Mexico City Must-Sees!

Hey all!

I’ll be in Mexico City in a couple weeks for vacation. I’ve never been before, and I’m of course using the Atlas as a guide for things to see. BUT—I wanted to ask the community if any of you have any recommendations/advice? This will be my first time in Mexico and I’m excited for food/Aztec history/a lot of sunshine and a tan that I’m sure I’ll get no matter how much sunscreen I use.

Thanks!

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In terms of Aztec history , there are a lot of must sees :

El Templo Mayor : Its in the Zocalo , city centre and is the ruins of the great pyramid of Tenochtitlan , the most famous of all the Aztec pyramids, and has a superb museum.

The serpent head cornerstone : I wrote a post about it on AO, its also in the city centre and worth seeing , its basically part of the museum of the city of Mexico but it once stood in the Templo Mayor. Its interesting to see because it just shows how important and symbolic snakes were for this civilization.

The monolith of Tlaloc : : I also wrote a post about this statue of the rain god for AO, its located in Chapultepec park and he stands directly outside of the Museum of Anthropology.

The Museum of Anthropology : This museum is definitely a must see , it has a huge room displaying artifacts of the Aztecs but it also has rooms for other Meso-American civilizations such as the Mayans , the Teutihuacanos, the Toltecs, the golf coast Olmecs , the Zapotecs and Mixtecs, and the cultures of the arid North.

There is also a very significant pre-Aztec ruin to be seen in DF , the Pyramid of Cuilcuilco which is the oldest of all the Americas.

In terms of advice , I would say be alert to your surroundings in the city , it is unfortunately getting more and more dangerous every year as the violence from the surrounding states reaches the capital.

A lot of this is going to be just generic staying safe advice but :

Try not to carry your valuables in your pocket (especially not on public transport) , dress normally as dressing up can make you a target for crime

If you speak Spanish , that is brilliant , try to speak it as much as often to avoid appearing too “Gringa” which may make you appear like a target for unwelcome male advances and miraculous rises in prices when buying things etc.

Don’t take taxis that don’t have a licence and if the taxi meter is switched off while driving tell the driver who may have conveniently “not noticed” that you would like the meter to be switched on because you wont pay any “gringa / guerrita” tax.

If you feel that you are being followed go to a public area immiediately and speak with the police or any authorities available.

Do not go to “Barrios bravos” such as Tepito, Iztapalapa , Ecatapec , Santa Fe , La Merced etc. Just dont. Yes , they may have interesting Santa Muerte shrines but you risk ending up actually meeting La Santa in the afterlife which could well happen in those kinds of areas where violent crime is just a cotidian reality.

If you are mugged (Its unlikely it will happen so dont be scared ) , don’t fight or make any sudden movements ( have slow and steady hand movements , avoid eye contact) the robber just wants your money /phone/ valuables etc. often these guys are high on crack cocaine and if you put up a fight you could end up dead , prioritize your life over any material possesions.

In terms of food , I’ll write another comment with some reccomendations in a bit

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I was there last month. It is a great city. Much bigger than I ever expected. Here are some quick tips:

  • The Museum of Anthropology is excellent. But if you like to take your time and read through some of the info, it will take you a full day.
  • I took the double decker bus tour. It was a great help in getting perspective on how big the city is and where some key sites were. There are 3 routes. I did 2 of the 3. The main one and the one that takes you down toward Coyoacan. just be prepared that the second one you might experience a lot of traffic.
  • I was skeptical about going to the Xochimilco, but if you know it is going to be a nice day, especially on the weekend, head down there. Either see if you can tag along with other tourists there (we were scoping out other groups that looked like tourists to see if we could all get a boat together and we lucked out)
  • Head out to the Pyramids. You can definitely do this on your own via public transportation, but I like the Airbnb experience tour that i did with Jane. She is the one that promotes the tour as a scavenger hunt at they pyramids.
  • Do your research on the places you want to eat at. So many good places to choose from.
  • I didn’t take public transportation outside of a group walking tour through some of the markets. Uber is much cheaper there than NY. But just like anywhere else, do the checks to make sure it is your car.
  • The Roma/Condesa neighborhood is like the “Brooklyn” of Mexico City. Laid back, a lot of nice littler cafes and eateries.
  • Polanco is the wealthy part of town. That is also where a lot of the top rated restaurant are.

