect for a night out. Huge green plants surround an open patio to create a chic, yet casual ambiance. Being one of the city’s hottest spots right now, the people that fill this restaurant add to the overall energy of the place.
It’s a busy place – so reservations are a must!
La Fonda del Recuerdo – Polanco
La Fonda del Recuerdo was the last restaurant we visited before leaving back to Chicago – and as they say, we saved the best for last.
Throughout the three days we were in Mexico City, we had a rule of eating only traditional Mexican cuisine – and La Fonda del Recuerdo not only provides traditional Mexican cuisine, but everything laid in front of us seemed like a home cooked meal.
Everything we ordered was delicious. It was one of those meals where you are genuinely sad when you take the last bite. The Green Mole with pork, the crab soup, and the freakin tamales were from a different a planet. OYYY take me back.
And let’s talk about the ambiance!! We walked in and were immediately greeted by two hostesses dressed in traditional costumes consisting of floor length full skirts and white frill tops. In fact, all the waiters dressed the part!
Not only that, minutes within sitting, we were serenaded by mariachi bands playing a taking requests from patrons for Mexican songs that everyone in the room knew the words to except us.
Anyone who is visiting Mexico City definitely needs to check La Fonda del Recuerdo. MUST VISIT!
WHERE WE STAYED
We stayed at Busue hotel, an old house converted to this glorious boutique hotel in the heart of Polenco. I have to say this hotel stole my heart.
For complete review of Busue hotel, click here.
Just an hour and half drive outside of Mexico city is the pyramids of Teotihuacan! We rented a private driver for a $120 USD for the whole day.
Although you could spend more than a day learning all the cool things about this ancient civilization, we only stayed for about 5 hours with our cramped weekend schedule. Not to mention, the crowds were insane.
We originally had our hearts set on climbing The Pyramid of the Sun (the main pyramid on display), but the line literally wrapped around almost half of the base. That’s over 10 city blocks for reference.
Instead, we made the shorter trek up the Pyramid of the Moon, which had no line and a stunning view. If you want the full experience, I suggest getting there early to beat those crowds!
MEXICO CITY TIPS
Uber everywhere – it’s so cheap. And the wait time is like 10 seconds – they appear the moment you order them.
Bathroom tips. M in bathroom doors does not stand for men – it stands for Mujer – which means women in Spanish. So if you are a guy, please turn off your english vocab when entering the bathroom. Otherwise, you’ll be doing as I did plenty of times – casually entering women’s bathrooms.