Where to go in Mexico City?
April 11, 2010 2:27 PM   Subscribe

What to do and where to stay in Mexico City May 14-18?

Looking for not super fancy but not budget accommodations for me and my bf in Mexico city (maybe like $150-$200/night) and maybe for a night or two outside the city if any overnight trips are worth it. Not looking to stay in a chain like the Sheraton or anything.

Interests: hiking, vegetarian restaurants or places where I can eat easily, art, interesting markets, local history and geology

We saw a hike up one of the volcanoes to the east of the city was recommended before, is it worth finding a place to stay up there and do two days or is it easy enough to just go back to the city?

Are there any special spots or interesting destinations that we should go to?

Should we rent a car to go places or go with public transport/official taxis?

(We've only been to Cabo and Baja before so this part of Mexico is totally new to both of us).
posted by rmless to Travel & Transportation around Mexico City, Mexico (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You'll see this in all of the tourist literature, but you really shouldn't miss the UNESCO world heritage pyramids & other buildings at Teotihuacan - only about an hour or so out of town.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:56 PM on April 11, 2010

Best answer: The Red Tree House in the Condessa is a lovely relaxing place. One of the best places I've stayed anywhere and I'll stay there anytime I go back to the DF. Highly, highly recommended.
posted by i_cola at 2:56 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you like art/interesting markets/local history I'd recommend visiting the Coyoacan neighborhood . It is where both Frida Kahlo and Trotsky lived. It was my favorite neighborhood in the city.

Driving there would seem challenging to me (but I don't like driving). We went for day of the dead and easily got to most places via the subway. Some neighborhoods/places are less accessible so it depends on what you want to see.

I'd recommend the Aztec ruins at Teotihuacan for a day trip, we took a bus from the city.

I think you can find any kind of hotel you want for your price range, there are a lot of boutique hotels all over the city. We stayed at a bed and breakfast last November for about $40 a night, it was definitely not low-end but I'm not sure what your preferences are.
posted by uleekunkel at 2:56 PM on April 11, 2010

Go to the Templo Mayor Archaeological Park and associated museum, which is in the heart of Mexico City. While you are there, eat lunch or dinner at the Terraza Restaurant on the rooftop of the Hotel Majestic, which is right on the Zocalo. It has some of the best views around of old downtown. The Palacio Nacional (National Palace), also on the Zocalo, has some famous Diego Rivera murals you can see.
posted by gudrun at 4:07 PM on April 11, 2010

I love Mexico City! The National Palace and the Anthropological Museum are not to be missed, and the suggestions above are all good too. Mercado Merced is the city's main open air market. It's acre after acre after acre of beautiful, exotic fruits and vegetables, spices, and the ordinary junk you'd find in a Walmart or something.

It might be tough on vegetarians there. Mexico is definitely a meat-eating country and not all restaurants will have vegetarian options.

An Opinionated Guide To Mexico City is an excellent resource. I stayed at Hotel Catedral, $30/night, two blocks from the Zocolo, and perfectly nice.

Do not rent a car. I have no idea where you'd even park a car in Mexico City and the traffic is crazy. You can get anywhere you need to go on the subway, and taxis are safe if you take reasonable precautions.
posted by chrchr at 5:19 PM on April 11, 2010

Best answer: Oh man, Mexico City is amazing and you'll find more to do than you can fit in a few days. Art? I've been there 7 times and have yet to exhaust the citiy's museums and galleries, so it really depends on what kind of art you want to see and really any decent tourist guide book will list them all. Most people consider the National Anthropological Museum world class and it's definitely worth a visit. However, this may be heretical but if you only have a few days and pre-columbian art is not your thing; you may want to skip it. If you do go, all the guidebooks say that it takes 2 days to go through. That may be true if you want to spend several minutes looking at every single item, but I've found that you can get a really great overview, focusing on a few key objects that strike your fancy, in a couple of hours. You can combine it with a trip to either the Rufino Tamayo Museum or the Modern Art Museum, both of which are also in Chapultepec Park. Or you may prefer the smaller scale of Temple Mayor museum which is right in the historic center and quite excellent. If you're interested in contemporary art, the relatively new gallery Kurimanzutto, always gets mentioned as "the" gallery to visit. I wish I could narrow it down to a few "must-see" places, but there are so many. Perhaps you could pop back in and say exactly what kind of art interests you?

