My 10 favorite places in Mexico City
Everything from Eateries, to Shopping, Museums and Oddities!
I've lived most of my adult life in Mexico City and, of course, I never thought of this enormous city as a tourist destination. It was where I worked and lived, period. That was until I had to show some German and American friends the sights and since then, I've had the pleasure of seeing the city with work visitors and friends many times and I've honed my tour of Mexico City to perfection. So put on your most comfortable shoes and here we go!
1. The San Angel neighborhood is a peaceful and picturesque colonial zone where you'll find museums, art galleries, chic Mexican designer shops, ancient churches and some of the best cafés, restaurants and street food.
Get an Uber to drop you off in Plaza San Jacinto at around 10 AM on a Saturday. Head to the Del Carmen Market and find a little bakery stall called Moira’s Bakehouse. Across from Moira’s is a little coffee shop; order a cup of coffee (they’ll serve it in a Mexican clay “jarrito”, which you get to keep). While they serve your coffee, go back across to Moira’s and get a Blueberry Handpie and bring it with you to the coffee shop, take a seat and enjoy a little taste of heaven.
2. Now, let’s go outside, walk around and peek into the little shops as we head to the Bazar del Sabado (Saturday Bazaar). Tip: mark all these places in your google maps app so you can navigate by car and on foot). This is an indoor artsy, colorful market where you’ll find high quality arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, textiles, art and souvenirs. There’s also a restaurant where you can sit for a bite or a beer.
3. Next stop, the Del Carmen Convent and Museum, where you can look at some mummified Carmelite monks from the 17th century (the convent was founded in 1615, and no, Egypt isn’t the only country where you can see mummies!) and a large collection of religious art.
4. For our first stop in the Coyoacán neighborhood, you’ll need to buy tickets online well in advance for the first stop of the day, because lines will be brutal if you buy tickets on site for the Frida Kahlo Museum - the Blue House. Make sure you pay the little bit extra they charge if you want to take photos. This house was Frida’s birthplace, where she lived with Diego Rivera for some time, and the place where she died. The museum contains a large collection of art by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and part of their personal collection of Mexican Prehispanic artifacts.
5. Next on the tour is the Zocalo de Coyoacan (Main Square of the neighborhood). In the Aztec Nahuatl language, Coyoacan means “place of coyotes”. This is one of the oldest areas of the city with its beautiful cobbled streets, cute cafés and restaurants, Aztec dancers, and the popsicles in the city at Siberia ice cream shop (est. 1930).
6. In Mexico, lunch is eaten between 3 and 4 PM. Supper a lighter meal that most people eat at home, however a few little places still serve traditional Mexican supper and the best in Coyoacan is Merendero Las Lupitas. This little gem is quaint and a true typical Mexican restaurant. You MUST try the Burros de Machaca and the Gorditas Norteñas, accompanied with a refreshing glass of home made horchata ( jicaro seeds ground with rice, cinnamon, sesame seeds, nutmeg, and vanilla). For dessert, get an order of Coyotas (big flat cookies, cut into wedges, with molasses and deliciousness melted inside) and a cup of atole, an Aztec beverage made with ground corn and either chocolate, spices or strawberry).
7. Take an Uber to the Soumaya Museum, housed in an enormous spectacular modern building in the upscale neighborhood of Polanco. You’ll find art from every period, country and style, from the largest collection outside of France of works by sculptor Auguste Rodin, to some of the original notebooks of poet Gibran Kahlil Gibran, Mesoamerican art, XX century portraits and SO much more. Pace yourself, sit down at the museum café, then continue your visit, but do NOT skip the museum shop!
I had the privilege to attend a private dinner at the Soumaya, late after the museum doors were closed to the public. Dining among Rodins is one of the few times when you don’t care what the food is.
8. Head downtown to the Zócalo (main square of the city, easily reached by metro) to the Cathedral and just around the corner you’ll find the Templo Mayor archaeological site.
The temple is thought to be on the exact spot where the Aztecs saw their symbolic eagle perching on a cactus with a snake in its beak – the symbol of Mexico today. The Aztecs believed this was, literally, the center of the universe.
Before the Spaniards demolished it, the Teocalli of Tenochtitlán covered the site where the cathedral now stands, as well as the blocks to its north and east. It wasn’t until 1978, after electricians happened to find an eight-ton stone carving of the Aztec goddess Coyolxauhqui. The authorities decided to demolish the colonial buildings in the area and excavate the Templo Mayor.
At the center of the part of the Temple that one can visit is a platform dating from about 1400. On its southern half, a sacrificial stone stands in front of a shrine to Huizilopochtli, the Aztec war god. On the northern half is a chac-mool (a reclining figure) before a shrine to the water god, Tláloc. This Temple was mainly for sacrificial purposes (human sacrifice was common for the Aztecs).
9. For this next favorite you need to buy tickets in advance for the Ballet Folklórico de Amalia Hernández (buy tickets here). This folk dance group has toured all over the world and I promise you will not be sorry. They dance their way through the history of Mexico, starting from Prehispanic music and dance. The show is usually at night, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore the enormous downtown area, eat, shop and takes lots of photographs.
10. El Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) where the Folk Dance show takes place is one of the most beautiful buildings in the country. You can take a guided tour or buy a ticket to see the gorgeous murals by some of the most important Mexican artists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo.