I left Tulum to head to Mexico City. My main purpose for visiting Mexico City was to fly in a hot air balloon over Teotichuan on Good Friday. I just thought that would be very cool. It didn’t quite go to plan but I did manage to fly in a hot air balloon on the Saturday a mere 8 hours before catching a transatlantic flight back to London. Read all about my hot air balloon adventure here.
Everyone had told me how big Mexico City was. Until I arrived, I could quite grasp the vastness of the place. I was glad I decided to do stay in two different hotels in two separate parts of the city. For the first two nights I stayed in the Centro Historico so I could see the main sites and be able to walk from my hotel. I stayed at the NH Collection Mexico City. It claims to be a 4 star hotel but really I’d say it is a 3 star. What it does have is location. It is 5 mins from the Cathedral, Temple Mayor and shopping and the main square. It is clean and the staff are great. The concierge team especially really know Mexico City and gave me great tips including a lovely inexpensive rooftop to have a sundowner on.
For my final night, I splurged and stayed at the Andaz in Condesa. When I tell you it felt like a 8* hotel, it really did. Every time I went to use the lift, it would just appear and there was a member of staff waiting to usher to me to whichever floor I wanted. It was lucky I was only staying the one night because otherwise, I’d have turned into a demanding princess, oh wait! There’s also a great rooftop bar with a 360 degree view of the city and the rooms are all state of the art with byredo products and a record player. I certainly plan to go back there when I next visit Mexico City.
Even though Uber is super cheap in Mexico City. I would say it is nice to be able to spend a few nights in the historic centre so that you can walk to the sites and have dinner in the evening. After you’ve had your fill of that head out to a quieter and more refined suburb like Condesa.
After the disappointment that was Tulum, I was ready for the food scene of Mexico City and it didn’t disappoint.
I’m not big on breakfast. However, I’d read about the Pasteleria Ideal which is basically a huge bakery that you walk around and pile on all the pastry delights you wish to buy. You then walk over to the counter where these are boxed up and then pay. The pastries were huge and delicious.
Taquerias where the tacos cost $10 Mexican Dollars which is $1 USD. I also ate in expensive restaurants but honestly, eating at taquerias where the locals eat is the best way to taste the city. I asked the hotel concierge for a list of places and I ate at all of them:
Taqueria Los Cocuyos
My favourite was Taqueria Arandas – the waitress and I communicated with smiles, signs and gestures. It was incredible. As a foreigner don’t forget your hand sanitizer. I didn’t get sick but I doused my hands in sanitizer before eating each taco.
I went to the two cafes recommended in my guide book. Both of them are located in Centro Historico. There is always a huge crowd outside the cafes given their popularity with tourists. The tip is as soon as you arrive, just make your way through the crowd and go up to the maitre’d’s stand and give your name. I promise you the queues move quickly.
Cafe Tacuba is famous for having a mariachi band and their cafe latte which is very good. I also had a tamale there. If eggs are your thing apparently they are very good there.
Restaurante El Cardenal was amazing. They serve a hot chocolate, no matter how hot it is outside try it. They bring it to your table and froth it by hand and extra servings are free! I can also recommend the Gorditas Hidalguenses.
Ok so this is relative as it is cheaper for tourists depending on where you come from. I went to Antolina in Condesa and my meal: two dishes and possibly two drinks came to 720 Mexican dollars which is approximately £32. That was the most I ever paid for a meal. The food was decent, especially the ceviche but honestly, all I wanted was a taco from a taqueria.
The restaurants that were recommended to me are as follows. I really wanted to go to Rosetta but it was fully booked.
Rooftops is where it is at. My concierge told me about this place in Centro Historico just behind Zocalo Square:
Terraza Catedral has the best view for sunset drinks overlooking the cathedral. It’s located on the top of a youth hostel. So you walk into the hallway and then you’ll see lifts and a guard. You just say you are going to Terraza and he’ll open the gate and you go to the top. All the staff speak amazing English and they serve food and drinks. The view is incredible but the vibe is good too as it isn’t posh just easy going.
Rooftop bar at the top of Andaz hotel in Condesa. This is where I stayed for my final night in CDMX and the view is 360 degrees and incredible. The drinks are good, slightly pricier than downtown but its worth it for the view.
I visited the Bella Artes which was good. Again there was a queue but I am glad I got to see the murals.
The Catedrale Metropolitan and Temple Mayor were good but nothing to write home about the latter. For me walking around the different areas of Mexico City was what gave me a sense of the city. I only wish I had more time.
TIPS & TRICKS
Get Mexico Pesos – in Mexico City or CDMX as the locals refer to it, they call it Mexican Dollars which is slightly confusing. I would also take a small amount of US dollars – not more than $100 and in small denominations for tipping.
Tipping is not optional and if it is not shown on the bill tip. Everyone expects a tip.
WHAT TO WEAR / SAFETY
I left my Apple Watch at home because people put the fear of God into me about Mexico City. Honestly, I never felt so safe and you’re never more than 3 feet away from a policeman especially downtown (Centro Historico) and all the popular tourist parts. Obviously don’t stray and it is easy to – I went down one street and immediately felt the danger however that was the limit of the park just by the Bella Artes building. Everyone seems to have an Apple Watch on so wear yours. As for my iPhone – I had it out for Google Maps and for taking photos but I didn’t flash it around.
Condesa felt safe. I was alone, walking down the street at 11.30 pm but again be mindful of which streets you are walking down, Coyooacan (it has the vibe of Greenwich on a Sunday and it’s where Frida’s house is based. You’ll want to spend half a day at least there, Zona Rosa (but only the main street), and Centro provided you stay within the limits of the tourist parts. I didn’t make it to Polanco but I hear it is like the Beverly Hills/Mayfair of CDMX and safe.
Everyone takes Uber. I never took the metro and was advised by all the hotel staff and concierges not to. It is just too crowded. Uber is so cheap. I was looking through my receipts and the most I paid was for the uber from the airport to the hotel in downtown and it cost me $199 Mexican Dollars which is £9.15. I walked a fair bit but the minute I felt tired, out came the phone and I tapped for an uber. All the drivers were lovely. I don’t speak any Spanish apart from a few words and people were so friendly. I was alone and felt fine.
It’s huge. I looked at the map and thought distances between areas were walkable. They really aren’t. From Zocalo to Bella Artes was a good 30 – 40 minutes. It was pleasant and I stopped into shops and stuff along the way but it is a long walk.