Mexico City: 6 Things Not to Overlook
The first thing you'll notice is that Cuidad de Mexico is a city cut from forest. Everything in the city is surrounded by trees. Vines hang over center-street sidewalks, resulting in a captivating blend of natural and modern life.
You'll make time to navigate unique waterways that work their way through the city; places like Chapultulpec park where you'll find beautiful bookstore cafés built directly into the waterbank. Or the floating gardens of Xochilmilco where you'll stroll by boat through the area's canals, each lined with artisans, musicians, and local cooks along the way.
Many start their tour of the floating gardens at embarcadero Fernando Celada for its obvious (& decidedly more tourist-y) entrance. Try starting instead at embarcadero Salitre (shown below) for the more low-key, local experience.
Castillo de Chapultepec
You'll climb your way to the top of Castillo de Chapultepec. There is a grandeur to the National Museum of History that now makes its home here, once a palace for Spanish nobility. If you're lucky, you may be able to find a chance to witness a folkloric ballet, hosted on top of the castle at night.
You'll find yourself stumbling happily into street markets. No matter where you are in the city, everyone is making something, displaying something, demonstrating something. You'll grow inspired by the enthusiasm.
At some point you'll make time for the beautiful and rich collections of stories held within the city's museums. The Museo de Antropologia is host to collections across eras of mexcan social and politcal history. The house of Frida Kahlo is an absolute inspiration—La Casa Azul showcases her work as an artist of course, but also the subtle daily reminders of a home and a life. And the architecture of the shadowed, cathedral-like palace hosting the Museo Nacional de Arte is simple stunning.
(Bring a tiny bit of extra cash because museums require visitors taking photos to first purchase a [very inexpensive] permit.)
You'll eat tacos. You'll gladly overtip every place you visit because the tacos are so inexpensive. The sauces will be flavorful and rich and incredibly spicy and incredibly worth it. If you can stand to get lost in the deep maze of the Coyocan Market, there's a chance you'll run into El Charro—by far the best carnitas tacos of our trip, lovingly recommended by a former resident. I honestly can't tell you how to find it, other than to try starting at market entrance Puerta 9.
Other favorites receiving multiple local recommendations: Tacos Manolo (the longstanding reason Mexico City is known for tacos al Pastor), El Parnita (genuinely unique, modern takes on Mexican classics), Senor Taco (more of an franchise feel but honestly we went back more than once for the perfectly crispy al pastor).
For nightlife you'll find places like Gin Gin and La Clandestina in the lively neighborhood of La Condesa. Visit a pulqueria, which is sort of like a craft beer bar for pulque; whereas tequilla is the result of distillation—a process brought by the Europeans applied to the agave plant—pulque is derived from agave but its pulp is fermented instead. The result is a sip-able and softly potent drink with the consistency & flavor of thickened coconut water. At a pulqueria you'll find pulque infused with any variety of additives; quava and oat happened to be the flavors of the night we visited.
(In fact, After reflecting on the museums and the prevalence of pulque, it's worth noting that as an American I found myself humbled by the way the country has found a way to celebrate and work all parts of its cultural history into modern life. You'll find that the histories of native people before European colonialism are still very much part of modern-day Mexico—from the pulquerias to the cuisine to the values that surface in modern art. I find that such a blending and genuine, mainstream celebration of indigenous culture has been less natural throughout the history of the States.)
Mostly, you'll sometimes just wander the city, spending time simply to reflect and observe. Each corner holds a new surprise for patient explorers; each street is a waiting page in a book of unfinished memories. Let us know about yours, fellow travelers—leave notes in the comments below 🙏🔮