I would second visiting the National Palace although I prefer the murals at the Ministry of Education (SEP, Secretaría de Educación Pública). It is also in the central historical district, along with the beautiful National Museum of Art and literally dozens of other interesting sites. The view from the roof of the Hotel Majestic is great, but the food is pretty mediocre. Just go for a drink if you can.

For your budget, you won't have any problem finding a good hotel. I'd say stay in the Condesa neighborhood if you can(there are a few B&Bs and boutique hotels in that neighborhood that fall within your budget including the one recommended above).It's a little quieter than other parts of the city and has beautiful tree-lined streets, small parks, great art deco architecture and along with the neighboring "colonia" or neighborhood, La Roma, some really great restaurants. However finding good vegetarian food may not be easy. My first trip to Mexico City was with a vegetarian and the food at the specifically vegetarian restaurants was so bad that my friend decided to just pretend that the non-meat entries at the "regular" restaurants weren't prepared using any meat products (we assumed that lard and/or chicken stock were used in preparing otherwise non-meat entrees, but who knows? maybe there were vegetarian). Maybe things have gotten better, I noticed a few of what looked like either vegetarian restaurants or those with several vegetarian options in La Roma, which has a ton of restaurants, most with outdoor cafe style seating, that tend to the well-heeled, arty, urbane clientele that live in the area, but I can't remember the names of any of them. I'd just walk around and see what catches your eye. If you occasionally eat fish, I'd highly recommend Contramar.

I would nth the recommendations not to try driving in Mexico City. In addition to the subways and taxis, you can hire a car and driver for longer trips at reasonable rates. A kind Mexican mefite arranged a private car and driver to take me and some friends to the Jumex Collection, about an hour out of the city. It was something like $50 US for 4 hours.

Finally here's a link to New York Times travel articles to Mexico City that have some good suggestions and plenty of links. Some of them are a year or two old, but most of the information will still be valid. Feel free to memail if you have any questions, particularly about art museums or murals. I did my MA thesis on Mexican modernism and my last trip to Mexico, DF, was 8 months ago.
posted by kaybdc at 9:07 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with not renting a car. The metro goes everywhere and I felt safe. Also Coyocan is amazing, but I don't think there are many hotels there. I stayed at Casa Gonzalez based on mefi recs and the host, Jorge, was close to a tour guide. Very helpful. It is very cheap for what you get, the breakfasts are great and a good place to talk to fellow travelers. It's in Zona Rosa, which is an safe neighborhood and the gay center of Mexico City. We were slightly bummed that there was no tv in the room, which is nice for chilling after a long day of sightseeing, but there is a movie theater just a few blocks away and most of the films are in English.

I also recommend going to Pastelria Ideal often! Best pastries ever. It is in the historic center. You should be able to find it by following the parade of people carrying white boxes. Be sure to check out the cakes on the second floor.

You should be OK with veggie options and everything is so cheap. My favorite was a flor de cabaza (squash blossom) quesadilla.
posted by Duffington at 9:11 PM on April 11, 2010

My husband and I stayed at the Condesa DF for a few nights on our honeymoon a couple weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think we paid around $140 a night (which probably doesn't make it the best deal in Mexico City), but we loved the design and the location is fantastic.
posted by heliotrope at 9:13 PM on April 11, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! These are great suggestions, and it is good to have confirmation on the things we've read about so far.
If anyone has any more restaurant reccs, I'd love to have them!
posted by rmless at 6:29 AM on April 12, 2010

Best answer: For restaurant recommendations, check out Good Food in Mexico City and Rick Bayless offers some notes as well.
posted by chrchr at 2:26 PM on April 12, 2010

Just checking back to read the other suggestions. Don't know if you had a chance to read through any of the NYT links but the article Where Centro Parites at Night, included this recommendations:

Vegetarians should head to Pitahaya (No. 58-F; 52-55-5709-8426), a Mexican-Moroccan-Andalusian restaurant that opened last spring and serves up creative fusion dishes like tofu tlayuda with acuyo pesto (80 pesos).

