Table of Contents
- 1 My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Understand
- 2 My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Get Around
- 3 My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Safety
- 4 My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Connectivity
- 5 My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Pollution
- 6 My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Sights
- 7 My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Eat & Drink
- 8 My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Co-Working
- 9 My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Where to Stay
- 10 My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Day trip to Teotihuacán – Pyramid of the Sun & Pyramid of the Moon
My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Understand
Mexico City is America’s largest metropolis, with almost 26 million people calling it home, and while Spanish is its official language, English is somewhat spoken. The city is huge in square miles but ultimately only a few neighborhoods are of interest (or safe enough) for your visit or long-term stay.
Mexico City is cheaper than US cities but it really depends on your expenditure. Apartments are much cheaper and hotels to a lesser extent (on a budget of $125 per night). Expect to often pay about 50-60% of what you’d pay at home for similar quality.
As with many other South American countries, Mexicans are generally polite but reserved. It is a backward country that resembles America maybe 70 years ago. In general, I found that the speed of social and technological innovation is often much behind the US and Europe.
Outside of the neighborhoods, Mexico City is a ‘third world’ city that is stricken by extreme poverty and crime. It is not as dangerous as the towns that border with the US but it is still not a great idea to visit (unless you come prepared and with local guides).
As with other cities like Addis Ababa, Bogota or Nairobi on a high elevation near the equator, the weather is typically constant with cold night-time temperatures and pleasant sunny afternoons. Mexico City sees quite a number of thunderstorms and can see heavy showers. Both day and night-time temperatures drop by about 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit in winter compared with summer.
My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Get Around
Uber is in the city and was my primary way of transport there. Rides are mostly between $3-$5 in town and drivers are friendly.
The metro is decent too (it also serves the airport) but can get excruciatingly crowded. The same is true for the Metrobús system, which runs through some of the main avenues in town.
My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Safety
Is Mexico City safe? The short answer is that it depends… All these pictures are of Mexico City.
The following neighborhoods are safe by day and mostly so at night:
Outside of those (and this includes Centro Historico with its many hotels), you need to evaluate safety case-by-case both day and night. By default, assume it to be dangerous and that includes ‘soft’ violence such as property theft or muggings.
I would not worry about ‘hard violence’ like murder, assault or kidnappings anywhere in Mexico City too much.
My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Connectivity
Internet connectivity has come a long way in Mexico and it is pretty easy to get an 8 Mbit connection in many places in the city. Many US cell phone plans treat Mexico the same as the US, with the same data allowance and voice charges.
Most restaurants, coffee shops, and eateries have free WiFi and hotels have decent connections too.
My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Pollution
Pollution in Mexico City is with finer particles and higher up in the air than in other cities.
The smog is rather constant and forms a visible haze. There is a side effect of coughing but many Chinese cities and Indian cities have worse. It does not help that the city is in a big valley and there is barely any wind.
Many cars are new but there are plenty of old buses and trucks that pollute the immediate road environment.
My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Sights
Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park)
This is Mexico City’s biggest park and it is indeed quite massive. I tried twice, but could not walk the entire length of it. It comes complete with kids attractions and ice cream vendors abound. If you are a fan of workouts, then this is where your morning run should take place.
Note that the whole park is closed to pedestrians every Monday.
Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology)
This vast museum houses an enormous collection of artifacts from the Mayan and Aztec cultures. The exhibits are very well-organized and the displays are top-notch. Plan at least two hours for this excellent, cheap attraction (~$4 per adult).
To my surprise, it was quite empty on a Saturday afternoon.
Centro Historico (Historical Center)
Centro Historico is where Mexico City started out as a city. Somewhat surprisingly, the area is full of car repair and lighting shops.
Museo de Arte Popular (Popular Art Museum)
This interesting little museum is well-worth thirty minutes of your time. Nevertheless, the art there is less modern and more Mexican than I expected.
Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts)
One of the main sights in Mexico City – take a picture or two and move on.
