Mexico City usually isn’t on the top of the list for places to visit, but it is a great city for food, drinks and to go out and dance! A weekend trip here is ideal for a celebration with a group of friends. Or, if you are a foodie, take a few days and explore some of the great restaurants and bars Mexico City has to offer.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Mexico City is March to May and October to mid-November. This is when the temperatures will be highest with the least amount of precipitation. March to May is usually pretty busy so if you want to avoid the crowds, its best you visit in October or November. June through September is the rainy season but when it rains, it will only do so in short spurts.
From Canada, there are direct flights from Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal via Air Canada, West Jet Aeromexico and Interjet. From Vancouver, you can find these as low as $280 CAD round trip. What is great about flying Aeromexico and Interjet is that they serve alcohol for free on the flights until they run out so if you are going down for a celebration and want to get started early, I would recommend looking into these airlines! And they are usually cheaper as well.
From the US, you can fly direct to Mexico City from most of the big travel hubs: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Boston, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Austin, Detroit and a few other cities. Similar to Vancouver, you can come across many different flight deals to take you down to the city. Flight from LA can get as cheap as $100 for a one-way. You can find a lot of good flight deals on many different websites so if you know when you want to go, it would be worth putting a travel alert on Kayak so you know when the prices drop.
Before You Go
- Make sure you don’t lose the immigration slip that they give you when you enter the country. They will ask for this when you leave.
- Exchange some cash for Mexican pesos. Although most restaurants and stores take credit card, it is always good to have a bit of local cash on you in case you want to buy a snack or souvenir off the street or if you need to tip. At the time of writing this, $18.50 pesos was equivalent to $1 USD and $14 pesos was equivalent to $1 CAD.
- Download the offline Google Maps of Mexico City so that you don’t have to roam to search for where you want to go.
- Download a translation app that works offline if you don’t speak Spanish because most Uber drivers don’t speak English.
- Make restaurant reservations before going, especially if you are a large group.
- Mexico City is located 7,382 feet above sea level so some people may feel the elevation gain. Drink lots of water and make sure you use sunscreen.
- There is a lot of concern around the kidnappings and dangers in Mexico City but if you use common sense and are not alone, you should be fine. It is best not to wear anything of value while walking around the city or going out because you may become a target to steal from.
Uber is very cheap in Mexico City and this is the best way to get around. It costs approximately ~$130 pesos (~$7.50 USD) to Uber from the airport to the Roma Norte area.
If you are a big group or are planning a long day trip, it might be worth hiring a driver for the day or for a few hours. David Braverman is a reliable drive that you can hire for a decent price. You can contact him on whatsapp +52 1 55 6672 6090. The only catch is that he doesn’t speak English. Just to give you an idea on price, it costs $1800 pesos (~$90 USD) for a group of up to 8 people (in a van), to hire him for 6 hours to go to Xochimilco and back.
Where to Stay
The Roma Norte area is the best area to stay in because it is one of the nicer areas of the city and is walking distance to many awesome bars and restaurants. Airbnbs are a great choice in Mexico City because you can find some great places for very cheap (compared to other big cities around the world).
There is a great Airbnb on Avenida Alvaro Obregon 255 in Roma Norte. It was in the perfect location (walking distance from a lot of great restaurants and bars, 24-hour 7-11 next door and grocery store 3 blocks away) and could fit 7 people comfortably. It had a full stocked kitchen, great open living room/dining room space and a nice rooftop balcony. They also had 24-hour concierge/security service. It is on a busy street so if you are a light sleeper it is suggested to bring ear plugs. All the rooms are in a loft type build except for the master bedroom which has a door. So, the only negative thing is that once someone is up and talking, the noise travels and it’s likely everyone in the house will wake up too.
If you don’t want to stay at an Airbnb and prefer a hotel, here are a few options. Overall, hotels are very reasonable compared to the top hotels in other cities around the world.
- Ignacia Guest House – in the Roma Norte area
- Zócalo Central Hotel – in the centro historico area
- Las Alcobas – in the Polanco neighborhood
- Four Seasons Mexico City – in La Condesa area (between Polanco and Roma)
- Hotel Condesa DF – in La Condesa area closer to the Roma Norte area
What to Do
There aren’t many landmarks to see in Mexico City like in other big capital cities around the world. Most of your time spent in the city will revolve around eating and drinking. It is a great place to visit with a group of friends.
