Our friend Volker came to visit us in November and we decided to spend the last days of his visit in Mexico City since he had not been there before. Glenn and my last visit was in 2015 so we were interested in any changes that might have happened since then and we were looking forward to going to some of the sights we did not get to at that time.
We made reservations for the ETN bus online for San Miguel to Mexico City Norte, paying with PayPal which makes things so easy. When checking in we just showed the reservation information on our phone. We expected it to cost about $30 each way per person but because of my INAPAM card (for those 60 years and older) the entire round trip for the both of us was only $77USD. Such the bargain!! We chose ETN because the buses are comfortable with the 3 across seating and we like the upstairs front seats on the long drive. Primera Plus seems to be about the same in price and takes between 3 1/2 – 4 hours depending on the departure time but they are 4 across. Since we couldn’t check in to our AirBnb till the afternoon we figured saving a bit of bus time didn’t really matter too much and we opted for comfort. Bring a jacket though since they blare the air-con. We left on a Sunday so the traffic wasn’t too bad going to Mexico City Norte. Glenn and I came back on a Friday however and the traffic was horrendous!! Never again will we travel on Friday when everyone is coming from Mexico City to San Miguel to spend a nice weekend.
Coming into the Norte bus terminal it was easy to get a taxi. Just look for the taxi stand towards the exit and pay according to the zone you are going to. Our taxi was about $6.75 to get to the Roma Norte neighborhood. We also used UBERs during our stay as they were all over the place and more convenient than the taxis which did not always have GPS’s with them. The streets in Mexico City are so confusing. Many are one-way which makes it easy to get turned around and off track. The streets are set out in a hodge-hodgepodge of diagonals, grid and who knows what else. When crossing the streets beware!! You can pretty much take your life in your hands. Coming from San Miguel de Allende, where cars stop to let you cross the street, the streets of Mexico City seemed like the Wild West. The indicators at intersections do not always point in your direction so it can make crossing very difficult. Sometimes we had to just step out and believe everything is going be ok. If you are feeling really brave there are bike and scooter rentals all over the city. We however felt that just walking was being adventuress enough.
We found an AirBnb in an apartment in Roma Norte. We really enjoyed this area since it has a lot of cafes and places to eat, some parks and beautiful tree-lined streets. It will be our go-to neighborhood to stay in the future.
The apartment was small but with two bedrooms/2 baths it worked out fine for the 3 of us. Glenn and I had decided to add 2 extra days to our trip after Volker left but were unable to stay at the same apartment since it was booked. We did find another apartment in the same building though so we easily switched between them when the time came. Because the apartments were on a main street they were a bit noisy, but that sort of comes with the territory when in a large city. Next time we may look for something a few blocks down, away from the main drag but in the same area.
We had heard so much about the nearby La Condesa neighborhood that we went in search of a nice restaurant at the beginning of our stay. But we must have gone to the wrong area because we couldn’t find the trendy, upscale neighborhood we were eager to see. We found an absolutely horrible steak restaurant to eat in as we were so hungry from our walk and it was getting late. MIT Steak Restaurant was high priced with incredibly bad service so I would definitely say if you come across it, give it a miss.
Eating in Mexico City is not inexpensive!! unless you frequent the ever present street food stalls. Even though many of them looked really good we were a bit too apprehensive regarding our stomachs to do this. Also, since we were on a mini vacation we wanted to enjoy relaxing atmospheres while eating. On TripAdvisor all of the places to eat anywhere besides the stalls showed $$-$$$. Still many, though not cheap by Mexico standards, were less than we would have spent in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In our neighborhood we frequented a couple of cafes for breakfast or a glass of wine in the afternoon. Sobrinos was just past the Rio de Janeiro Park and Cafe Toscano was located on the park. Both within a couple of blocks from us. We thought they offered good value, wi-fi and a relaxing place to hang out in. Our last night Glenn and I went to an amazing Italian restaurant next door to Cafe Toscano called Sartoria. We had the most incredible Tiramisu for desert and the dinner was excellent. We would recommend this for a treat.
