4 Days in Mexico City | A City Built in Layers


Travel & Life Stories / Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

You may have heard mixed thoughts about Mexico City; I know I did! It seems the city either rubs you the right way or the wrong, and there really isn’t a grey area. In my experience, I loved it. Mexico City is a city of contrast. It’s old and new, not even old but ancient! It’s a city built in layers, literally. Mexico City is a city that stands atop another, and it’s incredible!

The city is massive. There are so many incredible neighbourhoods, and of course, some that aren’t so incredible. In one spot you might see ancient Aztec ruins surrounded by a bustling metropolis. In another, you’ll see Spanish colonial buildings standing unfazed by the recent earthquakes, while next door a new-build has crumbled. I struggle to find the words to explain Mexico City to you because honestly, you just have to see it. If you’re wondering where to go in Mexico City, here are a few suggestions:

Coyoacán and Casa Azul

Coyoacán is most famous because of Frida Kahlo. If you don’t know her, you need to, because she was brilliant. Frida was an accomplished painter, an icon of feminism, freedom, and was unapologetically herself. Learning more about her and visiting her home (Casa Azul) was a major highlight of this visit.

When we arrived at Casa Azul, or Museum Frida Kahlo (Museo Frida Kahlo), it was late afternoon, and there was a lineup outside the door to enter. The line moved fast, and when we walked through the gates, it was this beautiful oasis inside of a bustling city. Even if you don’t know much about Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera, visiting this house is a must. The home is filled with beautiful works of art, history, and quotes from Frida Kahlo. At the time I went, there was an entire exhibit dedicated to her outfits! You can spend hours wandering the grounds, and through the home, it is so peaceful and filled with inspiration.

I highly recommend spending some time to wander around Coyoacán. The city itself is full of gorgeous architecture, a beautiful park and plaza, and a famous fountain with two coyotes. There is a large market, small shops, galleries, delicious restaurants, street art, artisan handicrafts, and so much more. It’s worth spending a day in this part of Mexico City.

La Roma & La Condesa

Our hotel was located right between La Roma & La Condesa. These are trendy, hipster neighbourhoods where you’ll find loads of little shops with tons of handmade goods, health food shops, galleries, dozens of coffee shops, spots for brunch, etc.

The hotel was called Hotel Parque México, right along the edge of, you guessed it, Parque México. It’s a walkable area, close to the centre, and easily accessible for Uber use. The service at the hotel was terrific, the rooms were so cute (but don’t stay there if you want to watch TV at night), and it has an excellent restaurant/bar rooftop that has fantastic food. We ate breakfast there each day, #noregrets.

In La Roma, you definitely want to visit Mercado Roma, especially if you’re having a hard time deciding what to eat! Beside the hotel, there is also El Moro Churreria, which should actually have its own blog. It’s SO good. SO GOOD.

La Condesa is just on the other side of the park and is a major draw for hipsters. When you go, visit the Mercado Parián Condesa, and an incredible Oaxacan restaurant upstairs. I have to say, food-wise, Pasillo de Humo was a MAJOR highlight of the whole two months, let alone my life! Oaxacan food is a complex combination of flavours, smoky, sweet, savoury; it´s hard to explain. The mole was so delicious it had me near tears! I’ve never tasted anything like it. So go. Go there right now!

El Centro

The centre of Mexico City is a bustling metropolis that is (IMO) the heartbeat of the whole city. It’s vibrant, colourful, with incredible architecture, and so much contrast!

In the Plaza de la Constitución, sits the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, or as it’s known in Spanish: Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen Maria a Los Cielos. Short and sweet. The cathedral was built in stages over the 16th and 17th centuries directly on top of an Aztec city near Templo Mayor. It’s a beautiful cathedral which now seems to be sinking along with other parts of the city around it.

Near the cathedral are the ruins of Templo Mayor and the museum. If you’re interested in learning about Aztec arts, rituals, and the ruins, I recommend it. If you’re not a museum person, take a walk by the ruins, and you can see a lot of it from the street.

While we were there, I received an Aztec blessing. If you haven’t done that before and you have an open mind, do it. I felt very calm afterward, very light. It was well worth it.

Also near the centre is the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a beautiful cultural centre of the city. You’ll notice it straight away from its brightly coloured roof. There’s a vibrant subculture that surrounds it, with artists, street performers, singers, rappers, and even dancers.

A few other places to check out:

  • Gran Hotel Ciudad de México – the roof alone is enough to go inside!
  • Palacio de Correos de México – an old post office with incredible architecture. If you’ve seen Coco, you might recognize it as the inspiration of the Grand Central Station the dead must pass through.
  • Casa de Los Azulejos – a palace in the city covered in beautiful tiles.
    There are so many places in the centre to visit. I was lucky enough to be there for the World of Tim Burton exhibit, which I got to see with Beto and my friend Rocio. Just awesome!

Teotihuacan and Castillo de Chapultepec

One of the days we were there, we had the chance to visit Teotihuacan, the pyramids. I didn’t know what to expect because I didn’t know a ton about them. Growing up I’d heard about the Pyramids of Egypt, which was incredible to see in person, but the energy and expanse of Teotihuacan is something entirely of its own.

The ruins of Teotihuacan were once the largest Mesoamerican city and at its peak was home to a population of around 125,000. It’s far out of the city, but you can get there by bus, tour, taxi or Uber (I have the number of the best driver ever, so hit me up if you’re going!) It’s worth the time, and the traffic. When you’re standing at the top of the Temple of the Sun, looking down the Avenue of the Dead, there’s a certain energy, spirit, whatever you call it, and it’s pure magic!

After Teotihuacan, I managed a visit to Castillo de Chapultepec, which is an important stop to make in Mexico City. The Castillo is the only royal castle in the Americas and houses an incredible history spanning the course of wars, varying ownership, abandonment, and its eventual declaration as a National Museum by President Cardenas in 1939. Since then, no president has lived in the castle, and the presidential residence moved to Los Pinos.

The castle is beautiful, with the most incredible views of the city. If you have the time, you absolutely should see it.

Mexico City, CDMX, it has a piece of my heart. I didn’t know what to expect because honestly, big cities freak me out! But I was pleasantly surprised; there are so many pockets, so many unique places. It’s full to the brim with culture, history, art, music, and inspiration. I am SO glad I had the chance to visit, and I’m already waiting for my next opportunity to get some more of that mole!

Have you been to Mexico City? Where was your favourite place to go? Let me know in the comments below!

As always, seize the world.

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