Vamos a México!
Years ago, on our first trip to Mexico, Isabel Macias guided us around her hometown. She’s compiled her top ten list to showcase the best of Mexico City. Live like a local when you visit, thanks to Isabel’s itinerary. Here are her top picks, in her own words.
You are spoiled for choice in Mexico City. The museums, archeological sites, historical buildings, bustling markets and world-class gastronomy scene can keep you busy for weeks. Whether your visit is a stop over or a week, you’ll have a great time. My city tips will offer you a flavor of my home’s vibrant culture. Enjoy.
1. Get your bearings on the Turibus – Getting around Mexico City or DF (as locals know it) can be a challenge for tourists. Let the Turibus, the double-decker bus, be your guide. The bus route starts in the historic city center, Reforma, on the city’s most important avenue. Enjoy the ride as the bus travels through trendy neighborhoods. (Remember the bus can be a great addition to your hotel-arranged taxi or driver.) Sit back and enjoy the first look at the city.
2. Explore the Downtown Historic Center and Zocalo (Main Square) – The heart of the city is the perfect place to lace up your sneakers and walk. Start at the big plaza, one of the largest public squares in the world. The plaza is flanked by a number of architectural gems, the Cathedral of Mexico City, the national palace and the colonial arcade. As you gaze up in the middle of the plaza, snap a picture of the enormous Mexican flag waving proudly, center-stage. As you stroll through the plaza, watch the Indian dancers with exquisite feathered headdresses evoking their Aztec past. Peruse the vendors selling shawls, Toltec masks, pottery, jewelry and carved figurines. And, make time to pop into the Templo Mayor archeological site and museum – it’s an Aztec temple right in the middle of the city! (The Aztec King you learned about in school, Moctezuma, ruled here!)
3. Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) – This marvelous theater was built to commemorate the Centennial of Mexico’s independence from Spain. It’s home to eye-catching murals by world-renowned artists like Rufino Tamayo, Diego Riviera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. A true national treasure – do not miss it!
4. Chapultepec Castle – A museum today, the castle’s past lives included serving as a military academy and an imperial residence. It rises up in the middle of Chapultepec Park and offers you the best views of the entire city. An excellent Instagram opportunity!
5. Chapultepec Park and Angel of the Independence – Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the expansive and important road, Paseo de la Reforma. Start your walk from Chapultepec Park towards the Angel of the Independence. Statutes and monuments will greet you along the way. Don’t forget to take a picture at the Angel, one the most beloved symbols of the city – a stunning column monument topped by a bronze depiction of the Greek Goddess, Victory.
6. Anthropological Museum – This is Mexico’s equivalent of New York’s Metropolitan Museum, and even that comparison doesn’t do this treasure justice. If you have an entire day, explore the extraordinary collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts. If you are short on time, head to the Mexica Sala which hosts the most popular exhibits. (The museum was ranked #1 on TripAdvisor out of all the things to do in Mexico City!)
7. Lucha Libra (Mexican Wrestling) – Spend an entertaining and unique evening watching an authentic live Mexican wrestling match at Arena Mexico. The masked opponents are dressed as superheroes and villains and perform flying, acrobatic maneuvers inside the ring. This theatrical athletic display is the second most popular sport behind soccer, according to some in Mexico. You are guaranteed to have a memorable night!
8. Coyoacan home to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera – This is a beautiful colonial neighborhood in the south of the city, It will offer you a meeting point between old Mexican style and modern culture. You can eat typical Mexican food and buy local handicrafts while you wander through the church and markets. This is also where artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived. Their Blue House and studio, up the road, are now revered museums. Go earlier in the day to avoid the massive crowds!
9. Teotihuacan: On the outskirts of the city lies a world-renown archeological zone. This is Mexico’s equivalent of the Egyptian Pyramids. You have to set-aside almost a full day to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Extraordinary.
10. Food: Ahhh, a tough one. There are so many good options!
Brunch: El Cardenal is a downtown location known for the fresh and flavorful ingredients in the farm-to-table dishes. Their freshly baked bread with "nata" (cream made from boiling raw milk) and a hot chocolate are a must.
Dinner: Quintonil is a perfect option for lunch or dinner if you want to experience creative Mexican cuisine. And check out the Mexican jewel, Pujol, which is ranked #16 on the 2015 World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Grab a reservation for one of the thirteen tables at this culinary destination!
Cocktails: In the posh Polanco neighborhood, try Porfirios, a great spot to start DF’s nightlife. We eat and party late into the evening! Sip a great cocktail, and if you are brave, you can ask for their mezcal tasting (a smoky tequila with an acquired taste!).
Just remember, Mexico is not all tacos, tequila and mariachis. The “chilangos” (locals) are funny, hard-working and kind people, as well as excellent hosts. We look forward to welcoming you as our guest.
First Picture: Yo Soy Mexicano Facebook Page
Pictures 2-4: Isabel Macias and Macias Family
Picture 5: TripAdvisor Teotihuacan
Picture 6: 2014 World's 50 Best Restaurants, Quintonil