Three-day trip to Mexico City - Must Sees?
January 6, 2014 9:14 AM   Subscribe

What are the can't miss sights, restaurants and happenings in Mexico City from January 18-21? My boyfriend and I are going to Mexico City for a impromptu three-day trip and would love some neighborhood, restaurant/bar/cafe and sightseeing suggestions!

This is both of our first trips to Mexico, though I've traveled around southern Africa, most of Western Europe, and the Middle East before. He's more of a novice traveler, so we won't be roughing it too much. We're landing in the afternoon on Jan 18th, and flying out again the afternoon of Jan 21st, so we will have two full days and two half days.

The current plan is to get a room via AirBnB - Condesa seems like a good choice of neighborhood to be near to transit and a good restaurant/nightlife scene. Any thoughts or things we should be aware of?

We both really want to see Teotihuacan, and I want to see either the Dolores Olmedo Museum or the Frida Kahlo Museum, but otherwise we are wide-open. There are so many options, we're a bit overwhelmed! Not as interested in monuments/palaces/historical buildings, and I think the Museum of Anthropology will be too much given the short time frame. What are the highlights of smaller-scale, worthwhile, but maybe a bit offbeat attractions?

Food and Drink
This is the really challenging part, as there are so many options! I am really into food, and would love recommendations for great taquerias, restaurants, street food, cafes, etc. We are not huge party people, and are more into chatting bars than lounge-y nightlife.

Thanks everybody!
posted by foodmapper to Travel & Transportation around Mexico City, Mexico (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The Museum of Anthropology is really a gem, and it's not too bad for a power-visit (2-3hr), though you certainly wouldn't be reading all of the displays. The Palace of Fine Arts is wonderful, and quite convenient. My favorite cafe is La Habana, a favorite of the revolutionaries and with a gigantic espresso machine, serving up delightful long-pull coffees.
posted by zachxman at 11:32 AM on January 6, 2014

The Museum of Anthropology is really a gem, and it's not too bad for a power-visit (2-3hr )

Yes, if it's an area of interest to you I would suggest that a few hours at the Museum of Anthropology is better zero hours there.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:56 PM on January 6, 2014

Definitely make a stop off at Zocalo, the main city square. It's a huge square, one of the biggest in the world. If you have time you can check out the HUGE Spanish cathedral right next to a relatively recently uncovered (1980s I think) Aztec temple (Templo Mayor). The dismantling of the temple and building of the cathedral was symbolic of the Spaniards' taking over from the Aztecs. Super interesting if you're into that kind of thing.

If you go to Frida Kahlo's house you can also check out Leon Trotsky's house. Also a little museum and it's walking distance away. Coyoacan is also just a great place to chill, walk around, get a tomale. Bonus points if you find the trees covered in gum.

Despite not being a picky person, the street food really didn't appeal to me at all. No shortage of clean places to sit down and eat.
posted by beau jackson at 2:00 PM on January 6, 2014

Pasteleria Ideal in the Centro. Go upstairs to the cake gallery.

The Saturday art bazaar in San Angel. It's about 15 minutes from the Frida Kahlo museum by bus or taxi.

The Diego Rivera murals in the government buildings facing the Zocalo.

The La Merced market. Bring a GPS.

Seconding the Anthropology museum, the Zocalo/Cathedral, and Teotihuacan. See this comment for instructions on taking a bus to the pyramids. Bring small bills/change for the return bus fare.
posted by Wet Spot at 2:11 PM on January 6, 2014

And just outside the pyramids at Teotihuacan is Restaurant La Gruta, with a spectacular setting in a cave, and also pretty good food. Try the mixiotes.
posted by Wet Spot at 2:17 PM on January 6, 2014

I loved Coyoacan, the area where Frida Kahlo lived and where the museum is (Frida and Diego's former home. It feels totally different than the main part of Mexico City (basically because its a middle/upper class neighborhood): it's much calmer than the city center and feels like a small town but still lots of character and lots to see. We enjoyed strolling around the neighborhood, the churches, the market. We got some great juice and huitlacoche and fava bean huaraches from different street vendors/small market-type cafes.

When I went several years ago, made it my mission to find old school cantinas which served free botanas with drinks, the Mexican version of tapas. Cantina La Mascota is a semi-famous one, Anthony Bourdain went there so it's "on the map" for visitors, I hear, but sounds like it's still autentico. Some places the botanas are more skimpy or "chef's choice" but at La Mascota they had a little menu you could choose from for the day. Unfortunately, I didn't record locations or even names of others we visited but I believe I found most of them using lonely planet, google digging and asking around at our lodging. Make sure you get yummy tequila with the sangrita on the side (seasoned tomato juice) or a banderita (1 shot each: tequila, sangrita and lime juice).

