The Only Mexico City Travel Guide You Need
Mexico City and food is almost becoming synonymous—once you visit, you’ll know why. Chefs from around the globe are heading to CDMX to pop-up Michelin worthy restaurants, bringing the already incredible food scene more attention. Perhaps, what is more fascinating about this eclectic city is the way modern art is blending, almost naturally, with it’s old world, folkloric ways. From the grandiose public parks, chic boutique hotels, hip neighborhoods and excellent shopping scene that contends with its European counterparts (think major Barcelona meets Los Angeles vibes). You can't explore all the goodness in a day (or even three), so just know your first visit will surely have you putting CDMX on your "to come back" list.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO TO MEXICO CITY
1. Your credit card will be very useful and is pretty much accepted everywhere, but having a few pesos on hand is a must when it comes to street food (DO NOT SLEEP ON THE STREET FOOD SCENE, you’ll see me saying this over and over again) and markets.
2. Uber is actually your best bet for moving around the city (when you can’t walk, which is the best way to explore each neighborhood). It’s extremely inexpensive and readily available. Even from the airport!
3. Weather is consistent year-round. There really isn’t a bad time to visit CDMX.
4. Mexico City runs on a more European schedule…so, Americans, we’re gonna need you to ditch that super early 5pm dinner time. Lunch is served around 3pm here and dinner is best had super late. There will be closures for siestas at some places, so check in advance if you have your heart set on visiting a certain establishment.
5. 4-5 days is probably a perfect number of days for a really thorough CDMX trip. If you’re trying to squeeze it all in for a 3 day trip, make sure you stay in a neighborhood that is very central to the places you want to frequent and make reservations for your must-eat restaurants + must-visit museums.
Picking a place to stay in Mexico City can be overwhelming. You’ve got lots of choices when it comes cute hotels and neighborhoods. The city is expansive, covering over 500 square miles and housing close to nine million residents.
Most first-timers and tourists usually narrow down to four major neighborhoods:
1. Centro Historico
Until the 1900s, what is now the historical center of Mexico City was the city, and the rest was all outskirts. The Aztec heart of Mexico City still beats in the city's center: here you can see visit the ruins of the main Aztec temple, Templo Mayor, right beside the magnificent cathedral, wander the Zócalo and see murals by Diego Rivera inside the government palace. Walking through the streets you'll come across a wide variety of palaces and churches dating to the colonial period as well as more recent constructions, including the grandiose Palacio de Bellas Artes. A great way to get a look from above is by going to the top of the Torre Latinoamericana.
Mexico City's swankiest neighborhood, Polanco, is famous for its designer shops and upscale restaurants—many of which are situated on the fancy Avenida Masaryk, named after a Czech president. This is one of Mexico City's most diverse neighborhoods, with large Jewish and Lebanese communities. Visitors interested in gourmet cuisine will come to Polanco to dine at Pujol, and those wishing to stay in an upscale, chain hotel may choose the W Mexico City or the Intercontinental Presidente in this area.
3. Condesa – Roma (My personal favorite!)
Bundling these two together because they’re too close to separate.
Roma: Colonia Roma has a bohemian vibe that remains even as the area is gentrified. It's worth taking a stroll along Álvaro Obregón, the neighborhood's main street, to enjoy the Art Nouveau architecture. Roma can be rougher around the edges than nearby Condesa, but still has upscale establishments like Contramar, one of the city's best seafood restaurants, and Máximo Bistrot, which styles itself as a low-key French bistro but serves top-notch dishes prepared with locally obtained ingredients.
La Condesa: One of Mexico City's trendier areas, this zone was part of an estate that belonged to María Magdalena Dávalos de Bracamontes y Orozco, the Countess of Miravalle. La Condesa has lovely Art Deco homes, leafy parks as well as hip shops, bars, and restaurants. Parque Mexico is one of the defining landmarks of the area: it is the former site of a horse race track of the Mexican Jockey Club and has many elements of a European garden, including ponds and walkways. The park hosts various cultural events and neighborhood gatherings.
4. Zona Rosa
This is the center of Mexico City's gay community (although the whole city is generally gay-friendly), and the area has a vibrant nightlife, so stay at one of the nearby hotels if you're planning to be out until the wee hours.
Pro-tip: Stay close to the city center to save on transportation. Uber is VERY cheap in CDMX, but you don’t wanna waste all your time traveling to and from your main areas of interest.
You’ve got lots of choices when it comes to accommodations in CDMX. I’m more of a boutique hotel, design snob, small property type of girl—so, I’ve rounded up the places I love most and would personally recommend.
Having the impressive Polanco district as its home, the Las Alcobas is high on the hotel ratings lists. This is the right pick for those of you who aren’t looking for the small, b&b feeling, but still want the perks of good design and personal touches. Their service stands out as they are particularly helpful in showing Mexico City around to tourists, since this is the type of hotel that sees lots of business travelers.
