Mexico City was not a place that was front of mind when considering where to travel for vacation.
Typically when I consider international travel destinations, I think about how I can escape the North American continent; this is likely why I haven’t traveled to many locations in Canada either. Seeking a quick escape from the New York tundra, I found tickets to Mexico City with United for a reasonable price. I won’t delve into my questionable flight experience here in both directions (that’s for another post). Mexico city, however, is a marvel — a rich, beautiful, densely cultural metropolis that I think often gets overlooked for more “exotic” locales around the world likely because of its proximity to home and the erroneous, hyperbolic depiction of a crime-ridden city in our media. It is lush with greenery in the lesser dense neighborhoods, has an amazing food and bar scene, the weather is comfortable even in the dead of winter, and the number of interesting museums and cultural organizations is staggering. With that in mind, here are six things I took away from my recent trip:
THE CITY IS CULTURALLY DENSE
The city is so rich in history and culture that it’s hard to plan out a comprehensive itinerary without leaving out some interesting locations. The concentration of cultural institutions means picking and choosing what is most worth the time you have (still disappointed I wasn’t able to squeeze the Museum of Torture into my time there).
Chapultepec Castle (I recommend doing this first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive)
Diego Rivera Museum (Free admission with Frida Kahlo Museum ticket)
Frida Kahlo Museum (Purchase your ticket online and print it out before your trip)
Museo Soumaya (Free admission)
Palacio de Bellas Artes
THE FOOD SCENE IS STELLAR
Nothing can derail an otherwise great trip for me more than terrible food, or food that makes me ill; Mexico City had neither problem. From the amazing ambiance and food provided at Anatol which satisfied the epicure in me, to the quaint and easily underestimated El Progreso tacqueria, there was no shortage of good food consumed. Los Amantes was the only restaurant that missed the mark for me personally in both aesthetic and food choic, but I certainly appreciated the Brooklyn-like grunge it provided.
Los Amantes Café & Bistro
Anatol (In the Las Alcobas hotel)
Café de Tacuba
Centenario 107 (A wonderful brunch spot. Go after visiting the Frida Kahlo museum)
El Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal (MUTEM)
El Progreso (A definite favorite for the fresh ingredients and the authenticity of the food. I highly recommend it)
La Rosa Negra
Second (No website, but it is in La Condesa, and around the corner from Parque México)
THE WEATHER IS GREAT
The average temperature for January in Mexico City is around 72 degrees. Making the escape during a cold snap in New York was exactly the prescription necessary for the winter blues. Being able to walk around the city without a jacket during the day was welcomed. The evenings were chilly, but nothing compared to low double-digit weather further complicated by wind-chill happening back home.
IT’S EASY TO GET AROUND
Public transportation and taxis were in abundance in Mexico City; needless to say it wasn’t difficult to get around. However, taking Ubers ended up being the most cost effective and efficient way to move around. With more time, I would have eventually learned the public transport system, but this trip demanded timeliness. I look forward to going back and taking my time to ride around on the buses and trains that are plentiful in the city.
Each neighborhood visited had a different feel to it; Polanco seemed like Beverly Hills with many luxury stores and upscale restaurants, Coyoacán was a sleepy residential enclave save for the Frida Kahlo museum, La Condesa was very much like parts of Brooklyn with its parks and many a bar. It made traversing the city that much more interesting because you never felt like you were in the same place.
It was cheap to do most things in Mexico City. The peso had a conversion of 1 USD = 18.50 MXN. At times, I thought that I was spending a lot of money, but everything turned out to be much cheaper than I anticipated. This is not a city that will blow up your bank account unless you want to (and you can, especially in Polanco). If you’re smart about how you spend your money, you will probably return home with a good amount left over.
Overall, I would recommend anyone who is looking for a quick vacation to consider Mexico City. There is a lot to see and do.
-They really like American Football in Mexico City. There were Jerseys of various teams all over the place, but particularly the Steelers. At Loma Linda, they were broadcasting the Steelers-Jaguars playoff disaster (Yes, I am a Steelers fan).
-Cabs will definitely try to upcharge you, and in my experience, are not too familiar with neighborhoods that aren’t their own, so taking an uber is definitely the way to go if you have limited time.
-My travel companion still had regular service with Verizon, which came in handy on numerous occasions.
-Mexico is still North America, so you don’t need an outlet converter with you when you go.
– The flight time is about the same as going to Nevada; not bad at all.