I’ll tell you a little secret; I’m in love with Mexico City.
Of course, I didn’t mean to fall in love with Mexico City. No one ever does.
But he welcomed me with open arms and dazzled me with how bright he is.
How bold he is.
So I’m here to set the record straight: don’t believe everything you hear.
Because some would have you believe that Mexico City’s too busy for you. That his heart is too crowded, or his demeanor’s too dangerous. They’ll even tell you that he’s too much city and too little soul.
But like many of the best things in life, Mexico City snuck up on me and swept me off my feet. We spent five weeks together taking long, meandering walks down leafy, tree lined streets. Eating too many tacos in the sunshine. Discovering urban parks by day and sharing quiet conversations at night.
I’ll tell you a little secret; I’m in love with Mexico City.
So much that I’ve even learned to love the noises he makes when he thinks I’m fast asleep.
If you ever find yourself in Mexico City, here are a few of my favourite things:
Publico: After seven different countries and seven different co-working spaces, Publico takes the cake as my favourite space so far. On most days, you could find me sitting outside amongst the bright yellow tiles on the rooftop patio, tapping away at my keyboard while the sunshine soaked my skin. The vibe was always friendly and the place was just what I needed – an ideal combination of indoor and outdoor spaces, with good wifi and 24 hour access. www.publi.co
El Pendulo Cafeteria (Polanco): Thousands of books crowd the shelves and compete for your attention when you walk into El Pendulo. They scream “pick me, pick me” as your eyes sweep across the room. For a book lover like me, spending time in El Pendulo’s like receiving a much-needed hug; from it’s smartly lined book shelves to its cozy little coffee shop. www.facebook.com/Cafebreria.el.Pendulo/
Chapultepec Park: One of the largest urban parks in Latin America and one of the biggest in the world, Chapultepec Park sits in the middle of CDMX and offers visitors a relaxing place to escape from all of the hustle and bustle. It’s home to Chapultepec castle, over 686 hectares of forest and a handful of scenic lakes. Here, you can stretch your legs on your lunch break, purchase a snack (or even sunglasses!) from a makeshift stand, rent a boat to glide across the lake in or simply stay awhile with a good friend.
Xochimilco: Hop on a colourful wooden boat and spend the afternoon sailing down the canals in Xochimilco. Known as the “little Venice” of Mexico City, Xochimilco lays claim to one of my most memorable CDMX experiences. Bring your own snacks and drinks, pick your own boat and wait for the mariachi bands to sidle up and serenade you. For those who forget to pack a lunch, tacos and tamales can also be purchased by any of the eager boat vendors that pass by. Located one hour away in an outlying borough, Xochimilco’s one side of the city that you don’t want to miss.
Coyococan: Home to legendary figures Frida Kahlo and Diego Riveria, Coyococan’s a colourful, bohemian neighbourhood that managed to remain independent of the city until fairly recently. Now, it qualifies as one of the oldest neighbourhoods in CDMX and is worth visiting if you’re in the mood for coffee shops, interesting art, markets, and museums.
Zócalo: The political hub of the city, Zócalo’s the popular name for CDMX’s main square. It’s been a gathering place for Mexicans since Aztec times and has played a central role in the city’s planning and geography for almost 700 years. It’s also home to one of the largest city squares in the world and there’s never a shortage of things to do and see in the area.
