Mexico City: An Underrated Travel Destination Fit for All Travelers
Food & Wine
Arts & Culture
Mexico City, Ciudad de Mexico, or sometimes just simply called, CDMX, should be a bucket list destination for all travelers as it truly has a little something for everyone. Whether your vibe is culture and arts, culinary and nightlife, archeology and history, or shopping and relaxation, I promise this destination will not disappoint. I have been lucky enough to experience all that Mexico City has to offer at least a dozen times, and yet I still find new adventures that keep me coming back to explore more and more of what this vibrant city offers my adventurous and inquisitive soul. Once you have your first taste, you’ll be booking your return trip sooner rather than later.
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Where to stay in Mexico City
Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City
Close to Chapuletepec Park, this polished hotel is a standout for the unflappable service and gorgeous public spaces, from the courtyard restaurant to the rooftop pool.
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Sofitel Mexico City Reforma
A foodie favorite in Reforma, with a sleek, modern style, five restaurants and knockout city views.
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A charming and comfortable stay, combining modern amenities with a touch of traditional Mexican hospitality.
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Things to do in Mexico City
As the largest city in North America, Mexico City boasts plenty of outstanding options to choose from for any avid museophile. I would recommend starting your visit by visiting the Museo Nacional de Antropología located within Chapultepec Park (another top attraction in this marvelous city). When visiting the Anthropology Museum, keep in mind that it is quite large and to do it justice it will require at least half a day to meaningfully immerse yourself in their exhibits. The recognized Aztec “Sun Stone'' is on display here and was definitely the highlight of my visit. The sheer size of this artifact and level of detail in the etchings are simply incredible.
If art museums are a must on your travel itineraries, I would recommend planning a visit to the Soumaya museum on the edge of the opulent Polanco neighborhood. The museum’s exterior design and architecture is just as magnificent as the art you’ll view once inside. There are multiple floors to peruse and view the works of famous Mexican artists, such as Diego Rivera (Frida Kahlo’s husband) and Rufino Tamayo. There is also a sizable collection of Auguste Rodin sculptures. Most notably, Rodin’s “The Thinker” is on display here and definitely one of the memorable points from my visit.
“La Casa Azul” or the Frida Kahlo Museum is situated slightly south of the city center in the quaint neighborhood of Coyoacán. This vividly painted blue museum showcases Frida's iconic pieces, but also gives you a view into what their personal life must have been like in the early to mid 1900s. It's important to note that the entry line can and will get quite long. I recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time so you can walk right in. Afterwards, don’t head back to the city center without grabbing an authentic Mexican plate from one of the hundreds of vendors at the Mercado Coyoacán a few blocks away. Simple, fresh and delicious fare for sure.
Mesoamerican Historical & Cultural Sites
Templo Mayor (main temple) was the center of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. Now a series of ruins, this museum allows visitors to get a glimpse of how industrious the Aztec people truly were with exhibits showcasing ancient artifacts as well as detailing the decline and fall of the Aztec empire at the command of the Spanish Conquistador, Hernán Cortés. Be mindful evidence suggests that atop the temple was where the Aztec clergy performed thousands of human sacrificial ceremonies. After a morning visit to Templo Mayor you will be in the historic city center or Zócalo with plenty of other notable attractions within walking distance as well as shopping.
Teotihuacán, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, houses the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon and is a great day trip from Mexico City. This ancient city, abandoned when discovered by the Aztecs, has you wondering about the origin story of this archeological marvel as you trek the grounds and up the pyramids. The steps to ascend the pyramids are small and steep, so wear comfortable shoes, carry plenty of water and bring a light snack to make sure you are fully prepared for the climb.
The Floating Gardens of Xochimilco is another UNESCO World Heritage Site that lies about 45 minutes south of the city. This engineered system of canals and “islands” is a great example of the ingenuity the Aztec people had and was designed to increase the amount of fertile land available for farming. A day trip here allows you to float the canals on a “trajinera,” a brightly painted wooden boat similar to a large gondola. The scene is quite festive as local merchants float alongside tourists within the canals. It's not uncommon to see and hear Mariachi Bands and food vendors offering to link up with your trajinera to enrich your experience. Be on the lookout as you travel through the various gardens as there is one that is eerie and quite creepy called “La Isla de las Muñecas” or “the Island of the Dolls.” This particular floating garden has hundreds of toy dolls strung up in various levels of decay. If you want to experience Xochimilco at its liveliest, visit on a Saturday or Sunday when the canals will be chock full of folks festively enjoying their day. If you prefer a more relaxed and quieter float, any weekday morning would be best.
Places to eat & drink in Mexico City
Mexico City is no stranger to world-class dining. You will discover delicious foods everywhere from street and local market plates to affordable high end restaurants, all with delicious and satisfying flavors you will crave well after you return home.
My all-time favorite place to dine in Mexico City is “La Casa de Sirenes.” So much so I visit every single time I go. Not only because the food is delicious, but dining al fresco on the third floor terrace is an experience all in itself.. From there you will enjoy amazing views of the bustling Zocolo, Templo Mayor and the Metropolitan Cathedral. I always enjoy a late lunch or early dinner to avoid crowds. Be sure to enjoy a fine Mexican wine to round out your meal. My favorite is the Casa Madero’s red blend, 3V.
Pujol is a Mexican culinary adventure topping all the “best of” culinary lists. The six-course meal relies on local tradition with a modern flair and is a must try for anyone excited by creative gastronomy. Reservations are required and space is limited so planning is a must if you wish to taste the delicacies of renowned Chef Enrique Olvera.
“La Gruta” or "cave" in English, is a neat restaurant behind the pyramids at Teotihuacan. The bulk of this restaurant sits inside a large multi-layer cave and offers up classic Mexican and pre-Hispanic flavors. After working up an appetite hiking the grounds of Teotihuacan, relax for a bit and enjoy the ambiance of this hidden gem.
I typically depart Mexico City late on Sundays and tend to enjoy brunch at Zanaya, a restaurant at the Four Seasons Mexico City. Dine al fresco in the beautiful hotel courtyard. My go to meal, a Mexican classic, the chilaquiles. While not required a reservation is helpful to reduce potential wait time.
While there certainly isn’t a shortage of bars or nightclubs in this lively city, I always grab my nightcap at a chill, dimly lit bar called Pizza Felix in the Roma Norte neighborhood. While they also serve food, the purpose of my visit was to establish a seat at the bar and imbibe on a few mezcal cocktails before making my way back to the comfort of my hotel. Always buzzing with folks from all walks of life, you are sure to make a friend or two at this cozy establishment.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Amanda Blakley guide, Family-Friendly Guide to Mexico City.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Mexico City.