How To Spend A Long Weekend in Mexico City
My brother and I have a 4-year age gap, which works out favorably in terms of graduations. When he graduated high school, and I completed college, we took a "siblings trip" together to San Francisco & Yosemite Park. It was an incredible experience and really taught us how to adjust our dynamic into a friendly one vs. older sister + younger brother. AKA I didn’t lecture him the whole time :D
When Eric graduated college, I decided the only proper gift was one of travel, mainly because I love exploring new places and I value experiences over things (except when it comes to shoes...) #millennial. Anyways, we wanted to go somewhere for a long weekend, on a flight <5 hours, and of course, with amazing food. Pretty quickly, I landed on Mexico City. Flights were dirt cheap and it seemed like the absolute place to be of 2018. We went Labor Day weekend and surprisingly, the weather was very chilly. Mexico City is surrounded by mountains so be sure to prepare for breezy nights and lots of layers. If you're affected by altitude, make sure to bring remedies like Sea Bands or ginger candies.
First things first, there are a lot of South American Airlines I was unfamiliar with that fly constantly in and out of Mexico City. I was a little worried the flights would be awful because of their super cheap cost, but they were surprisingly comfortable. We flew Interjet on the way there, and Volaris on the way back. No delays, spacious seats, and they even fed us. What a pleasant surprise.
We flew out on a Thursday morning (7AM) and arrived in the early afternoon. There's a one hour time difference back. I had made us a reservation to Contramar for that afternoon, but once we checked into our hotel, we noticed SO MANY LADIES down the block selling homemade food that looked drool-worthy. While we were dying to try the fresh seafood at Contramar, there is just something about lots of locals huddled around a Mexican woman frying up all sorts of delicacies, pouring on hot sauce from paint buckets, and the aroma of fresh corn wafting through the air. We canceled the reservation and hit the streets.
Good piece of advice, if you see lots of locals crowded around a stand, it's probably amazing (and safe to eat because there is a lot of turnover). That afternoon, we were clueless and we didn't use any online recommendations. We just trusted our gut, which in today's day and age of Yelp and Foursquare and TripAdvisor, I find rarely happens. We had a collection of different regional specialties, from tacos guisados (stewed meat) to blue corn tlacoyos, Oaxacan-style tortillas, and so on. Each one was cheap (~50 cents) and each had unique fillings and offerings. It was a good thing I had my high school Spanish in my back pocket, because literally no one spoke English, at least in terms of street food vendors.
Afterwards, despite feeling insanely full, we wandered to Lardo nearby for a coffee. There was a snail-looking pastry that I could not resist. Turns out it was stuffed with onions and cheese and greens? I have no idea but it was INSANE. Like WOAH. Lardo is a sister-restaurant of the famous Panaderia Rosetta in the Condesa neighborhood (which btw, is where I recommend you stay). We came here 3 more times on our 4-day trip. That's how good the coffee and pastries were.
After this insane food crawl, you'd think we were done. But no, we napped, re-grouped, and prepared to go to Pujol, a reservation we made before we even booked flights. We did the full on tasting menu, but I’ve heard the taco omakase at the bar is the way to go. I may pen a full review at a later date of this experience, but in short, I will say that certain dishes blew me away (mole, smoked chicatana ant mayo) and other dishes fell flat. The tacos themselves were outstanding and clearly made with the finest corn known to man. The ambiance was weirdly Japanese. The service was stellar, and the Tamarindo cocktail was addicting. I find that personally, street food and local hole-in-the-walls get me more excited than the best restaurants in the world, but maybe that's just me. It's certainly worth a go if you're in town and looking for a celebratory dinner out. Also, you can dress up or down, depending on your style. Some women wore heels and dresses, others were super casual.
Are you still with me? That was only half a day people. Buckle up. Friday morning we woke up (extremely full) and got ready to go on a walking street food tour that Eric had planned. It's called Club Tengo Hambre and they do a 4-hour tour that takes you all over the city to try tons of different food, and learn about food history, culture, etc. Our guide was super friendly, spoke excellent English, and without a doubt took us to so many spots. Some were more popular/must-go-to's like Los Cocuyos (where Eric tried a cow eye taco…. do not reco) while others were random but mind-glowingly good, like Ricos Tlacoyos y Quesadillas Lights. That was my favorite stop. I highly recommend this tour, even though it is pricier than others.
