MEXICO CITY TRAVEL GUIDE
Places to Stay - Click here for price key
For more info on hotels from budget to 5-star resorts, see http://www.asociaciondehoteles.com.mx.
Hotel San Antonio ($, 2a Cerrada de Cinco de Mayo #29, Centro, tel. 55/5518-1625) is a good value in the heart of the old city. On the upside, it’s a secure hotel (guests get buzzed in) and centrally located near the zócalo; staff is helpful and rooms are clean, if spartan. On the downside: fluorescent lighting.
Hotel Marlowe ($$, Av. Independencia 17, Centro, tel. 55/5521-9540 to 9550, www.hotelmarlowe.com.mx) is a great moderately priced hotel just a few blocks from La Alameda and Palacio de Bellas Artes. They offer a business center, small gym, steam room, and parking. The restaurant has a la carte dining, a breakfast buffet, and a fixed-price, four-course lunch menu that changes daily.
Hotel Gillow ($$, Calle Isabela la Católica 17, Centro, tel. 55/5510-0791 or 55/5510-8585, www.hotelgillow.com) is a good bet for those looking for an inexpensive, centrally located hotel near the downtown action. Just a few blocks from the zócalo, the hotel has a restaurant with room service, laundry and dry cleaning service, and small business center. Rooms have telephone and cable TV; some have Wi-Fi, and there’s a cubicle off the lobby with two computers for checking email at a cost. The entire property is non-smoking.
A friend recently enjoyed her stay at the updated Metropol ($$, Calle Luis Moya 39 between Juarez and Independencia, Centro, tel. 55/1085-0830, www.hotelmetropol.com.mx), commenting on the good second-story restaurant and friendly service. Just a few blocks from Parque La Alameda, this stylishly furnished hotel has quality you wouldn't expect for the price, and free parking. Rooms are advertised with Wi-Fi but in some of them guests must sit in the hallway to get a viable connection. Rooms also have keypad safe, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, and radio/alarm clock.
Those who prefer international chains will appreciate the Hilton Mexico City Reforma ($$$--$$$$, Av. Juárez 70, across from Parque La Alameda, Centro, tel. 55/5130-5300, www.hilton.com). Near el Palacio de Bellas Artes, Sanborns at the House of Tiles, downtown museums, and shopping. Formerly the Sheraton, it has restaurants (including El Cardenal for great Mexican food), business services, gym, pool, steam room and Jacuzzi, shops, beauty salon, and more.
Colonias Polanco, Roma, and Condesa
Hotel Stanza ($$, Alvaro Obregón 13 at Av. Morelia, Col. Roma, tel. 55/5208-0052, www.stanzahotel.com) is in a nice mixed neighborhood of restored 40s and 50s buildings. The rooms are plain but not cramped; the low-rise hotel has a no-nonsense restaurant, gym, parking, and computers for checking email and cruising the net.
Condesa df ($$$$, Calle Veracruz 102 at Guadalajara, facing Parque España, Col. Condesa, tel. 55/5421-2600, www.condesadf.com) is a innovative, fashionable boutique hotel in the heart of the hip Condesa neighborhood. Gym, sauna, steam, hot tub, sushi bar, café/restaurant, Wi-Fi and cable Internet. Pet-friendly and chic. See more detailed info at http://www.mexicoguru.com/design/condesa.php.
Hotel Nikko ($$$$, Campos Elíseos 204, Polanco, tel. 55/5283-8730, www.hotelnikkomexico.com) is an upscale, business-oriented hotel with Japanese roots. With 40+ stories, it has great views from the upper floors. Several Japanese restaurants, swimming indoor pool, gym, sauna and steam, massage, parking, concierge and butler services.
Please go to http://www.mexicoguru.com/travel/coyoacan-travel.php.
Places to Eat - Click here for price key
Note that many restaurants close around 6PM on Sundays. If you’re unsure, give them a call.
Sanborns (www.sanborns.com.mx) is a restaurant/coffee shop with locations throughout the country, many in Mexico City. Waitresses in colorful costumes serve reliable and recognizable fare at reasonable prices. Adjoining shops sell a great selection of music, books, yummy candy, and gifts. See the above website (go to the very bottom of the page and click on “Directorio de Tiendas”) for the most convenient location. The flagship property, located in the attractive Casa de Azulejos, is near Parque La Alameda and the adjoining Palacio de Bellas Artes.
Café Popular ($, Av. 5 de Mayo 52) is busy, crowded, and cheap. Order your coffee as you like it; the waitress with pour milk until you tell her to stop. Order pan dulce or traditional Mexican dishes like chilaquiles or enchiladas. Open 24 hours.
Although best known as a bar, Bar La Opera ($$, Calle 5 de Mayo 10, Tel. 55/5512-8959), serves food and is historic, with an elaborately decorated interior of carved wood.
Sanborns flagship restaurant is located in the 17th-century Casa de los Azulejos ($$, Francisco I Madero 4), its exterior covered in blue and white Puebla tiles. Food is predictable, the coffee flows, and it’s full of locals as well as curious travelers.
If you’re looking to dine in a casual, popular, historic restaurant (since 1912) that has a Mexican rock band named for it, look no further than Café Tacuba ($$--$$$, Calle Tacuba 28, at Calle Allende; tel 55/5518-4950). The fare is traditional Mexican, with full meals and snacks. The two rooms are cavernous and therefore noisy; waitresses are relics of a bygone age, and dress the part.
We’ve never been patient enough to wait for a table overlooking the zócalo at La Terraza del Zócalo ($$, Plaza de la Constitución 13, 6th floor, Tel. 55/5512-8959), but many people go there just for coffee or desserts, and, of course, the view.
