Mexico City (CDMX) was our first experience in Mexico; for me, even the first experience in the Americas. It was always on the top list, but we never made it here until now. It's an amazing city, so vibrant and full of culture. Combined with the amazing food, friendly and warm-hearted people, it is worth visiting. I mentioned a couple of other reasons that brought us to this country in my last article 5 reasons why we moved to Mexico City.
We will stay in Mexico for about 6 months and travel to different cities across it. The plan is to stay in each town for at least a month to get a good grasp of different regions. From Mexico City, through Oaxaca to the Yucatan peninsula, to get some beach time visiting places like Cancun, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, Bacalar, and Cozumel Island.
We are close to finishing our journey in Mexico City, and we are soon heading to Oaxaca for a month. But, before we leave, let me take you on a journey around the beautiful city with this entrepreneurial and lifestyle guide.
Quick facts about Mexico City
The list of interesting, historical, and fun facts about Mexico City is long, but let me share a few to get a better idea about this city.
- Mexico City is on 2200 meters above sea level.
- Mexico City is the oldest city in the Americas. It was founded in 1325, its original name was Tenochtitlan, and it was the capital of the Aztec Empire.
- Chapultepec Park is the largest park in Latin America and is twice the size of New York's Central Park.
- Mexico City has the most extensive subway system in Latin America - 12 lines along 226 kilometers (140 miles) and 195 stations.
- Mexico City is a city build on a lake basin, and it's slowly but constantly sinking.
- Lucha Libre (professional wrestling) is one of the most significant spectator activities, right after football. You can experience this spectacle in Arena Mexico - fights are usually held Tuesday and Friday nights and on Sunday.
The best time to visit Mexico City
Suppose you are looking for dry and mild weather. In that case, the best time to visit Mexico City is March-April and October-November. However, we are here in September. The weather is ok; the mornings and early afternoons are generally sunny and pleasant; however, there are often shorter storms in the late afternoons, occasionally stretching to the night.
Daytime temperatures are pleasant year-round.
There are no significant spikes in the number of tourists in Mexico City. However, the highest tourist season is October-November, when the rainy season finishes and the dry season starts. One of the reasons to visit during this time is for the festivals like Dia de Los Muertos* (the Day of the Dead) - one of the biggest celebrations in Mexico on November 1st. Family and friends are gathering to pray and to remember friends and family members who have died. Compared to the other cultures, they commemorate it as a day for celebration rather than mourning and sadness.
*In 2020, and most probably this year too, the festival will be limited due to pandemic.
The best areas to stay in Mexico City
Mexico is a huge city. So, I think it's essential to find a nice spot in a good area and start exploring small areas and getting to know the neighborhoods nearby.
There are many very different neighborhoods that you can choose to stay in.
For our first experience with the city, we decided to stay in the historic part called Centro Historico or El Centro. The area surrounds the main square Zocalo, the largest square in Mexico and the second largest in the world. This area is full of historic buildings and greatly contrasts other, more up-and-coming areas mentioned below. In Centro Historico, you get an excellent connection to other parts of the city with the subway. Therefore, you will get there everything you need for a comfortable stay.
Roma (Norte and Sur) is a trendy and up-and-coming area where you will find much European-like architecture. Compared to Centro Historico it's a more residential area, but very popular amongst visitors, especially youngsters. With many coffee shops and trendy restaurants is a place worth staying. However, prices could be slightly higher than in Centro Historico.
La Condesa is walking distance away from Roma. It's a more bohemian and artsy kind of place. In La Condesa, you can enjoy many gourmet restaurants, vintage markets, and modern shops. I find La Condesa and Roma pretty much similar. You should stay in one of these if you are looking for a more trendy, European-like vibe, where you can stroll around and enjoy good barista coffee on every corner.
Polanco, compared to other areas, is more luxurious with more fancy hotels and upscale restaurants. It's a great place if you are traveling with family, very safe and chilled. But like in other areas, cheaper and delicious street food is available here as well.
Coyoacan is the perfect opposite of the places mentioned above - you should stay here if you are looking for a more traditional and cultural experience with Mexico City. It's further out than the other areas and full of local markets, traditional restaurants, and colorful streets. For an authentic experience, this is a place to stay or at least visit during your time in Mexico City. In addition, you can combine this area's visit with La Casa Azul - the home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera that is now a museum - worth visiting. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to see it, but we will for sure next time we come to Mexico City.
