Ahhhh…. Mexico City. This wonderful, bustling, vibrant city. After only a mere four days in this city, I was already intoxicated by its lush streets, contemporary design, and robust food culture. Here, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re hunting for the remnants of the bustling 15th century island city it once was or searching for a hip new coffee shop, the city runs the gamut when it comes to travel experiences. Thanks to Alaska Airlines, I was able to spend five days wandering this multifaceted city. And without further ado, I present to you my guide to Mexico City. Well, to be more specific, my Instagrammer’s Guide to Mexico City (With Some Foodie Gems Too). Taking any suggestions on how to make that a little shorter… Now, let’s dive right in.
WHERE TO STAY
What I love most about Mexico City is that the options for lovely, comfortable housing is endless and affordable. I stayed in Roma and Condesa, which were often recommended as great places to stay for hip, young people (hah). Both of these neighborhoods are packed with delicious restaurants, elevated boutiques, and pulsing nightlife. There is plenty of housing for tourists in all of these places, whether you want to stay in a tastefully decorated airbnb or boutique hotel. I was lucky enough to do both!
For the first few nights, I stayed in La Valise Hotel, a diminutive but super stylish and cozy hotel in the heart of Roma. With its nondescript entrance, you’d never guess the sleek interior that lay inside. La Valise is like a giant house with three distinct levels (rooms). Each room has a wondrously whimsical theme and a completely different look to accompany it. We stayed in La Terraza, the top suite with its own private patio. Narrow steps lead up to a vast, tastefully appointed space with a separate bathroom, little kitchenette, and bedroom with a deck and seating area.
Even if you can’t get La Terraza, El Patio and La Luna are also worth a stay. El Patio has its own leather swing and hammock for the ultimate relaxation, and La Luna is a retro design lover’s dream.
I also stopped by to visit the Hotel Condesa DF, another stunning hotel in the Roma Condesa neighborhood. I was immediately enamored by the charming vintage car waiting on the outside and its crisp, modern interior.
Of course, there’s always Airbnb. Airbnb’s are plentiful, affordable, and many have an eye for design! We stayed in this cozy, well-appointed little place in the heart of Condesa. Not only was it within walking distance for many popular restaurants and bars, it sat on top of a well known restaurant named Lardo. Despite its close proximity to a lot of places, it was still very, very quiet and peaceful in the apartment.
WHAT TO EAT
Where to begin… Well, when it comes to food, Mexico City isn’t kidding around. This city knows their food. From 50 cent tacos to fine dining restaurants featured on Chef’s Table, there is the best place for foodies. With only a few days there, I was determined to make sure our foodie agenda was full, and I have to say, that is definitely one thing I achieved in spades during our trip.
Mercado Roma is a popular and architect-designed food hall with lots of stalls and counters from popular restaurants in Mexico City. It’s a great way to try a lot of specialty foods in one go, while squeezing in some people watching at the same time.
Huset Cocina de Campo (Roma Norte) is a gorgeous outdoor restaurant that’s attached to a hotel and yoga studio. We didn’t actually eat food, but it’s a beautiful place to grab drinks.
Quintonil (Polanco) serves up modern Mexican food with locally sourced ingredients. It’s been touted as one of the 50 best restaurants in the world, and I have to say, it lives up to the hype. Despite its many accolades and awards, it is no stuffy, white cloth restaurant. It has a subtle air about it while providing impeccable food in a comfortable, casual atmosphere. I highly recommend going to Quintonil to enjoy at least fine dining experience in Mexico City. Compared to similar tiered restaurants here in San Francisco, it’s actually quite “affordable”.
They even invited us to go into the kitchen and see what new things they were cooking up!
We were lucky enough to also visit Pujol, one of the most well known restaurants in Mexico City. Like Quintonil, it was also ranked in the top 50 best restaurants in the world. It is an absolutely stunning restaurant, and a little bit more formal than Quintonil. They’re best known for the 400 day mole, which you can try right next to their younger mole. One of my favorite dishes was the Mexican street corn they offered as a snack.
If I were to choose between Pujol and Quintonil, I’d choose the latter. I loved the dishes just a little bit more, as well as the friendly rapport of the wait staff. You can’t go wrong with either, though!
On our last day, we headed to Tacos Don Juan in Condesa. We had tacos at several places, but this was by far the BEST. It’s a no frills place— basically a window on a street, but the tacos were affordable, meaty, and oh-so-juicy. Make sure you have some wipes afterward because it was soooo messy good.
WHAT TO DO
Mexico City’s design culture is prevalent everywhere you go. The first thing I noticed upon landing here is how colorful and vibrant all the buildings are. They are *not* afraid to experiment with color. At the same time, the buildings have a very organic feel— think lots of living green walls and outdoor dining patios. One of the standout parts of the trip was seeing the many works of Luis Barragan, a famous Mexican architect and civil engineer who’s had a huge influence on contemporary design. We took a tour of his studios, and also went to Cuadra San Cristobal, now a private residence.
To take his studio tour, you can book tickets online easily here. Take a look to see where he lived and learn all about his design sensibility. Not only was it stunning, the tour guides were very knowledgable and it was a very educational experience. Note that you have to pay extra to take photos.
We were able to also tour Cuadra San Cristobal, a stunning private home and horse stable about an hour away from Mexico City. To get a private tour is pretty pricey, so I’d recommend trying to get a few people to go with you to split the cost. It is absolutely breathtaking.
As you can see, Luis liked pink wayyyy before millennial pink was even a thing.
Of course, we can’t forget that Mexico City is also home to Frida Kahlo, perhaps one of the most famous Mexican artists of our time. We were able to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum at Casa Azul, where we saw see exactly where she lived, loved, and worked.
We also headed to the Saturday Market aka El Bazaar Sabado. Similar to a flea market, this Saturday market is chock-full of vendors selling locally made art, textiles, crafts and more. It can get pretty crowded, so I’d recommend coming earlier in the day or later.
Last… but not least, I’d highly recommend checking out Lucha Libré. Even for me, someone who’s not the least bit interested in wrestling, it was a fun and worthwhile experience. Definitely something you have to do while in Mexico City! Our hotel concierge helped us book tickets online and printed them so we could go in quickly.
Some other tips to consider while in Mexico City:
- While a lot of people speak English, it can still be difficult to get around if you don’t speak Spanish
- Uber is super super cheap, under $5 USD per ride
- I felt super safe the whole time I was there
- There are a LOT of mosquitoes… Beware!
- It has short periods of very intense rain, but it leaves as quickly as it comes, so don’t worry that it’ll last a long time
We were only in Mexico City for a few days, which wasn’t long enough! We weren’t able to get to all the touristy things that I wanted to try, such as visiting the pyramids or canals of Xochimilco.
Have any questions? Leave them below in the comments!