Enjoy!

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In terms of food , a couple of (non vegetarian) recomendations plus some advice:

Pozole : Personally one of my favourite Mexican foods , its a chile soup which has chicken or pork, onions , shreds of lettuce and raddish. It is often eaten with toasted tortillas ( “tostadas”) on which you spread cream and eat along with the pozole itself.

Tacos : My favourites are bistec (steak) , chorizo , al pastor but there are many different kinds and if you are feeling adventurous you could even try tacos de lengua (cow tongue tacos), tacos de cabeza (cow brain /head), tacos de ojo (cow eye tacos) etc. Always squeeze lime juice into the tortilla and add salsa verde / salsa roja or it hardly counts as a taco.

In terms of taquerias everyone has there favourite and you will hear a lot of conflicting advice about which one to go to , but ultimately its all subjective. My favourite taqueria was one in Tlalpan called “Los dos toros” but I’m biased because I lived in that area of the city for many years and have an enormous affection for that district.

Pulque : I really recomend trying this alcoholic drink as it was the favourite beverage of the Aztecs and its unlike anything else you will ever try. It has a weird consistency, like soup, which can be off putting at first but it comes in all sorts of flavours. Avoid the Pulquerias around the centre of the city (Zocalo) as these can become very rough environments very quickly and instead go to Avenida Insurgentes to a place called “Pulqueria los Insurgentes” where its a pretty safe environment (its opposite the metrobus) and they not only have reasonable prices but they have hundreds of different flavours to sample.

Tamales : You can get these maize based morning meals which are another food that originated with the Aztecs pretty much anywhere and in all kinds of flavours but the most common are pollo con salsa verde , salsa roja , Oaxaqueno and dulce. They are typically eaten in a “torta” (a bread roll) but this can be a pretty calorific and heavy breakfast.

Churros : These are absolutely delicious desserts that originate in Spain (but were perfected in Mexico), but some Churrerias are better than others. My reccomendation is to go to “Churreria El Moro” , found in the Zocalo/ Historic centre, best place for churros and chocolate in my opinion.

Advice on eating in Mexico city:

It is almost inevitable that you are going to at some point get a bad stomach or “Moctezumas revenge” as its known , so plan accordingly , but certain habits like eating street food definitely increases the chances.

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The 20th century murals by Rivera, Orozco & Siqueiros are a must. The biggest groups are in the Ministr
y of Education, Palacio de Bellas Artes and Palacio Nacional. Also check out the rather bizarre one in the Rivera Museum near the Alameda Central (formerly in a hotel lobby).

For mid-2oth century architecture, the campus of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico. a bit out of the way but accessible by public transport. The central library building is the most famous, covered in mosaics.

Wander through the Monte de Piedad off the Zocalo. Probably the biggest pawn shop you will ever see.

The pyramids of Teotihuacan are also a must. The are outside the city but easily accessible by public bus.

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I definitely agree with sskamin’s reccomendation about the pyramids of Teutihuacan , these are most definitely worth a visit and are actually more impressive than any of the Aztec ruins to be found (albeit this is largely due to the destruction inflicted by the Spanish).

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I would not plan on getting a tan in Mexico City. The elevation makes it cooler and it can be rainy. Bring a light rain jacket just in case. If you are interested In handcrafts the Mercado Ciudadela is a great place on Calle Balderas neat the historic center.

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You neglected to mention that among the many interesting things in the Museum of Anthropology is the Aztec Calendar, one of the most recognizable Mexican historic items.

