72hrs in Mexico City
When you first set foot on the streets of Mexico City, you’re greeted with a new world of sensory experiences. The man selling gas is competing with the tamales vendor on how loud they can yell to attract customers. The locals are lining up to grab a few tacos al pastor from a street food stall that is surrounded by a vivid aroma of slow-cooked meat. The sounds of cars honking are mixed with a constant hustle and bustle coming from the street. You get a feeling that you’ve arrived at one of the busiest and exciting cities in the world.
The buzzing metropolis of approximately 21 million inhabitants is the new hip travel destination and it’s easy to understand why. Cool new restaurants, shops, and art galleries are springing up like mushrooms. The city is home to over 150 fascinating museums, the locals are probably the nicest people you will ever meet, and you can experience (and eat) something new and fascinating every day of the week.
Mexico City is a cultural melting pot and the perfect place to discover the rich history of Mexico and its capital that was founded as Tenochtitlán in 1325 by the Aztecs. All Mexico City visitors should visit the National Museum of Anthropology to get an understanding of the fascinating history of the country. The visit is best combined with a stroll in the neighbouring Chapultepec park. Templo Mayor was once the centre of the ancient capital city of the Aztecs and is equally an important stop whilst in the city. You can see the ruins of the Great Pyramid just next to the main square of the city, Zócalo. The National Palace where you can see the impressive mural paintings by artist Diego Rivera and the Cathedral of Mexico City area are also around the main square.
In addition to its multifaceted history and flavoursome food, Mexico City is known for its art and architecture. Fans of Frida Kahlo should head to the peaceful and beautiful neighbourhood of Coyoacán where her iconic Casa Azul (blue house) has been converted into the Frida Kahlo Museum. The house was actually built by her father a few years before she was born and is a pivotal spot for those wanting to better understand her work. Contemporary art lovers should, in turn, visit the Kurimanzutto gallery in the artsy San Miguel Chapultepec neighbourhood and Museo Jumex in the fancy Polanco area. You should also dedicate some time to walk around the city’s endless colonias (neighbourhoods) and witness the vast amount of different architectural styles and colours the city has to offer; a hideous modernist construction next to a brightly painted Art Deco building followed by a Spanish Colonial style house or a nineteenth-century French mansion. If you have any extra time on your hands, a day trip to Teotihuacan, an archaeological site that what was once a pre-Columbian city located approximately 40km northeast of Mexico City, is highly recommended to visit. It’s like going back in time when you witness the Pyramid of the Sun.
The city is home not only to some of the best Michelin-starred restaurants in the world such as Pujol, but also countless street food stalls and traditional Mexican restaurants that will leave you salivating and wanting more. Making incredible Mexican food accessible whatever your budget or preference. Let’s start with El Cardenal, a decadent restaurant housed in a mansion and located in the historic centre. It’s a must-visit for families and couples who want to discover what real Mexican flavour and tradition are all about. El Pescadito, a lunch-time guilty pleasure in the Condesa neighbourhood, offers delicious fried fish and shrimp tacos to the hungry passers-by. Don’t be alarmed by the long queue, the service is fast and the food worth the wait.
Contramar is the place to go if you enjoy seafood (try the tuna tostadas!) and a buzzy environment. Remember to make a reservation to avoid waiting in line. For something different, Le Tachinomi Desu, a newcomer that opened its doors in 2017, offers intimate dining experiences for only 10-12 lovers of traditional Japanese cuisine a night. If you are after a guaranteed home run, Maximo Bistrot, a Colonia Roma favourite that prepares French-style dishes with a Latin American twist, never lets you down. It’s the perfect place to end a full day of exploring the city. Adventurous food enthusiasts should also check out The Hidden Kitchen. The company is renowned for organizing some of the most sought after luxury pop-up dinners in unconventional and secret locations. They also have a clandestine restaurant concept, Barra del Chef, where 8 diners get a chance to try an exclusive tasting menu that is served in the middle of a professional kitchen, just next to the chefs in action.
Once you get a taste of Mexico, you’ll always want to go back. So what are you waiting for? Get your bags packed. The best time to visit Mexico City is just around the corner, in March-April.
For more additional recommendations on places to eat, stay, and see, read our Mexico City Guide.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jenni is an avid traveller, hailing from Finland and currently based in Spain. She spent 2.5 years living in Mexico City and now considers it her second home.