When you think of a vacation in Mexico, you probably think of its beautiful cities and resorts, sparkling blue waters and golden sands of Tulum, Cabo San Lucas, Isla Mujeres and countless others. Bustling metropolises are probably not the first thing that comes to mind. It is a country that tourists usually visit escape the bustle of their own lives, rather than looking for a place that could emulate it. If you’re currently looking for the next vacation destination to add to your bucket list, it’s high time to give Mexico City a shot.
Mexico City, often abbreviated as CDMX, is the oldest city in the Americas, built on the ruins of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire. The city is steeped in history and has long been a center of anthropological, historical and cultural interest. Today, this bustling megalopolis represents the perfect marriage of old and new, as it has become an epicenter of art, design, architecture, culture and culinary delights. Simply put, Mexico City has something for everyone. Young or old, traveling alone or with family, whether you’re looking to relax or live to party, whatever your poison, you can find it in CDMX.
The city is home to world-class galleries and museums and is a hub of pre-Hispanic Latin American art, culture, and anthropological wonders. It is impossible to visit Mexico City without being mesmerized by the riches and stories of those who have gone before us. Explore downtown Aztec ruins at the Templo Mayor Museum or spend a full day wandering around the National Museum of Anthropology to admire its magnificent collection of Mesoamerican artifacts. Then stroll through the sprawling Bosque de Chapultepec, one of the largest urban parks in the Western Hemisphere, and enjoy the fresh air, green spaces, and street performers, or head to Expendio de Maiz, in the bohemian district of Roma Norte, to taste the best pre-Hispanic specialties the city has to offer. Seriously, this restaurant is not to be missed; it’s a casual dining experience, with communal tables and a non-existent menu. Simply tell your server if you have any dietary requirements and how hungry you are, then sit down and enjoy a steady stream of delicious plates exploding with flavors and ingredients like you’ve never experienced before.
Photo of Bosque de Chapultepec by Bohao Zhao under Creative Commons license.
For art lovers, Mexico City is your oyster. Visit the city’s must-sees like the Soumaya Museum, a stunning piece of architecture and a treasure trove of works by famous Mexican and internationally renowned artists. Next door you’ll find the Museo Jumex, housing works by Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Marcel DuChamp, among others. For contemporary art, visit the Museo Tamayo or find the classics at the National Museum of Art, home to the country’s most important collection of Mexican art. Of course, no trip to the Mexican capital is complete without a visit to the Blue House, also known as the Frida Kahlo Museum, the breathtaking residence in which the beloved artist spent most of her life. life. For the most architecture-savvy, Mexico City has no shortage of incredible pre-Hispanic, colonial, and contemporary buildings worthy of your attention. Visit the historic Palacio de Bellas Artes, the largest performance hall in the city, the Basílica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe or the Monumento a la Revolución. For something more contemporary, don’t miss the many sites designed by famed mid-century Mexican architect Luis Barragán, including Casa Luis Barragán, his former residence.
Mexico City is also a strong contender for the biggest foodie city in the world. I mean, who doesn’t love Mexican food? From street food vendors to quiet brunches to Michelin-starred restaurants, your taste buds will thank you for making the trip. There is no end to the delicious variety of street food available in this city, but be sure to try elots, a savory corn-on-the-cob snack that is usually topped with chili, cheese, and mayonnaise. Tacos are also a must while you’re in town and you’ll find them on almost every street, but if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, check out the taqueria known as Chetito in the Cuauhtemoc district. Wherever you go to enjoy your Mexican food, be sure to wash it down with a cold glass of horchata, a sweet drink that sort of tastes like childhood in a glass, or pulque, a drink creamy, fermented alcoholic drink from central Mexico. For brunch lovers, look for restaurants like Lardo, Lalo!, Café Nin or Frëims. For something a little more traditional, visit Café de Tacuba, a century-old institution in the historic Zocalo district, complete with its own mariachi band. If you’re looking for a more refined dining experience, there’s no shortage of options here; try the famous Pujol, Quintonil or Máximo Bistro, to name a few. Then, for an after-dinner drink, head to speakeasy Xaman or Hanky Panky, or, for a livelier spot, Cantina Tio Pepe. For mezcal fans, the dimly lit Bósforo is an absolute must.
Frida Kahlo Museum photo by Ron Waddington under Creative Commons license.
If you’re traveling on a budget, don’t overlook the more upscale dining experiences. They might not be as expensive as expected. Most travelers are pleasantly surprised at how affordable this city can be. The same goes for transport; most likely, you won’t need to navigate the public transit system, and it will be more than affordable to get you anywhere you need to go with Uber, other ride-sharing apps, or taxi companies. Remember to look online to find the most reputable ones, though.
Of course, doing everything I’ve mentioned here would only scratch the surface. Mexico City is a sprawling metropolis with amazing new experiences to discover around every corner. Whether you spend your days running with a full itinerary, or just decide to stroll the leafy streets of Condesa or Roma and watch the world go by, I’m willing to bet that at the end of your first trip to this sensational city, you’ll be busy planning your second.
Bryony Parker is a writer and artist currently living in São Paulo, Brazil, working on her Masters in International Affairs. You can find it on @by666ker on all social networks.