Mexico City: debunked. (a.k.a CDMX - Ciudad de Mexico; a.k.a Mexico City DF - Distrito Federal). Unfairly burdened by the stereotypes of Western media as a crime-filled megalopolis, one truly will find those tropes to be laughable after a first-hand experience in the heart of Mexico. What you will find is that the most populous city in North America (second-largest in the Western Hemisphere) is actually a world-class city that actually nurtures some of the most creative minds in the world. You can go on a true food and art bender here as the city is blessed with architectural, artistic, and culinary geniuses influenced by the cultural traditions and tapestries of Latin America, Europe, and, of course, all of its rich history from its pre-Columbian era. While tourism to the city is increasing, it is still relatively "under-the-radar"; it was what Iceland was 10 years ago. Yes the city has a few unsafe areas and some heavy traffic, but it is no different than New York City or Atlanta in that regard. We found the neighborhoods we explored to be safe and used Uber liberally. Given the false narrative that follows Mexico City, it is often eschewed by travelers for other locales in Mexico. But as much as the swanky resorts and crystal blue waters of Cancun, Tulum, and Los Cabos beckon your wanderlust, a walk through the wide avenues and green spaces of Mexico City will not only give you an unforgettable metropolitan experience in a world class city at an affordable price (compared to its contemporaries), it will shatter your preconceived notions of the city and the country itself. As a bonus, if you are an American traveler, it would be a short flight from much of the continental US without a significant time change.
We would recommend at least 3 full days in Mexico City on your maiden voyage (let’s be real, once you come here you probably will want to come back in the future). For reference, we spent 3.5 days as a family trip with our parents. While the city can be explored in any particular order based on your interests, we will continue our Mexico City itinerary series with a day exploring the amazing pyramids of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico and an evening in the tree-lined avenues of Mexico City’s stylish residential neighborhood - Condesa. We found breaking-up the city sightseeing with an expedition to Teotihuacan to be apt (this was our 2nd full-day in Mexico City). So if you are looking for the perfect day-trip from CDMX, read on to satisfy your archaeological cravings at the glorious Teotihuacan Pyramids with a nightcap in Condesa.
WHEN TO GO:
While you could go to Mexico City year round, the spring (March-May) is considered ideal. We chose to go in April and had great weather throughout and got to enjoy the beautiful flowers of the jacaranda trees. As you can see in the below link, the weather is pleasant much of the year given its high elevation (>7000 feet above sea level). https://travel.usnews.com/Mexico_City_Mexico/When_To_Visit/
WHERE TO STAY:
We chose to stay at an AirBnB in Mexico City as they are extremely well-priced and place you right in the middle of the action.
For the first-timer to Mexico City, we recommend staying in Condesa, Polanco, or Roma Norte/Roma Sur. There are many more great areas you can chose to stay in, but the neighborhood-y feel of Condesa and Roma as well as the innumerable hotel options and proximity to attractions of Polanco made them our top 3 choices. In the end we chose an AirBnB in Condesa.
MORNING COFFEE RUN - CHIQUITITO CAFE
One of the absolute highlights of our trip to Mexico City, the Pyramids of Teotihuacan is a spectacular excursion 50 km northeast of Mexico City (CDMX). While many of us may have studied the Aztecs and Mayans, the vast and rich pre-Columbian history of Mexico is on full display here as the amazing archeological findings at Teotihuacan point to a multi-ethnic city state that was at its zenith almost a 1000 years before the Aztecs. Teotihuacan refers to the “City of Gods” and the expanse and structure of the monuments such as Pyramids of the Sun (La Piramide del Sol), Pyramids of the Moon (Piramide de la Luna), and the Avenue of the Dead are fitting of such a meaning. And unlike many other sites, one can actually climb up these pyramids to soak in both the history and views.
Our tips for the Pyramids include going on weekdays (lesser crowds) and bringing plenty of sunscreen and water (as there is next to no shade at this archeological complex). Also, make sure to grab a quick breakfast before heading to Teotihuacan as there won’t be many great food options at the site. Moreover, we chose to go on a Monday because a lot of the museums were closed in Mexico City that day anyway. There are many ways to get to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan including cheap bus routes and various tour groups. First, we wanted to avoid tour groups because a lot of them will inevitably cause you to explore the site simultaneously with large groups of people, thereby limiting your flexibility of how long you can meander through the site. Second, some tour groups may force you visit pointless tourist traps (i.e. forced shopping) along the way to/from the Pyramids. Since there were 4 of us and we preferred point-to-point round-trip transportation. While the bus routes would be very cheap, it is a much more time-consuming process as your beholden to bus schedules/routes as well as getting to/from one’s accommodations to the bus terminals. Luckily, if one wanted to Uber from Mexico City to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan, the approximate fare would be USD$ 25 one-way (at the time of this writing). Thus, if you are travelling with a group of 2-4 people it’s actually a great rate for a direct and private transfer. You could even privately make a deal with your driver to pay for his/her time to wait for you outside the Pyramid site to return you to your accommodations. We were very fortunate that our AirBnB host recommended a great private driver (for our group of 4 people) that gave us point-to-point pick-up and drop-off from our accommodations in Mexico City to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan (including waiting at the site for us for 3 hours) for a total of approximately USD $100. This not only ended up being the most convenient method, it also ended up being far cheaper for 4 people than any tour group. The transportation was seamless and of course our experience in Teotihuacan was amazing. We were back at our accommodations in the city by 3:30pm. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g499421-d153714-Reviews-Zona_Arqueologica_Teotihuacan-San_Juan_Teotihuacan_Central_Mexico_and_Gulf_Coast.html
COCKTAILS - CONDESA DF ROOFTOP
After resting for a little, we decided to get some cocktails and catch the sunset at Condesa DF Rooftop. It is a beautifully designed art deco style rooftop. As the rooftop bar isn’t that high, it is less about views and more about taking in the leafy neighborhoods and decompressing after a long day exploring the pyramids or city. We really enjoyed grabbing a drink here. We did not partake in the food or the rest of the hotel so cannot comment on those facets. https://www.condesadf.com/restaurant.html