A Mexican Travel Guide - The Unexpected Delights of Mexico City
January 1, 1970
by Bec Kearney
I will be honest, Mexico City was never at the top of my bucket list. We have done Cabo, been to Cancun, but never ventured into the real Mexico with the assumption that it was a dirty, dangerous dump. How wrong I was! Mexico City quickly became one of my favourite places in the world.
Where to Stay in Mexico City:
Picking a place to stay can make or break any trip. Mexico City has an abundance of hotels scattered around the city with unique areas filled with character and charm and beautiful in their own quirky ways. Public transport is available, but taxi and rideshare companies are a cheap effective way to move about the city.
We stayed at the Grand Fiesta Americana Chapultepec, with views overlooking the city, mountains and the lush greenery of the Chapultepec Park. Staying here felt refreshing having a pocket of green and somewhere to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Only a short walk up the road is an area called Polanco, for a great range of restaurants, ranging from cheap pub eats to upscale modern bistros.
This is the main hub of Mexico City, this area is full of wonderful old historic buildings from the 16th century, and is a melting pot of restaurants, bars, street foods, markets, shops and anything your heart desires! This is where I found my love for cheap and delicious street tacos, Mexican bakeries, and just walking around seeing all the quinceañera dresses. It is the perfect place for those that enjoy to people watch.
This was by far my favourite district in Mexico City. Roma is a colourful blur of breathtaking architecture, streets lined with tree canopies and the ‘it’ place for hipster bars, restaurants, and shops on every corner. This neighbourhood takes you away from the craziness of Centro Historico and gives you the opportunity to spend countless hours just wandering the streets and escaping the traditional tourist traps.
Top places to Eat & Drink in Mexico City:
I was so pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of food in Mexico City. It is of the greatest places to enjoy cheap street eats or to enjoy a superb level of crafted delicacies. Of course, the everlasting search for the world’s best street taco is something I take very seriously. Never fear! Put down your compass, the search is over, it safe to say I’ve found the worlds best street tacos. Below are my top spots for meals you will never forget on your travels.
Taquería Los Cocuyos (a.ka the best street taco in the world) – Historico Centro
Located in the heart of the Historico Centro with a Spanish menu we did not understand, we ordered at random and were not disappointed. I can guarantee there will be a line out the front of the small shop. The meat on offer may look uninviting but be brave and follow your nose, as you will be rewarded with goodness that you will not forget once that taco touches your mouth.
Cost: 70c per taco
Rubaiyat México – Planco
This isn’t just a place to eat, it’s an experience. Boasting a warm atmosphere you’re surrounded by chic décor, and unaware of the mayhem going on outside, we relaxed into our meal with a glass or red. If you like me, can’t get enough ‘Carne’ this restaurant is for you. The meat dishes are divine, melt in your mouth and an absolute treat to your senses. We enjoyed a few different cuts of meat accompanied by out of this world side dishes (you can’t go past the creamed spinach). Portions were large and accompanied by a generous selection of warm, freshly cooked bread.
Cost: 2 glasses of wine, 2 cocktails, mains, sides, and dessert AUD$70
Dulcinea – Roma
Nestled right into the heart of the Roma district is the charmingly chic Dulcinea. This restaurant was a highlight of my trip, with their refreshing cocktails and their delectable menu. We treated our tastebuds to a whole baked artichoke with feta, (why haven’t I had this before?) followed up by fish tacos and fall-off-the-bone lamb. The decor is just as amazing as the food. You’ll understand once you walk through the unassuming door, it opens into a beautiful courtyard, with a glass ceiling and a giant tree at the centre point. This funky little hotspot should not be overlooked on your trip.
Cost: 2 cocktails, appetizer and mains $50
What to do in Mexico City:
Beware, don’t underestimate what this extortionary city has to offer. During our 3 night stay, we barely scratched the surface of Mexico City’s secret gems. Here is a small taste of some of the highlights that we came across.
Chapultepec Castle -Bosque de Chapultepec
Located on the highest hill in Mexico City you will find Chapultepec Castle, in all of its glory. There is a small entrance fee and local tour guides will be waiting just near the gate, I would highly recommend a guide as there no English signage. It was originally constructed in 1725 and was meant to house the Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez. However, during the Mexican War of Independence, the castle was abandoned for several decades until it was eventually refurbished. Apart from its wealth of history and stunning architecture, the location also offers some of the best views in Mexico City.
Museo del Tequila and Mezcal – Historico Centro
Walking the streets of Historico Centro, the Museum of Tequila and Mezcal is a must. For a small entry fee, you can learn about the origins and the production process of Mexico’s two most popular distilled agave drinks. At the end of the tour, you will be treated to a shot of each on the rooftop bar. We happened to go at sunset and were treated to a spectacular glowing sunset over the city. Listening to the live mariachi band we enjoyed corn chips and guacamole topped with grasshoppers.
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Teotihuacan Pyramids – Guided tour
The first stop on our full day adventure was the Shrine of Guadalupe, the most visited Catholic Church in the world. Walking around the grounds you will see previous cathedrals that are now slanted and enormous cracks in the ground due to previous earthquakes in the area. Our next stop was the ancient temples of Teotihuacán, a mysterious city, an absolute marvel made up of hundreds of temples, and pathways. The two main attractions the Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) and Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon) can still be climbed if your fit enough to make it to the top. Walking the pathways learning the history, imagining what life would have been like, with the bold colours, bustling marketplaces, and unbelievable architecture is something that has to be experienced for oneself.
Lucha Libre – Historico Centro
Last but most definitely not least is the famed Lucha Libre! This is one of the greatest and most dramatic sporting events in Mexico, I doubt you will experience anything as great as a fight night at Arena Mexico. The tickets are super cheap and available at the door, along with a large array of wrestling masks, capes, snacks and more. Once the show starts you cannot keep your eyes off the stages, with grand entrances and death-defying moves, the wrestlers of Lucha Libre sure do know how to put on a show.