I still dream of the street food of Mexico City (mostly tacos), it was so ample and delicious, but I don't have specific recommendations. Giant tortas (Mexican sandwiches) are a Mexico City specialty so make sure to get one at some point.

I really enjoyed the folk art museum (Museo de Arte Popular or MAP) which is in the Centro Historico.

Frankly, I don't think the Zocalo/main plaza is all that exciting except that it is huge and gives you a perspective on the city's history. It's worth strolling through, but you could save your time and entrance fee $ and skip going in the palacio, templo mayor, cathedral, etc. (I think the cathedral is free to go in.)

Condesa is a good choice, I think, and the Parque Mexicana is pleasant for strolling or enjoying a pastry in.

Nthing the Anthro museum is worth a short visit even if you only see a small part (plus it's got all the good stuff which was found at Teotihuacan which has been removed from the site for preservation). The surrounding park is pleasant and relaxing, good for a street food picnic.
posted by dahliachewswell at 2:40 PM on January 6, 2014

La Condesa is a good place for staying, specially because it's centric and well communicated. It would be a good idea to try to stick to a neighborhood/area per day. I'd suggest one day for Coyoacán/San Ángel (south), another for Polanco/Condesa/Centro (center), and another for Teotihuacan.

Stick to the Mexica exhibit in the Anthropology museum. The Templo Mayor, near the Zócalo, is also interesting. The Zócalo and Cathedral won't be of much interest to you.

Pujol's fame is well deserved. You can get a reservation if you hurry. The same chef has a nice coffee/sandwich shop next to it, Eno.

Markets are great place for breakfast and lunch. The Medellín Market, near Condesa, and the San Juan Market are two of the best.
This blog has great food recommendations, too.
posted by clearlydemon at 3:12 PM on January 6, 2014

Nthing Coyacan. Really neat neighborhood with an "artists' colony" feel, and has that very specific Mexican-bohemian vibe. It also has a great market.

One of my favorite things in Mexico City was the Bella Artes Palace. Beautiful art deco roof, and there's an amazing Diego Rivera mural on the top floor. Also, you can go to the Sears across the street (which is weirdly a very nice department store) and look directly at the roof from the cafe on one of the higher-up floors. And if you're there in the evening, there's a promenade nearby with lit-up fountains which is great people-watching (families, teenagers on dates, etc).

I still dream about the tortas in Mexico City sometimes! I ate them everywhere, and never had a bad one.

Also, the metro system in Mexico City is really great and very safe, but do try to avoid it at rush hour.
posted by lunasol at 5:39 PM on January 6, 2014

I agree with Teotihuacan and the Museum of Anthropology as must sees. The Rivera murals Wet Spot references above are in the Palacio Nacional, I believe, and that's also a don't miss (free tours, too). It's right around the corner from the Zocalo and Cathedral.

The other really cool things in DF that I wouldn't miss are:

-The cathedral(s) built around La Virgen de Guadalupe are fascinating, and you can even board a moving sidewalk to see the image of the virgin (familiarize yourself with the story first if you don't know it). It's away from the center but right next to a subway stop.

-I really liked the mural museum (museo del mural), and it doesn't require much time.

- I suggest riding the subway as much as you can. It's cheap, safe(ish - watch your bags), and the guys moving from car to car selling crap for 5 pesos are interesting to watch.

-If you aren't opposed to trying street food, Mexico City's is excellent. The stands right outside metro stops are some of the best.

- It's fun to watch the Mariachis in Plaza Garibaldi. The area is a bit shady, though, so I'd ask around before going.
posted by btkuhn at 5:56 PM on January 6, 2014

If you're going to Coyoacán to see Frida's house, don't miss Trotsky's house only a few blocks away. In many ways, we enjoyed it more than Frida's house.

I agree with others you should go to the Museo de Antropologia. If I were going back to Mexico City right now it would definitely be on my can't-miss list.

You may be thinking of museums like the Louvre or the V&A, enormous museums packed with endless corridors of stuff of varying quality. Not so. The Mexico City museum is compact and well-organised and dramatically lit with the most amazing things on display. It is a memorable part of any visit to Mexico City.
posted by vacapinta at 5:53 AM on January 7, 2014

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