Hi friends! It’s been a while, but I finally have something exciting to write about. When my friend Sara invited me to spend a weekend with her in Mexico City, I enthusiastically accepted and was pretty excited for a new adventure…even though I pictured Mexico City to be sort of a grimy, dirty, industrial, chaotic city. I was pretty elated when I realized my expectations were way off. This massive city is vibrant, colorful, inexpensive, friendly, and in parts, totally gorgeous. Here’s how we spent our long weekend in Mexico City! Spoiler: it involves climbing on pyramids, serenaded boat rides, mezcal at markets, a bad accessory decision at a wrestling match, and (of course) lots of food.
Note – if you
don’t want to listen to me blabber just want a quick summary, scroll to the bottom of this post; it kind of turned into a beast.
To capitalize on my time in Mexico City, I took a red-eye flight from Chicago (less than $250!!) and landed around 5am. I was greeted by the most insane Customs line I’ve experienced – and I gotta say I’ve experienced quite a few. It literally took two hours to get through!
The good news? The Uber to the hostel, which took an hour in rush hour traffic, cost $9. NINE DOLLARS!?? I liked this city already!
As this was my first time in a loooong time staying in a hostel dorm, I was a bit nervous. But Hostel Home is a real gem. It’s clean, small (fits about 20 people including the volunteers who work there), has friendly staff, and offers a female-only dorm room. The beds
squeaked with every turn weren’t exactly the greatest, and I can’t say I dream of sleeping on a top bunk, but for a place to crash in a great location – it’s perfect.
We had breakfast at a cute place near our hostel called Lalo. I know, it’s not exactly Mexican, but when the waiter said they had the best french toast, I couldn’t resist…
Feeling a bit more awake, we took an Uber to the Frida Khalo museum, which used to be the famous artist’s home. As you may know, I’m not the biggest fan of museums, but this was actually pretty cool; I’d recommend checking it out if you have the time. Protip: buy your tickets online in advance to skip the long lines, and try to avoid going on Sundays when it’s extra busy.
After we toured the museum, we strolled around Coyoacán, a beautiful area of the city sprinkled with parks, markets, food carts and restaurants.
From there, we took another Uber to Chapultepec park. Definitely not a “must-do,” but it was nice to be in nature for a while.
At this point, we were ready to eat again – woohoo! We wandered around Condesa, another picturesque neighborhood, until we found a great spot for tacos at Tacos Gus. Bonus – they had quite a few vegan options!
I’m pretty sure we napped after this, because the next stop on our itinerary was….another meal. We had made reservations far in advance at a fancy, well-known restaurant called Quintonil, aptly nestled in Polanco, a super posh neighborhood. Some of the courses included ant larvae (!!!), sea urchin, and many inventive creations involving corn.
The experience was a ton of fun and very well executed, but honestly, not really my scene. I
always generally prefer tacos to octopus, but since Sara really wanted to go, I figured I should check it out. When I found out it’s one of the world’s top restaurants (#22, apparently) and for that, it’s super reasonably priced – $100 for a tasting menu – I knew it was a great opportunity. (Plus, the amazing mezcal cocktail & shared bottle of wine helped me overcome my picky eating.)
Not wanting to call it a night, we went for cocktails at Limontour nearby. This is mainly notable because of our encounter with the camera man. Sure, we’ve all been at bars before where people take our picture (…right?), but this guy took it to the next level with his posing and facial expression suggestions.
After a surprisingly great night of sleep, we left our hostel at 7:30 for Teotihuacan, an archaeological site where you can climb on the pyramids, just over an hour drive from the city.
Our hostel arranged a car for us to go for 1200 MXN, or about $64 total. Not only was this a great deal, but it was so nice getting there before the crowds. We were some of the first people climbing on the pyramids and had unobstructed views of the whole complex. Just a half hour later, they were packed. Protips: go early, wear sunscreen and/or a hat!
It was such a gorgeous day that everyone in our car (we managed to cram 5 of us from the hostel into a sedan…) wanted to keep the activities going. After a two hour drive, we were at our next stop: the Xochimilco canals.
This was unquestionably one of the highlights of our trip.
What is it?
I think of it like the Mexican version of Venice. Except…totally different. Basically, it’s a boat ride along canals. But instead of passing by beautiful stone buildings being serenaded with romantic melodies, you pass by yards decorated with creepy hanging dolls and listen to competing mariachi bands.
First of all, when you arrive, there are a few shops and vendors selling food and drinks that you can consume there or bring with you on the boat. I settled on a gordita and this insane version of a sangria. Curious? I’ll try to explain.
It starts with a massive Styrofoam cup, like the size of a supersize soda from a fast food place…but maybe even bigger. They cover the rim in a red gooey mixture – strawberry and chili, perhaps? – and then spoon that same goo into the cup. Tbh, it didn’t look too appetizing. Then it got weirder. They added a pre-made sangria mix from a soda bottle. Finishing touches? Lots and lots of tequila and a delicious, sour-candied strawberry.
And it. Was. Amazing. …until about half-way through our boat ride, when that week’s worth of sugar settled like a rock in our stomachs. 100% worth it though.
The river itself was so lively and indescribably fun. You can pay by the hour to have someone take you on their neon-painted boat. Mariachi bands each had their own boat and, if you paid, would come onto your boat and give you a show. Vendors were selling all kinds of things, from flower headbands (yes please) to corn on the cob to Coronas. We only stayed for an hour, but I could’ve stayed way longer!
Was it touristy? For sure – but there were also many locals (maybe even outnumbering the tourists) chilling, dancing, and partying with friends and family.