- Walk around the Centro Historico and check out La Catedral Metropolitana, Palacio de las Bellas Artes and Templo Mayor. The Palacio de las Bellas Artes consists of murals by Mexican artists and a concert hall. It costs $70 pesos to get in, but Sunday is free. Templo Mayor is a UNESCO World Heritage site only a block away from the main plaza. Built in the 1300, this is one of main temples of the Aztecs capital city. Unless you are very interested in history, you might not need to enter the ruins as you can see them from outside. It costs $70 pesos to enter. Both the Palacio de Bellas Artes and Templo Mayor are closed on Mondays. Around the Centro Historico, you will also find a lot of shops and boutiques.
- Frida Kahlo Museum (The Blue House) is a great place to visit if you enjoy art. Located in the Coyoacan neighborhood, this was the house of the late painter who became famous from her self-portraits. It is open Tuesday to Sunday and costs $230-$250 pesos depending on what do you visit. It costs and extra $30 pesos to take photos and if you are interested in a guided tour, this would be an additional $700 pesos for a group up to 20 people. Guided tours must be scheduled in advance.
- Rent a boat in Xochimilco. This is a must if you are visiting with a big group. You can rent your own private boat for a few hours and cruise down the canals that were originally build by the Aztecs as a water transport system. We used the company Embarcadero Las Flores and it cost $1,200 (~$60USD) for a private boat that can fit up to 18 people for 3 hours. You can also pay for add-ons such as having them paint a huge sign with your name on it at the front of the boat or a loud speaker or mariachi band (I would suggest to bring your own portable speaker though because that’s all you need). You can bring your own alcohol and food but as you float down the river you can also purchase food, drinks and souvenirs from other vendor boats if you run out. There are also bathrooms along the river that you can stop at and use for $6 pesos. Make sure that your boat driver takes you to the best ones though because some are not as nice as others. It takes about an hour to get there from Roma Norte.
- Eat tacos and drink tequila! Hop from bar to bar and restaurant to restaurant one afternoon in Roma Norte. See the sections “Where to Eat” and “Where to Drink” for recommendations.
- If you are in Mexico City for 5 days or more, it might be worth looking into a one-night stay in San Miguel de Allende. It is a small town north west of Mexico City that is known for its art and baroque Spanish architecture. It is a 3 and a half hour drive one way but is worth the drive.
- Visit the ancient archaeological complex Teotihuacán. Situated 40km north-east of the city, this historical site is known to link the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun. Teotihuacán is the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas.
Where to Eat
There are so many great restaurants in Mexico City and it is impossible to get through all of them. I’m going to focus in and around the Roma Norte area as I personally think this is the best area to stay in and explore. Eating times in Mexico City are similar to Spain. Locals eat lunch at around 2pm and dinner at around 9:30-10pm. It is best to make a reservation at any restaurant you go eat at as the wait can get long.
- Contramar – a seafood restaurant in Roma Norte that you must eat at if you are visiting Mexico City. This is one of my favourite restaurants in the world! It is best to go there with a few people so you can try a few different dishes. I highly recommend the aguachiles mixto, the tuna tostadas and the pescado a la talla contramar style. A reservation is a must, otherwise you will be waiting for a long time if you come at peak hours. If you aren’t able to get a reservation and you don’t have time to wait, you can always order take out. They package everything up separately (sauce, toppings, fish, etc.) and the portions are bit bigger than what you would get if you ate in.
- Parámo – a great Mexican restaurant in the Roma Norte area. It is on the second floor and there is no sign on the restaurant door. They have a really cute small bar area as well. A great atmosphere for a small or large group. The shrimp tacos were amazing and if you are vegetarian, the poblano tacos were also delicious.
- Huset – a great farm to table restaurant for rustic Mexican food. The octopus and gnocchi were delicious There is a beautiful terrace with lights that create a great atmosphere. It is best to make a reservation.
- Azul Histórico – cute Mexican restaurant in the Centro Historico area located in an open-air courtyard covered by trees. They have a variety of tequila and mezcal tastings here and women are hand making the tortillas in the courtyard as well.
