24 Hours in Mexico City
Dive into the history, colour and life of this cosmopolitan city. World-class museums, bustling markets and historical sites are attracting more visitors than ever before.
It’s true – you’re going to need much longer than a day to take in all the sights and sounds of the Mexican capital.
There is, however, the chance to experience its atmosphere and fun in a short amount of time if you know where to go.
To get the day underway, enjoy the specialty of the house at Café El Jarocho in Coyoacán. This traditional coffee shop opened in the 1950s and is as popular today as it was then, with locals and visitors lining up to sip on traditional café de olla (spiced coffee made with cinnamon and brown sugar), as well as cappuccinos. There are no seats, so stand at the bar or grab a spot on a bench outside.
THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL
Nearby, you’ll find a number of excellent places to tuck into a typical Mexican breakfast. At El Monasterio, peel the outer layer off a tamal or two. If the idea of starting the day with enchiladas appeals, try El Morral, a restaurant known for its mole sauce made using hot peppers, nuts, seeds, vegetables, unsweetened chocolate, tomatoes and raisins. For tostadas – crunchy tortillas spread with beans and topped with chicken, beef or vegetables, as well as cheese – head to Coyoacán Market. There you’ll find a number of stalls selling tostadas, alongside vendors selling fresh produce.
SET YOUR SIGHTS
When you’ve fuelled up, it’s time to set your compass towards one of Mexico City’s favourite attractions, the Frida Kahlo Museum. Also known as La Casa Azul (the Blue House) and located in Coyoacán, it was the home where Kahlo was born and lived as a young child then returned to with her husband Diego Rivera. It exhibits the couple’s work, as well as that of other Mexican artists, and includes a range of photographs, memorabilia and personal effects. Once you’re done, head to the Downtown area for a range of the city’s other well-known sights: the Plaza de la Constitución, more commonly known as the Zócalo, home to the historic National Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral.
BREAK FOR LUNCH
Get the juices flowing with a stop at San Juan Market, where you’ll discover everything from exotic tropical fruits to escamoles (ant eggs). You could buy a whole load of snacks and find a spot to take a load off, or head instead to Café de Tacuba. It opened in 1912 and boasts an atmospheric settingas well as tasty enchiladas Tacuba (soft-fried tortillas filled with chicken and topped with spinach and poblano pepper sauce and cheese). Another option is El Cardenal, considered one of the best restaurants in the Downtown area, for traditional Mexican dishes. It’s most well-known dish is the stuffed hot pepper, Oaxaca style, meaning it comes topped with Oaxaca mole sauce.
As the day progresses, so does the sightseeing. Still in Mexico City’s Downtown area is Chapultepec Castle. Once the residence to Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg – it’s the only castle in North America to ever be the home of actual sovereigns – it now houses the National Museum of History and its 12 showrooms that detail various eras from Mexico's past, including the War of Independence. For something more modern, head to Rufino Tamayo Museum. Contemporary works and exhibitions are shown alongside pieces from the collection of and works by its founder, Rufino Tamayo. Museo Soumaya is a private collection containing more than 66,000 pieces of art, many of them from 15th to 20th century Europe. Lovers of the work of Auguste Rodin will definitely want to stop by – this gallery has both the largest collection of casts of his sculptures held outside France and the world’s largest private collection of his art. Need a break? Stop by Nevería Roxy, a 1960s-style icecream parlour serving a variety of delicious flavours. If you want to try something you won’t taste at home, order a scoop of soursop or mammee. The former is a tart fruit that tastes like a cross between pineapple and banana, and the latter has a similar flavour to an apricot.
JUST COOL IT
As the sun starts to sink, it’s time to raise a glass to a perfect day in Mexico City. Try some local craft beers at La Graciela, a microbrewery where you can see how the ales are made before tasting a few. If you want to know what it was like to drink in an old-school, wood-panelled bar, try Cantina Riviera del Sur. The ambience is decidedly retro, and you can sip on cocktails, play dominos or listen to wandering guitarists serenading the crowd. Another historic drinking spot is Bar La Ópera. It opened in the 1870s, Pancho Villa shot a hole in the ceiling in 1910 and, since then, just about every Mexican celebrity who has passed through the city has visited here. It’s a charming spot you’re sure to love.
THE FINAL STOP
You’ll want to top off the day with an excellent meal. For a relaxed venue, try Escollo. This independent craft brewery serves up its own beers alongside a decent mexcal selection and typically Mexican dishes. Order up the tacos and you’ll get chicken, pork and perhaps even grasshoppers! Another casual but hot spot is Contramar. It’s a bustling white-washed restaurant with blue murals and hip locals who are all here for the raw tuna tostadas, grilled snapper and other fish dishes. Want to try something a little different? Taquería El Greco serves tacos árabes, introduced by immigrants with a Lebanese background. You’ll get your al pastor (roasted pork) shaved off the spit and wrapped in a pita. It’s like Mexican gyros.
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