Want Claire’s entire guide to Mexico City? Check out her PDF!

Overall Mexico Notes:

– If you want to go on a European vacation, but don’t want to deal with the jet lag of a 10 hour flight or pay $8 for coffee and $30 for each museum trip, then Mexico city is for you.  I had no expectations going into Mexico city.  I’d heard of the colonial architecture, something about it sinking into the earth, and I imagined that there would be amazing food.  But the expansive parks, tree lined streets, art deco homes, and quiet yet buzzing atmosphere, and the fact that they don’t serve tortilla chips, but baskets of bread, with salsa was a wonderful surprise.

D.F. is a wonderful testament to the to a country as culturally rich and varied as Mexico.  I didn’t have a mediocre meal and most of them hovered around the $5-10 range; the cabs are even cheaper; and the people are so friendly and eager to help an overwhelmed tourist. I don’t see how it’s possible to have a bad time here and I can’t remember the last time I was so enamored with a place.  I never did the whole backpacking/hostel/college-eat-pray-love thing, but I imagine the emotions might have been similar.  In short, I had an absolute ball.  I hope you can make it here too and enjoy some of the sights, culture, and, of course, amazing food I did.

– Go in August: It rains for an hour every day at around 5 pm, but other than that you’re looking at clear sunny skies, 72 degree weather, and none of the smog that would otherwise cling to the skyline.  The rain clears out the streets, so there’s a freshness wherever you go. Pack a baby umbrella in a tote bag and you’re ready to go.

– The key is to stay in a quiet yet hip neighborhood so you can walk everywhere like us! Cololnia Condesa, Polanco, and Roma Norte are the trendy, cool neighborhoods to stay in/eat in/shop in.

– Some of the best restaurants close at 6 pm on random days, so call ahead rather than walking there and being disappointed like us. Also, Sundays and Mondays are slow days in general.  Shopping is closed on Sunday, but museums are closed on Mondays. Do a bit of research and you’re all good.

– If you don’t want to bother making reservations (Pujol was the only spot I where needed to call ahead), and also don’t want to wait, just eat dinner around 6:30/7:30. I’m sort of a blue-hair when it comes to my dining hours (I love a 5:30 p.m. dinner!) so I’m always set when I travel. Same goes for bars and clubs.  Get there around 9:30/10:00 p.m. and you’ll probably be able to grab a table.  By 12:30/1:00 a.m. everything gets packed.

– Tipping: Tip about 10-15% overall.  I had to fight my American urge to tip 20%, but my friend Yayo, who is Mexican/has family in D.F. insisted that 10-15% is customary.

– Make the most of the location.  Mexico City is a fantastic pivot point in travel.  When I go back (and I will, shaking my fist to the emphatically), I’ll probably spend 4 days in D.F. and take a cheap flight to Alcapulco or drive to San Miguel de Allende for a night or two. It’s sort of like flying into our capitol, D.C. Once you’re there, New York or Philly is a short train ride and the South is a stone’s throw away. However, I will say that there is plenty to see and do in Mexico City, and if you plan well, you will have something awesome to do every day without it ever feeling like an endless carrousel of museums and monuments. More of a carrousel of tacos, mezcal, and happiness.

Condesa 1

Orignes Organicos

Colima 209, Colonia Condesa Phone: +52 55 5207 7271

After dropping our bags at the hotel, Christie and I set off for our first bite in Mexico.  We wanted something light, and Orignes Organicos was the perfect spot.  The Guayaba yogurt smoothie was delicious, and the spinach crepe was a great simple lunch to ease us into our weeklong feeding frenzy.

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78 Parral, between Michoacán y Cadereyta, Colonia Condesa Phone: +52 55 5553 5968

One of my favorite meals from the entire trip, Xel-Ha serves Poblano and Oaxacan dishes in a space that can’t decide if it’s a date spot (white tablecloths, fountain, fancy wine case) or sports bar (glaring bright lights, TVs playing soccer).  But no matter! The food is awesome.  Order the Cochinita Pibil panuchos, a slow roasted pork dish from the Yucatan, the chile en nogada, a Poblano specialty, and the flan de queso.  I usually hate flan, but this one was like a cheesecake and a flan had a baby. Yum!

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Casa azul

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s home in Coyoacan is a must see. It is, as the name suggests, bright blue, and filled with Frida Kahlo’s paintings and personal belongings. A tip if you want to take photos: you have to purchase a permit for about $5.

Coyoacan 2

Check out my video on Tastemade!

Tostadas coyoacan

Address: Allende 49, Del Carmen, Coyoacán Phone:+52 55 5659 8774

If you’re visiting Coyoacan (and you should!) you have to stop by the Mercado Coyoacan for tostadas.  There are a few Tostada stands, but make sure to go to the “Tostadas Coyoacan” one since they’re the best.  My favorite was the camarones; so fresh and simple.  Just make sure to cover the whole thing in green salsa and order a horchata.  It’s seriously the creamiest, best horchata I’ve ever had.

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Mercado Coyoacan

Just a few blocks from Casa Azul is the vibrant and delicious Mercado Coyoacan.  Do yourself a favor and get some tostadas, horchata, and as much fruit as you can carry.  The mamay was my particular favorite.

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Coyoacan 5

Anahuacalli Museum

Without a doubt, the most surprising and impressive spot we checked out.  Imagine if Mordor and art deco had a baby, that’s basically what this monolith built with volcanic rock looks like.  Filled with Diego Rivera’s Pre-Colombian collection of art and with a the second floor showing off his unfinished murals, the Museum is a lovely mix of Mexico’s distant and not so distant past.

Coyoacan 6

Check out my video on Tastemade!

Mero Toro

Address: 204 Amsterdam, Hipódromo Phone:+52 55 5564 7799

Surf and turf with a Mexican spin, Mero Toro serves sophisticated Mexican fare in a hip but low key atmosphere. The winner was the risotto with fresh uni (sea urchin) and fried chicken skin. Definitely a unique combination, but so so good.

Bellas 1

Cielito Cafe

Av. Paseo de la Reforma 234, Centro Phone: +55 5533 9905

The coffee here is good but the charming mugs, tins, and coffee bags are better.  I love good graphic design and this stylish little coffee shop has it in spades.  This is a great place to stop for a cup of coffee on your way to El Centro.

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Franz Meyer Museum

If colonial art and artifacts is your wish, well, you’re set.  This is my favorite kind of museum: small, focussed, and not too crowded.

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El moro churreria

Address: Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 42, Centro Phone:+52 55 5512 0896

When Christie sidled up to the counter and asked, “So, what’s good here?” the cashier responded, “Churros?” dryly, I new we were in the right place.  The right place for churros, that is. These churros are lean, crispy, and covered in cinnamon sugar.  Served with your choice of hot cocoa (it varies from sweet to very very very sweet), these golden brown beauties are perfect dunking material.  The hot cocoa is really sweet though, so opt for the least sweet option.

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Pasteleria ideal

Address: Av. 16 de Septiembre 18 Col. Centro

I saw locals walking around with these massive white and blue boxes tied up with string.  One after the other, and then another. We finally asked someone where these boxes were coming from and were pointed in the direction of this monster bakery.  The shop is a frenzy, with people grabbing pan dulce by the tray-full and holding them over their heads while other shoppers muscled in.  In the chaos we grabbed randomly, but lucked out with some delicious conchas and little custard pies.  If you’re feeling adventurous, head upstairs to check out the five tier wedding cakes on display.  They’re pretty epic.