Mexico City, Mexico
I’m excited to share our amazing 3 days in la Ciudad de México last February! As I was sharing the trip on Instagram, I got a lot of questions about how we decided to visit. As lame as it sounds, it was only on our radar because it’s one of the more exotic places that Southwest flies. (We have companion pass due to Joe’s work travel, so try to fly SW when we can.) Once we started looking into it, we found out how much the city has to offer. From an incredible food scene, to some of the best museums in the world, to thousands of years of history and culture, there are many reasons to visit. Did you know the city is so gigantic it’s made up of 16 different alcalderias? (smaller neighborhoods or “mayorships”) The population is disputed based on where you draw the border, but it’s somewhere from 15-25 MILLION! We got nowhere close to exploring all of these neighborhoods, and could have used another day (or week..) but I’m so glad we made the trip and got our first glimpse of the city. I knew immediately I wanted to make a return trip! We’re thinking when we do return, we will visit over Dia de los Muertos, which is conveniently Joe’s birthday, and 2 days before my birthday! It would be the perfect birthday vacation.
Hunger: Favorite meal
Wanderlust: Most picturesque location
Travel: Favorite activity
Our dining experience at Pujol was absolutely one of the highlights of the trip. We actually did not book our flights until we knew we had a reservation, as we were positive we needed it to be part of our Mexico City experience!
Pujol has been named the 20th best restaurant in the WORLD. Chef and owner Enrique Olvera took it upon himself to change the perception that Mexican food is fast casual food. He turned his restaurant into an exquisite fine dining experience that other restaurants in Mexico City and around the world are now starting to emulate.
The most classic dish at Pujol, pictured here, is the Mole Madre! The darker mole had been aged 1,414 days on the day we got to try it, and it was delicious. I was glad they paired it with the new light brown mole so you could really tell the difference! (I think I enjoyed both equally, though!)
One of the main reasons we went to Mexico City is because a few months earlier, we were perusing Netflix, and decided to check out Chefs Table on Netflix. Once we watched the Pujol episode, it was decided - we would eat there sooner or later. It ended up being much sooner than we expected when our friends Matt and Missa suggested a south of the border vacation, and we were so excited to snag a reservation for the same weekend! If you can't get into Pujol, I would truly recommend saving a Mexico City trip for another time. I know it seems extreme, but I think this is one spot that will live up to the hype!
There are two dining experiences at Pujol, the normal restaurant, and the “Barra Tacos.” Despite their separate Open Table accounts, both experiences are in the same restaurant, and we actually got to try more dishes with the Taco Bar 10 course menu than we would have in the restaurant! Just smaller portions. It’s even easier to get in, so I’d highly recommend this option if you have a trip coming up.
Wanderlust: Palacio de Bellas Artes
The most picturesque spot in the city is the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which is the cover photo for this post. Housing the city's art museum, the most beautiful work of art is actually the building it's located in!
Pro tip for getting this view: there are a few bars and viewing terraces in the are, but we went into @sears across the street. Take the elevator to the 8th floor, and find the coffee shop, Finca Don Porfirio Juarez. You can sit at a window facing bar, grab a quick coffee, and admire the view to your heart's desire! No $16 cocktail admission price like you'd find in Chicago! (Although we did wish they served alcohol...)
Travel: Food Tour
Our favorite activity was a food tour of the Navarte neighborhood, because it brought us to the best taco I have EVER eaten, pictured here. We booked through Eat Mexico tours (not hosted/sponsored, just enjoyed it!)
We were in Mexico City only 3 nights, but were lucky to come here on 2 of them! After trying them during out food tour Saturday, we returned for our last meal on Sunday night.
Vilsito may look like a typical taco stop in this picture, but it is actually a mechanic shop during the day! For those who speak Spanish, you may be wondering why the name of such a delicious place would be "little vile." Their original name was a play on a popular taco spot in the city. Being just a small operation at the time, they didn't think anyone would notice, or care. However, as the word began spreading about their incredible tacos, the original restaurant caught wind of it and made them change their name! So they made the name "little vile" or Vilsito, to poke fun at the original restaurant for feeling threatened.
(If your visit to Mexico City includes a Sunday, I would save this meal for Sunday when many other restaurants are closed!)
We landed in Mexico City at 11:10 on Friday and had our guide Bernie from Netouring pick us up at the airport for a mini tour of Coyoacán (not sponsored/hosted.)
