Esther and I took a spur of the moment trip to Mexico City in late September of 2018 which has been a destination I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time. The reason for the impromptu planning was two-fold. I had recently begun a bit of a sabbatical from work and subsequently got an email alert from Scott’s Cheap flights about a deal to go there for ~$250 round trip. The stars had finally aligned.
After booking the flights began my personally arduous process of meticulously planning my itinerary for the duration of my stay. The first checkbox was to find accommodations. But before I could do that I had to narrow down the neighborhood I wanted to make my home for the short journey. After creating a short-list down to three locales I chose Zona Rosa over Polanco and Roma Norte. It sounded like a pretty central location with quite a bit of action that could be had by roaming the streets by foot.
Next up was choosing a hotel. I wanted something that was mid-level in cost. I chose NH Collection which seemed to provide that balance well, not to mention its #1 best value designation on Trip Advisor.
Now that flights and hotel were out of the way it was time to plan our itinerary. We were going to be there for four days and I was intent on planning every possible minute to cram in as much as we could during our short visit. I will describe this process as I describe the experiences.
So we had a 7AM flight that would get us there from Los Angeles at 12:45PM local time after an almost 4 hour flight. This was conveniently right around lunch time so the first priority was tacos. I had scoped out a few places that were walking distance from our hotel so we could rush over after checking in. We ended up at Tacotento which didn’t disappoint. I sampled the tripas (tripe) which is one of my favorites along with arrachera, al pastor and suadero which was by far my favorite. We ate there again a few days later and besides having great food it was very reasonable. As an example one meal consisted of 6 tacos, a quesadilla, chicken soup 2 beers and a fountain drink which cost about $15.
I also had scoped out that another short walk would offer us some sweet goodness at the famously popular El Moro were we got the combo package of churros and hot chocolate. The chocolate could be had in many variations but we stuck to the traditional Mexican style. Great stuff and now it was time to walk off these indulgences. We continued walking along this row that contained many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs over a few blocks along a stretch on both sides of the street without vehicles in Zona Rosa. Eventually we headed back to our room to take a nap and re-energize for another culinary treat.
While on our walk in Zona Rosa we decided to try and make reservations at one of the many highly regarded restaurants throughout the city. I was lucky to nab a reservation for that evening at Maximo Bistrot which sits near the top of great restaurants in the city. So we grabbed an Uber and headed over. (Side note: Uber is a fantastic way to travel through the city and extremely affordable. Most rides that were 10-20 minutes cost about $5).
The plan for day 2 of our trip has become our go-to plan for discovering new places by jumping on a Hop on Hop off bus tour. The service offered in Mexico City was great providing several different itineraries across 4 different routes. We tried to cram as much as we could in one day but didn’t even complete half of the routes.
Hop on Bus Tour
We stayed on the bus for quite a while taking in all of the scenery that contrasted modern architecture with many older and historic buildings. Our first stop was for a 30 minute break which gave us a chance for a quick visit of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe before boarding the bus again to continue on the road. We later stopped at a connecting bus to take us on another route where we planned on making our first prolonged stop.
Photos from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our excursion off of the bus took us to the Mercado de Coyoacan which was one of several large markets where you can buy local artisan crafts, clothing, souvenirs and of course find many local food vendors. We were hungry so food was on the top of the agenda. We parked ourselves at a stand that specialized in many different types of tostadas and ate a couple each with the chicken mole being the standout flavor.
From there we walked a short distance to the Frida Kahlo Museum. The museum is the historic house that Frida and Diego Rivera lived in. It stands out from the street with the structure’s cobal blue walls that surround the property. You can see many of the sites from within in the pictures below. After the museum we grew tired and decided to start heading back.
Frida Kahlo Museum
Once back at home base we freshened up a bit and headed out for a quick meal at La Casa de Tono followed by a walk through the lively Zona Rosa at night which was bustling with people and activity along the storefronts and clubs lining the path of Londres street. We headed to Mexico’s answer to Starbucks called Cielito Querido Cafe and I enjoyed a Mexican Hot Chocolate while Esther had her nightly herbal tea. The atmosphere was great with bar stools lining the giant windows providing a view of the activity along the street. We finished our hot beverages and decided it was time to call it a night. We needed rest as tomorrow was to be a the most physical day on our trip.
Day 3 of the trip was the highlight with a tour of the pyramids of Teotihuacan. There were many guides that offered many ways to visit this destination that include public transportation, big tour buses, private tours and small group tours. I chose a small group tour with Urban Adventures that also included another trip to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
We began our tour by meeting our guide at a hotel at 10:30AM. We were the only ones that had booked the additional Shrine tour so our guide chauffeured us in a car directly to the location and gave us a private tour of the Basilica. The grounds are large and require quite a bit of walking with multiple buildings to explore and a large garden area. It’s very beautiful with great history.