Located in Condesa barrio, Condesa DF marries the richness of old-world Mexican culture, a touch of mid-century modern elements and Parisian style. The 1928 Art Nouveau building has artistic interiors with local designs like hand-woven rugs from Oaxaca by French designer India Mahdavi (one of my major design crushes). The fourth floor has daybeds where you can watch the sunset over the Chapultepec Castle and Parque España while sipping cocktails. This hotel is becoming trendier by the day (it’s pretty Instafamous, if you catch my drift) and gets booked up quickly. I went to CDMX over Valentine’s Day weekend, so there were no vacancies to stay (luckily, you can still visit the gorgeous property for a cocktail or three).
This hotel may be the most perfect (and seemingly random) cultural integration. Dead in the center of Mexico City you’ll find an incredibly zen place to call home. Ryo Kan, a blond wood, utterly soothing new guesthouse styled as a (you guessed it) Japanese ryokan recently opened and is where I chose to stay on my last trip to CDMX. They’ve got incredible baths on the rooftop—and we had Uber Eats deliver tacos + Tecaté for us to enjoy under the Mexico City sky while watching a Frida Kahlo documentary on my laptop. Yes, it was as fabulous as it sounds. This architectural dream is just a ten-minute walk from the Modern Art Museum and perfectly located—short walk to Roma Norte and Condesa. Loved the location!
The best view of Popocatépetl Volcano is gotten from Distrito Capital. With exquisite interiors and decors, super nice pool and modern guestrooms—this hotel has all the comforts you’ll need during your stay. The fifth floor has nice views and is super sceney, with a restaurant headed by Enrique Olvera (of Pujol fame). If you’re looking for something a little swankier than the small boutique hotels I tend to gravitate towards, this one’s for you.
La Valise is where I’ll be staying the next time I visit CDMX. I’m just in love with the whole vibe of this three bedroom luxury hotel that was once a townhouse in the 1920s. Converted artfully into the charming little beauty it is today. You should book early if you want to stay here, it’s not only v popular but has limited accommodations. It's penthouse suite is beeeeeyond fabulous, with an indoor outdoor setup that makes for a blissful night’s sleep under the stars. The hotel is served by a nearby restaurant, Rosetta.
With a collection of well-curated antiques, artwork and local custom-designed furnitures, Hotel Carlota is the best choice for the artsy, historian type of traveler. It has a central pool area with a bar and restaurant. Also, for my pet lovers—Hotel Carlota is pet friendly.
Hotel Habita, might as well be new age museum of modern art. Frosted glass exterior, an assemblage of contemporary Mexican art, a Jan Hendrix mural in the lobby and a v Instagram worthy black-and-white backdrop by the rooftop pool bar. They’ve got a gorgeous fireplace where you can chill while served Tapas.
If you like swish design hotels then María Condesa might be the ideal spot for you, given that each room was designed by famed Mexican fashion brand Pineda Covalin. Even though minimalist Mexican is the best way to describe the María Condesa vibe, you’ll not be short on all the mod cons like Apple TV and Nespresso machines. So, if you want somewhere to pamper yourself in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, this hotel – complete with silk bedding and free mini bar – could be the spot for you.
Mexico City is home to some of the world’s best restaurants, but I cannot stress this enough—MAKE SURE YOU EAT STREET FOOD! While fancy + famed restaurants are great, I think you’ll miss out on the magic of CDMX if you skimp out on the incredible street food scene.
Mexico City is a street food lovers paradise, there is an incredible variety of delicious foods all over town. You can’t go more than a few blocks without running into something calling you to grab a seat and a bite to eat. There’s too many to list, but you can’t go wrong with tacos al Pastor, gringas, chicharron de queso, or pretty much anything!
Mexican food is always good, but it tastes that much better in Mexico City. I truly blame this city for ruining me for every other establishment. The food here is just the best.
Honestly, one of the coolest ways to get a handle on the street food scene and everything it has to offer is with a local street food tours. I absolutely love Airnbnb Experiences and highly recommend looking into Airbnb Experiences that fit your interests—they offer incredible itineraries to help you make the most of your time.
The menu contains fresh ingredients and serves them up in an artistic way. It landed 35th on the world’s top restaurant list, so if that something you’re into…you’re gonna wanna hit up Quintonil.
Unpopular opinion - I loved it more than any other restaurant we went to in CDMX. This place is truly my favorite place to eat in CDMX. The three floor monument has a rooftop beer garden and a collection of dining choices you shouldn't miss. Think Chelsea Market or Pike Place Market—it’s an elevated food court, if you will. Don’t sleep on this place. I wish I visited more…there’s so much to eat and drink (I had the best Michelada of mi vida here).
