When I decided to take a trip to Mexico City, I wanted to immerse myself into the culture, the arts, the history and most importantly, the food. Living in Southern California has allowed me to sample a wide variety of Mexican dishes, from tacos al pastor to Oaxacan mole.
But damnit, I wanted to go straight to the source. The motherland.
Vacationing in Cancun has never appealed to me, nor has Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta. As a kid, I loved learning about ancient civilizations, and sought out history on the Aztecs and Mesoamericans that resided in and around present-day Mexico City.
I knew I wanted to go during Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), so as soon as I got the go-ahead from work, I started planning. Round trip airline tickets cost less than $300, Airbnb accommodations in the colonia Roma Norte, were around $250 and Uber rides never cost more than $5 a ride. My trip lasted a week, but if you had only three days to experience the best of the city, it would be doable. Below is a sample itinerary on how to spend a day in Mexico City.
Wake up and grab a green juice at Elixir Juice House to balance out the pastries and churros you’ll be eating later on. Juice #3 (Healthy Greens), with apple, celery, cucumber and collard greens was my favorite. Locations in Condesa, Roma Norte and Lomas.
Afterwards, head to Panadería Rosetta, a bakery owned by Mexican chef Elena Reygadas, for a breakfast of croissants (try it with ham and cheese), cardamom buns, vanilla conchas – a traditional Mexican sweet bread and coffee. Locations in Roma Norte and Juarez.
Get an Uber, and head over to Museo Frida Kahlo in Coyoacán. The museum is dedicated to Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, and is housed in her former family home, La Casa Azul. If you’re interested in the life of Frida and Mexican folk art, this museum is a must-see. Buy your tickets ahead of time to avoid the line that wraps around the block. Tickets are around $10 USD, including a fee to photograph inside the museum.
After visiting Frida’s house, walk two blocks and explore the market, Mercado de Coyoacán. Get lost in this maze of vendors who sell everything from meat, fish and produce, to spices, Mexican candy, Day of the Dead porcelain skulls and piñatas. You want souvenirs? This is the place to purchase. Stay and eat at one of the inexpensive fondas (family-run diners) that serve up home-style food with a prix-fix menu. I went to La Cocina De Mi Mamá, where I started off with a glass of the agua del día (water of the day) made with cucumber, pineapple and mint. Next, was a vegetable soup accompanied with fried corn tortillas and various salsas. For my entree, I chose a grilled flat-iron steak which came with a side salad and refried beans.
After exploring and eating at the market, walk a block over to Café El Jarocho for a hot chocolate or a cup of coffee – the best in the city.
Catch another Uber and head uptown to Centro Histórico, Mexico City’s central neighborhood and home to the second-largest public square in the world, the Zócalo. Have your Uber drop you off at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a stunning architectural landmark that hosts art exhibitions and theatrical performances. Take pics in and outside the palace, but skip the museum. Afterwards, walk across the street to Torre Latinoamericana, a skyscraper that allows visitors to go up to the observation deck on the 44th floor for 360 degree views of Mexico City. Tickets are around $5 USD.
Next, head over to the Zócalo, where you’ll find the Catedral Metropolitana, Latin America’s oldest and largest cathedral, which still hosts regular mass. Walk in and prepare to be astonished by the level of architecture, decor and detail. Admission is free. Adjacent to the cathedral are the ruins of Templo Mayor, an Aztec temple once dedicated to the god of war and the god of rain and architecture. If you have the time, the Museo del Templo Mayor houses the archaeological finds from the ruins. Admission is around $3. Don’t forget to take a picture of the Palacio Nacional on your way out, which holds the offices of Mexico’s President and the Federal Treasury.
By now it’s dinner time. If you’re looking for upscale – but still affordable – dining, make reservations days in advance at the Italian-influenced Rosetta in Roma Norte, the sister establishment to Panadería Rosetta. If you’re up for anything, head to Mercado Roma, a gourmet food hall in Roma with tons of choices like tortas and “upscale” tacos, to burgers and pizza. I ate the best pozole, a meat and hominy soup, at the stall, José Guadalupe. Don’t leave without trying churros at Churrería El Moro. For an extra treat, order a(nother) hot chocolate to dip your churros in.
Cap off your night with a mezcal flight or cocktail at La Clandestina in Condesa or El Bósforo in Barrio Chino. If you get hungry, hit up a crowded street stall for a taco or tostada. If you’re worried about cleanliness, squeeze a lime wedge over your food and pay after you’ve finished your meal.
Go to sleep happy and full.