Coyoacan was on the agenda for our first full day. Last time Glenn and I went there we used the double decker tourist bus and wished we didn’t. We found it extremely long and boring and we couldn’t wait to get off of it. We chose to take a taxi back which was so much better. This time we did UBER getting dropped off in front of the Parroquia of Coyoacan. We had a small lunch on the square which was just ok and next time we will head off to some of the smaller streets to suss out a restaurant. Later we went to a really good churro place called Churreria General de la Republica. Super tiny but has some tables upstairs.
Glenn and I had visited the Frida Kahlo Museum in 2015 so we skipped it this time. But for anyone who loves Frida, which we do, Casa Azul is a must. Reservations can be made and tickets bought in advance and we definitely suggest that you do so as it can get very crowded. Same day tickets are hard to come by so plan ahead.
This trip we went by the Mercado de Artesanias de Coyoacan and were not impressed. We feel the artist market in San Miguel is more interesting. I will say though that a lot of the stalls were closed when we were there so this could have something to do with our impressions. The little alleyway leading up to it makes a nice photo though. Not too far away the Mercado de Coyoacan was colorful, fun and quite a good size. We would suggest a wander through this if you are not too burnt out with Mercados. No matter how many we see we still enjoy stepping into new ones as they always have their own twists to them based on the region.
Our last stop in Coyoacan was the Hacienda de Cortes which I had seen photos of on Instagram. It was pretty enough to take some photos, but nothing special and we would say don’t go out of your way to see it. And the restaurant seemed a poor choice.
Since the museums we wanted to visit were closed on Monday we made use of that day for Coyoacan leaving Chapultepec park and the Anthropology Museum and Castle for Tuesday where we were able to get into the National Museum of Anthropology for free which was great. The museum is HUGE!! and you may need more than one day to see it all. We went through much of the first floor but were starving after 3 hours and since the museum cafe was closed we decided to head over to the restaurant at the nearby Tamayo Museum for some sustenance and a drink. The anthropology museum should be seen if you are in Mexico City, but, for me I was getting weary of seeing things made out of stone and there is not a lot of information in English. We did really like the outdoor areas of the museum which were lovely. I believe the upper floor has exhibits regarding Mexico’s indigenous people which would have been good to see. We will just have to do that next time. In front of the museum are Valadores flying from the 20m high pole every 20 minutes. Quite a sight if you have not seen them before.
After our expensive lunch we went to the Castillo de Chapultepec which was a bit of a hike up the hill but so worth it. I was able to get in free with my INAPAM, otherwise entrance is 70 pesos. The best part of the Castle is upstairs at the far side where there are room displays for Maximilian and Carlota and a beautiful garden area. There is a stained glass wall that is stunning and the views from outside of this area are fabulous.
Our last day we headed off to the Secretary of Education building to see the Diego Rivera murals that we were not able to see the previous time we were in Mexico City. They are just a few blocks off the Zocolo and were the highlight of the Mexico City excursions for me. Absolutely amazing!! Entrance is free but you must leave a photo ID with the guard. It is only open during the week since it is a working government building. We were surprised at how few people were seeing the murals when we were there at times we had the place pretty much to ourselves. I thought there would be quite a few murals but we were not prepared for vast number we actually saw. They are in very good condition which surprised us since they are in an open courtyard of three floors. There was a new display area that just opened to the right when you enter and it has an interesting interactive board where you can find out a bit about each mural on the upper floor. Do not miss these murals!
We ended the afternoon by going up Mexico City’s answer to the Empire State Building. The Torre Latinamericano is right across from the Belles Artes. There are views from the 37th and 42nd floors and the upper floor has both a lounge area and a restaurant. We opted to eat at the restaurant which was actually not too bad considering it is a tourist attraction. We both had the puff pastry onion soup which we would recommend. The view is spectacular and we could really see how spread out the city is. The cost for the trip up the tower is 110 pesos general and 70 pesos for INAPAM holders.
On the whole, we had a great, productive time in Mexico City. It was, to me, a bit more tattered since 2015 and we thought perhaps this was due to the effects of the earthquake in 2017. There was a lot of graffiti and many closed buildings. But there were also a a great deal of street murals which I am always interested in and enjoy seeing. We walked a lot even at night and never felt ill at ease or in any way threatened. Just use your street smarts like you would in any large city.
As we enjoy traveling, and have numerous plans to do so in the future, we will have more opportunities to explore this interesting city when we fly in and out of it and we look forward to seeing what else is in store for us.