When I used to think of Mexico City; I thought of a big, overcrowded and dangerous city. But nothing like that was true; Mexico City or abbreviated to CDMX (Ciudad de México) really surprised me in a very positive way!! I will explain why and where to go, to get the positive energy from in CDMX. First some impressive facts of the Metropolis Mexico City:
- Built on a lake called Texcoco and is even sinking (9 meters in the last 100 years)
- One of the most important Cultural and Financial centers of North and South America
- Altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level
- More than 21 million people inhabitants
- Largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere
- Largest Spanish speaking city in the world
- With more than 160 museums!!
Neighborhoods / Colonias in Mexico City
Mexico City is divided in 16 delegaciones (boroughs) and ±1800 colonias (neighborhoods). The five main and well visited colonias are describe here below; which can be explored by foot and depending where your base is can be reached by Uber or by Metro.
Tip: Before you go to Mexico City, download the Uber App and create an account! This way of transportation is the easiest in the city; easy, safe, cheap and comfortable. I used it all the time besides the walking of course!!
1. Centro Histórico
The name already says enough, this place is packed with historical highlights and buildings of which a lot are on the Unesco World Heritage list. This is why I mention this Centro Histórico colonia first, it was my first place and should be yours too when you arrive in CDMX. This is the heart of Mexico City, the Plaza de la Constitución, or called Zócalo; around this square you can find all important buildings. You can recognize the Zócola square at the huge Mexican flag in the center.
Around this square, important buildings are located: the ceremonial centre of Aztec Tenochtitlán (Templo Mayor), Palacio National, Catedral Metropolitana and other city government offices. Events are taken place around or on the square; the original dressed Aztec dancers are preforming to give you the traditional feeling of the history.
After walking all around the square and the streets and building surrounding it, it’s time for some shopping, right?! Av 5 de Mayo has it all; restaurants, shops and souvenirs and it leads to the European style park Alameda Central where you can rest a bit and with a perfect view at the Palacio de Belles Artes.
This beautiful white-marble building contains the world-famous arts of Mexican artists and has a concert hall.
Tip: On Sunday all museums are free of entrance for local and foreign-citizens, so on this day it could get very crowded. Make a choice on which day you like to go….
2. La Condesa
I loved the colonia Condesa! This green and friendly looking neighborhood really made me smile. Here you can find nice parks with sportive people and trendy bars and restaurants at almost every corner. I had a coffee at the very popular Lardo at the corner of Agustín Melgar and Mazatlán. People were lining up outside to get a table inside. This is an advantage of traveling by yourself, always a nice spot at the bar! The food looked amazing and the bakery attached to it, attracts a lot of people too.
Wandering thought the nice streets of Condesa you will find nice boutique shops but alternate with local traditional shops. Chill in one of the parks; Parque España or Parque Mexico. I suggest you should walk the pedestrian medians along the avenida Ámsterdam, not because it’s the Dutch capital, but because it is a nice circle with a lot of entertainment and nice architecture. Here you find cooling fountain and good looking shops with pastry, ice-cream and coffee.
I went to Polanco twice in the evening for dinner with a friend that lives in CDMX. Polanco is the uptown colonia, where you can find the high-end hotels, shores/malls and upscale international restaurants. At the Avendida Presidente Masaryk you can find all the prestigious shopping brands. Here are the rich and famous of Mexico living; the prices are according to the level of people that live here. Mexicans are keen on steaks and two good trendy steakhouses are located on this high end street: Sonora Grill and La Buena Barra. Both places are packed with trendy (called ‘fresas’ in Mexico) good looking locals, tourists or expats. The restaurants almost look like a hip trendy club. Worth to check it out!
Tip: Make a reservation up front, these places are very popular!
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim owns his private museum which he opened for free to the public; the Soumaya Museum Plaza Carso. It is a remarkable modern building in Polanco, full of paintings and sculptures of Rodin and Salvador Dalí.
