The 10 best ways to spend the days in Mexico City

La ciudad de México. The perfect first stop in Mexico. A transport hub in which abundance of flights and buses arrive every day, from all over the world. What better place to begin your backpacking journey through Mexico? But, where on earth do you start in such a huge city? Let me give you a helping hand with 10 of the best ways to spend your days in Mexico City.

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1. LUCHA LIBRE

You might be asking, what on earth is Lucha Libre?

Lucha Libre is an absolute MUST DO if you want to immerse yourself in a slightly ridiculous, but amazing experience in Mexico City. Think WWE with a whimsical Mexican flare. I’d never been one to watch any sort of fighting, but apparently after a mezcal or two, and putting a mask on – I was in the spirit and shouting MYSTERIO at the top of my lungs.

Now you’re convinced, here’s how to get involved:

I booked through the hostel I was staying at, Casa Pepe, and lots of other hostels organise it too. For 800 pesos, Casa Pepe’s package includes pre-fight tacos and nachos, a mezcal and the lift there. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of Mezcal, it’s an agave liquor similar to Tequila, but a lot smokier and arguably a little more hit and miss. If you don’t like mezcal, get to like it, you’re going to get very familiar with it in Mexico.

Each night at Casa Pepe between 6 and 7 they also have ‘Power Hour’, which is one hour of unlimited margaritas or beers for 50 pesos. Perfect timing for some extra pre match drinks. More mezcal = more passion. This is the perfect way if you’re a solo traveller to meet people before you go.

Alternatively, you can also buy your tickets on Ticketmaster, and arrange an Uber or walk if you’re near. There is a metro system in Mexico city, but honestly the Uber was so cheap that for us, between 4 it was always the cheapest and safest way of travelling around the city. 

    Where: Arena México, CDMX

    When: Monday, Tuesdays, Fridays & Sundays (check for specific dates on Ticketmaster.

    Price: Between 600 – 1000 pesos

TOP TIPS: Get some friends together before you go and get into the spirit, and if you have time, get to a market beforehand to buy yourself a mask… you wouldn’t want to look silly without one. You can get a cheaper version for around 50 pesos, or a better quality one for around 100 pesos if you’re really feeling in the spirit.

2. TEOTIHUACAN PYRAMIDS 

Even if you can’t say it (I can’t either), it’s worth going…

If you’re travelling around Mexico, or Latin America in general, you will see so many pyramids and ruins that the ‘awe’ arguably starts to ware off a little. It’s awful to say, but it’s true. 7 months later, this one was still one of the most impressive to me, and for a small fee, it’s definitely worth going.

Check out my visit.

And here’s how:

1. The pyramids are around a 45 minute drive from the city, so there are a few ways that you can get there; As I previously mentioned, the Uber in the city is cheap, so we managed to get one for around 150 pesos. So this, in my opinion, is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get there. You’ll also be very glad of the air conditioning, it feels like a long drive in the muggy heat. 

2. With a tour company. Generally the most expensive option which I usually try to avoid.

3. Through your hostel. Almost all hostels organise tours to the common tourist spots, although these are usually a little more expensive, so if you’re watching your budget I wouldn’t recommend this way. That being said, this is generally an efficient way as you’ll get picked up and dropped off at your hostel, and it’s also a great way to meet people that are staying in your hostel too. Of course, Casa Pepe have a trip, but it’s a lot more pricey.

    Where: 55800 San Juan Teotihuacan de Arista, Méx., México

    When: Every day 9:00 – 17:00

    Price: 75 pesos entry fee

TOP TIPS: Take lots of water. There’s nowhere to buy it from from once you’re inside, despite the abundance of people selling odd, animal call souvenirs. So, buy it before you go in, or take it with you. You’ll need it – I promise!

Don’t be silly like us and go between midday and 2pm when it’s unbearably hot. There’s almost no shade, as you can see by us hiding in the tiny corner of shade.  

For the budget travellers, or the ‘walking tour haters’, you won’t want to pay for an expensive tour when you arrive there. So, here’s another little tip. YouTube has tonnes of videos with all the information you could need. You’ll learn the top 10 amazing facts, quickly, for free, in your own time, with a view of the pyramids… and you then you can decide if the aliens built the pyramids. It’s semi ridiculous, but also semi genius.

Check out number 10 for some delicious foodie tips near the pyramids!

2B. HOT AIR BALLOON OVER THE PYRAMIDS

Here lies a small regret of mine:

If I had more time in Mexico City, one thing I would most definitely have done is taken a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the pyramids. Although it is a little pricey, it’s a once in a lifetime experience, and you’ll get the best possible view of the pyramids. 

How to avoid said ‘small regret’

With Casa Pepe it costs 3000 pesos (around £130), and is an 8 hour excursion, including travel there, the experience, food, and the certificate to say that you’ve done it (although, who needs the certificate when you’ve got the amazing pictures). Truth be told, other online options are around the same price, and don’t include food or transport so I would say it’s a good option! Otherwise, you can hit up tour companies in the area and try and barter.

