10 Remarkable Mexico City experiences you won’t want to miss
Mexico City is a remarkably diverse destination full of culture and intrigue. Mike’s Road Trip contributor, Lydia Carey, is an American who has been living in Mexico City for many years, so she has some valuable insight on the top things to do when visiting this vibrant place. Here are her 10 remarkable Mexico City experiences that you won’t want to miss.
Sadly, there are travelers who skip right over Mexico’s capital on their way to Colonial towns and Caribbean beaches. But those of us in the know, know that Mexico City is the ultimate Mexico experience. The city has a little bit of everything—the ancient, the modern, the surreal, all rolled into one bustling, colorful metropolis that will keep your head reeling for days. The classics are always a good idea, from Frida Kahlo’s house, the Museum of Anthropology, and the Zocalo, but if you really want to dig into the Ciudad de Mexico, here are 10 not-to-be-missed stops in Mexico City.
Sunset in the Torre Latinoamericana
The Torre Latinoamericana is one of Mexico City’s most underappreciated and expectation-surpassing experiences. The glassed-in bar and restaurant on the 44th floor of this 1940s skyscraper remains one of the most breathtaking views of Mexico City. Go at dusk to appreciate the shift from day to night and watch the lights of the Valley of Mexico slowly twinkle on as millions of residents settle into their evening. The service is slow and the drinks mediocre, but the fantastic view makes everything else irrelevant.
Floating Among the Chinampas
Repeat visitors to Mexico City generally end up taking a tour of the Xochimilco canals, complete with mariachi musicians and floating fiestas. However, there is another, quieter side to the canals that few people tend to experience. The chinampas, the island farms that have been floating in Mexico City’s southern canals for thousands of years, are one of the world’s most unique agricultural systems still in existence and one of the city’s most captivating landscapes. Several organizations are working to preserve this vital ecosystem and offer tours to travelers who want to go deeper into this watery labyrinth.
Modern Mexican Gourmet in Mexico City
Traditional Mexican cuisine has deservedly won its accolades as International World Heritage, but its most exciting transformation has been at the hands of some of Mexico’s most talented chefs. The leading kitchens of Modern Mexican cuisine, a twist on original recipes and ancient techniques, can be found in Mexico City’s best restaurants and with its most inventive chefs. Enrique Olvera’s restaurant Pujol, Eduardo Garcia’s Maximo Bistrot and Jorge Vallejo’s Quintonil are just a handful of the fantastic places delighting palates with a combination of tradition and innovation.
Climbing the Pyramid of the Sun
Two hundred and forty-three ancient stone stairs lead the way to the peak of the world’s third-largest pyramid. No security guard wags his finger not to touch; no ropes hinder access to this ancient monument to faith and fortune. Only a few miles from the heart of Mexico City, religious pilgrims, history buffs and giddy tourists all make their way to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun to bask in the glory of its dizzying height and outstanding vistas.
Danzón in the Park
Each Saturday, the Cuidadela Park in Mexico City’s Centro Historico fills with a decidedly senior crowd enjoying danzón, Mexico’s elegant equivalent to the fox trot and other dances of a bygone era, the danzón tradition is kept alive by its devoted followers and few young people carrying the torch. The dancers are always dressed in their finest, men with fedora hats and women in sparkling sequins, all-dancing the afternoon away in slow-motion seduction. Even if you don’t know the steps, the people-watching is enchanting and will have you itching to join in.
The La Lagunilla Tianguis
Each Sunday the La Lagunilla Sunday market sets up in Colonia Guerrero to the alternating strains of reggaeton music and 1950s rock and roll played from vintage victrolas. This market’s special feature is rows and rows of antiques and knickknacks from Mexico’s yesteryear. Traditional crafts like ex-voto paintings sit alongside handmade jewelry, old records, sepia-toned photographs, and aisles and aisles of faded furniture. Around 3pm, the market turns into a roving party with micheladas, tacos, and heavy-hitting dance music, just in time to get a haircut or a tattoo in one of the impromptu open-air stalls.
Sunday Bike Ride
Mexico City’s most famous boulevard, Reforma Avenue, was inspired by wide European streets and a sense of grandeur that its creators wanted to imbue in the heart of the country’s capital. On Sundays the avenue is closed off to vehicular traffic to let bikers, walkers, roller skaters and skateboarders enjoy one of Mexico City’s few traffic-free moments. The route runs up and down Reforma from the entrance of Chapultepec Park to the statue of José de San Martin, and is a completely fresh way to experience the city. Free bikes are available for tourists at the Bicigratis bike stands, as well as bikes from Mobikes, the international bike-sharing app. Click here for more information.
Eating Street Food
There is simply no understanding the life of Mexico City without eating on the street. Locals often eat on the street more than they eat in their own kitchens, and definitely more than in regular restaurants. Gourmet chefs, CEOS, street sweepers and housewives all come together at streetside stands, and for a moment, class and status disappear over cilantro and salsa. There are daytime and nighttime stands, weekend barbacoa tents and mobile tamale carts, all with something delicious to offer. Go on a street food tour, explore on your own, or convince a local to show you around—but do not leave Mexico City without eating on the street.
Exploring the Markets in Mexico City
To know its markets is to know Mexico. You will find a complete world in every one of the city’s neighborhood markets. The big monsters, like Merced Market, the Central de Abastos and La Viga, are not for the timid or easily squeamish. Markets in Mexico are not just for shopping, although a kaleidoscope of items begs for purchase, instead, they are most popular for eating, with small stalls and lunch counters offering regional cuisine and ubiquitous Mexican snacks. Come for lunch, 2 or 3pm local time, and enjoy downhome cooking at its finest.
Riding the Metro
The Mexico City metro gets a bad rap for being crowded and dangerous, but riding it, along with the masses of humanity in their daily underground commute, is essential to understanding the movement of the city. Vendors of every stripe hawk scissors, sweet amaranth bars, and as many double A batteries as you could need in a lifetime. Do be street smart, but don’t miss out on this wild ride through the belly of the city. Go during off-peak hours, find yourself a seat, and watch the human drama unfold.
As an American living in Mexico for many years now, these are my 10 remarkable Mexico City experiences that you won’t want to miss. If you’ve never considered visiting Mexico City, hopefully some of these experiences will encourage you to plan a trip to this incredible international destination that I call home. If you’d have any trepidation, and want to take a tour with a friendly American face, click here as I offer tours to many of the destinations listed above. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to leave a comment below.