This is a guest post from Megan Stetzel over at Forks and Footprints.
Mexico City was a scary city for me to even think about traveling to, let alone travel solo to. But you know what? It destroyed all of my preconceived notions and fears!
When I booked a flight to Mexico, I thought I was going to stay far away from Mexico City, or just use it as a travel hub. Somehow, though, after a week in Cancun I put on my big girl pants and booked 4 nights in the Condesa neighborhood in Mexico City.
I can’t lie. I was scared.
There has been a lot of news coverage about how dangerous Mexico and especially Mexico City is. I half expected it to be covered in dust with shifty cowboys lurking in each dark corner like in the movies. I should have known better.
I got out of the taxi in the Condesa neighborhood and was basically transported to Brooklyn. The buildings were beautifully done with intricate architectural elements and the DOORS! I am such a sucker for a good door and this neighborhood was chock full!
It was insanely green too.
The main streets of the neighborhood had a wide walking path dividing the two lanes that were adorned with trees on both sides and park benches scattered throughout.
Here’s a neat, little video walk-through:
You could spend a lifetime eating and drinking your way through the restaurants, gastropubs, and little eateries in the neighborhood. The clientele were mostly young professionals both Mexican and expats. Nestled inbetween the big restaurants were little stands selling local Mexican dishes like guisados (Mexican stews wrapped in corn tortillas) or pozole (an amazing Mexican soup) or tacos pastor (slow roasted pork tacos) for a few pesos.
Some of my favorite spots:
Qué Sería de Mí
Go for brunch and get the Chilaquiles. Chilaquiles are corn tortillas fried and cut into small triangles and then topped with eggs, chicken, your choice of a red or green chili sauce, all capped with cheese. Basically breakfast nachos…and how do you go wrong with that!? It’s an adorable little cafe with maybe 10 tables total and cutesy signs and decor everywhere. The agua frescas or fresh fruit drinks were some of the most unique I found in the city.
I don’t know if this place has an actual name or not. But it is distinguished by a big awning with “Hola” written on it. This is the place for guisados or saucy stews. Don’t come here for a relaxing lunch, it’s set up as standing room only with a bar set up on one wall for you to stand at to gorge on the delicious food! Go for lunch, it’s only open Monday through Saturday 11am- 6pm.
Mexinaco Lounche Bar
This bar quickly became my favorite place for a relaxed meal. The staff is awesome! They let me practice my Spanish, but spoke enough English so I could make sure I knew what I was ordering, and always made me laugh! They also boasted two for one mojitos and tacos before 7pm! And they were delicious tacos. Don’t miss this spot!
Within 24 hours I decided that my four days in Mexico City were going to actually be eight days. It was such a huge city, and once I felt like I could leave my hostel during daylight hours safely, I decided I really wanted time to explore it.
The historic city center is absolutely magical. The buildings are so beautifully preserved and it seems there is a museum or other attraction at every corner. I spent two full days wandering around the blocks surrounding the zocalo and could have spent many more.
Whether you’re a sucker for cathedrals or grand palaces or art museums, the historic center has something for you. Even the post office with its golden ceilings and accents is something not to be missed.
I fell madly in love with this area. I could spend a lifetime wandering around with my head cranked up to stare at the beautiful architecture. Did I mention I am a sucker for doors? Especially doors that are 20 feet tall and covered with hand made tiles or hand carved designs.
My other favorite part of the city was a little off the beaten path.
Around the corner from my hostel was a park called Chapultepec. There happened to be a large hill in the park with a giant castle on top. I had heard through the grapevine that the Chapultepec castle had some of the best views of the city so we hopped on the trolley up the hill. The castle was well maintained and even had some carriages from the olden days. The views were incredible and the crowds certainly weren’t overwhelming.
Chapultepec Castle was such an unexpected surprise and a can’t miss stop in Mexico City.
A note on safety, I was more cautious with my belongings than I typically am. I made sure zippers were zipped, and didn’t take out my phone or camera in the less touristy areas of the city. Above all else, I tuned into my instincts a bit more than usual. If my gut said to not turn down a side street, I didn’t.
I even opted to ride the dangerous subway while in Mexico City. Every single person I spoke to said not to ride the subways, that it was incredibly dangerous and that theft is the rule not the exception. I have to admit, I wasn’t alone when I traveled on it, I had met a girl at my hostel that I had been sightseeing that day with. Still, we were two, uh, let’s say not scary looking girls.
The subway was only 5 or 6 pesos, though, and took half the time of a 80+ peso taxi. So why not give it a try? We secured our bags, made sure they were in front of us, kept our hands on everything and stayed close to one another.
Then we laughed. We were surrounded by men and women in suits and were only drawing attention to ourselves because we were being so cautious. To be fair, we took it from the center city to Condesa, so we didn’t pass under or through any of the shiftier parts of the city which I think heavily impacted our experience.
Mexico City is one of my favorite stops from my 2 months through Mexico and Central America. I encourage you not to let rumors stop you from experiencing this foodie & cultural capital of Mexico.
Megan Stetzel is a Celiac and a traveler. She writes about the foods she encounters, her ‘gut’ reactions, and her trials and tribulations to a life on the road. She hopes to inspire those with food limitations to still go out and experience the world by being open and honest about her own experiences. Read more from Megan at Forks And Footprints or follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.