Sunday, April 23, 2017

Making the Most of Mexico City

When Americans think of vacationing in Mexico, they imagine sitting on a beach surrounded by crystal clear waters with a cerveza in hand. While this is one great option when your planning your next Spring Break trip, I encourage you to consider a more unique experience. As the largest Spanish speaking city in the world with a population of 21.2 million people, it can be intimidating to book your vacation here. But, if you're willing to learn a few Spanish phrases and navigate the city streets, you can experience all the amazing sites this place has to offer.
El Palacio de Bellas Artes
Any trip to a major city isn't complete without seeing the city center. In Mexico City, they call the main square the Zócalo. Here you can see the famous Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María. Within walking distance, you can also hit El Palacio de Bellas Artes, El Palacio Postal, and the National Hotel. Look out for some mercados (though not as good as those in Puebla). We only spent a few hours walking around the centro since we were fairly exhausted from a red eye flight, but I think we had plenty of time to get a good bit of walking and see all the major sights. This was by far the most populated place we visited on our trip, so plan accordingly if you'd rather avoid the crowds. 
Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María

La Condesa
We stayed in La Condesa, a neighborhood that skirts downtown. This area reminded us of our home in Richmond, the Fan. It seemed like a more upscale part of the city and felt fairly safe with nice bars and restaurants. Additionally, booking Airbnbs in La Condesa put us within walking distance of Chapultepec.

Over 1,500 acres of Mexico City's land is preserved in the beautiful park Chapultepec. Similar to Central Park in New York, Chapultepec is a must see for any traveler. Entrance is free, but there are multiple attractions within the park in addition to the green spaces and monuments. One of Mexico City's most famous museums, the Museum of Anthropology, is located inside the park. At only 70 pesos per person, the museum is well worth the price. We stopped by late on the last day of our trip and could have spent longer in the massive museum if we'd had more time and energy. With our packed itinerary, we didn't make it to the Museum of Modern Art or the Chapultepec Zoo, both within the park. We did however visit the Chapultepec Castle which has its own museum inside with an assortment of art, furniture, and military artifacts. Personally, I thought it would be more worth while to spend more time at the Museum of Anthropology and skip the Chapultepec Castle, although the castle has a great view of the city.
Monument to the Niños Héroes

Chapultepec Castle

View from the Castle
Take advantage of the amazing restaraunts in Mexico City! You can eat like royalty for under 200 pesos ($10). Our favorite restaraunt was Contramar, a seafood restaraunt with incredible tuna tostadas and shrimp tacos. We went twice and only made a reservation the first time. Make sure to get there by 6 during the week, because they stop serving food at 6:30. We also enjoyed a unique Mexican breakfast at El Lardo (make sure to get some pan dulce!). And of course, if you're looking for a true Mexican experience, find a little taco stand and eat for under 60 pesos ($3). Street food wasn't overly abundant in Mexico City, but there were some stands in the city center and around big attractions like the Luchador show. We actually found better street food in Puebla. 
By the end of the week, my stomach was sadly tired of greasy Mexican tacos and corn tortillas. We found a chain of fast casual restaraunts called Frutos Prohibodos that serves salads, wraps, and juices. If you're like me and need your veggie fix, I definitely recommend this place to balance out all those tacos. 
When you're looking for a sweet treat, check out Churreria "El Moro" for churros. They have a variety of dipping sauces and you can even get a churro icecream sandwich if you're really looking for a sugar high, but I ate mine plain. One order is four churros which John and I split. If we'd had more time, I think we would have gone back another day!
Beer in Mexico is pretty meh. Everything tastes like a basic lager without much variety. If you're into Corona, you'll enjoy most Mexican beers. We like Negro Modelo, because it has a little more flavor. As far as the lagers go, we prefer Victoria, but it's similar to the others. 
Pan dulce at El Lardo

Tuna tostadas at Contramar

Getting Around
Just like any city, it's very easy to walk around Mexico City. We mostly ate in La Condesa, so we walked to all of the restaurants. From our Airbnbs we could walk to Chapultepec. When we couldn't realistically walk somewhere, like the Zócalo, we took Uber. Our cell phone plans cover data in Mexico, so Uber was a great option for us. We didn't have any problems with the drivers (although everyone in Mexico City drives crazy), and we enjoyed conversing with a few of them who were patient with our Spanish. We did take a taxi once out of convenience, but I recommend Uber if possible. The taxi drivers are known to charge more for tourists and aren't as regulated as Uber. 
We also saw bikes for rent around town, although we never used them. Biking in Chapultepec sounded really pleasant, but if you want to bike on the roads be careful! There are bike lanes on some roads, but the drivers in Mexico are crazy. The metro is another good, cheap option for getting around. Metro tickets are 5 pesos (25 cents). 
I've said it twice already, but the drivers in Mexico City are crazy. I would not rent a car unless you feel really confident in your ability to drive aggressively. 

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