After concluding our Basilica tour our guide drove us to meet the other group in a small van to then drive to the pyramids. We met up with 3 other couples and started our short journey which took about 45 minutes from the city. Once we arrived we made our way to an entrance area that had several ruins. From here we were able to gaze at the amazing Sun and Moon pyramids. We first climbed the smaller Moon structure and made our way to the top. I could see a storm cloud in the distance so I snapped a few photos and videos and then we made our way down so we could climb the Sun pyramid before the storm was upon us.
As we made our way to the Sun pyramid our guide told us that is was the second largest one in Mexico. Taller than Chichen Itza, which I had visited in 1996 and only a little smaller than the pyramid of Cholula in Puebla. It was quite the hike up the mountain which was covered by quite a few people once I made it to the top. But the view was mesmerizing the dark clouds overhead and slight sprinkles falling down on us. I gazed in the short distance at the Moon pyramid and imagined what it must have been like around 100 a.d. when the area was active. I took some more photos and just tried to enjoy the moment as long as I could before Esther called to me to return as the rest of the group was waiting for me at the bottom.
Pyramids of Teotihuacan
Our tour guide then took to nearby home of a family that lived in the area. Upon arrival we were escorted to the back of the home where he had a few large Agave trees. He told us about the aging process of the trees and how he extracted the “ancient sacred drink” of pulque. He explained how after extracting the liquid you let it sit for a few days and it ferments and gains a small level of alcohol. He then grabbed a jug and proceeded to give us all a taste of some he recently had taken from his tree. It was a white milky liquid and tasted a little sweet and pretty good. It reminded me a bit of unfiltered sake. He then took us to another side of his house where had many arts and crafts on display and for sale. There were a few created from black onyx that really caught my eye but were quite pricey and my current minimal nature does not allow me to purchase any more knick knacks for the house.
A local artisan of Teotihuacan invites us into his home
Our last stop was to another home for a locally home cooked meal. We arrived and all sat at a large communal table. Our host and his family brought us each out a bowl of homemade pozole and we all began to eat, tell stories of the day and learn more about each other. Before long it was time to leave and we all packed back into the van for the short 45 minute ride back to the city. This small tour experience was great and I highly recommend it to anyone who goes to visit Mexico City.
For our last day we got up early jumped into an Uber and headed out to the water canals of Xochimilco. Apparently there are several different “docks” that you can access and our guides from yesterday had recommended that we visit the one at Cuemanco that isn’t as crowded and popular as the one most people visited. We got there and sure we were one of the few people there. We talked to one of the guides there who explained the different boat tours of varying lengths and times. We agreed that a 1 1/2 hour tour would be good for us and took agreed to a path he mapped out for us. We then boarded one of the large boats and to our surprise had the boat to ourselves for the journey.
Xochimilco Boat parade
We made our way through the canals which was a very nice and tranquil journey on a beautiful day that was very comfortable. Our trip took us past to a man-made pyramid on a little island that also served as a location to have parties. On the ride back to the dock I watched an oncoming boat and noticed a young man and his girlfriend standing near the front of their boat. He then bowed down on one knee and I knew the drill about what was to transpire next. I grabbed my camera to record the moment. Minutes later his girlfriend became his fiance and I had captured this glorious moment on camera.
Determined to pack in as much as we could on our final day Esther and I then headed to the national museum of anthropology. There we learned more about the history of all of the ancient cultures that roamed the area through very elaborate representations that recreated many of the scenes of the time. From there we crossed the street to visit the Bosque de Chapultepec which was a huge park that was filled with people and street vendors. There was a large lake within it that had people floating across it in their paddle-boats and then we came to find out there was a zoo within the park as well. But alas we were getting tired and it was time to head back to our hotel so we could rest up for one last special meal before leaving.
Bosque de Chapultepec
Rested up and hungry we were lucky to have been able to make a last minute reservation at Rosetta which opened in 2010 by chef Elena Reygadas. We had learned about the restaurant watching the Mexico City episode of Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix. The restaurant specializes in Italian style cooking and didn’t disappoint. I had a ravioli platter that was great with a slight sweet taste to it that made it very unique. Esther had a short rib platter that she wad was the best she’d ever had. We made room for dessert because Rosetta is known for their baked goods and have a stand-alone bakery nearby. After that gluttonous experience it was time to roll back to our hotel and get some much needed rest before our journey back the next morning.
Looking back it was a tremendous trip and we barely scratched the surface of all there is to do in the city. We had a fantastic time and will definitely return in the future with another planned itinerary of places to visit and new foods to taste.