I went to Mexico City – here’s my travel guide for first timers

Mexico City (known as CDMX) is having a moment. And there are some very good reasons to add it to your travel plans...
Aerial view of Mexico City
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City

Its street food is amazing

Mexico City is famous for its food – we’re talking taco stands on every corner, the smell of corn tortillas lingering in the air. And there’s also food markets, a huge restaurant and bar scene, and some very famous high-end eateries to choose from. Our tip? If you’re travelling to Mexico, don’t miss out on the street scene. Do a taco tasting tour – Airbnb have several you can book into, for example – with insiders who know where to get the best tacos in the city.

taco stand mexico city
Eat at a traditional taco stand

For instance, while the taco al pastor is possibly the most popular type of taco in CDMX (a taco made with marinated pork from a vertical rotisserie, a bit like a doner kebab), thanks to our tour guide we also tried fabulous duck tacos from a Filipino chef in a small café secretly tucked away underneath a cool bar. 

There’s high end eating, too

If you love food and can afford a gastronomic experience, Enrique Olvera’s Pujol is one of the places to eat right now (be warned though, it costs around $260 per head without drinks). He uses native ingredients like ants and sea snails in his molecular gastronomy version of traditional Mexican food, and is famous for his Mole Madre – a mole (a traditional rich sauce) that has been cooking for 3,500 days (around eight years).

Enrique Olvera's Pujol mexico city
Pujol may be pricey, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience

Book in early as it’s very hard to get in. Too pricey? You can still taste Olvera’s food – Eno is his more affordable café chain. Here he also uses traditional Mexican ingredients but modernises them, with sandwiches, tacos and guacamole on the menu at far cheaper prices than Pujol!

There are plenty of cool neighbourhoods to explore

Yes, it’s a huge city, but CDMX is made up of different areas, each with their own special vibe.

centro historico mexico city
CDMX has photo opps at every turn (Supplied: Claire Isaac)

The Centro Historico is worth a visit for the cathedrals, historical buildings, galleries and shopping, but our tips for the best places to wander are slightly away from the crowds. Condesa and Roma Norte are both the perfect spots to base yourself in.

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Condesa is within walking distance of the famous Chapultepec park, which is considered Mexico City’s lungs – it’s double the size of New York’s Central Park and is filled with a lake, markets, a historic castle and a zoo as well as several museums. Idle away some time wandering the picturesque streets around Condesa as there are gorgeous cafes, bars and parks everywhere, and the architecture is stunning. Roma is filled with restaurants and bars, too, and is equally photo-worthy, with a too-cool-for-school modern covered market, Mercado Roma, here as well.

There is art everywhere

Don’t forget a trip to the Casa Azul in Coyoacan, another picture perfect part of CDMX. Here, Frida Kahlo, arguably Mexico’s most famous artist, spent most of her life, and the museum is stunning – showing artworks, her home and her clothes. You must book online though, as tickets sell out fast.

frida kahlo's home mexico city
Frida Kahlo’s home is well worth a visit

There are a huge number of other art galleries and museums worth visiting, too – from the grand glory of Palacio de Bellas Artes to the pre-Hispanic history inside the incredible Museo de Antropología in Chapultepec.

Don’t forget dessert

The famous Churrería El Moro is well worth a visit at the end of a night, or for traditional Mexican sweets, you can’t go past the historical Dulcería de Celaya in Centro, where they’ve been making the same delicious candies for over 100 years.

historical Dulcería de Celaya in Centro mexico city
A piece of (sweet) history (Supplied: Claire Isaac)

Where to stay

We stayed at The Mondrian Mexico City Condesa – situated right where Condesa and Roma meet, and within walking distance to the Centro Historico and those Insta-worthy CDMX landmarks like the Angel of Independence.

angel of independence mexico city
What an angel!

The hotel is perfect for a relaxing getaway in the heart of a large city – comfortable and quiet, with a fabulous rooftop bar, a great coffee shop and restaurant, and access to a pool in sister hotel, The Andaz.

The Mondrian Mexico City Condesa
(Supplied: Mondrian)

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