Got a day to spend in el Distrito Federal? Here’s my Mexico City travel guide. A version of this article also appeared in the Austin American-Statesman »
There are few places in the world where breakfast is served with a side of spicy green tomatillo salsa. Mexico City’s Beatricita is one of those places.
Close your eyes and point to one of the four breakfast specials. For less than $6 USD you’ll get cake, coffee, juice and some delicious mix of eggs and beans. All of which you can smother with spicy green salsa. God bless Mexico.
After thanking the waitress head right out of the restaurant and then left on Eje 2 Pte Florencia. Stop when you see the Angel of Independence, a tall tower with a – you guessed it – winged angel on the top.
Carefully dart across the madhouse of a roundabout to El Angel, built to commemorate Mexico’s War of Independence. Take a free and very short walk around the center of the statue.
Now if you’re feeling brave, and I mean really, really brave, rent a red bike from the EcoBici station across the street from El Angel. Why do I consider you brave? Because you’ll be careening through the anarchy of traffic that is Mexico City on two wheels without a helmet.
Carefully – carefully! – coast back to the Angel, down Paseo de la Reforma and take a left at the next roundabout. Follow that road until it ends and take a right and then a left on Ave Sonora. This will take you to Parque Mexico, where you’ll park your bike at the EcoBici stand and explore on foot.
Parque Mexico is one of my favorite spots in Mexico City. Take in the joggers, strolling lovers and families playing with their dogs. Look for the impromptu trampoline setup, complete with a screen around it to catch any toddlers that bounce too close to the edge.
Try to find the fountain of the naked woman pouring two pitchers of water into the basin. It’s okay to say “nice jugs”.
Head west on the road you’re standing on and take a right at Avenida Amsterdam. Look for the awning that says ‘hola!’ This hole in the wall goes by the names Tacos Hola and El Guero. Grab a quick snack of kale or spinach tacos.
After that, make your way up Avenue Oaxaca and then a sharp left on Durango. Flag down a waiter at the Contramar restaurant and make a reservation for 4 or 5 pm. Don’t be deterred if they tell you there’s only seating at the bar. This place is worth it.
Now we’re going to hail a cab. I know. I know. You’ve read so many terrible things online about hailing cabs in Mexico City. You’ll generally be safe as long as the car has the following three items:
- Driver’s license in the back window complete with the driver’s name, thumbprint and license expiration date
- A license plate that starts with A or B
- A working taximeter
If you’re still feeling iffy, there’s an authorized stand up the road off Guadalajara. Look for the man sitting under the sign that says ‘sitio’.
Have the driver drop you off at the entrance to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, easily one of the world’s coolest museums. See the giant Olmec heads and the Aztec calendar. Be sure to walk outside of each section to tour the replicas of the civilization’s homes and buildings.
Catch a cab in front of the museum – look for one that is dropping off passengers if you’re nervous – and head back to Contramar. Order the seafood soup and a cubana, a delicious mix of beer, salt, lime and hot sauce. (It works. I promise.)
Then head to Hotel Condesa. Walk inside and ask someone to point you to the stairs. It’s a long climb to the rooftop. You forget that Mexico City sits almost a mile and a half above sea level until you have to do anything remotely athletic. Catch your breath as you watch the sunset.
As the night gets darker, Hotel Condesa’s scene gets trendier. If thumping bass and high heels aren’t your thing, or if you just want a change of scenery, hit the road.
Follow the park to Tamaulipa, the main drag of bars and restaurants. Grab a negroni from the Wallace Whisky Bar. Then follow the road to Av Michoacán and take a right.
We’re going to get a late dinner at Xel-Ha, a no-frills diner that serves food from the Yucatan. Order the lime soup and any of the house specialties on the menu.
After dinner head back the way you came to end the night at Malafama, a pool bar and art gallery.
Don’t be weirded out that the bouncer asks to pat you down before you enter. They’re just keeping you safe.