After the drive back to the hostel, we were somehow hungry again. We decided to check out Mercado Roma for snacks, a place we’d heard many great things about. When we first got there, we were disappointed – it was more sophisticated than cozy. But we gave it a chance and were glad we did! It’s basically an upscale food court that serves everything from churros to Vietnamese food. Many of the places to sit are communal, so it’s a good place to mingle and meet people.
Next on the agenda? Dinner, naturally! We headed to Cafe De Tacuba, a famous restaurant in the historic district. Along the way, we ran into some roadblocks…literally. Police stood shoulder to shoulder, creating human blockades around the entire city center. Apparently there was a free Fat Boy Slim concert that night. To get to the restaurant, we had to cross the street, buy a metro ticket for 25 cents, and take the metro just one stop.
The restaurant was pretty good! They gave huge portions and had a live band. They also serve fresh bread to start, which I thought was interesting (can’t say I’ve ever heard of a Mexican restaurant in America doing that). Protip: the balsamic vinaigrette on the table? Don’t pour that on your plate and dip your bread in it. It’s actually coffee. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…….
We started our last day in Mexico City with shots of baileys, served in edible cookie shot “glasses.” *adulting* Our friend saw this culinary delight featured in a magazine at a restaurant called Bottega Culinaria, so we tried them out because, well, wouldn’t you? While they were fun to post on social media, they weren’t all that great, so I wouldn’t suggest going out of your way for them.
Breakfast round two was at Delirio Monica Patino. We came at a peak hour on Sunday, so the wait was understandably really long, but the food was delish. I had some sort of bread smothered in cheese with a side of pico…
After lunch, we went to shop at La Ciudadela, a textile market. This was definitely another highlight of our trip. First of all, the market had a nice variety of goods for very reasonable prices – I wish I’d brought an extra suitcase to bring things back! Second of all, there was a tent near the entrance that had all types of food and drink stands. We sought out mezcal cocktails made with juice, freshly squeezed right in front of us, served in a clay mug (that you keep!) – 3 for $5.
After shopping around for a bit, we headed back to the food/drink tent to get a second round. We were pretty astounded when we walked into a massive dance performance. The tent was packed – not with other tourists, but with locals – many of whom were dressed in traditional clothes, most of whom were dancing along. It was such a happy surprise!
As we looked around in awe, we couldn’t help but notice a particularly rowdy table of women. It wasn’t just their gorgeous, bright dresses that caught our attention; they had three bottles of mezcal on the table and seemed to be handing out shots to friends. Just as we were whispering that we wanted to be friends with them, we made eye contact and they motioned us over. After some brief introductions, they indoctrinated us into the ritual – a quick song for each of us, featuring our names, followed by shots of tequila.
We may have never left if we weren’t trying to get to the Lucha Libre that night, but alas, the infamous wrestling match was calling our names even louder than the women were.
After we bought our tickets at the Arena Mexico, the most famous place to watch a match in Mexico, we wandered around outside for a bit checking out the vendors. A man approached us with a bunch of hanging ribbons, each with a different glittery name. When we explained that we know nothing about wrestling, he definitively suggested one for us – Shocker.
Us: Is he the best?
Him: Si, si – of course.
Us: Is he really 1000% guapo?
Us: We’ll take 3.
Adorned with our tacky gear and tipsy swagger, we confidently strode into the match and took our seats in the second row. The show starts off with the worst and progressively gets more skillful. I gotta say – the first few matches were some of the most amusing. The apathetic refs, the comically horrible acting, and the belly pooches were incredibly entertaining.
When the show (match? game? no clue what to call it) ended, our friend (who we’d met at the hostel) was pretty devastated that Shocker never came in the ring. When she asked the guys in front of us why we didn’t see Shocker, he calmly explained that he had been arrested. For assaulting a prositute. Needless to say, it was now totally clear why the guy was trying to get rid of those headbands. We ripped them off to avoid any further humiliation (but the damage was definitely done).
Our night continued first at Cafe Bizarro, a dark bar/cafe our uber driver suggested (which may have been because it was one of the only places open on Sunday). I wouldn’t suggest this place, but the place we went next, Mano Santa Mezcal, was a great little bar near our hostel. Their mezcal drinks were fantastic and it had a bright, cute atmosphere.
Phew! If you made it through that post, brush your shoulders off – you’re awesome. In case you couldn’t tell, I fell in love with Mexico City and can’t wait to see more of the country, particularly the beach towns!
Where we stayed: Hostel Home in Roma Norte; $13/night for bed in dorm
Things we did: Chapultepec park, Frida Khalo museum, Teotihuacan pyramids, Xochimilco canals, Lucha Libre wrestling, shop at La Ciudadela market, stuff our faces with mezcal, tacos, gorditas, and other forms of corn & cheese
Places we ate: Quintonil, Mercado Roma, Cafe de Tacuba, Delirio Monica Patino, Tacos Gus
Currency: Mexican Pesos (1 usd = 18/19 MXN)
Expenses: This trip was super affordable! I spent about $250 on a roundtrip flight from Chicago, plus about $400 on everything else (hostel, activities, food – including the pricy meal at Quintonil). You could absolutely do this trip for way cheaper by eating mostly street food. Even just not going to Quintonil would’ve brought my cost down $170!
Getting around: Uber – so convenient and reeeeeally cheap!
Do you have any questions about visiting Mexico City? Have you been and have any must-dos to add? Do you have any favorite spots in Mexico? Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you! 🙂