White sand beaches, saccharine-sweet margaritas, and fish tacos all day—that's what I've come to expect from a typical Mexi-cation, whether it's to Cabo, Cancun, or Playa Del Carmen. Mexico City has been on that list of "somedays" for a long time—close enough to board a flight there anytime, far enough that we hadn't. But when your best friend moves to DF (Distrito Federal), you rally the girls and go.
Mexico City was vibrant. Colorful. Gritty. The dining scene was outrageously good, the bars were buzzy and electric, and the city was delightfully photogenic. Below, I'm sharing some favorite snaps and recommendations from our long weekend in DF.
WHERE TO STAY IN MEXICO CITY
We stayed at a well-designed, reasonably priced, and conveniently located Airbnb in the trendy neighborhood of Condesa, which was full of adorable tree-lined streets and easily walkable restaurants and bars. Bobby also recommended Roma as another safe area, where a lot of young people and expats hang out. While the original Airbnb we stayed at is no longer listed, the host still has a few other cute listings here.
WHAT TO DO IN MEXICO CITY
We booked the trip quite last-minute, so it was the rare occasion that none of us had spent hours poring over different blogs and travel resources about the best places to go. With a gaggle of seven, it worked out better that way—we ended up picking two or three restaurants or sights to visit each day, taking locals' recommendations at every bar/chance we could, and then exploring neighborhoods by foot.
Uber is the best, easiest, and safest way to get around and it’s very affordable. The metro is 5 pesos flat anywhere, but it's generally crowded, and coverage isn’t terrific outside the city center.
- The colorful Mercado de San Juan sold fresh produce, meats, seafood, flowers, spices, chilis... and scorpion, rabbit, slugs. If you're an adventurous eater, you'll find plenty to dazzle your taste buds here. If you're not, it's still a fun stop.While the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Casa Azul (the Blue House) for its cobalt-blue walls, was closed for a holiday the day we visited, I've read and heard it's absolutely worth a visit.
- Luckily, the Mercado de Coyoacan is only a block away so our trip over wasn't in vain. You'll find handmade goods. We also stopped for street corn, generously slathered in creamy chili and lime sauce, plus crispy churros with chocolate dipping sauce.
- You could tell right away from stepping into the Zocalo—or the main square of Mexico City, formally called the Plaza de la Constitucion—that it's one of those meaningful places that fuses everyday living and significant events. There were little kids flying around with kites on one end and protests happening on the other. Prior to the colonial period, it was the main ceremonial center in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan.
- I got caught up in a storm while there and stepped into beautiful Gran Hotel Ciudad to escape the rain. It feels like a scene out of a European movie with a stained glass ceiling, wrought-iron elevators, and gilded bird cages. Visit the 4th floor cafe for for a drink with a perfect view to people-watch above the Zocalo.
- Books hang from towering ceiling structures at Mexico City's massive library, the Biblioteca Vasconcelos, which holds around 500,000 books.
- The expansive, 1695-acre Bosque de Chapultapec, or Chapultapec Park has a forest, lake, ecological site, three different museums, a zoo, and gorgeous green spaces. Bigger than Central Park, it's often visited by as many as 250,000 people a day.
- The Palacio de Bellas Artes is a stunning building and cultural center—grab a coffee and catch the best view from Cafe Don Porfirio across the street.
WHERE TO EAT IN MEXICO CITY
Mexico City's food game is STRONG. We had meal after meal of inventive, globally influenced Mexican dishes, at not-crazy prices. I'd recommend making reservations for most restaurants, especially the more upscale ones, since they are getting popular. That said, nabbing a reservation at some of the best restaurants in the city was relatively easy compared to trying to get a 7-person table in San Francisco or new York. Keep in mind that restaurants aren’t open Sundays and some are closed on Mondays. To look up restaurants, check use the ZAGAT, "Queremos Comer", and Chilango online guides. Expect to take your time—everything moves slower in DF!
- Maque : Hits the spot for brunch, with delicious pastries and green juices
- Contramar : Our favorite meal in DF for the brilliant seafood—I'll remember the snapper and those raw tuna tostadas forever
- Merotoro : We stumbled into this sophisticated Baja surf-and-turf style restaurant—loved the ceviche, sea bass, risotto with sea urchin, grilled octopus, and of course bread baskets :)
- Azul Condesa : Unpretentious spot with accessible prices that we enjoyed brunch at; I love the indoor/outdoor decor here—with trees in the interior, and a lush plant wall in the patio area
- La Capital : This cantina has an open kitchen and outdoor dining area (plus televisions, from which we gleefully watched the Pacquiao fight); the tuna tartar and tortilla soup were fantastic
- Pujol : We didn't make it to Pujol, but it's been called the best restaurant in Mexico City—it's a can't-miss for next time!
WHERE TO DRINK IN MEXICO CITY
- Gin Gin : This felt like the Friday night spot with young, well-dressed clientele starting their nights here
- Hotel Condesa : Great little rooftop bar within a chic hotel, perfect for pre-dinner cocktails
- Balmori : Rooftop bar with a cool atmosphere that draws an international crowd
- Romelia : Cozy little tapas and wine bar (where we stopped to wait for the club to open—ha)
- Diente De Oro : We chanced across this intimate space, with a solid selection of whiskey and tequilas
P.S. The pintxos you must eat in San Sebastian, the dining capital of the world.