Ranking 16th on the World’s best 50 restaurant list, Pujol is intimate with only 13 tables. The coursed dinner serves up traditional Mexican dishes in a very swanky setting. If fine dining is your jam, this place needs a spot on your itinerary.
A cozy dining area inside the Las Alcobas hotel, this restaurant serves up Mexican fare to classic American dishes. Anatol is a seasonal, consciously-sourced, ingredient-driven restaurant that has a small plate format. If you’re looking for something upscale, but relaxed and need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, you’ll love Anatol.
Tacos El Huequito
Ok, so one of my most favorite things ever are Al Pastor Tacos and Tacos El Huequito claims to be the original Al Pastor establishment. There are multiple locations in CDMX now, but head to the original downtown stand on Ayuntamiento Street (that dates back to 1959 for you food history buffs). They’re really popular for the especial, that comes with enough pastor meat to fill 10 tacos, accompanied by all the salsas, tortillas and fixins you’ll need.
This little hole-in-the-wall place is one of my absolute favorite spots. The menu is made up of 3 parts: meat, sauce and sides. The food is solid and they’re really accommodating to groups. It’s no frills, but awesome and still authentic.
If you’ve done any research before landing here, you’ve probably already heard about the seafood heaven that is Contramar. This popular seafood restaurant serves up all the vibes, ambiance and fresh fare. Everything is ridiculously fresh and delicious so it’s best to go at this family style to try everything your tummy can handle. Items you must order? The tuna tostadas, grilled octopus, pescado a la talla and fig tart.
This place is known for serving up the best brunch in the city. El Cardenal is located in the heart of Centro Historico, making it an easy place to start you day. You’re going to have to prepare for a bit of a wait, so get here early or expect a line. Things to order? Nata paired with Concha, Chilaquiles, Enchiladas, Poached Eggs (in the cutest clay pots) and Omelettes stuffed with incredible local ingredients.
Ice cream is a thing in Mexico City and Neveria Roxy might just serve the best ice cream in the city. This place is a bit of a trip back in time, as it was established in the 50’s and hasn’t changed since. You’ll have a hard time choosing from the long list of flavors, but my personal favorites are the Mexican fruit forward ones like Mamey, Melon and Guanabana. They’ve got several locations, but the best one is in Polanco.
Jules Basement is known as one of the best bars in the world, so it’s worth a visit. It’s got major speakeasy vibes and is pretty dang swanky. They take reservations online (so snag one right around when you book your trip) or you can try your luck to walk-in.
Churreria El Moro
This Instagram famous Churro mecca lives up to every single hype. Absolutely a must-go. That’s really all I can say about that. Just go. You can thank me later.
Rosetta is technically an Italian restaurant, but this is Mexico so you can expect a latin twist. The restaurant is located in a colonial townhouse in the trendy, artsy Roma neighborhood, so you can walk around before or after your meal to make extra room for plenty of wine, heaping portions of pasta and their incredible bread.
El Turix is a tiny hole-in-the-wall taqueria that is an absolute MUST. El Turix serves up Yucatan specialties, so things will be on the sweeter and more citrusy side. You’re going to wanna order the cochinita pibil tacos, that are slow-roasted pulled pork cooked with achiote paste and citrus juices and served with a panucho (an open face tortilla with thicker corn dough). This place is tiny, so expect a crowd during lunch time.
You’ll find Mercado Coyoacán below under place to visit, so definitely plan on going here when you’ve got time for Frida Kahlo’s home tour (it’s a few blocks away and a bit of a drive out from City Center) and to explore the entire market. Tostadas Coyoacán has been in the large public Mercado Coyoacán for decades, spawning several adjoining copycats (the original has a yellow sign with orange letters) and making the market synonymous with tostadas. The toppings—octopus, cow's foot, mushroom, chicken mole, the list goes on—are ultra fresh and clearly visible in massive conical piles. Pick a few and get them con todo—avocado, lettuce, cream, crumbled cheese.
La Casa de Toño
La Casa de Toño is another Mexico City institution, with a few locations throughout the city. Though La Casa de Toño is known for its pozole, everything is good and super cheap. I owe this find to Yelp, as it was one of the most reviewed restaurants in CDMX. Flautas, pozole, sopes with tinga, and tacos de cochinita are just a few of the many dishes we feasted on. This restaurant is perfect for those times when you don’t want anything fancy and you just want to get your grub on—think street food in a seated setting.
Tacos Hola (Also Known As El Guero)
Chicago chef Rick Bayless featured this Condesa-neighborhood institution on his PBS-TV show, and with good reason. The variety of the house specialty at Tacos Hola is incredible, and the flavors amazing.
Tacos Hola is always crowded, and the lines are chaotic. So do like the Chilangosdo, and elbow your way to the counter.