    Where: 55800 San Juan Teotihuacan de Arista, Méx., México

    When: Every day 05:15

    Price: 3000 pesos

3. THE ANTHROPOLOGY MUSEUM 

Have you ever wondered where you came from? I mean, really came from? The theory of evolution and what not.

If you go to Mexico city, you’ll hear everyone talk about this museum. It’s GIANT, and a full day trip out. Here you will find primarily information about all the civilisations and settlers that have passed through Mexico and Latin America. But also the development of humans, literally from the start of humankind. From cavemen to civilisations.

The nitty gritty

The museum again is a little out of the city. It’s a big old city. So, of course, we got an Uber there. 

    Where: Av. Paseo de la Reforma s/n, Polanco, Bosque de Chapultepec I Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11560

    When: Every day between 09:00 – 17:00. 

    Price: 85 pesos entry fee, pay on the door

TOP TIPS: Make sure you allow enough time to spend here. If you wanted to see and read everything, you could honestly spend the entire day here. Although there are English translations on most things, some signs are only in Spanish, so if you have a Spanish-speaking friend or a good translation app, take them along with you. I would also advise going in the morning so that you can spend some time at the park in the afternoon. 

4. BOSQUE DE CHAPULTEPEC & CHAPULTEPEC CASTLE

As seen on Race Across the World

This is one of the biggest, and prettiest parks in Mexico city, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the blossom trees at their peak. As it is just next to the anthropology museum and a little outside of the city, I would definitely recommend doing them both in one day. 

In the park you can take a mini boat ride in the lake, take pictures as cowboys, walk up to the castle, and bargain in the markets for some souvenirs. More than anything, it’s simply a lovely place to spend some time with friends and relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Where: Bosque de Chapultepec I Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11100 Ciudad de México

When: Park 05:00 -18:00 / Castle 09:00 – 17:00

Price: Park – free / Castle – 85 Pesos

TOP TIP: I wouldn’t recommend buying food from the edge of the park, across from the museum, as it’s very overpriced and the food is very average. Tourist traps at its finest. Even the mango wasn’t nice. Save yourself for the street food in the city. 

5. FLOATING GARDENS OF XOCHMILICIO 

Now, what are floating gardens and what on earth is Xochmilicio?

First things first, Xochmilicio is a barrio, a district if you will, in Mexico City. And thanks to it’s chinampas, the floating gardens, it has become one of the most popular places in the city. And rightly so. It’s also one of the oldest areas in the city.

How can you explore the area?

On a trajinera… obviously. You may or may not have any idea what they are. But having done research on Mexico City, you’ve almost definitely seen these colourful barges that float down the canals. What better way to explore Xochmilicio and see the, arguably creepy, island of the dolls.

The trajineras are hired out hourly at the port, so you’re best bet is to round up a group of friends, or meet some there and jump on one together! Take some drinks and snacks, enjoy the journey and listen to the mariachi bands. You can also find tours online! Or go with a hostel group, but again these are usually more expensive per person!

    Where: Laguna del Toro, San Juan, Xochimilco, 16038 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México

    When: Every day 08:00 – 21:30

    Price: 500 Pesos per hour, or dependent on private tour price

6. VISIT ONE OF THE MANY MARKETS

Take Mercado de la Merced…

Like everywhere in Mexico, if you don’t know what to do, there will always be a market. So, it’s not necessary to go to them all… unless you really want to. I went to Mercado de la Merced, where you can find artesenales, hand-made jewellery and clothes, food markets, and most importantly – masks for lucha libre. 

Why this market?

Truth be told, as amazing as the markets are, they don’t all differ so much. Not even from stall to stall. Mercado de la Merced was the perfect size to browse around, not overwhelmingly big. But big enough to satisfy your market shopping desires. More importantly, outside the market on the street, you will also find food markets with amazing tortas, and further down the street, amazing, super cheap birria tacos at only 12 pesos per taco. 

    Where: Circunvalación, La Merced, Zona Centro, Venustiano Carranza, 15100 Ciudad de México

    When: Every day 05:30 – 18:00

7. FRIDA KAHLO MUSEUM 

I was dying to go to this museum, but didn’t realise before I went that you had to book in advance. With little time, I was at a loss. So, take my advice, and book ticket before you go – in advance. 

Retrace Kalho’s footsteps in her childhood home…

Not merely a museum, but a historic art exhibition dedicated to the life and incredible works of one of Mexico’s greatest.

    Where: Londres 247, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México

    When: Wednesday 11:00 – 18:00, all other days 10:00 – 18:00

    Price: 250 pesos

8. STROLL AND WINDOW SHOP AROUND POLANCO 

Step out of the backpacker life and into that of a city girl, just for an hour or so…

Whilst you’re in the area, take a stroll around Polanco and maybe have a little shop. It’s what I like to call a ‘posh’ street, and you’ll find some familiar shops up there like Lush and Zara… and did I mention that they’re air conditioned? An overheated backpackers’ dream. 

For some ‘upmarket’ shopping, head over to Avenida Presidente Masaryk or the Antara Fashion Hall (info below).