Mexico City truly has a great variety of exciting places you can live in. For more extended stays, I would even recommend staying in different areas if you have this possibility. In this way, you can fully experience the diversity of this city.
Places that are not recommended to visit or stay in
When researching location before coming here, we came across many warnings about how dangerous it is in Mexico City. We took it with a precaution. Of course, some parts are maybe more dangerous and shady; it's, after all, a massive area with a high density of people. Still, if you are wise and not ignorant, you can get around with no issues and enjoy your time here without stressing yourself.
That said, besides areas to stay, there are some areas where you should not stay; the most known are Tepito in Doctores. Both are close to Centro Historico. These two places are not advised to visit, especially not during the night. Even our Mexican friend, who was born and raised here, did not enter Tepito yet. Moreover, it's common for taxies to refuse to drive there. So as tempting as it is to try the forbidden fruit, we will avoid it.
You can check out Netflix's series Dark Tourist: Latin America, where David Farrier visits Tepito.
When it comes to safety, the general rule of thumb is that you should not walk around during the night in the areas you shouldn't. Don't walk around with a bag full of cash, several credit cards, brag with your Rolex, or wave around with your newest iPhone, and you'll be just fine.
We conveniently marked the no-go areas on our map, so we just took an alternative route, even though the fastest way would lead us through the heart of Doctores.
If you follow a couple of straightforward rules, you will feel safe and enjoy your time in Mexico City.
Getting there and around
Mexico City has one international airport, Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez, about 5km east of downtown.
Once you arrive at the airport, your safest bet would be to take Uber to your accommodation. We took a bus, as it was a direct connection. At least we thought until we ended up on some shady bus station with many people in the middle of the night. We were standing in the line, waiting for our connection bus, which we were not sure when it was coming or where it was going to. So, for convenience, I would advise using a very affordable Uber for your first ride.
Since Mexico City is a big city, we walked around as much as we could. Still, sometimes walking can't take you far enough 😅 In the beginning, the altitude also influenced our will to move around, as we quickly became tired. You can explore a lot on your feet, and for all the more extensive distances, like going from one area to another, the subway or Uber is a good choice. I prefer Uber, as I'm not too fond of busy and super crowded subways.
There is also a Chinese alternative to Uber called DiDi, with better prices, worth checking out.
Budget and Cost of Living
Mexico City is a very affordable city, especially when it comes to food. You can find fantastic street vendors who offer delicious food for very little money. It's a heaven for every foodie.
The prices for accommodation, food, or other goods vary around different neighborhoods and mostly depend on your living situation.
We are staying in the Centro Historico. We booked a beautiful 90m2 apartment in a very central location for a month and a half and paid about 1,500 EUR via airbnb.com. Besides the rent, our only related expense is the laundry room, as we don't have a washing machine. The usual charges are around 1 EUR/kilo, so we spend around 6 EUR/week on our laundry.
No budget and cost of living can be evaluated without a cost for a beer - domestic beer will cost you up to 2 EUR.
We have plenty of street vendors close to our apartment. From places where we eat lunch deals for around 7 EUR for 2 (including soup, main dish, and a beverage) to more posh restaurants, but still with very affordable prices.
We usually walk, but we use Uber during the night, and for about a 6-7km drive, we pay around 6 EUR. The Metro ticket costs 0.21 EUR.
You will be able to visit most museums for up to 4 EUR.
We bought a local Movistar sim card that was just on promotion; prepaid for 30 days. The price for 3 GB + social media was only 100 pesos, about 4 EUR.
1 EUR = 1,16 USD
1 EUR = 23,86 Mexican Peso
Do I need to speak Spanish?
There are many languages spoken in Mexico, but Spanish is the most spread.
The Mexican government recognizes 68 national languages, 63 indigenous dialects, including around 350 dialects of those languages. The government of Mexico uses Spanish for most official purposes. Still, in terms of legislation, its status is not that of an official primary language. (via wikipedia)
In daily life, some knowledge of Spanish will make your stay here more pleasant, at least that you know the basics of it. For example, we are doing Spanish exercises every day on Duolingo. Most of the time, especially in the Centro Historico, the staff will speak Spanish only. So, make sure you are familiar with reading the menu and order food without any unpleasant surprises. It happened a couple of times when we were not entirely sure what we ordered, but that's sometimes even more exciting.
