A follow up to “If I Can Offer Just One Tip”. We only spent 4 days, but somehow managed to see, do, and boy oh boy eat plenty. Not only I try to include tips that you wont find on every other list, but some are actually contradictory in a way. This is designed more for first timers. Stay tuned for the obligatory top 10 dishes which will be fairly easy to do in this case even with such a short stay.
Stay in/near Centro
Classic Ziggy fashion, starting with the one where he loses half of the audience. But hear me out. I’m not so much advocating the heart of Centro but the south/west edges, or really in/near Colonia Tabacalera or Juárez. Much of the advice out there is to stay in La Condesa or Roma areas which are some of the most gentrified areas of CDMX. I found them not terribly different than what you find in large US cities. Different but not terribly like the beautiful chaos of Centro during the day. We enjoyed spending most evenings in La Condesa/Roma, and Ubering back to our hotel (10 minutes, cheap). Many of the sites are so spread out, you’ll be Ubering plenty no matter where you stay. But we found the Barceló México Reforma location perfect for us first timers. Walking distance to all the sites in the Centro, the up and coming neighborhoods of San Rafael and Juárez, and close enough to the night scenes of Roma.
Sunday is Fun Day
Its a double-edged sword for foodies. Many restaurants close or close early on Sundays. But this is also a pleasant day to spend in CDMX. The canals and boats of Xochimilco are essentially a one giant party on Sundays. The otherwise crazy busy Reforma is closed to traffic, so a good day to bike the monument filled blvd. You got afternoon dancing at the Alameda de Santa María, and much more. Since most likely you’ll spend less than a week in CDMX, try to have a full Sunday be part of the plan.
Frida Kahlo Museum – Temper expectations
Its a wonderful little museum no doubt. But the commercial and touristy aspect of it is a major turn off. Between buying the timed tickets well in advance, the crowds, standing on line to get in. Want to take photos? That’s another fee. All that planning and hoopla for a crowded 45 minute quicky, without any of the wonderful Frida work on display. If you are a Frida fan, its an obvious must. Otherwise, watch the movie (its great even today) prior to your visit if you go, or skip altogether.
Although Coyoacán in itself is a must
On the other hand, Coyoacán, the location of Frida’s museum is a stunner. You got the fantastic Coyoacán market, the main square surrounding Fuente de los Coyotes, the artisan market of Allende Garden on Sundays, and just wandering around the streets is such a pleasure. And we happened to find some of the best food we’ve had on the trip here (more on that on the next post).
Take Your Probiotics?
I’m not a gastroenterologist and dont even play one on the internet, hence the question mark. This is just something I picked up from another blog. The biggest problem with Mexico City is the chance of getting sick. No matter how careful you’ll be, its always a possibility, and perhaps not a destination for very sensitive stomachs. But we followed the advice of taking Probiotics daily starting a week prior to the trip, and other than minor tummy trouble on the last day before departure, we were fine. Coincidentally, or not, on the day before departure we forgot to take our Probiotics.
Watch your step
Remember when I said the biggest problem is getting sick? I lied. The most dangerous thing in Mexico City might actually be the sidewalks. The city is essentially built on a lake by the Aztecs. The clay the city rests on dries up, collapses and results in broken and uneven sidewalks all over. I had a few close calls, and I imagine its not easy to navigate on a wheelchair. While you marvel at the scene and architecture, its very easy to lose focus.
Dont overlook the smaller museums
CDMX is a museum powerhouse, with world class museums scattered all over the city. So with everyone and their mothers flocking to them, its easy to overlook the smaller, less popular ones like the colorful Museo de Arte Popular, and Museo Mural Diego Rivera. The latter houses a Rivera masterpiece that miraculously survived the great earthquake of 1985 when it was inside a hotel. Pound for pound they can offer a better experience and fun/crowds ratio for people with limited time.
Do the Anthropology Museum, but preferably with a guide
This is more of note to self, but a tip nonetheless. We did not see the museum with a guide, but wished we did. Its an awe-inspiring, world class museum that attracts tourists and locals (including many school trips) alike. Whether you are into anthropology is almost irrelevant in this case. While you’ll admire the design and artifacts, the crowds, and the sheer volume of information is overwhelming and may be best appreciated with a guide.
Take Uber over Taxi
We had a 50% success rate with taxis, and 100% with Uber. Uber is cheap, reliable, and its very hard to get scammed when you agree on the price upfront. On the other hand, taxi scams are unfortunately more common. If you must take a taxi from the airport, at least make sure they dont sell you an oversized car for over $500 pesos. If you only need a sedan, ask for a sedan.
Design your own taco crawl
That’s not to say, dont take a tour. Absolutely take one, but might as well make it something that’s more outside your comfort zone, like the market tour of Eat Like a Local mentioned earlier. But designing a taco crawl in CDMX is fairy easy and fun. Here’s one idea in San Rafael: Lengua and Tripa tacos at El Betin, Suadero and Pastor at El Güero, and El Barrigon with beer at Porcino.