A Weekend in Mexico City
Mexico City’s history dates back 9000 years and today represents the 3rd largest city in the world. Boasting with a population of approximately 22 million people in Mexico, the country with the most Spanish speaking people globally, Mexico City is a city with many different faces. Over the past few weeks I had the opportunity to observe and experience one or two of these faces. Mexico City is a city filled with character which makes it a delightful tourist destination.
If you have a weekend to spend in Mexico here is what I recommend to do…
Where to stay:
I stayed in Santa Fe which is a newer suburb of Mexico City and general the quality of the hotels and restaurants live up to standards we find in the US. The real estate in this area is all in US Dollars however, so be advised, if you stay in this area you are not only approximately 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (depending on traffic) from downtown but you will also pay around $180-250/night for accommodation. Some alternatives exist in downtown areas such as “La Condesa” or “Chapultapec “which I would also recommend to consider as options. Reasonable local hotel brands to consider include Fiesta Americana, Camino Real and NH.
1. La Condesa!!
La Condesa, meaning The Countess is a quaint neighborhood in the central borough of Cuahtemoc in Mexico City. It was built on the grounds of the Hacienda of the Countess of Miravalle and today houses one of the largest universities of Mexico City, serves as a residential area and has a superb collection of restaurants and bars to visit. The area is known for its Art Deco architecture and general good atmosphere.
For drinks go to Elodia y sus bondades, located on Mazatlan Street 138, a small pub with a lovely European feel to it. They have an excellent selection of beers and some reasonable wines but the atmosphere is wonderful. The pub’s walls is covered by French posters & other European artifacts but don’t be fooled, if you don’t speak Spanish you’ll have to point on the menu for what you’d like! When you go there, grab a Negra Modelo, or if you’re bold get the 1.5 liter beer boot to share with friends!
Afterward go around the corner you have to try some tacos traditional to Mexico City. I strongly recommend going to El Kaliman taqueria order an array of Chicken & Cheese, beef & cheese and Chorizo & cheese tacos. These are wonderful and was definitely my favorite meal overall in Mexico City.
Chapultepec meaning “Grasshopper Hill” in Nahuatl language, an ancient local dialect, is on the outskirts of the central district of Mexico City. The area has significant historical relevance to Mexico and also represents the hill that the Aztecs lived in the 1200s. Today Chapultepec Park is a major attraction for both visitors and local since it offers affordable entertainment for families. The government offers trolley rides (at a mere $1USD) that takes you around the entire property, approximately 1,600 acres. Inside the park you’ll also find Chapultepec Castle, the original residence of Maximilian I of Mexico and Empress Carlota but today houses the Natural History Museum. If you have time spend a couple of hours exploring the musuem. It will walk you through different eras in the political & revolutionary history of Mexico over the past several centruries, starting with the origins of the city through the Spanish, French, local & US war history. It’s not overbearing however extremely informative and well represented.
Also located in the Park are The Fliers, a group of 4 men that entertain individuals by literally ‘flying’ off a pole (attached by a mere rope on their leg). The purpose of this endeavor is, apart from entertaining the local visitors, is a worship to the sun god and therefore the performance is accompanied by local traditional music. As the men fly down the pole to the bottom they always face the sun. The show is every 15 minutes.
2. Downtown City Center
After spending a morning in Chapultepec Park head to the city center and grab lunch at Casa de los Azulejo, which, directly translated into English means House of Tiles. This historic restaurant was built out of local stone without exception and the cuisine is reflection of traditional cuisine of the city. The place is gorgeous, the restaurant packed for lunch and the food delicious. Make sure to order their specialty: enchiladas when you go.
After lunch take a walk down past the Palacio des Bellas Artes, the opera house in Mexico City that has hosted performances by Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, to name a few. Walk down the main street towards the downtown square and Sagrario Metropolitano, and visit the Grand Cathedral located in the city center. If you visited the National History Museum you would know that this cathedral was built over original Aztec ruins, which one can also view through see through windows in the floor of the square surrounding the cathedral.
The Cathedral inside is also quite special. The organ in the center of the building dates back to 1691. On Sunday mornings a live mass is held for the public during which time the organs are played. If you can time it right, go listen to this…I can only imagine how surreal it would sound.
After you’ve done enough sight seeing grab a drink/appetizers in one of the side streets off the main road between la Palacic Des Bellas Artes and the downtown square. This is another area frequented by locals yet is completely safe with a very European feel.
After spending your Saturday in the city, venture approximately 20 miles outside of the city to the Teothican Pyramids, conisting of La Pyramide Du Sol & La Luna (sun and moon pyramids) dating back to 150 AD and 300 AD respectively. These are the 3rd largest pyramids in the world and we built by hand by the Teothican nation that settled in this area at that time. Once you’ve climbed the sun pyramid stroll down the boulevard of dead skulls to the moon pyramid to observe this one as well. After observing this majestic site venture to the museum which will walk you through the history of the Teothican nation and the area which I would recommend to visit. After spending a few hours in the sun go to La Cabana for lunch for some traditional quesidials.
Alternatively, if you’re not interested in actually walking the pyramids, local Hot Air Balloon rides are available for approximately $60 USD per person.
There are various restaurants around the Pyramids; we went to La Cabana for traditional quesadillas which turned out to be excellent.
1. Be careful with taxi service. Book it from the hotel, or alternative determine the price of a cab ride before you actually take one. They are known to take advantage of visitors.
2. Overall I really felt safe everywhere we go, but it is a large city with many different faces, so be street wise: close your purse, don’t carry a lot of cash and keep your personal belongings with you.