So, my advice is to get some basics, the Spanish language is well supported on Duolingo, and it's super fun.
Internet and places to Work
Suppose you decide to stay in Centro Historico and you need to work daily. In that case, you should book an apartment with a comfortable working area and fast internet, as there are not so many around it. You can find plenty in La Condesa, Roma, Juarez, etc.
While we are at it, Centro Historico also doesn't have many good options to buy groceries. Especially if you like Supermarkets where you can get everything in one place. There are many small shops like Oxxo, 7Eleven, where you can buy pre-made and more basic food. There is a big Walmart a bit outside of the Centro Historico, with good delivery options. We ordered food on UberEats; you can also order groceries there or choose Walmart delivery.
Since we have a spacious apartment with a big table, we primarily work from home. However, we also visited some laptop-friendly coffee shops and worked from there. Unfortunately, as mentioned, there are not so many in Centro Historico, but we drove to La Condesa and Roma to get our dose of coffee and a different working environment once in a while.
The cool part is that almost every tiny food stall or bar has wifi. From high-end restaurants to small taco shops, so you can turn many places to your office for a couple of hours.
Here is a couple of our favorite laptop-friendly cafes:
El Otro Cafe, Shakespeare 78, Anzures
Great place in Anzures. The vibe is relaxed; they have excellent jazzy music, the staff is super friendly. You can create your working station in one of the two rooms or outside of the bar. The walls are lined with sockets so that you can stay there for hours. The wifi is solid, they serve good coffee, and they have a lovely food menu to choose from.
The Blend Station, Avenida Tamaulipas 60 , Col. Condesa
The Blend Station feels like it was created precisely to host remote workers and make them feel comfortable. The interior consists of a massive long table with sockets close by and single tables along the wall. Great coffee and menu, fast internet, and a lot of light. Great space to boost productivity and park yourself there for long hours of work. Water is free to take.
Cafebreria El Pendulo, Av Nuevo León 115, Colonia Condesa
You can find 6 of them around the city; we visited the one in La Condesa. Lovely bookstore/restaurant fusion, very chilled, sometimes with live music. Upstairs you can find many tables or couches where you can work from, the wifi is good, and food too.
Freims, Amsterdam 62B, Hipódromo
Freims is a pleasant and colorful place for remote workers, with a terrace in the back. They have a good menu, some sockets to charge your laptop, and solid wifi.
Cardinal Casa de Café, Córdoba 132, Roma Nte
There are 3 of them in CDMC. It's a hipster/vintage, small place with an outside sitting area. Good coffee and good internet.
There is also plenty of coworking spaces that you can choose from, as Mexico City is one of the top-rated digital nomad destinations.
Homework, different locations around the city
Located in central areas of the city, Homework offers a spacious working area with long tables and terraces. Monthly passes start around 100 EUR and up, depending on the type of space. Free coffee available.
Impact Hub is one of the most known coworking spaces around the world. And of course, you can find them in Mexico City too. You can choose to work from several rooms, open spaces with bigger tables, bean bags, and hammocks. Free coffee available. Prices vary on location.
The Pool, 3 locations
They offer large and open working spaces with high ceilings, combined with private offices and fixed rooms in all their locations. In addition, they offer coffee, and monthly passes start at around 70 EUR for 80 hours.
Best restaurants and bars
That's a hard list to come up with. We mainly eat in the small street places called Fondas around our neighborhood during the working week. This is a very local experience, as these are the places where most local people from the community are getting their breakfast or lunch. We called them 'Mamacita's place' as it gives you a feeling that you come and eat in your mother's living room.
The food is simple and good. Leo got a little food poisoning (in Mexico known as Montezuma's Revenge) only once. 💩
These places have mostly daily menu, different variations of eggs for breakfast, tortas (Mexican sandwiches), etc. Very typical and simple Mexican food.
Two of our favorites places during the week was fonda across the street and a burrito place around the corner:
Q'Rico, Belisario Domínguez 37B, Centro Histórico de la Cdad.
They make great tortas and yogurt with granola. Be aware some tortas can be really grande and orange juice grande is super grande!