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I didn’t neglect to mention it , I just think that as it is kept inside the museum it comes under the umbrella of the Anthropology Museum. Totally agree with you, it is indeed an incredible and iconic historical artifact.

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Seconded on the weather! I’m from Arizona, so I wasn’t sure if it was mostly relative. I definitely wished I had warmer clothing while I was there.

As a few others mentioned, Uber’s are super cheap and safe so that’s a decent option – especially from the airport. But an even better options is the public bikes. Traffic in the city is really bad and you’ll waste a lot of time sitting in a car. No bueno! There are good (i.e. protected) bike lanes that cars can’t enter, and since the city is built in an ancient lake bed, most of the city is pretty flat so no major hills to climb. The mobile app for the public bikes is good too and tells you where there are available bikes, and also where there are empty spots to check in the bike. Google Maps will even give you turn-by-turn biking directions to keep you on safe bike routes. You can use a Visa/Mastercard to register and pay at most (but not all) bike stations. At the stations where you can register, it’s a bit confusing because one side of the bike station screen is to register/pay, and the other side is to check out a bike. If you combine the super cheap subway, with the bikes you’ll save a bunch of time! Also buses do have dedicated lanes so those are also a decent option if you can figure out the routes. I didn’t bother with buses since I prefer to burn off tacos biking, and then refill on tacos! :slight_smile:

I spent about 8 months in CDMX, and never had any confrontations or ever felt endangered. Feel free to browse through any of my Mexico pics and I’m happy to answer any questions about anything that piques your interest. Speaking of photos, a few places I ran into issues when I pulled out my big camera lens. So if you’re bringing a DSLR/mirrorless, try to be sly and mindful of guards. They’ll just ask you to put it away, so no big deal. Cell phone cameras and small point & shoots aren’t a problem. Silly policy.

I could write an entire book on food just in CDMX alone! But I’ll give you a couple quick pointers. If you want gringo-friendly food that should be fine for anyones stomach head to:

  1. Taqueria El Califa
  2. Taquearte
  3. La Casa de Tono

They all have multiple locations and should be a safe bet for most stomachs.

2 absolute must eat at:

  1. Tacos Don Juan.
  2. El Parnita

A few other stand-outs:

  • Humbertos (for Yucatan flavors)
  • Market Medellin - in the back corner you’ll find the best carnitas tacos in the city.
  • Los Cocuyos - taste bud explosion!
  • Los Especiales - damn good tacos de canasta. Usually a line, but it goes fast. Greasy goodness!
  • Taqueria El Turix – killer cochinita pibil tacos. Service isn’t great, but the food is.
  • El Rey del Suadero – suadero tacos, duh.
  • Ojo de Agua – delicious smoothies and good salads if you need a break from tacos. I prefer the location in Hipodromo area of the city.
  • Los Loosers for some good vegan options if that’s your thing, or even if it’s not.
  • Taqueria Orinoco – might not classify as classic Mexican (ranch on tacos!?) but may be worth a try.

Good (gringo friendly) breakfast: Cafe NIN
Good (bario) breakfast: Fonda Margarita (get here EARLY – long lines form) eggs w/beans AMAZING! Fresh warm tortillas and salsa. Boom! Great way to kick off a day!
Exotic foods: Mercado de San Juan. You can get everything from insects to Lion meat! to Crocodile. You name it. Worth walking through.

Coffee

  1. Dosis Cafe
  2. Casa del Fuego

Drink bottled water, and only eat street food that’s cooked in front of you, don’t take something that’s been sitting a while. Ya know, basic street food 101.

The city can experience late afternoon showers fairly regularly. They usually pass within an hour, a good time to duck into a taqueria! May vary based on when you visit.

Have fun!

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If you’re into architecture / design, I highly recommend making a reservation to tour Luis Barragan’s house: http://www.luisbarragantour.com/

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Following. Hoping to visit one day.

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