One popular choice at Tacos Hola is al pastor, slow-roasted spiced pork carved from a spit. A healthy, tasty vegetarian alternative is acelga, kale mixed with rice.
SEE + DO
An incredible library that is worth a quick walk-through, if you’re in the general vicinity. The modern architecture is absolutely stunning and the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves will having you feeling like a VERY modern-day Belle.
Think Versailles, but in CDMX. If architecture, sweeping views, beautiful landscaping and art are your thing-go here! Wear comfy shoes, you’ll be walking uphill to the castle and through a gorgeous park.
MY FAVORITE PLACE IN MEXICO CITY! I absolutely loved Xochimilco—at first glance, you’ll think this place is gonna be tourist trap, but it’s surprisingly not. Locals enjoy it just as much as tourists, in fact we found out that most locals head to Xochimilco on Sundays post-church (hint: avoid on Sundays, as it’s extra busy). Xochimilco is the Venice of Mexico. Before the Spanish arrived in Mexico City, the indigenous people of Mexico had created an incredible network of canals which they used as both a means of transport and as a way to ensure there was a constant supply of water throughout the country. Xochimilco means “Floating Gardens" as the Aztecs created chinampas which were artificial agricultural plots rich in minerals and there they would plant thousands of flower fields. After the Spanish invasion, they dried up many of the canals in the centre of Mexico City in order to make room for modern roads. But the canals in Xochimilco remained. It’s 45 minutes south of Mexico City, so try to couple this with an activity you’re doing as close as possible to Xochimilco (I paired it with Frida’s home). You’ll wanna go hungry and thirsty—you can buy beers, drinks and realllllly good local food on the canal.
Lucha Libre Wrestling Match
I loved seeing a Mexican wrestling match so much, that we went back the next night. Think WWE, but with Mexican flair—so, you’ve got drama, all the costumes, acrobatic wildness, and over the top theatrical performances by the luchadores. You can get your ticket online three days before using Ticketmaster or buy at the venue on the show date. Don't bother coming inside with snacks—vendors will walk around with everything from tacos to soft drinks.
There are three arenas in Mexico City where you can see Lucha Libre. Arena Mexico (we went here) in Colonia Doctores is the largest of the three and hosts luchas every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday night. You can check out the lineup on the website of the CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre). Arena Coliseo (we also went here and I absolutely loved the more retro feel) is an older arena located in Colonia Cuauhtemoc, and it also has regularly scheduled luchas, usually on Saturdays. The smallest arena is the Arena Naucalpan, with a capacity for only 2,400 spectators. It's a much more intimate experience, but it's farther out from the city center and a bit more difficult to get to.
Mercado de Artesanías La Cuidadela, or "La Ciudadela," is the place to buy traditional Mexican handicrafts and regional specialties like textiles from Oaxaca, ceramics from Chiapas, Guerreren silver, lucha libre shirts made by local artisans, and art from all over the country. You'll find wool blankets, loom-woven blouses, stone-plated jewelry, and hand-carved gourds—along with plenty of tourists from Mexico and abroad.
Make a day out of your visit to Mercado Coyoacan, a classic public market in the heart of Coyoacan: Stroll the nearby parks, tour the Frida Khalo Museum, and sit down for a traditional Mexican breakfast. The two-story market sells fruit, vegetables, dry goods, and meat on the first floor; the second floor has a hippy-dippy bent, with incense, henna tattoos, piercings, and woven backpacks. Everything is a bit pricier because Coyoacan is an upscale neighborhood. But the sweets, dried fruits, chocolate, and handmade handicrafts are worth it. I listed Tostadas de Coyoacan above in place to eat. You can’t come to this market and not feast on these incredible tostadas that will probably be your most authentic meal you’ll have in CDMX.
WARNING: Only go here if you’re curious or very into witchy handicrafts, crystals, idols, incense, tarot, even—eek—animals for sacrifice. Mercado Sonora is a trip. There’s definitely no place on earth like it. At least, that I’ve been to. There’s a solution, soap, tonic, or powder for just about anything that ails you at Sonora. Those interested in mysticism and indigenous Mexican religions, from Santa Muerte to Voodoo, will be particularly delighted by the wares. Charms and crystals are some of the more premium products. Buy what you want but read up on its significance before you set it on your bedside table.
Museo Frida Kahlo + La Casa Azul
A trip to Mexico without a visit to this place is not complete without visiting the beautiful blue house where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived. The Frida Kahlo Museum, in the former home of the celebrated Mexican artist, is located in the Coyoacán borough of Mexico City. A visit to her home offers a glimpse into her life. We decided to go through an Airbnb experience, which was amazing—it not only included a ticket, ability to cut the entrance line at the museum, but also lunch at the famed Mercado de Coyoacán and a visit to the house and studio in Mexico City that was designed by famed architect Juan O’Gorman, who is known at the father of Modernism.