Must See Mexico City: 10 Days in a Culture Capital by Danna Sweidan

Before we go over the itinerary that Sam and I used, I’d like to give five general tips about traveling to Mexico City too.

Tip 1.

The weather is mostly mild and sunny year-round, but the altitude (over 7000 ft above sea level) means it’s windy, and sudden storms can take you by surprise— bring easy layers and comfortable tennis shoes.

Tip 2.

Don’t try to dress down here. By all means, wear whatever you please, but know that Mexico City is very well dressed, basically everywhere. The only place I didn’t see blazers was hiking Teotihuacan’s pyramids.

Tip 3.

Many restaurants are wonderful here, but the magic is in the carts. Almost every street cart and bodega is making delicious, fresh meats and tortas. You’ll see tents full of suited lunch break bankers sitting on plastic stools huddled over a plate of steaming al pastor tacos. Trust these tents, and walk up to them as often, if not more than you would Yelp a place first.

Tip 4.

We walked nearly everywhere, but this is a massive city. Take advantage of the cheap Uber rates, the convenient cabs, and the comprehensive bus and rail system. We didn’t take cabs here but only because Uber was so cheap and more regulated for us. I did read that many cabs don’t have meters, and while this isn’t a safety issue, we don’t speak that great of Spanish, so this was one less aspect we had to worry about the language barrier with.

Tip 5.

Speaking of Spanish, try to practice yours. People are very kind and accommodating if you don’t speak it, but everyone appreciates your effort if you know any. This isn’t a tourism-dependent city, so not everyone will be fluent in English or other languages.

10 Days in Mexico City

Day 1:
We arrived midday but still wanted to ease into it since we had ten days for this trip. Arriving around three still gives you an entire day in Mexico City since the nightlife is vibrant and days start late. We stayed around our hotel, got room service, and that night we went down to the hotel bar, 50 Mils, for drinks before walking around that night. Like I said, it is a mellow night, and many of the things we did on other mellow days could be fit into this day if you have less time. I’ve linked all our tours, restaurants, and experiences, but none of these are affiliate links. They are purely provided for your information.

Day 2:
Our first full day in town! We ventured out into the city park and chipped away at our list of park attractions we wanted to see. I suggest planning ahead of time what you want to visit, because the park is massive, and even in the three days we committed to it, we didn’t see everything we wanted to. This day we explored the botanical garden, which also contained an adorable project called The Future Forest, an interactive park made entirely of reclaimed plastic. We also walked through the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art. After roaming the museum, we walked to Los Panchos, a historic restaurant with a takeaway counter. For dinner that night, we just walked around again until we found a place: Cantina Brio. The staff was so kind, and our food was delicious! They also had a great karaoke night going on.

Day 3:

The day we explored Teotihuacán! The link is for the tour we booked. I recommend going with a tour guide to the site because there’s a lot to learn about the area, and it saves you the trouble of transportation there and back to the city. The site itself is navigable by yourself, but because so little on this trip requires a formal tour, we sprang for one here and one other day, and it was definitely worth it. This tour also takes you to an obsidian shop and rest stop where you get a little lesson on the goods made there and a tequila tasting. It’s hard not to notice that you definitely get given a lot of tequila and then get released into their souvenir shop. While this part is a bit of a tourist trap, no one is pushy, and we had no problem not buying anything. The goods were actually gorgeous, but obsidian isn’t cheap.

Day 4:

Another day in Chapultepec Park! This time we spent hours upon hours in the National Museum of Anthropology! This was a highlight for us, and you do need a full day here to see everything. Hungry and strung out on history, we wandered out of the museum into a plaza of carts and descended upon a torta and some elote like we’d never seen food before.

It was incredible, and I can’t stress enough how much you need to eat as much street food as possible here.
Later that night, we went to El Califa for tacos. This is another institution in the region; we ended up here on three different nights.

Day 5:

This was a big day for Mexico politically, with a new government administration taking office. We stayed at our hotel and had a lazy day at the pool and reading in our room since it was also a national holiday and many things we’d want to do would be closed anyway. That night we went to the tree lighting ceremony at the hotel and had dinner at the restaurant on premises, Zanaya. The food here is great; elevated if not authentic.

Day 6:

This was our other big tour day. I definitely recommend this tour specifically because our guide was so laid back, and we got to see SO MUCH. Our guide was Veronica, and if you can request her, I would suggest it. She made us feel like we were friends visiting her from out of town; the whole day was intimate and fun, and relaxed. We floated on the Xochimilco canals and explored Coyoacan markets before heading to La Casa Azul, a Frida Kahlo museum at the site of her home. Aside from that, Veronica also took us to a flower market in Xochimilco, we had tostadas in the Coyoacan markets, and we visited the Anahuacali Museum of Diego Rivera. We also visited the University of Mexico, a beautiful campus with rolling lawns and meaningful art displayed throughout. We spent that night exploring Zona Rosa, a hip and bustling downtown area known for its bars and trendy restaurants, before heading back to El Califa for more delicious tacos.

Day 7:

We got brunch at Clara y Ema, an adorable little place with incredible breakfast sandwiches. Then we took an Uber over to the Soumaya Museum, a private collection housed in a work of art. From there, we went to Biblioteca Vasconcelos, an architectural wonder you’ve probably seen on Pinterest or my Instagram. We got dinner at Casa de Tono before going back to Zona Rosa for the night. It’s a taqueria much like El Califa, popular and always busy, even with its many locations throughout the city.

Day 8:

We spent all morning at Mercado de Artesianes de Ciudadela, a market full of local goods and crafts that are fairly priced and well made. Take your time here and look for the vendors with small stalls tucked away in corners- we found cheaper prices for the same goods at those stalls. Later that day, there was a thunderstorm, but it didn’t last long, and after we headed out again to Zona Rosa and El Califa. We stayed at the intersection of three very popular neighborhoods, Condesa, Palanca, and Zona Rosa, so exploring on foot and ending up at these popular spots was a great way to feel familiar in such a large city.

Day 9:

Our last day! We spent this one at the park again, this time at Castillo de Chapultepec and the national history museum it contains. The gardens here are beautiful too! We then headed over to the Zocalo, the historic city square, where we looked at the huge Christmas decorations on all the sides of the buildings and had beers at a terrace overlooking the square. I don’t recommend the place we went to so that I won’t mention it here. Afterward, we got tortas at a cart outside our hotel and hung out in our room, packing and starting to reminisce. For our last night, we went to dinner at Quebracho and Argentinian restaurant around the corner. Everything was good, but their empanadas were everything I was hoping for.

Day 10:
We just flew home this day. I recommend being at the airport two hours before your flight. Always prepare for traffic, since going out during rush hours could mean the difference between 20 minutes and two hours. You can definitely condense this itinerary into less days, but we had a leisurely, relaxing trip, and I couldn’t recommend Mexico City enough. Happy travels, and always feel free to send me your travel questions!

Keep up with Danna!!!

Blog: Danna Travels

Instagram: @garbanzobae


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