When I first told my mom that Katie, Evan and I were headed to CDMX for five days, her first response was “why?” As was my co-worker’s, and my friends’, and the Walgreen’s guy when I picked up travel sized shampoos. I don’t know why people were so surprised, but I suppose it’s because generally the tropical beaches, wellness retreats, and parties the coasts are more appealing draws than a capital city 8000 feet above sea level?
When Katie and I booked the trip ages ago, we decided on CDMX because Katie wanted to go somewhere to learn Spanish, we needed somewhere close enough for a long weekend, and neither of us had been to Mexico City. (In fact, I’d never even been to Mexico!) Once we had a clear winner, we booked flights, reservations, and our Airbnb and once all the hard work was done, Evan decided to join as well.
CDMX proved completely different from my expectations. The area we stayed in, Condesa, was charming and safe, with tree-lined streets complete with blooming Jacarandas, and gorgeous parks on every corner. It’s known for its dog lovers (perfect for me) and the hipster establishments populated by ex-pats.
We really made use of our time and explored the city, quickly realizing we were in the sleepy part of town, whereas other areas of the city were bustling and busy, much like any other metropolis. There were some things that were surprising about CDMX:
- This is a city that specializes in seafood, despite its mountainous elevation and landlocked location. It was perhaps some of the best seafood I’ve eaten in my life.
- It was also one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to. Katie and I marveled over the cleanliness of park bathrooms. I legit would have eaten off the sink counter, no joke.
- People were lovely and friendly and warm and patient, which I don’t know if I had any formed expectations about, but loved about the city.
- The air quality and traffic were some of the worst I’d seen. The traffic was more problematic during rush hour, so I’d avoid driving around those times. The air quality definitely wore us out, so stay hydrated.
- Our Airbnb was located in basically the Silverlake or the Haye Valley of CDMX, complete with indie bookstores, home décor boutiques, and delicious food… you didn’t really have to venture more than a block to get all your needs met. The Airbnb has other bigger and even cuter places, so if that one is booked, she probably has other great options!
- Contramar: My friend Tawsh told me I wasn’t allowed home until I went to this restaurant. That’s perhaps the soundest of all the good advice she’s dispensed to me. Get a traditional Michelada and eat EVERYTHING at this restaurant. Also the servers are the best, the fish is the freshest, and it’s chockful of locals and hot ex-pats.
- Pujol: A tasting menu at one of the world’s best restos? Sold. It was bougie AF, beautiful, and the menu was surprising and delicious, think smoky ants and octopus marinated in grasshoppers. The Mole alone, which is aged for five years, is reason enough to go back.
- Lorea: Another tasting menu that is still flying under the radar, it’s an EXPERIENCE. Think the Clove Club in London, complete with masks and a beverage pair: mezcal, beer, local wine, champagne… It’s a dream come true with edgy twists on traditional Mexican dishes.
- Panderia Rosetta: The Guava Roll. We went back three times. Go.
- Lardo: the cutest lunch/brunch spot. Shabby chic, wood-fired ovens, lush plants, and a great cocktail list. I wish I could do Lardo every Sunday.
- Ojo De Agua: Gwenyth Paltrow approved, we inhaled the acai bowls and the chilaquiles here. It was around the block from our apartment and there was always a wait. Bright cheerful and provided much needed fiber to our fish-filled days.
- El Moro: Churros and hot chocolate were perfect complements to sunset near Parque Mexico, which was full of live music and blooming jacarandas.
- Los Cancinos: Our last dinner was at this lovely little Italian place, which was v. casual and family friendly. We chose a location with a gorgeous little patio and rejoiced in the fact our last day also landed on the start of Mexico’s Daylight Savings Time.
- Licoreria Limonatur: After Pujol, we weren’t ready to call it a night and stumbled on this lovely cocktail bar full of hot men. Need I say more? The cocktails were great too!
- Amaya: This was our first stop of our trip. It is a wine bar specializing in natural and organic wines originating in Mexico. Our server was lovely and let us taste six different wines as he gave us a tour of Mexico’s wine regions.
- Cava Mia: You know I am a sucker for hostel bars, probably as a desperate attempt to reclaim my youth. This cozy little wine and beer was perfect for a reprieve from the hot sun.
- Jardin: Following our visit to the Palacio Nacional, we took a short Uber to this beer garden that serves local Mexican brews, including some delicious IPAs. They also have a taco kitchen and the best guac. It was also one of the few places that we didn’t hear a lick of English.
- Palacio Nacional: Gorgeous grounds, a history of Benito Juarez, and the place I finally saw past Diego Rivera’s womanizing ways and appreciated him as a true master.
- Frida Kahol’s The Blue House: My friend Aly advised me to get the audio guide and she was sooo right. It’s so well done and thorough. The house is amazingly preserved and I could have stayed there all day, no joke.
- Museum of Anthropology: I’m a nerd for early civilization stuff, and this is a must. I was in awe of how well-preserved some of the artifacts were. Mind-blowing.
- Parque Mexico: the cutest little park in CDMX, full of blooming flowers, puppy adoption centers, and peeks into Mexican culture, including street artists, yoga groups, dance lessons, and family picnics. It’s surrounded by delicious restaurants, bars and cafes.
- Viveros de Coyoacan: Part tree nursery and part park, this heaven was a reprieve from the traffic and pollution and home to my favorite public bathroom. Joking aside, after waiting in the hot sun for Frida’s house, this glorious and shady haven was perfect to wander through. It’s where a majority of the trees that line the streets of CDMX were born and is considered one of the “lungs” of Mexico City.