- El Cardenal – a delicious breakfast spot in the city center. There are two locations in el centro historico area, one located on Calle la Palma next to Zócalo hotel and the other in the Hilton Hotel near Alameda Central Park. Make sure you try some of their house made breads – they are delicious!
- Panadería Rosetta – a great bakery café close to Plaza Rio de Janiero in Roma Norte. Great spot for breakfast.
- Hungry Beast Juice Bar – in case you are in need of a healthy juice after a late night out!
- Rosetta – a great restaurant that serves contemporary Mexican and Italian cuisine located in Roma Norte. This is a great spot if you are looking for a romantic dinner.
- Blanco Colima – a lounge and bar inside a beautiful former Arte Nouveau mansion in Roma Norte. They have a good breakfast menu and there is a dish with tortilla chips and avocado in salsa verde that is delicious.
- La Docena – a great seafood restaurant in Roma Norte.
- Cocina Conchita – another great seafood restaurant in Roma Norte that make excellent tuna tiraditos
- Mercado Roma – a market that consists of many food stands. Sandwich and truffle fries at French Dip, tacos at Arbanus and churros at El Moro are recommended.
- Taqueria Orinoco – if you want some great cheap tacos, or a late-night snack, this is the place to go. They have one of the best pastor tacos in the city. Open until 4am Sunday to Thursday, and 5am on Friday and Saturday, you will always find a line at this spot. The line moves quick though! If you are vegetarian, they can make avocado or cheese tacos or quesadillas. You can also ask for a few pieces of pineapple to add to them. You should also try the Jamaica water with guayaba.
- Lalo! – a great place for Mexican brunch in the Roma Norte area. You can try escamoles (ant larvae) here is you want as well! Weekends can get busy and the wait can get long so it’s best to go on a weekday.
- La Gruta – if you are headed out to Teotihuacán for a day trip, make sure to eat at this underground restaurant inside a volcanic cave for some authentic Mexican food.
Where to Drink & Go Out
Mexico City has a great nightlife scene. Roma Norte and Polanco districts are two good areas to go out in. Since dinners start late in the city, people don’t normally get to the clubs until 12:30-1am. Most clubs and bars check your purse before you enter and may pat you down. If you are carrying any sort of pills on you, even Advil, they will take them away at the door, but you can get them back when you leave. It is best though if you leave any sort of medication at home though.
- Blanco Colima – a bar inside a beautiful former Arte Nouveau mansion in the Roma Norte area.
- Xaman – an underground chill bar across the street from the Marriott Reforma Hotel. They have strong incents burning inside but very creative drinks. You can even get the a group drink that they will hang from the ceiling. There is no sign that says Xaman but there will be a bouncer sitting at the top of the stairs.
- Gin Gin – a bar only a few blocks away from Fountain of the Cibeles in the Roma Norte area.
- Café Pariaso – a Cuban style club right next to the Fountain of the Cibeles in the Roma Norte area where you can dance! There may be a wait to get in but it’s worth it – a very fun spot.
- Licoreria Limantour – a lively, two-story, Art Deco-inspired space, perfect for some drinks.
- Hanky Panky – a speakeasy bar that offers 3 main menus featuring classic cocktails, international bartenders and local bartenders. Located in Roma Norte.
- Terraza Roma – another good place to get a drink in the Roma Norte area.
- Panic Botanic – a bar/club in the Polanco district where you can dance a bit as well around the tables. They play a good mix of American and Spanish music.
- La Santa – a club in the Polanco district. Opens at midnight and closes at 5am. It doesn’t get busy until around 2am. There will likely be a line to get in so if in a big group a table reservation could be worth while.
- El Balcón del Zócalo – a rooftop bar in the city center that overlooks the Catedral Metropolitana and the main plaza. Great place to stop at for a drink if you need a break from walking around the Centro Historico.
- Mama Rumba – if you want a place to salsa, this is where you should go. They charge $120 pesos cover per person and the people who salsa here are very good. There are tables around the bar and people will get up to dance for a song they like around the table and sit down again. The crowd is around the 35-45 age group but you can find some younger couples and groups as well.
- Balmori Roofbar – nice place in Roma Norte to grab a drink with a group of friends. They have a DJ playing music, normally house music.