The Best of Mexico City: A Neighborhood Guide

Mexico City is intimidating. From its sheer volume (it’s larger than NYC) to some less than favorable reviews, it doesn’t scream “vacation here!” But as you may know, we like a challenge and are determined to advocate for Mexico any day. We were headed to Oaxaca for New Year’s Eve so a long layover in CDMX fit perfectly into our travel plans.

With only two full days in Mexico City, we were determined to see it all. Big cities are much more manageable when broken down into neighborhoods so we chose a few and started exploring.

La Condesa / Roma Norte

These two neighborhoods are beside each other and are quite trendy. While the locals seemed less than impressed with these ‘hoods, they are all the rage among millennial tourists and bloggers. We really liked them!

  • Chilaquiles from Chilakillers – Get the half order, trust me.
  • Pastor Tacos from El Tizoncito Cholula – We weren’t even hungry but these were so good.
  • Coffee from Drip and cold brew flights from Boicat Cafe
  • Cold-pressed juice from Mora Mora
  • Churros from El Moro Churreria – be sure to order them hot!
  • Snacks and Drinks from Mercado Roma
  • Cocktails from Balmori (great rooftop) and Licoreria Limantour (11th best bar in the world!)
  • Late-night tacos and tamales from anywhere you can. I don’t remember the name of the place we went but they were all good!

Must stops on your food tour:

Coyoacan

Coyocan is the people’s neighborhood of Mexico City. This is where Frida Kahlo’s famous blue house is, and some excellent parks and markets. We didn’t buy tickets in advance for the Frida museum and not only was a link wrapped around the block, but it was sold out. I was disappointed but I guess we’ll just have to go to CDMX again!

Don’t leave Coyoacan without visiting the market Coyoacan market. The tostada bar is one of a kind and so so delicious. Afterward, grab a coffee at the tiny and crowded  Cafe Avellaneda, people watch with an ice cream in the park or get a shoeshine.

Santa Fe

We stayed in Santa Fe because we had a deal on a Hilton there which was such a treat! While it was far from the other neighborhoods, the financial district is nice in itself. There is a cool shopping and dining area, Barrio Santa Fe, where you can grab trendy dinner and cocktails if staying nearby in one of the name-brand hotel chains.

Xochimilco

Xochimilco is like the Venice of Mexico City, but with lots of mariachi. Located about 1 hour south of the city is the floating gardens of Xochimilco (pronounced zo-chee-milk-o). Here you can rent a colorfully painted boat with a rower to guide you through the canals. While there is a bit of natural beauty, it’s all about the entertainment. Other floating boats come alongside you and offer you food, drinks, music, and flower crowns. Buy them all! Everything is pretty cheap and it is really fun. The more people on the boat the better since you pay a flat rate of around $20.

Dozens of local families get together and bring food to celebrate birthdays or get-togethers. Be sure to get dropped off closest to the main canal. We asked to be dropped off there from our Uber driver but in true Mexico fashion, he insisted on dropping us with his friend and claimed it was the right spot. This was a bummer because we spent half of the time we paid for just getting to and from the main “party” canal. But hey a trip to Mexico City wouldn’t be complete without getting scammed a little, right?!

Not a Neighborhood but a Fancy Night Out

We treated ourselves to a fancy dinner as a Christmas gift to each other. After being unsuccessful at landing a reservation at Pujol or Quintonil, we decided to go with the tasting menu at Sud 777. The atmosphere of this restaurant was awesome as was the meal presentation. We were a little disappointed in our tasting menu for the price, we wish we would have ordered a la carte. It was a fun, fancy dining experience but had nothing on our favorite dinner in Oaxaca.

new years in mexico

Sud 777 is located kind of in an area all on its own, so it doesn’t necessarily fit into our neighborhood guide, but it is worth mentioning.

Getting around Mexico City

Transportation in Mexico City is pretty seamless. Uber is super cheap and reliable we took them from our hotel to each neighborhood and then walked everywhere within the neighborhood.

Funny Story: We had been here for a short layover before on our way to Guatemala and decided to leave the airport to explore the city. We took public transportation and didn’t know the subway was segregated by gender. I looked around and to my shock realized that I was the only female sandwiched in a subway car of men!

Our expectations of this city were superseded. It was such a fun metropolis to spend a few days in. Each neighborhood has its own unique feel but they were all great. We already loved Mexico, but now we love Mexico City too!

Check out the guest post from our friend Travis’ trip to Mexico City here.

Crazy about CDMX,

-Ray

Note: We visited Mexico City in December 2018.

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