El Califa Taqueria: Stop by El Califa for fresh, fast, (and cheap!) tacos. The food here is a lot of bang for your buck and I once watched a server deliver 13 different plates and bowls of salsa to a table without even using a tray. Try: the pastor pastores (small pork tacos with pineapple and red onion), pastor costras (pork tacos wrapped in fried cheese instead of a tortilla shell), the cebollas asada (a plate of fried onions sautéed in soy sauce), and a glass of sweet horchata (a traditional Mexican drink made from rice milk.) hwww.elcalifa.com.mx/web/
Contramar: Best described as white linen and bow ties, the servers at Contramar introduce themselves by name. I ordered the melt in your mouth tuna sashimi, served with a hint of orange soy sauce. Each piece was perfectly seared and decorated with a thinly sliced jalapeño pepper and a hint of cilantro. Contramar was my favourite restaurant in the city and it’s a popular meeting place for well-to-do locals, expats and suits. No matter what time you find yourself sitting down to dine at Contramar, the room’s alive with a buzz and an energy that you simply can’t ignore. www.contramar.com.mx/
Fisher’s: With a couple of locations around town, Fisher’s is a popular place amongst locals, expats and tourists alike. Their Roma Norte location offers both in and outdoor seating while a sky roof in the main room allows the light to filter in. Try: the tuna tacos, chilaquiles and their (to die for) mango mimosas. www.fishers.com.mx/
Ojo de Agua: Ojo de Agua has an extensive menu of fresh juice and smoothie combinations and caters to the health conscious crowd. It can get really busy at Ojo on the weekends, likely because they’ve mastered the art of the Acai breakfast bowl. www.grupoojodeagua.com.mx/
El Resi Restorán: A favourite amongst my friends, Resi celebrates traditional Mexican dishes with sustainable ingredients and subtle sophistication. Start with the guacamole with goat cheese and watermelon or choose the savory stuffed avocados. End with the Oaxaca black mole or duck enchiladas with blackberry mole. www.resi.mx/
La Unica: Walk into La Unica and ask to be seated upstairs on the indoor/outdoor terrace. The service here is flawless and you can’t go wrong with ordering anything off the menu. Order a prime cut of meat, and it’s carved tableside. Order a side of guacamole, and it arrives overflowing the bowl. Order only a cocktail, and you’re treated to four little bowls of sweet, savory and spicy salsas with tortilla chips.
Thai Gardens: Take a break from tacos and give Thai Gardens a try. Every dish was delicious and each portion was big enough to share.
Biko: Named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, I put Biko on my list because I don’t want you to go. The restaurant’s decor was as underwhelming as it’s dishes, the staff was as plain as it’s food. After trying the seven-course tasting menu, we left curious as to how Biko could ever make CDMXs top 50 list, let alone the worlds.
Bistró Chapultepec: Spend your morning wandering through Chapultepec park before making your way here for brunch. With indoor/outdoor seating, plenty of space for large groups and a patio that overlooks the lake, Bistro Chapultepec was one of my most delightful discoveries. Every weekend, the restaurant hosts an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet for fifteen US dollars where guests can pack their plates with both Mexican and American favourites (think verde or roja chilaquiles, fresh waffles with caramel sauce and made-to-order omelets) as many times as they’d like. http://www.bistrochapultepec.com/
Pong Bar: Five dollars at Pong Bar will get you a liter of beer and thirty minutes of play. Look at it this way – even if you lose at beer pong, you’re still winning at life. www.facebook.com/pongbarmx/
Limantour: With two locations in Roma Norte and Polanco, the bartenders at Limatour put as much time and consideration into crafting their cocktails as you do choosing them. They have an extensive list of well thought out drinks that highlight top-shelf liquors, classic combinations, and unique twists. limantour.tv/
Gin Gin: Fun for a cocktail or two, Gin Gin is the perfect place to grab a drink before or after dinner. Its eye-catching interior features row upon rows of bottles that stretch into the ceiling and lush green plants that seem to grow straight out of the walls.
Hanky Panky: An unsuspecting Speak Easy located in a non-descript taqueria. To make a reservation, send Hanky Panky a private message on Facebook and they’ll give you the proper address. Then, ask the person minding the back counter at the pink and blue taqueria for Hanky Panky and give the name that your reso’s under. The host will then take you behind the counter and into a dark room where the back door opens into a plush, well-decorated bar with killer cocktails. When you’re ready to go – exit from a fake beer fridge located inside the taqueria. I highly recommend grabbing a chorizo tlayuda from the taqueria and taking it to go! www.facebook.com/Hanky-Panky-Cocktail-Bar