Once the tour ended, we took a LONG walk back to our neighborhood because we could not breathe #toofull. I always felt completely safe walking in Mexico City, and loved all of the trees everywhere. It is such a green and lush city! As always, when traveling, I did not wear any valuables or make it obvious that I was a tourist.
Later that night, we did something that sounds touristy but is actually filled with locals: Lucha Libre. We went with a few new friends we met on the food tour (this is why I love traveling) and had such a blast. I can't really describe the show to you, except just go. It's a wonderful way to spend a Friday night and get a taste of Mexican culture. The show is loud, colorful, and hilarious. Go for an hour, watch the wrestlers in costumes, laugh, eat some tasty snacks (don't get the tacos they sell inside, not good), drink some micheladas, and then head out on the town. I recommend NOT buying tickets in advance because it’s kind of messy to get in. Just buy your tickets on the night of. Not far from the show is an incredible mezcal bar called La Lavanderia with a great vibe, strong cocktails and FANTASTIC guacamole that they serve with huge shards of chicharron dunked right in. P.S we skipped lunch + dinner after our taco tour because yes, we were that full.
Ok ok, something other than food is coming. I promise. But first, more food. We had breakfast at Restaurante Nicos, which was really raved about in reviews. I found the breakfast spot on, and it was on the way to our next stop, but I would suggest this spot for lunch instead. We didn't feel the festive vibe often written about, although it was very nice and mostly locals.
After Nicos, we took an Uber to the Frida Kahlo museum. Two things: 1) plan to take Ubers everywhere. They are dirt cheap ($4 for a 30 minute ride) and safe. 2) Get tickets to Frida in advance, or be prepared to wait hours. You can buy tickets here. I had trouble with one of my credit cards, so if you’re not getting through, try a different card.
The museum was seriously one of my favorites. Do get the audio tour and walk through every room of the house. I adored learning about Frida's riveting and at times terribly sad life. The house is bright, colorful, and oozing with details. Make sure to spend some time in the gardens, and if it's still open, check out the fashion exhibit on the other side of the museum. It's easy to miss, but don't.
After Frida, it was time to hit up some markets. Mexico is known for amazing street markets, so I was excited to see them. First we walked to the Coyoacan market, which has everything from flowers to food to taco warmers (buy one, I love mine). I personally found that at these markets it's more fun to try lots of food than buy stuff, because most of the stuff was souvenirs/tchotchkes. Really fun to look at, but not too much made me want to buy.
However, once you're good and ready to buy things, head to the El Bazar Sabado, which is an absolute gem. It is only open on Saturdays, so I urge you plan and make time to visit. For starters, it's on the outskirts of the city, so you'll get a taste of a whole different area. There are fantastic hipster stores all along your walk down to the actual market, which may be kind of hard to find. We had some trouble, but just ask someone in a shop where the actual market is (it's indoors, in a building nearby). This market OH MY GOD. Truly gorgeous artisan goods that are unique, beautiful, and clearly made with love. I bought everything from hand-spun pottery to tea to jewelry to mezcal to a hand-carved egg shell with the story of Pegasus drawn on it. Seriously, there is so much good stuff. You can easily spend 3-4 hours in this area.
After the market, we grabbed an early dinner at Cedron (delicious food but sort of odd service) and then called it a night, as we had an early morning on Sunday.
Sunday we had a 5AM wake up call to get ready for Teotihuacan, which is another must for those of you who love history. Teotihuacan is an ancient ruined civilization with two splendid temples and you get to learn about the people who lived there and what made them eventually leave. It's an hour drive outside of the city, and if you'd like you can take public buses. However, I recommend the guided tour. It's only $45 per person and just much easier to have everything organized. We arrived around 8AM and spent until noon exploring, walking around, climbing lots of steps and learning. Then we had lunch and headed back to the city.
When we arrived back, we were seriously pooped! We took a long nap, and then had our final dinner at a local restaurant that specialized in stews. Yum! Keep in mind, on Sundays so many restaurants close between 4-6, so if you're planning for a later dinner, it'll be tricky to find something authentic that's open.
And, that's it! Monday morning we flew out early, and I felt that 4 days was the perfect amount of time. You can surely spend an entire month here, meandering the tree-lined streets, eating taco after taco, drinking perfect cocktails, and being inspired by all of the rich history and culture. But alas, New York and Eric's entering of the "real world" was calling...
If you end up checking out any of these spots, please do let me know! I'd love to hear from you.