Mexico is one of my favorite countries, and Mexico City is one of my favorite cities. In order to do it justice, I will write more than one blog to cover the country and the city. So here goes the first one. A good friend asked me for advice about how to experience Mexico City. I have to say that I am completely partial to Mexico, DF. It is one of the greatest, most cultured places in the world. If you have never visited, go! You have missed an incredible experience. So, here is my introduction into one of the greatest cities in the world. Enjoy
Planning tip: long before you go to Mexico, make a reservation for dinner at Pujol, Rosetta or Quintonil.
Downtown and San Angel Inn – Get an early start, it will be a long day
Take a cab to the Gran hotel for breakfast but use a circuitous route - tell the driver to first drive to the monument Fuente de Petroleros (Anillo Periférico S/N, Polanco, Bosque de Chapultepec II Secc, 11000 Miguel Hidalgo) and then take Reforma to the Zocalo.
Along the way, you will see the Auditorio Nacional on the right and a little bit later the Museo Nacional Antropologia on the left. The Chapultepec park is on the right. All of the sudden, after all the green, you are on the main avenue of Mexico. Straight ahead is the Angel of Independence, one of the main statues in Mexico, a bit later on the left is the Mexican stock exchange (Bolsa). All big businesses, banks, etc. have buildings along Reforma. Eventually, you will make a right turn to the Zocalo and get into the old center of town
Gran Hotel, Cuidad de Mexico - 16 de Septiembre 82, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06000 Cuauhtemoc, CDMX, Mexico - Enjoy the art deco of the inside, take the elevator, and have breakfast on the roof terrace, overlooking the Zocalo
Catedral Metropolitana (oldest cathedral in America, very large and beautiful inside, built by the conquistadors and the catholic church)
Museo Templo Major (right next to the cathedral, a little bit set behind, only spend time inside of the museum, appreciate some of the magic of Aztec art – which was destroyed by the conquerors)
Walk back towards the hotel and then along 16 de Septembre past the hotel and away from the Zocalo for about 4 blocks (make a right on Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas)
Next block on the right side is the Torre Latino (the original skyscraper in Mexico). Its surprisingly small but worthwhile seeing from the outside.
Across the street is the Palacio Bellas Artes (very nice theatre, there may be an exhibition at the very nice exhibition space)
If it is not too late (e.g. 12/1) keep walking further north. After a few blocks you will see a square called Plaza Garibaldi (cross street is Republica de Honduras), which has some nice restaurants where you can sit outside. Have a late lunch (if you get lucky, you will see roving bands of mariachis – this is where they audition to get hired by locals to perform at private homes – a friend of mine hired a sextet to serenade his girlfriend)
Alternatively take a cab to Plaza San Jacinto (in the San Angel neighborhood) – You can also have an outside lunch here (this colorful place is great to buy local Mexican art and souvenirs – negotiate….). On the West side of the square is a beautiful little neighborhood church (Parroquira San Jacinto, a friend of mine’s child was baptized there). Make sure you walk all the way through the church to the exit on the other side, where it is completely residential.
Back at the square, take a cab to the Museo Casa Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo (it is only a five-minute ride). Rivera and Kahlo are the best known modern Mexican painters and their artwork is beautiful and very distinctively Mexican.
Best of all right next door is the San Angel Inn, an original old hacienda and a great restaurant. Sit in the hacienda’s courtyard for drinks and imagine life 200 years ago. Btw, Mexico eats earlier than Spain, e.g. 8:00 PM is a good time, maybe 8:30 but not much later). Eat the Chicken Mole (it is amazing). Enjoy the dinner!
Back to the hotel – Sleep, you deserve it (btw, if you wake up at night with difficulties breathing, it is because of the altitude – you have a slight case of altitude sickness – best medicine is a Mexican Coca Cola, believe it or not).
Get onto an organized tour that goes to Teotihuacan (and the Madonna de Guadeloupe along the way – most likely on the way back. Wear hiking boots.
The tour will include lunch, probably a visit to a Tequila maker, and a visit to a souvenir place (enjoy the souvenir place, which is corny, but most often still has beautiful Mexican stuff – stick to pottery and handblown glasses).
Teotihuacan is a bit more than one-hour North of downtown, but it is one of the most amazing and large pyramid and building sites that you will ever see. Climb the sun and the moon pyramids. Soak in the amazing Aztec culture and the size of the monuments.
On the return, find your way (maybe they can drop you off or you take a cab from Reforma or the Zona Rosa) to the Hotel Camino Real Polanco (Mariano Escobedo No. 700). It is one of my favorite examples of modern Mexican architecture (believe it or not, it was built for the 1968 Olympics), starting with the fountain in the courtyard. Modern Mexican architecture is largely unappreciated outside of Latin America, but it is just spectacular. While you explore, fiind the bar upstairs for some drinks and the bar near the pool. Relax and take in the views. Amazing, amazing hotel.
Day III (if you have that much time)
Organize a sightseeing tour that includes the University library, the Stadio Azteca, and most importantly Xochimilco (it’s a bit cheesy and seemingly touristy – but lots of Mexican families visit there, too). Its relaxing and a completely strange place in the middle of 20 million people. This is a great place to reflect on the cultural firehose experiences of the last two days.
For more variety of Mexico City neighborhoods and tranquility, visit the Coyoacan neighborhood – here are all the details… https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/travel/mexico-city-coyoacan-budget-frugal.html
Or alternatively visit the center of Mexico again to see the Diego Rivera murals in the Palacio Nacional (back in downtown Mexico, right on the Zocalo, where you were before). You may want to check if they are accessible when you are in Mexico since they are in the stairwells of a working government building – actually the government building.
Have dinner at the second of the three restaurants above…..
More about my favorite foods in Mexico in another blog.