I think there are some places in the world that just feel like home to you, and for us, Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX) is one of those places. I’m not sure it was entirely love-at-first-sight, but it was pretty darn close.
We arrived in CDMX from Puerto Escondido in the late afternoon due to a one-hour delay with our Interjet flight. We ordered an Uber fairly easily, though the sidewalk outside of arrivals at the airport is very busy and crowded. Our Airbnb host met us outside the apartment with a friend and showed us the way into the building and the myriad keys for getting in different doors. Our apartment was in a large high-rise building within an apartment block of other high-rises surrounded by green space. The bottom floors of most of the buildings were full of shops and restaurants. To save money, we chose an apartment in a northerly, working-class, mostly residential neighborhood near the Tlatelolco metro station. Except for the lack of heat, the apartment worked really well for us and my review apartment is below.
We decided to stick close to home after our day of travel, so explored some ruins in our neighborhood, then ate a street-food dinner and hit up the Soriana Mega up the street for groceries. I think this was our first clue that we were going to love CDMX – delicious tacos for under $1 combined with having access to everything we need within a couple blocks of us combined with interesting architecture and history.
Coyoacan and Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul was on most must-see lists for CDMX, so a few days before we left PE, I went online and bought tickets. Buying advanced tickets is pretty much a must – they sell out of walk-up tickets quickly in the day and the lines are long anyway. Even the entry line to get in for our designated time was quite long, though I suspect if you walked to the front of the line at your appointed time and everyone else in line was for a later time they’d let you in. Still, Frida’s house was the land of queues. I’m not sure how she’d feel about that, but hopefully gratified that so many people are interested in her life and art. I like Frida Kahlo in general but she isn’t one of my favorite artists, so while this was interesting, I’m not sure it was worth all the queueing (even after you enter the house, you queue through the rooms, for the toilet, and for the special exhibit; you basically see the whole thing in one long line of people).
The great thing about going to the Frida museum in the morning is that it put us in the Coyoacan neighborhood to walk around in after and have lunch. This was our first taste of how charming many CDMX neighborhoods are and we decided that morning that we need to have a longer CDMX stay in the future. We enjoyed lunch at the Coyoacan Mercado and then walked to the Cinema National, a large movie theater near that neighborhood. The Cinema was featuring a Hitchcock exhibit and screenings of some of his movies, so we bought tickets to the exhibit and Vertigo for that night, then went home to rest. Seeing Vertigo on the big screen (a favorite film for both of us) with a crowd of mostly Mexicans seeing it for the first time was an unforgettable experience and the exhibit was solid, though not as outstanding as others we’ve been to.
Neighborhood Shopping and Centro Historico
We decided to devote much of our week in Mexico to simply exploring the city’s neighborhoods to identify where we’d like to stay on our future month-or-more visit. We got started right away on our second full day. It was really fun to walk around and dream of our future. We also managed to fit in a fair bit of sightseeing as part of walking around, seeing most of the main sights in the Centro Historico (though we decided to save anything with a line, such as going in Templo Mayor, for when we come back). We enjoyed the lovely historic buildings, especially the Palacio Postal and the Palacio Bellas Artes. That day we mostly ruled out the neighborhoods that were closest to the city center and Reforma. We discovered Cafe El Tono for lunch, which I think will be a favorite when we return. It is a Mexican chain that is extremely efficient and features posole, a Mexican soup that is one of our favorite dishes.
Our third full day was a Sunday, our traditional park day, so we focused on the neighborhoods nearest Chapultepec Park and spent a fair bit of our time in the park itself. Chapultepec is one of our favorite places in CDMX, the equivalent of Central Park in NYC or Forest Park in St. Louis. We brought a picnic to enjoy next to the lake in the park and then walked down to check out two of the hippest CDMX neighborhoods, La Condesa and Roma Sur. We enjoyed both neighborhoods a lot, though feared they’d be out of our price-range when it came time to book our future visit (spoiler alert: they weren’t and we have reserved a one-bedroom apartment near La Condesa for five weeks in early 2020!).
Our last two days in Mexico we checked out some more neighborhoods and bought tickets to Lucha Libre, i.e. Mexican wrestling. I like to buy tickets to things in advance so we stopped by the ticket office early in the day to get our tickets, so we didn’t have to worry about it when we came back. We had such a good time at Lucha Libre. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting CDMX. We bought mid-range tickets for $7 each, but when we go back, I plan to spend a little more to get us on the first level and a little closer to the ring. Still, we had a great view and enjoyed a couple of beers and popcorn as we watched the match. Just a note – they don’t really have concession stands – instead drinks and snacks are sold directly at the seats.
Summary – What We Love About CDMX
We enjoyed CDMX so much that we didn’t take many photos and we actually didn’t do that much. We just enjoyed the atmosphere of the city, the many parks, the excellent and easy-to-use public transportation through the Metro system (at only 25-cents a ride!), and wonderful Mexican food everywhere you turn. I’m not sure what we expected out of Mexico City, but knowing that it has over 20 million people, I don’t think we expected a place so green and charming. We can’t wait to return in January 2020 and have more time to spend there.
Review of Our Airbnb Apartment
Great apartment for our weeklong stay. It is very close to the M3 metro line, which made it easy to get everywhere we wanted to go. Very comfortable space and surprisingly large. Rebeca, who met us for check in, was very kind and helpful. It was chilly during our week in CDMX (late December), but there are lots of blankets in the apartment so we were warm at night. Wifi worked well and the kitchen had all the basics. The location is very convenient to the Soriana Mega for groceries, but there are also several great little businesses in the downstairs of the building – definitely recommend the roast chicken place for a quiet meal in. It was nice to have a washer in the apartment, but we chose to have our laundry done at the lavanderia downstairs – only 20 pesos per kilo. The neighborhood and building felt very safe to us.