My personal top-ten things to do in Mexico City, based on the oohs and aahs my visitors give them:
Lunch with a View
After a morning of touring the cathedral and roaming its streets, seeing the Diego Rivera murals at the National Palace, and walking the Aztec home Templo Mayor, stroll over two blocks to Donceles and República de Argentina streets to the restaurant El Mayor, located on the second floor of the building that houses the Porrúa bookstore on the planta baja. The outdoor terrace restaurant overlooks the Templo Mayor, with views of the cathedral and Zocalo. Expect a diverse menu, with some nice pasta choices as well as Mexican specialties. It’s the perfect spot to relax with a glass of wine or beer and reflect on your hectic yet exciting sightseeing schedule.
Sunday afternoon free concert at Chapultepec Castle
If you enjoy small concerts in a lovely garden overlooking the hustle bustle of the city, Sunday afternoon at the Chapultepec Castle is for you. Beginning at 1 pm each Sunday, folding chairs are set up to accommodate a small crowd, with plenty of standing room for those strolling the gardens. The music is usually classical, such as piano concerts or young opera singers.
Turibus Centro Historico
Even if this isn’t your first trip to DF, the three-hour tour on the double-decker bus will give you a new perspective on the city. Visiting diverse neighborhoods, peering into the picture windows of the deluxe stores and homes in Polanco, leaving the bus to drink a cappuchino in Condesa, or taking an additional hour or two to tour the Museo Soumaya, you’ll enhance your appreciation of this grand megalopolis. Hop on and off the bus at a variety of locations between the Zócalo and Polanco.
Morning coffee with hot milk at Café Popular, Café Tacuba, or El Cardenal
These three restaurants located in Centro Historico serve the finest café con leche in the city. The secret of this Spanish-style of coffee is to use dark-roast coffee with equal parts hot milk and coffee poured from separate pitchers into a glass. Café Popular has two locations on Cinco de Mayo two blocks from the Zócalo, El Cardenal is on Palma, and Café Tacuba at number 12 Tacuba.
The definition of comida corrida is “a small meal of several courses at a fixed price eaten between about 1 and 4 pm.” Personally, I wouldn’t define the meal as small as it consists of four courses: a soup, rice or pasta or salad, a main dish (can be chile relleno, pollo pipian, carne asada, pescado empanizado etc), and a small desert, as well as the agua of the day. The menu is different each day. Because of this, as well as the number of meals served in the short three- or four-hour period they’re open, the food is always fresh, made that morning by the proprieters. Look for the signs Comida Corrida and usually the menu of the day outside restaurants. There are locations all over the city. It’s always marvelous and the best bargain in town! The fixed price ranges from 47 to 100 pesos. Rio Lerma and Rio Sena in colonía Cuauhtémoc and Rio Sena, and Parra in Condesa are three streets that are lined with comida corrida restaurants.
This unique bazaar is open only on Saturdays, and the vendors are the artists themselves. Located in Plaza Jacinto in San Angel for more than 50 years, the bazaar is more than a place to shop. It’s a corner of the world where artists gather to discuss their work and citizens worldwide come to visit and have lunch, breakfast, or a coffee at the cozy outdoor café located right in the middle of the excitement. Music abounds and an aura of hope and contentment fills the air, a welcome escape from the work-week worries.
Strolling in Condesa
One of my favorite days starts with meeting my friend Barbara at the Sonora Metrobus stop, roaming down said street to find a place to sip a cappuccino and talk. Then we stroll over to Parque Mexico and Parque España where suddenly we’re far from the madding crowd in a botanical paradise. Watching the dog walkers is part of our routine–leading dozens of pedigree dogs on a leash seems like a pretty good job. Then we proceed down Veracruz where, no matter how many times one has walked it, there is some new building or business to discover. Then we find a lovely restaurant for a comida and more chatting. Dozens of restaurants abound this area. A day like this is one of the best reasons to spend more time in the city.
Many of us can’t get enough of this museum. The visual grandeur excites all the senses and emotions, and I don’t think I’ve ever smiled or laughed so much in a museum. Jumex is a breath of fresh air compared to the staid, traditional museum. The very latest and best in contemporary art is displayed here with care and thought, making it one of the most requested destinations in the city for my visitors. Find Jumex in Polanco, across the street from the Museo Soumaya.
Shopping at a tianguis These open-air markets date back to prehispanic days. The word tianguis, in fact, comes from the Nahuatl language of Aztecs. There are tianguis in rural areas and the cities of Mexico. In DF, tianguis are scattered throughout the streets of the city every day of the year. A variety of items are sold, from tools and clothing to CDs and DVDs, candy, makeup, plants, and flowers. Mexicans love to shop at the tianguis because the prices are cheaper than traditional stores, the vendors are friendlier, bargaining is welcome, and the entire atmosphere is less formal and most enjoyable. There is some controversy about the role of the tianguis in modern society, especially from store owners and some neighborhood residents who complain about the disruption on the day of tianguis in their area. Despite this, the concept of the tianguis is here to stay in Mexico City, with the majority of citizens recognizing it as an important part of their culture.
My favorite building
The Palacio de Bellas Artes, located on Juarez and Lázaro Cárdenas, adjacent to the Alemeda in Centro Histórico. Construction started in the early 1900s but was interrupted by the Mexican Revolution. It was finished in the 1930s. The marble was brought from Italy, as it was for the post office building, another delight, kitty corner from Palacio de Bellas Artes. Inside are many surprises, including murals of Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco. Temporary exhibits and symphony concerts and operas are scheduled regularly.
It was difficult to choose just 10 favorites, so look for more suggestions right here in the year ahead.