Mexico City has a problem. A PR problem.
Literally every single person I spoke with before my trip was shocked that I was headed south, to the largest city on the western hemisphere, for fun. Did I want to be kidnapped, they asked. Was I taking along an armored car? Did I plan to be robbed? How was I going to get around the city? Uber?! Are you insane?!
WTF was I getting myself into, I asked myself. I had done a substantial amount of online research but even the usually reliable online travel forums seemed either outdated or over cautious. I have to admit, the warnings started to get to me…was I signing myself up to get killed? Kidnapped? What do all these warnings really add up to? Were people being over cautious or was I being crazy to head off to a city riddled with crime and gangs? In the end, my unending enthusiasm for travel and mega cities got the better off me and I took the plunge.
Even if I write for the next two days I will not run out of things to be seen and experienced in CDMX, but here are a few good pieces of advice:
1. As much as one may hate “touristy”, get off your high horses and take the hop on hop off buses. It gives the perfect overview of the city’s different many, many, many neighborhoods. Sitting on top of the open top double decker, you see parts of the city that you would never have made it to otherwise. If you can hear the English translations over the blaring Spanish narrations, you will also be rewarded with great lessons in history about the city, like one of the monuments portraying the great last Aztec leader in a victorious pose. He fought hard for the natives, even when the Spanish conquistadors burned his legs and feet with hot oil torturing him to give up the location of the Aztec treasures. Assholes.
2. Walk down the whole length of Avenida Juarez all the way to Plaza de la Constitucion and explore all the little streets of Zocalo. Youll eat well and be able to see all the beautiful colocial buildings as well as Templo Mayor and Bella Arte. There is a never ending sea of people in old town, so watch your wallets and don’t be stupid.
3. If you love art and individuals with a mind of their own, Frida’s Casa Azul is a must. Even if you have to show up about an hour before they open and wait two hours. Sometimes you just have to burn the time to see beautiful things. I love her, and gardens and houses and blue… so it definitely left a mark.
4. Bazaar Sabado only opens on Saturdays but if you love stuff this is a must go. I found the inside to be too pretentious but the art markets outside the bazaar and the artisans selling all their and made stuff, also outside the bazaar is where the real charm is. Loved it, should have bought more stuff but I was a little overwhelmed by how many beautiful things were around.
Shame on you if you find yourself eating badly in Mexico City! Shame! Literally, every corner of the city is full of great food. Food fitting to anyone’s palate is available, but if you are like me and lot lime and spice – this is food heaven. Of course there is world renowned Pujol which I didn’t make it to, and Nicos but even if you skip all the fancy smancy stuff and just go to one of the upstairs taquerias in Zocalo or the food stalls by Alameda Central on Avenida Juarez, and order the first thing in the menu, you will be well rewarded. The street side corn, the fried plantains, the fried batatas with hot sauce and limon, the pozole, all the tacos – oh so many tacos, you cannot go wrong. If for nothing else, all foodies must be required to make a pilgrimage to Mexico City. If you survive the alleged kidnappings, you will definitely leave happy and yearning for more, with your mind made up to come back asap.
A few restaurants we got to try:
1. Restaurant El Mayor has a great view of Templo Mayor and the whole old town. Plus it has great internet and service. Ask for a table out in the balcony, you cant go wrong.
2. Taqueria Arandas in Zocalo has killer Tacos and everything else. Also, its right beside Café Popular which has killer baked goods. There is a line out the door, its called Popular for a reason.
3. The restaurants outside Bazar Sabado, especially the ones on the side streets are super local and delicious. Pick any. Skip the restaurant inside the Bazaar. Wayyy too touristy.
4. I will spend more time in Condessa the next time I am here It’s basically the Brooklyn / Harlem of NYC or Hornstull of Stockholm. Chalk full of great places to eat.
Mexico City, its unending energy, leaves you with a yearning for more. After this trip, I feel like I have only barely touched the surface of this beast of a city. With so much left to be done, experienced, eaten, observed, I cannot wait till the next time I am back.
I am of “dangerous” cities, so megacities with problems of crime, traffic, corruption and people – oh so many people – is my roots. The best advice for making your way around mega metropolises is not to be stupid. If it feels dangerous, it probably is. Don’t engage with over friendly people (especially men), don’t get shit faced when you don’t have a reliable way to get home and don’t show off your assets. If you are a city person like I am – follow your instincts and you will have no problem unless you get quite unlucky. If you are not a city person, take your city friend along, or if you don’t have a city friend – make a city friend! We are great albeit gruff people! Alternatively, do your research and ask yourself – what would a city person do?
One great part about being categorized “dangerous” is that the other tourists you encounter are also like you, those who have braved the warnings and taken the plunge. Real intriguing travelers, no Bahamas Atlantis crowd here trust me and what can be better than that?
Expectation exceeded by 1000 percent. Can’t wait to be back.