Torre Latinoamericana (Latin American Tower)
Right across from Palacio de Bellas Artes, there is a touristy visitor platform within the Torre Latinoamericana skyscraper. I did not venture up there myself, though.
La Quinta Casa de Correos (The Fifth Post Office)
The main post office is a photographer’s dream come true; the shiny bronze and gold are perfectly restored. Don’t miss it.
Museo Memoria y Tolerancia (Memory and Tolerance Museum)
I admit that to me, this always seems like it will be a sad hour spent in this museum. So far I haven’t ventured inside, but I took some pictures around the outdoor pyramid sculptures.
These parks are in the center of Condesa and are the places to be on a Sunday afternoon.
Museo Frida Kahlo (Frida Khalo Museum)
About 30 minutes from downtown Mexico City is Coyoacan and the Frida Kahlo Museum, which is probably the most well-known tourist attraction in Mexico City. All my visits to this city and I have yet to make it inside. The entrance fee is MXN 200 and you need to book ahead (online) or wait two or more hours usually.
Museo Casa de León Trotsky (Museum House of León Trotsky)
The late León Trotsky lived just a few blocks from the Frida Kahlo Museum. Trotsky once ruled Russia with Lenin (and then Stalin) but was later alienated and murdered by the Russian regime in his house in Mexico City.
My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Eat & Drink
There is a huge array of options to choose from in Mexico City. You will quickly realize that ‘Mexican food’ we know from the US is defined very differently here. Tacos play a bigger role than burritos and the meat quality in most places will give you an instant heart attack.
Healthy and high-quality food aren’t easy to find (despite the many food options in town).
El Parnita (The Friend)
El Parnita rules supreme as the high-end taco shop in town. It is only open for lunch, which is 1.30PM – 6PM daily. Unless you can get there right at 1.30PM, make an advance reservation or be prepared for a long wait.
Taqueria El Albanico (The Taco Stand Fan)
Taqueria El Albanico is everything that El Parnita is not. It isn’t polished or sophisticated but the huge taqueria churns out thousands of tacos with unlimited sides every day. It is crazy cheap and you can get more food than anyone can eat for just MXN 40 ($2.50).
Gin Gin is a hip cocktail bar right in Polanco. Most cocktails are (you guessed it) gin-based. The biggest downside is that smoking is allowed inside.
Pan Comido (Easy Peasy)
Pan Comido serves surprisingly delicious vegetarian cuisine. I had the burger twice (no meat in there) and loved it both times.
Qūentin Café serves fantastic coffee in a small shop. The staff are superbly friendly and the Internet is fast. Loved this place.
This is a huge space and looks more like a restaurant but it’s a coffee shop. I found the coffee to be just OK but it is a great place to do some quiet work for a few hours.
Blend Station is a co-working space that also wanted to serve superb coffee and lovely, healthy dishes (like their avocado toasts). And guess what? They pulled it off. There is even a live tree inside the work area.
The owner is likely the most knowledgeable coffee person I have ever met; he knows them all! And it shows – the coffee is top-notch. However, the location suffers from too much pollution from the cars outside waiting in traffic and the WiFi just crawls.
Mercado Roma (Rome Market)
If you have been to Seville, then you will know how this works; it’s a number of different food stalls in one big hall. I found the food to be just OK and rather pricey.
Cancino Cibeles serves Mexico City’s best pizza. The outdoor tables have a great view over the Fuente de Cibeles. $10 buys you a huge pizza big enough for two and there is a single size as well.
Tierra Garat (Garat Land) (multiple locations)
Tierra Garat is an odd beast, serving coffee and green tea specialties. I found the drinks and desserts just OK but most shops have a good vibe and fast WiFi.
Mexicans are in love with all things Asian – especially Japanese food. I tried Nagaoka which was solid but nothing to rave about and it wasn’t exactly cheap either.
This little taqueria does not get as much praise as it deserves. Yes, the staff can be too formal and the location is a bit off but man, the huge bowl of fresh guacamole and the artsy tacos baked in melted cheese are yummy!
