I met another expat mom and fellow travel writer, Katja Gaskell from Globetotting.com at a blog conference last year. We’ve known each other in the online world for awhile but had never met in real life. She is a British mom who has been living in Mexico City for four years and before moving to Mexico City her family lived in India. I’ve always been intrigued with Mexico City, it’s SO BIG and I’ve always heard the food is amazing!
Katja encouraged me to come visit her and since we would both be going on the same writing trip to Merida, Mexico later that year, I added two extra days to my trip to get a quick taste of Mexico City. This is a Mexico City weekend guide for anyone that has limited time and wants to know some of the quick highlights and most importantly, where a local eats!
Mexico City Weekend Guide
Mexico City has several neighborhoods all with their own distinct personality and I was staying in the neighborhood of Condesa, a trendy little neighborhood with lots of popular restaurants, shops and buildings being renovated with new modern apartments. Condesa also sits right next to Roma another charming neighborhood with so much going on it is now split as Roma Norte and Roma Sur. Roma is also a popular area for restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping. The three other neighborhoods I was able to experience were the cobblestone streets of Coyoaćan, the historic El Centro and the posh streets of Polanco (aka the Beverly Hills of Mexico City).
Parque Mexico & Parque España
The first morning we took a walk through Parque Mexico & Parque Espana and I was both thrilled and a little shocked to see such a tropical oasis in Mexico City, it made me feel right at home like I was back in Costa Rica! There were so many people walking their dogs, jogging and even working out at an outdoor gym right in the park.
Katja told me that the walkway is in the middle of Parque Mexico goes around in a complete circle, because it used to be an old horse track. Hearing this, made me get up the next morning to go for a run. Is it weird that this might have been one of my favorite things I did in Mexico City!?
The sun was just coming up when I left and it was lightly raining, so running in between all the lush green plants and the rain sprinkles hitting my face was so refreshing! I also watched as the city woke up, parents walking their kids to school, people walking their dogs and coffee shops just opening their doors. The benefit of getting out early is that you really get to see the city as it wakes up.
Our first stop for food was at Lalo! in the Roma Norte neighborhood. A colorful restaurant with a long community style table running right down the middle of it. This place was buzzing and as we made our way to our seats my eyes were darting around the table looking at all the gorgeous plates of food! We both ordered the chilaquiles. And this was my FIRST time having chilaquiles – shocking I know! This was not only an impressive presentation but incredible in taste too! I am sure my next plate of chilaquiles will never be as good as this one.
Coyoaćan, Mexico City
It took a solid 20 minute cab ride from Roma Norte to the Coyoaćan area. Here you will find Casa Azul, the Frido Kahlo Museum. I have always admired Frida Kahlo for living a life with such passion and fortitude while living in such pain. The museum is the actual home where she lived with her husband, Diego Riviera, the famous Mexican muralist. You get to take a tour through their home and see exactly how they lived. It is a small gallery and museum with a nice courtyard outside. One of my favorite parts of the museum was seeing her dresses and the restrictive corsets she would have to wear underneath them. I could not imagine the pain she went through everyday.
From Casa Azul I walked just a few blocks down to the Parque Coyoaćan where I sat for awhile and just watched people go by. This is an older neighborhood and where you’ll see more traditional Mexico, with street vendors and the large Mercado de Coyoaćan. As I wondered around the cobblestone streets I stumbled into Casa de Luna, a small boutique filled with unique artisan crafts, pottery, jewelry and small gifts.
La Celestina & PAN
La Celestina is a small cafe where I stopped for a drink and tried their spicy mango Mezcal. I sat inside facing the street but behind me was a small lounge area with library style decor. From there I went inside PAN to drool over all the pastries and baked goods. Sugary goodness for DAYS and it was packed inside.
Tree Of Life
I was so happy to accidentally run right into a “Arboles de la Vida!” (tree of life). I was a little lost and ready to find a cab when suddenly I saw this gigantic piece of art. Only later did I learn that a tree of life is a traditional clay sculpture that used to depict specific stories of the bible, but now many of the modern creations have simple themes that have no relation to bible stories. Sometimes getting a little lost can be a good thing!
La Capital Restaurante
Hello incredible food. If there is one place you should eat in Mexico City it is La Capital. I did not take many food photos because I was too busy enjoying the food and conversation with the fabulous group of people Katja assembled for dinner. I managed to take a few photos, but they just do not do the food justice so I prefer not to show them. You’ll just have to trust me (and Katja) and get here yourself.
El Centro, Mexico City
Apparently you cannot go to Mexico City and not see the Zocalo, the center of Mexico City and one of the largest squares in the world. Truth be told, the only reason I wanted to see it was because of the spectacular opening scene of the celebration of día de muertos in the latest James Bond movie, Spectre. We walked around the Zocalo a bit and went inside the Metropolitan Cathedral but then quickly moved on to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The Palaciao de Bellas Artes is a performing arts theatre and the inside is well known for it’s art deco style of arcitecture. It also has several beautiful murals displayed inside including the famous and controversial “Man at the Crossroads” by Diego Rivera. If you are lucky enough to see a performance here, you will see the one and only stage curtain that is not actually a curtain, but made a foldable panel made of all stained glass weighing 24 tons! However, you don’t have to have tickets to a show to see this, there are paid guided tours of the palace which includes seeing the stained glass curtain.
Three reasons to visit the Downtown Hotel, the unique shops on the second floor, the vertical garden or living green wall at Padinos and the beautiful trees that fill the courtyard in Azul Restaurant. You do not have to be staying at the hotel to go inside, you can of course dine at Padinos or Azul Restaurant, but we just took our time browsing the gorgeous shops and marveling at the beauty of the courtyard.
Polanco, Mexico City
After our little speed tour of the El Centro area Katja dropped me off in Polanco to fend for myself. Known as the Beverly Hills of Mexico City, this place was quite the scene. The streets are filled with expensive luxury cars and valet drivers running her and there. The sidewalks are lined with trendy cafes and the finest restaurants. Everyone here is dressed to impress. Men were getting their shoes shined while having lunch meetings and tables were filled with stylish women that looked like they just stepped off the cover of a magazine. I found a cozy sidewalk cafe to sit and have a glass of wine and watch as the important people of Mexico City went by. Both satisfying and entertaining.
I also wandered into the beautiful El Péndulo Cafe & Bookstore where you could see more locals browsing the books, on their laptops and getting their afternoon coffee fix.
We actually stopped into Lardo in the morning to grab a coffee and pastry before jumping in a cab to start the day. Which is why the bar is empty and I was able to get this photo, but when we went back at night this place was packed! Lardo is one of the hottest restaurants in Mexico City. This is chef Elena Reygadas’ second restaurant in Mexico City, her first is the popular Italian restaurant Rosetta. Luckily Katja and her husband frequent this place a lot, so we were able to grab a spot at the bar just as one was opening up. We shared small plates, a bottle of wine (or two) and chatted while watching the chefs in action right in front of us.
Mexico City has always been on my must see list, I know that I only scratched the surface on this quick trip, but I covered a lot of ground thanks to my friend Katja. Having a local guide you is like having a fast pass to some of the best of the best. 48 hours in Mexico City was just enough to make me want to come back for more!