4. Bosque de Chapultepec
This huge park Bosque de Chapultepec is located south of Polanco and north of Condesa. And back in the days this was a refuge for the Aztecs. My Uber dropped me off in the park at Museo Nacional de Antropolía. This world-class museum (entrance fee 75 M$) has 12 halls (salas) and are dedicated to the pre-Hispanic Mexico starting with the introduction and 30,000-2,500 BC till how the indigenous descendants live today (the upper floors).
The history of Mexico is very complex with the many tribes and cultures within the region. The Aztecs and Maya cultures are very important and that is what you can see in the museum. All well displayed in English and Spanish and even the gardens are used to give you the historical education. I was well impressed by the colors and set up of the museum; all very modern, great lighting and clearly explained. It is a lot to absorb in a couple of hours, but you get a good impression of what you will see on your trip going through Mexico and perhaps Guatemala, Honduras and Belize (all Maya countries).
Tip: Don’t go on Monday to this park, it’s closed!! So plan your visits in Mexico City carefully; Sunday all museums are open for locals, so could get crowded.
After a nice coffee with cake at the museum, I walked to further into the park were you can see and/or do several activities:
1. Go to the Zoo (Zoológico de Chapultepec)
2. Shop at one of the many vendors across the park
3. Hire a pedal boat (in Dutch “waterfiets”) to go across the lake in the park
4. Visit the Botanical Garden5. Visit the Museo de Arte Moderno
6. Climb the Chapultepec Castle for a nice view
7. Admire Monumento a Los Niños Héroes
You can combine visiting the park by ending in Condesa or Polanca for dinner or so. I love to walk in my holidays, this way you see the most of the city and you exercise as well.
5. Zona Rosa (Juárez)
My hotel (NH Hotel Reforma which I highly recommend especially for the perfect breakfast!) was located in Zona Rosa, which was the perfect base to visit every other neighborhood in the city. Zona Rosa is known for its shopping, nightlife and gay community.
Tip: Friday afternoon the bars and restaurants are full and everybody is ready for the weekend. Nice atmosphere in the streets!
The main historical attraction is the El Angel de la Independencia. This 45m-high pillar was created in 1910 and represents independency. The golden angel shines in the Paseo de La Reforma. This place is a symbol to CDMX and most sport victories are celebrated here.
A couple of streets south of Zona Rosa, in Roma Nte, around the Fuente de las Cibeles fountain; you can find all nice restaurants and bars. I had my farewell dinner at La Zaranda Miravalle; which is a modern and trendy Mexican restaurant. I liked it a lot, very good vibe and good food; while the live music was playing outside (Friday afternoon).
Tip: You can do you last minute souvenir shopping at the Mercado de Artesanías at Calle Liverpool, all handmade gifs like textiles, pottery and jewelry.
This colonia Coyoacán is the most far away from the city center (±10 km), which doesn’t mean it is the least interesting. The famous house of Frida Kahlo is located here, which attracts a lot of tourists to this neighborhood. I didn’t went in, the line was too long, and this way I have something to look forward too when returning to Mexico City!!
This colonia has a good vibe with a lot of nice shops and restaurants. And if you need souvenirs buy them here!! I had a delicious ceviche at the corner of Ignacio Allende and Malintzin: El garden del Pulpo, a real recommendation. This place is at the corner of the Coyoacán’s Market which is worth to visit and across the Parque Allende. Another park is Plaza Jardín Centenario across the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista. Just stroll around all the streets, all safe and have a good atmosphere.
Tip: If you need to buy souvenirs, this is the neighborhood to buy your presents for you family and friends. You find vendors everywhere with colorful art and textile.
I hope I could give you a good impression of Mexico City. Of course it is so big that you can’t visit it all. But I was glad that I could stay a day longer than expected; I really liked it (says this beach girl…). My friend who is living here told me; that everybody who is visiting him in Mexico, experiences the same!! So don’t hesitate and GOOOOOO!
Buen Viajes; Heading to Oaxaca or San Cristobal de Las Casas see blogs below!