Belmondo has a reputation for being the best sandwich place in Mexico City; I’m not so sure. My melted cheese was a soggy affair and had too many flavors all mixed up.
El Trappist is a tiny but well-run watering hole with a wide selection of local and foreign craft beers. Don’t miss!
El Depósito (The Warehouse)
El Depósito has a ton of craft beer in bottles and, to a lesser extent, on tap. There are so many local IPAs to try, it’s crazy.
Panaderia Rosetta (Rosetta Bakery)
This hole-in-the-wall bakery serves tons of delicious bakery items and even finds space to have people sit at the bar and drink delicious coffee. This became my favorite morning treat station.
Ojo de Agua (Waterhole) (multiple locations)
Ojo de Agua has a number of locations all over town. There are plenty of vegetarian options and the portion sizes are huge. Both the sandwiches and juices are solid, though a bit bland.
Centro Café (Central Cafe)
This cafe is not centrally located at all, but actually south of the action. It’s still a great place to be, with friendly staff, delicious and cheap coffee and a lovely, quiet, outdoor patio.
Cucurucho (Cornet) (multiple locations)
Cucurucho is the market leader in third gen coffee and brews mostly Mexican espresso. The only downside? There is usually no or just minimal seating – so leave that laptop at home.
Restaurante Don Toribio (Don Toribio Restaurant)
This white tablecloth restaurant sits on the second floor of a pretty, old house in Centro Historico. You can enjoy huge portions of traditional Mexican food in a great setting, and it’s good value too.
You don’t have to guess what this place serves. For MXN 20 you get so many churros you won’t even think about dessert for a few days.
Frutos Prohibidos (Forbidden Fruit) (multiple locations)
Similar to Ojo de Agua, this mini-chain serves lovely sandwiches and fresh juices. I fell in love with the ‘Dante’ sandwich and the ginger-based drink. I could enjoy those every day!
Don Juan serves tacos by the hundreds every lunchtime. It is basic and rustic but cheap and yummy!
This tiny spot serves good coffee but is so overrun and loud that it becomes a pain after a few minutes. Go for a quick shot of good caffeine but lower your expectations.
Tostadas Coyoacan (Coyoacan Toasts)
This tostadas place enjoys a magical reputation in Coyoacan. I found it a big let-down (from my high expectations) because of the cramped space and just OK tostadas.
My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Co-Working
Co-working is a big trend in the city and US-based WeWork has multiple (big) locations in town.
WeWork sells their monthly packages for around $250 or about half what you pay in the US.
There are a number of local co-working spaces as well.
My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Where to Stay
I loved my room at the Marriott Reforma, which was the perfect temperature, had the perfect bed and it drowned out noisy Mexico City noise superbly.
Since being rebranded from a Radisson, The Courtyard hasn’t changed an awful lot in terms of appearance, but the check-in procedure and Internet were both a clear improvement to my last stay.
There are plenty of $80-$100 hotels on Expedia. I tried a few – most are OK, not too terrible, but often suffer from old hardware and lots of noise due to cheap noise insulation.
My Favorite 37 Things to do Mexico City – Day trip to Teotihuacán – Pyramid of the Sun & Pyramid of the Moon
Teotihuacán was an ancient Mesoamerican city. At its zenith, probably in the first half of the first millennium AD, it was the largest city in the Americas in the pre-Columbian era. It is located just 30 miles outside of Mexico City and features some of the largest pyramids in the world.
I used an Uber for the trip from Polanco and paid $40 for the return journey, which included about 90 minutes of wait time at the pyramids; I found this to be a great offer. If you take the bus, however, you will pay a much better price.
The structures are impressive, but so are the crowds there. This is a heavily visited site and, unlike most of Mexico City, is discovered by large amounts of bus tourists.
The entrance fee is just about $4. Unfortunately, though, there is an abundance of annoying craft salesmen around who make it tough for visitors to just mingle and admire these impressive buildings.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
This post has been tagged with: city guide | city reviews | city travel | things to do