a few days in mexico city
March 17, 2008 7:45 AM   Subscribe

So, I will be going to Mexico City for four days in early April. I have read the following threads here and here. I do speak Spanish and I am interested in what I should see (some questions not covered in the other threads)

I've lived abroad in other Latin American countries and I'm well aware of safety issues and what is culturally appropriate and not, but I'd like some general advice on things to do outside of what was recommended to previous posters.

1) Any recommendations on a central decent low-end hotel, or maybe even hostel that isn't packed full of sweaty backpackers? I really want to avoid that, it's not what I'm looking for - and I don't like to go to another city to hang out with other foreigners. (I've had pretty good luck with Couchsurfing finding locals to show me around, so that's my plan for this time)
2) The other two threads had posters who didn't speak very much Spanish, and that limited what they could do somewhat. What would you recommend to someone without a language barrier issue?
3) I am obsessed with mass transit, and plan to check out the extensive subway system and the new BRT line (Metrobus) that they have. Any other transit or transportation things (museums or otherwise) that are worth seeing?
4) Other points of interest are quirky historical sites, anything immigration-related - i have a particular interest in immigrant groups TO Latin America from other countries (for instance, the Chinese population in much of Latin America)
posted by waylaid to Travel & Transportation around Mexico City, Mexico (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Going to the Museum of Man will put your ideas about immigrants into perspective. It's an amazing monument to the many eras of indigenous residents of Mexico. Makes pretty much anyone living there in the last 500 years seem like an immigrant. Highly recommended for anyone.
posted by scarabic at 8:00 AM on March 17, 2008

The Hotel Catedral is a bargain by my standards, less than $50 but very clean and comfortable. (Not the same place as Hostel Catedral.)

The subway is awesome, but it makes the Tokyo subway seem spacious and uncrowded. I took it from the airport to my hotel - I would not do it again with baggage. Some of the stations have archeological and art exhibits.

Definitely go to Teotihuacan and the anthropology museum. Another interesting place is Pasteleria Ideal at Av 16 de Septiembre 18 in the centro; upstairs there is a huge display of wedding and other occasion cakes.

When I was there last December, there was a guy on Av Juarez near the Belle Artes drawing equations on the sidewalk. Pythagorean's theorem, Kepler's laws, special relativity, and more. My Spanish wasn't good enough to figure out what his point was, but I did discern that he is a follower of Lyndon LaRouche. If you see this guy, please engage him and report back!
posted by Wet Spot at 11:14 AM on March 17, 2008

I'm a graduate student in Geography doing research on Central Mexico, and I've made many trips to/through Mexico City over the past few years. A couple of notes (though I would be more than happy to followup via my email in the profile):
  • I usually stay near the Plaza de la Republica (corner of Edison and Ramirez) just west of the Alameda Central. My usual hotel is Hotel Ibiza, which isn't that nice, but it's clean and convenient and about $15 USD a night. I also recently stayed at Hotel Oxford, about two blocks away (just East, on Ramirez), and that was fine, and about $12/night. Both of these places feel a little like bad Model 6s and are frequented by folks wishing to spend some "alone" time in the middle of the day, which may seem a bit sleazy, but they never seem sketchy to me. Around the corner in the other direction is a Hostel run by the Quakers (with a name like Casa de los Amigos), which seems nice, but has a minimum 2 night stay and is often booked with groups.
  • There is free wireless internet that streams through the Embassy Suites into the Starbucks there. Maybe you don't want to hang out at a Starbucks while you're in Mexico City, but it's cheaper than an internet cafe and open pretty late.
  • The nearby Cafe La Habana (Bucareli and Morelos) is a great 1950s (and before and after) institution, with awesome coffee and decent breakfast specials, though it is a little pricey by Mexican standards (USD$6-8). Get the Habana Double, which trumps the best latte you've ever had.
  • The subway will take you everywhere across the city (for USD$.20), and people are usually pretty nice about recommending routes. Keep your wits about you, because petty pickpocketing is common, but pretty avoidable. Because it is so extremely well-used by all levels of society, I wouldn't really worry about worse crime than that, in normal situations... On my last trip, I was the "victim" of an attempted pickpocketing, where two teenaged males tried to squeeze up next to me and slip a hand in my pocket... but it was pretty clear what was happening, and a loud voice and a (literal) slap on the wrist took care of it. Everyone else in my car kind of seemed embarrassed about it. A cab from the airport to the Plaza de la Republica costs about USD$15, and it's about another USD$17 from there to the Terminal Observatorio. If you are arriving late at night on your first trip, I would probably recommend the cab option, just to be easier...
  • The chain, Super Soya, which has a few locations near the Zocalo (as well as in other major cities), has the most delicious fresh-made waffle cones with ice cream. People eat them at all hours of the morning, afternoon, and evening. Also, their fruit platters are delicious.
  • Standard recommendations: Palace of Fine Arts is wonderful; Museum of Anthropology is one of the best in the world; The Zocalo really is absolutely impressive as the world's largest city-plaza (see the Judicial Palace Gardens, but bring [any] ID to get in)

    Have a great trip.

  • posted by zachxman at 7:16 PM on March 17, 2008

    First of all, you should join the first Meetup in Mexico City :)

    There is a micro-Chinatown (it's a block, really) in Dolores street, in the center, and a Japanese association/club in the south of the city. Unfortunately there are no festivals in April in the Japanese club, so it will be pretty dull.

    I love the Ruth Lechuga museum, in the Condesa neighborhood. Mrs. Lechuga is a lovely lady who has a huge collection of Mexican folk art (masks, pottery, textiles, etc) in her home. You must make an appointment and the tours are in English or Spanish. By the way, she's a German immigrant, she arrived to Mexico in 1939.

    I like the Museo de Arte Popular too.

    There is a train museum (Museo de los Ferrocarrileros), but I have never been there.

    Wet Spot is right, don't take the metro from the airport, there are no scalators or elevators in most stations. Take a yellow cab from the airport, they are expensive but they are safe. You must pay the taxi in a stand inside the airport.

    ¬°Feliz viaje!
    posted by clearlydemon at 12:01 AM on March 18, 2008

    Awesome. Thanks all.
    posted by waylaid at 3:54 AM on March 18, 2008

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