He took us to the market for lunch (left photo) on a stroll past Cortez’s palace, a beautiful cathedral, and past the park (middle photo.) In the market, I had my first Pambazo! Pambazo is the name for a white Mexican bread, but is also used to refer to this sandwich, where the Pambazo bread is dipped in a red pepper sauce. The peppers turn the bread red as you see here! It’s then filled with potatoes, chorizo, cheese, and lettuce. The result was delicious (and huge – this was only half!) The guys serving us were so friendly and welcoming when our guide told them it was our first time in Mexico city. With just a little translating help, it was so much easier to make a connection with them, so I’m glad we had a tour guide vs. going on our own. It is one of my life goals to be fluent in Spanish though, so hopefully I can return in the future!
The last stop was to the Frida Khalo museum (right photo) and the home she lived in for most of her life. My favorite museums are former homes, and ones that are set up as they were at the time they were lived in. That is exactly how Frida’s house was. You saw her bedroom, and Diego Rivera’s separate bedroom where he often had affairs. She was contained to her bed for the end of her life due to her many medical issues, and it was sad to see her life from the perspective of the rooms she was contained to. Many of her beautiful paintings were on display, including portraits of her parents, Diego, and herself.
Getting out of Mexico City for a few hours to see these pieces of history was perfect. There were many options to get there: private tours, public tours, hot air balloon tours, public bus, or rent a car.
We thought outside the box – we heard Ubers were cheap in Mexico City.. could that work? We looked it up before we left, and found that drivers were available out at the pyramids! Our one hour ride there was $25, and back was $18. (They include an extra cost on the way there in case the driver can’t get a ride back into the city.) When you get in the car, tell the driver you will pay the $4 toll, otherwise they will take you on a twice as long route to avoid paying it- yikes!! (In the US, tolls are automatically added to your uber fare – not sure if that’s not the case in Mexico, or what.)
Your driver on the way there will likely want to keep the ride running and to take you back. He told me they don’t charge for waiting time, but even if that was true, we didn’t want to deal with locating the same person and feeling rushed. Since he was upset we wouldn’t use him to go back, he decided to keep our ride running for an hour after we got out anyways… Uber refunded us, but to avoid the headache, make sure that you see them end the ride in the app before you exit the car! That was after we tipped him extra in cash too – rude!
The grounds were big but straightforward, so it was feasible to do on your own as long as you’re ok with skipping some of the historic details you’d learn on a tour. A full day would have been way too long for us, so we were happy we chose the Uber option!
The middle photo is the view of the pyramid of the sun after climbing the pyramid of the moon. One thing I love about traveling in other countries is they are more relaxed about potentially “dangerous” activities. No doubt if these pyramids were in the US, no one would be allowed to climb them for fear of a law suit from someone falling!
A frightening experience...
I have to share one experience in Mexico City that was not quite something I planned during my trip research. On our last night in Mexico City, I experienced the scariest moment of my life.
Around 1am, Joe was awakened by small things moving in our room. His water bottle, my suitcase, a glass. He thought immediately: someone had broken into our room. It was very dark, there was a long hallway we couldn’t see from the bed, and he was positive someone was standing there.
As the seconds ticked on, he slowly realized the movements were more severe than he first thought.. It suddenly occurred to him – there’s no robber, the items are moving from an earthquake! In extreme relief, he proclaimed “oh my god it’s an earthquake!”
Those were the words that woke me up – of course not knowing the backstory that an earthquake was much more favorable than what he thought was going on. I froze in panic. We were on the top floor of the hotel, and the building was swinging from side to side. It was a very old building, and you could hear wood screeching in every direction. I gripped onto the sides of the bed in panic, frozen. Not reacting, not evacuating, not standing under a doorway.
Joe’s reaction was to stand up, and the room was swaying so much it caused him to stumble. It felt like when you’re on a boat and you cross over another boat’s wake. Back and forth, back and forth. We couldn’t hear any sirens, I don’t know if that’s because they only sound prior to the earthquake, or because we were too high on the 13th floor, or that we were just too far away from one.
When it finally stopped we just sat there silently for a few seconds in shock. Did that really just happen?
We looked out the window and didn’t see much except a car driving with its flashers on. Our windows were off the back of the hotel, so we couldn’t tell if anyone had evacuated into the street. Searching google just brought up stories about the last earthquake three days before.
Did that even just happen??
Finally Joe had the clarity to check Twitter, and we found reassurance that others experienced it as well. We called the front desk and they confirmed we didn’t need to evacuate. One experience I didn’t expect to check off my bucket list, that’s for sure.