Torta is a culinary term that, depending on the cuisine, refers to cakes, pies, flatbreads, sandwiches, or omelets. (via wikipedia)
HB Mex - Hamburguesas y Burritos, Ignacio Allende, 24/B
Amazing burrito, ok-ish hamburgers, friendly staff.
During weekends, we explored more and tried different restaurants and bars around the city. To name a few that stayed in our memory most:
Azul Historico, Isabel La Católica 30, Centro Histórico de la Ciudad
Very traditional Mexican restaurant, slightly above the average price range, but the food and experience are excellent. Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita is one of the most prominent chefs in Mexico and a big promoter of Mexican food. We tried Chiles en Nogada, which is a traditional dish that commemorates Mexican independence.
Churrería El Moro, Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 42, Centro Histórico de la Ciudad
If you are a fan of churros, this is the place to visit. We visited 2 of these churrerias, in Centro Historico and La Condesa, and we were not disappointed. We liked the one in Historico even more, as it's the original one, with a more authentic vibe than the one in La Condesa. Churros are perfectly soft inside and harder on the outside, combined with a cup of chocolate, is a perfect treat during your stroll around the city.
Taquería Tlaquepaque, Isabel La Católica 16-A, Centro Histórico de la Ciudad
Great place for Tacos al Pastor. The only time when I cried, because of adding a bit too much chili. Very lively place, with a lot of locals coming for a quick bite. It's open from 9 am until 5 am—a great place during or after your night out.
Al pastor, also known as tacos al pastor, is a taco made with spit-grilled pork. The cooking method is based on the lamb shawarma brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico; al pastor features a flavor palate that uses traditional Mexican marinade adobada. (via wikipedia)
Hong King Restaurante Bar, Cjon. Dolores 25 A, Colonia Centro, Centro
If you want to escape Mexican food for a bit and have some Asian food, visiting little China Town next to Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes. is a great option. It's a relatively small street with small food stalls and a couple of restaurants. We tried Hong King restaurant and were very satisfied with the food. Afterward, we picked up a sweet baozi from the street vendor, and it was delicious.
Don Asado, C. Río Lerma 210, Cuauhtémoc, 06500 Ciudad de México
Wonderful Uruguayan place close to Chapultepec park. Beautiful place, delicious meat and good pizzas (good Italian style pizzas are hard to get in Mexico City), and big portions. Be careful when ordering a piece of cake for one person, you might get a piece you could share with 4. I don't have any food picture here, as we ate it too fast 😃
Distrito Urbano Centro, Av. 5 de Mayo 42, Centro Histórico de la Cdad
Great place with a good vibe. You can sit outside on small balconies that face the old town. They offer good food and great cocktails for a fair price. The staff is friendly. I think that this was the place that we visited the most.
Bósforo, Luis Moya 31, Colonia Centro
Close to China Town, you can find Bosforo, an excellent place with great mezcal and beer, friendly staff, and lively ambient. Although less crowded in the afternoon, it gets pretty packed in the late evenings. Great place to try mezcal, a typical Mexican distilled alcoholic beverage made from agave.
There is a nice saying in Spanish:
Para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien, tambien.
Which roughly means: For all, that's wrong, mezcal, and for all, that's right, too.
As a big fan of traditional alcoholic beverages, I will write more about mezcal in a separate, upcoming article. 😉
Best Running trail
Running in Mexico City is quite challenging; that's one part of daily life that was not so enjoyable. I felt an altitude of 2,200 meters in the beginning a lot. I was running in the nearest park Alameda Central, next to the beautiful Palacio de Bellas Artes.
You have plenty of great parks where you can run or take a walk throughout the whole city.
During the crazy pandemic time, Mexico became a haven for digital nomads and others who wanted to escape the restrictions in their own countries. Coming here was not a problem; they did not check other documents except for our passports.
The bars and restaurants are open, with no extensive restrictions, except for masks everywhere. Inside, outside, everywhere. It isn't enjoyable, but there are other benefits, so we will live with this while being here.
Our favorite gems around the city
Mexico City is a fantastic city full of warm-hearted and friendly people with a lot of places to visit. In month and a half that we spent here, we saw just a fraction of it, so we are already looking forward to come back again. When you come with an open mind and full of curiosity, you will have a fantastic time.
The most unforgettable moments and places we experienced and visited in Mexico City were visiting a wrestling match, anthropology museum, Chapultepec Park, exotic market San Juan, and many more.