The article was about Calle Regina in the Historic District, so I believe that the restaurant address is No. 58-F Calle Regina. This article is only about a month old so the info is current.
posted by kaybdc at 1:07 PM on April 14, 2010

The author of "Good Food in Mexico City," cited above, also has a blog. More restaurant reviews from him here. I would trust Nick's recommendations without hesitation. (Disclosure: I know him.)

The Red Tree House, also cited above, is very cool. The accommodations are very comfortable and it has a very relaxed guest-house vibe. The people who run it seemed very cool when I met them a couple of years ago. It's essentially in the heart of the Condesa and within close walking distance (one to 10 blocks) of a zillion restaurants, many of them good and not overpriced. An elegant favorite in the Condesa is Primos. An excellent nightspot (my favorite) for wine and tapas is El Encrucijada wine bar (disclosure: I know the owner). Xel-ha is a good cantina.

In the Centro Histórico, El Hostería La Bota is a standout noted in the NYT article above. La Opera cantina has fun Revolution-era history, and a bullet hole in the ceiling courtesy Pancho Villa.

A boutique hotel in the Roma, La Casona, should be within your stated price range. I obviously know zero about what language skills you may have, but my parents (who do not speak Spanish) stayed there while visiting and the staff was good about helping them navigate and set up tours (Coyoacán and San Angel, Pyramids, etc), hire cars for the day, etc. Also in the Roma Norte, Covadonga is a very popular cantina with with a cavernous interior, fluorescent lighting and Spanish cuisine on the menu. Thursday is the most popular night there, and among the frequent clientele are reportedly high-level members of the Democratic Revolution Party, which has an office nearby.

Not sure which volcano you have your eye on, but the big ones to the southeast of the city -- Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl -- are formidable, the country's 2nd- and 3rd-highest mountains. Popo is active and off-limits except with special permission (geologists, etc.). Izta is accessible but a pretty serious mountaineering endeaver; equipment such as ice axes and crampons are a must if you intend to summit it, and a guide is highly recommended. Between the two is a sort of high-elevation "saddle" that's a national park. The hiking up there is gorgeous. To the west of the city, outside Toluca, is the Nevado de Toluca, Mexico's 4th-highest mountain at 4,680 m (15,354 ft). This one I have summited, and it was one of the most rewarding hikes I've ever been on. It would be nice to have a car for this, but you can just as easily go out to Toluca and then hire a driver to take you up the mountain. The trailhead starts at about 14,000 feet. From there you hike up to the rim, down into the crater, and back up the other side to the summit. Carry lots of water and whatever food you'll need for a several-hour hike, dress for cold weather and high winds, and educate yourself beforehand about altitude sickness. Don't worry when you arrive at the trailhead and feel lightheaded -- it gets better -- but watch out for any more serious symptoms such as vomiting, and descend quickly if you do. A good article about hiking in the Mexico City environs (the Tepozteco hike is fun, and you can also plan to spend time in the nearby town of Tepoztlán, which has a sort of yoga-spiritual vibe). Your travel dates could coincide with the beginning of the rainy season, so be prepared for the possibility of daily afternoon torrential thunderstorms.

Really, don't rent a car unless you plan to use it to travel outside the city. Driving in Mexico City is often a challenge even for those who are familiar with the roads and rules, and a nightmare for the newbie. If you do rent a car, check to make sure they don't give you one that is not allowed to be on the road on a day when you'll need it. More info.

Am happy to follow up on anything further you're looking for, either in-thread or via MeMail.
posted by donpedro at 5:02 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

semi-on-topic: Just booked my ticket for Aug 11-17th and I'm so excited.
posted by wcfields at 4:13 PM on June 18, 2010

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