Mexico City is one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Rich in color and culture, it’s a on rushing metropolis full of fine food and great vibes. Fresh from Mexico City, I already miss the bustle and the full-belly-feeling that lasted throughout my recent trip.
My verdict: it was everything I expected and more. I ate the storied street tacos and dined at some of the best restaurants of my life. I visited the museums to witness the iconic 20th-century artwork, and marveled at the eclectic architecture. I shopped at bustling markets and trendy vintage stores. And best of all, I wandered around the city, taking in all the sights and smells, and sounds it has to offer.
With all the history and contemporary culture the city has to offer, planning an itinerary is close to impossible. However, if it’s your first time visiting, there are some tried and true spots you won’t want to miss and some new spots to give you a true taste of the city.
Where To Eat
It’s not an understatement to say that Mexico City has some of the most delectable food on the planet. Both Pujol and Quintonil rank on the best-restaurants-in-the-world lists. Their respective chefs are cooking up inventive and rich delicacies that you should not miss. If you can, go to both. But reservations book out weeks in advance, so if you can get into at least one, don’t miss it.
Maximo’s rotating menu is an everyday delight. New dishes appear on the menu every day, and every single one will pretty much change your life. Both lunch and dinner are knockouts. Leave room on your itinerary just in case you want to make a return visit.
Rosetta is home to a restaurant and a neighboring bakery, Panaderia Rosetta. The top baker in Mexico, Elena Reygadas, whips up sweet and savory goods that you can’t miss. From traditional Mexican pastries (the filled conchas are 10/10) to re-envisioned classics. Try the ICE CREAM CROISSANT!! on a warm day. There’s something for everyone here. Full disclosure: I stopped by for a pastry every time I passed it on a stroll along Roma Norte. No shame.
I’d play menu-roulette here. Just close your eyes, point at something on the menu, and marvel at the scrumptious flavors that await. This experimental take on Mexican food has a diverse range of plates, but my favorite has to be the plate of cheese. No, not a cheese plate like a charcuterie board. Just a plate piled high with the best Oaxacan cheese you’ve ever tasted garnished with chili and olive oil. Trust me, it was fire.
I love a food market. Borough Market in London. The old Gansevoort Market in NYC. Smorgasbord is in its heyday. This is one of the smaller markets I went to in Mexico, but its food-hall style made for a very intimate experience with a bunch of delish vendors.
6. Los Cocuyos
Someone once said that choosing your taco chain in Mexico is like choosing your favorite sports team. The stakes are high. But there are no losers — just sumptuous taco after sumptuous taco. But make sure you stop at the Los Cocuyos taco stand — beloved by our beloved Anthony Bourdain. The selection of meats ranges from classic to adventurous. And you’ll never meet a better taco in your life.
Places to Visit
With 170 registered museums in Mexico City, narrowing down the list is a brutal task. Be sure to visit The Modern Art Museum to see works by the heavy hitters — Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco, and David Siqueiros — as well as newer works from contemporary powerhouses. If you go soon, there’s a gorgeous visiting exhibit on Gabriel Garcia Marquez — run, don’t walk.
One of the highlights of the Bosque de Chapultepec — the city’s biggest park — is the Castillo de Chapultepec – the only castle in the Americas ever occupied by European royalty. Marvel at the splendor of the castle and the grounds for awesome Instagram content. It’s also right next to the Museo Nacional de Antropología and the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo.
To appreciate Mexico City, you have to appreciate its history. The Museo Anthropologica is an excellent place to start. It’s an intriguing introduction to the culture and history of this incredible city.
Did you know Mexico City used to be dominated by rivers? It was comparable to Venice, Italy. But after paving the rivers to make roads, all that remains are the streets named after the old rivers. But if you take a trip just outside the city, you can experience the boat life that could have been. Spend the day on a boat in Xochimilco for an unforgettable experience of food, friends, and music on the water.
Visiting the ruins at Teotihuacan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The construction dates back to as early as 300 BC and was integral to various pre-Colombian civilizations, from the Teotihuacanos to the Aztecs. Take a guided tour and truly experience the wonder of the pyramids.
Las Grutas Tolantongo Hot Springs, aka the Tolantongo caves, is bubbling with hot springs and underwater thermal pools. Everything you need for a fun day to an overnight trip is easily accessible — pools on the side of the cliff, a river, a zipline, a suspension bridge, regular swimming pools, hotels, and a thriving local community.
One of the most iconic Mexican artists is indisputably Frida Kahlo. Walk through her home, Casa Azul — the Blue House — and view life through Frida’s eyes. Experience how she lived, admire the artistry of her everyday life, as well as some of her magnificent work on display. A ticket also gives you entry to Diego Rivera's Museo Anahuacalli, a 15-minute drive away.
2. Casa Gilardi
One of the last homes built by Luis Barragan, a legendary architect. Tucked into a residential street, this house is actually lived in by a family, who give the tours of their gorgeous abode complete with history and architectural information about Barragan’s design sensibilities. Beauty meets function in what will be one of the highlights of your trip.
Another example of form and function is alive in Casa Organica. Javier Senosiain raised a family in this unique, semi-underground home that prioritizes how we live with nature. Unexpected shapes and touchable textures come alive here. You’ll have to see it to believe it.
Places to Shop
Mexico City is famous for its markets. And while you should pop into any and all you come across, don’t miss the fashionable boutique stores the city is newly becoming notorious for. One of the best: Aazar. This highly curated showroom would be at home in Los Angeles or New York. The selection of vintage and designer pieces is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Leave room in your suitcase.
2. Vintage Hoe
Another famous vintage stop is Vintage Hoe, which boasts a cool collection of vintage styles. Peruse the racks and experiment with your style here. It’ll be worth it.
3. Goodbye Folk
With multiple locations in the city, Goodbye Folk has floor upon floor of every style and for every person. From coats to dresses to corduroy and vintage tees, spend hours in this store wishing you could take the whole lot home with you.
Whether you ran out of shampoo on your trip or are hungry for homeware souvenirs, Utilitario Mexicano is a concept store that makes convenience goods cool. Their selection of functional goods makes for elegant souvenirs or functional tidbits from your trip.
There are countless stops you ought make in CDMX. But if you start here, you won’t regret it. And if you don’t have time to do it all, there’s always your next trip. I’m planning mine already.