    Where: Av. Ejército Nacional Mexicano 843-B, Granada, Miguel Hidalgo, 11520 Ciudad de México

    When: 11:00 – 20:00 every day

9. MEXICO CITY MET CATHEDRAL

An arguably unnecessary recommendation

You will most definitely stumble across the cathedral anyways. Being huge and central and well, in the midst of a giant square. But I’ll give you a couple tips…

There you will also find lots of street markets to browse around, and shockingly, they’re not ridiculously overpriced tourist traps. I actually bought some very cute jewellery. That being said, as it’s on a main tourist square, I would as always avoid the restaurants directly at this point. We made the mistake of going in one, fooled by all the locals eating there. Needless to say, the food was honestly absolutely awful.

I didn’t go inside myself, but it said to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Mexico… and it’s free!

Where: P.za de la Constitución S/N, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000

When: 09:00 – 17:30 every day

Price: Free

10. EAT CHEAP, AMAZING FOOD

Last, but mot definitely not least…

When travelling, it is often cheaper to cook in hostels to save a little money. That being said, the food is so, so cheap in Mexico city. You can fill yourself up for hardly any money at all, especially if you rely on street food. So take advantage of it!

EL RANCHITO

One for when you’re visiting the Teotihuacan Pyramids. Once you’re dehydrated, hungry, and done with standing in the heat, get yourself to El Ranchito, just outside. Surrounding the pyramids are so many restaurants, but this was some of the best food that I ate in Mexico, and it was so cheap and so beautiful. I had pan fried salmon, with vegetables and a gorgeous strawberry sauce, and it was – in the words of a family friend – to die for. 

TAQUERIA DE LOS CUCUYOS

I don’t know about you, but when I think Mexican food, the first thing that comes to mind for me is tacos. And let me tell you, I know a good taco spot.

When it comes to street food, if there’s a big line of locals – you know that you’re getting good tacos. Being someone who doesn’t tend to eat meat or cheese, finding good Mexican street food can be a bit of a task, but here you can find the most delicious Cactus tacos. Don’t knock it until you try it… I swear they’re not spiky. 

PASTELERIA MADRID

For a quick breakfast on the go, Pasteleria Madrid has a HUGE selection of delicious pastries, for super cheap. I would highly recommend the cinnamon roll. They’re truly divine.

MATA COMEDOR CANTINA 

We stumbled upon this place by accident, when the place we actually wanted to go to was shut. And what a lucky outcome. If you’re looking for a sit down meal, this is the place to go! I had fish tacos and spicy wedges, and a ceviche. All 10/10. the vibes in there are also so nice and the waiting staff were great.

STREET FOOD

Aside from tacos, what else should you try in Mexico City? Torta – Huge, flavourful sandwiches filled will meats, veg, and of course a spicy kick. Chilaquiles – think nachos but extra saucy. These are fried tortilla chips with lots of spicy sauce, and a topping of cheese. They’re often a breakfast meal!

One beautiful thing about Mexico is that on every corner you can buy food. And most importantly, mango. In the UK if you want a prepared mango, you’ll pay around £3. In Mexico, for around 40 pesos (just under £1), you can have a perfectly ripe, cut up mango, almost wherever you are. For something a little different, try it topped with some Tajín. Tajín is a spice that you will become very familiar with in Mexico, and although a spicy mango seems rather odd – it’s such a treat. 

TOP TIPS FOR MEXICO CITY 

AIR POLLUTION & ALTITUDE

Mexico City is the first place I’ve ever visited that I really felt the effects of bad air pollution. The air is very drying, and almost made my nose feel like I was recovering from a crusty winter cold. So you’ll need to carry around tissues, lip balm and water at all times. We had nose bleeds and sore noses more than we’d like to remember. If you’re not used to it, the altitude can also make you feel a little off or set off the nose bleeds.

TRAVEL

As I’ve mentioned, Uber is cheap if there is a couple of you, and the metro service can be overwhelming, so take advantage of it whilst you have it. Mexico City is huge, so you definitely can’t walk everywhere.

WIFI & DATA

There is free Mexico City wifi in lots of the areas around the city, but if you want that extra data, a sim card is very cheap and very easy to get. Which leads me on to OXXO, your new best friend… 

OXXO is a convenience store that you will find on every other street in Mexico, and you will go so often that you’ll miss it when it’s gone. For around 200 pesos, you can get a TELCEL sim card with 2GB of data and unlimited social media for 30 days. There are also other, smaller packages for less days, or less data, if you’re only travelling for a short while. If you need to top up, all you have to do is pop in and tell them your number, and top up as many pesos as you want. 

ELECTROLIT (YOUR SAVING GRACE)

As I mentioned before, dehydration in Mexico city is REAL. Electrolit drinks can help you through that. Every backpacker who goes to Mexico swears by it, and for good reason. You won’t believe the amount of time I’ve spent having intense debates about which flavour is the best (It’s strawberry and kiwi by the way… or passion fruit). And at OXXO, it’s 3 for 66 pesos, so you can get your fill for cheap. They do admittedly taste a little grim once they warm up, but that just means you drink them extra quickly… no dehydration here!

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Check out my other Latin America Travel posts for more information and inspiration! Or have a Mooch at other places that I’ve travelled.

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