Popular with local and visiting businesspeople, the restaurant at Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de México ($$--$$$, Av. 16 de Septiembre 82, Tel. 55/5512-2085) is located in an historic old hotel, and according to people we’ve talked to, the food is good, too.
Chon ($$$$, Calle Regina 160, Centro, tel. 55/5542-0873, closed Sunday) is a talked-about restaurant serving upscale food featuring pre-Hispanic ingredients. It’s open between noon and 6:30PM.
Located within the Hilton Mexico City Reforma (formerly the Sheraton), El Cardenal ($$$-$$$$, Av. Juárez 70, Centro; tel 55/5130-5300) is popular with both locals and visitors for its traditional Mexican dishes. Not the place to slouch in under-dressed, though they advertise it as “casual dress.”
Los Girasoles ($$$$, Xicotencatl 1, Tel. 55/5510-0630) is an upscale restaurant serving contemporary Mexican food. Some dishes feature pre-Hispanic ingredients.
Colonias Polanco, Roma, and Condesa
Matisse ($$, Calle Amsterdam 260, Col. Condesa; tel 55/5574-8845, 5264-5853) is a popular breakfast spot whose onsite bakery churns out luscious pastries and other sweets. It serves lunch and dinner as well.
Bistrot Mosaíco ($$--$$$, Calle Álvaro Obregón at Orizaba, Col. Roma; tel 55/5264-7466; open daily from 1pm) is a European-style bistro serving daily specials from its sparkling glass deli case.
If you’re looking for soups, and a variety of healthy salads, visit Orígenes Orgánicos ($$--$$$, Calle Cacahuamilpas at Huichapan, Col. Condesa; tel 55/5208-6678). Dogs welcomed at the outdoor tables crammed together on the sidewalk facing Plaza Popocateptl. Daily specials include one vegetarian choice. The deli makes takeout another option.
Restaurante Tandoor ($$$, Calle Copernico 156 at Calle Leibnitz, Col. Nuevo Anzures, tel. 55/5545-6863, 55/5203-0045, www.tandoor.com.mx). Yummy Pakistani and Indian food is served in this pleasant, family-oriented restaurant close to Polanco. There aren’t any combos or specials; everything is a la carte, but prices are reasonable. The chicken soup is small but has lots of chicken and is wonderfully seasoned; the rice is fluffy and tasty. Tandoor-style meats are served on a grill; these are the house specialty, along with curries.
Join hip young locals for comida or an after-work drink and nosh at Sobrinos ($$$--$$$$, Calle Álvaro Obregón at Orizaba, Col. Roma; tel 55/5264-7466; open daily from 1pm). This bistro serves daily specials as well as tapas, tostadas, and other urban comfort foods.
Café La Gloria ($$$--$$$$, Calle Vicente Suárez 41, Col. Condesa; tel 55/5211-4185; open daily from 1pm to midnight) is a large, noisy, popular restaurant with roving musicians. Food is Mexican and international.
Dulce Patria ($$$$, Calle Anatole France 100, Col. Polanco; tel 55/3300-3999, www.dulcepatriamexico.com) is a new, upscale Mexican restaurant in a garden setting pertaining to Hotel Las Alcobas.
Join businesspeople and local hotshots (and their bodyguards) at Hacienda de los Morales ($$$$, Calle Vásquez de Mella 525, Col del Bosque, Polanco; tel. 55/5096-3000 or 55/5096-3054) for dinner or a traditional, leisurely lunch. The food is fine but nothing other-worldly; come for the ambiance and to rub shoulders (NOT! see “bodyguards,” above) in this tony former hacienda.
Within a stylish, 19th-century building, La Tecla ($$$$, Av. Durango 186A, Plaza Los Cibeles, Col. La Roma; tel. 55/5282-0010) has a romantic setting, a full bar, and a dedicated following. The kitchen prepares both traditional and nouvelle Mexi cuisine.
Renowned cookbook author Patricia Quintana is chef-owner of upscale Izote ($$$$, Av. Presidente Masaryk 513 at Calle Socrates, tel. 55/5280-1671), which serves modern presentations of Mexican classics.
Cafes & Sweets
Pastelería Ideal (Av. 16 de Septiembre 18 between Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas and Fray Pedro de Gante, Centro, Tel. 55/5130-2970) is a classic Mexico City cake shop selling sweet rolls in addition to fabulous cakes.
With its many locations throughout Mexico City, Sanborns (www.sanborns.com.mx) sells an excellent assortment of chocolates and pastries.
Museums & Things to Do
For a current list of cultural events (including music, dance, theater, films, workshops/classes, and other happenings) in the city pick up a monthly Cartelera Cultural or visit www.cultura.df.gob.mx (in Spanish only). It also lists guided visits to museums and other places.
Ballet Folklórico de México Held at different locations throughout the city. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster (55/5325-9000) or in advance at the venue box office. For information call 55/5529-9329 or 55/5211-8330. www.balletamalia.com. Seats cost 100, 250 or 450 pesos.
Mexico City has dozens of worthy museums. Here are some of the highlights; prices are very reasonable, and most have book and gift shops.
Museo de Arte Popular (Calle Revillagigedo 11 at Independencia, tel. 55/5510-2201, open Tuesday through Sunday 10 to 6, Thursday until 9pm) has an outstanding collection of beautifully displayed folk art from throughout Mexico.
Not to be missed is the outstanding Museo del Templo Mayor (Calle Seminario 8, NE corner of the zócalo, tel. 55/5542-4943, www.templomayor.inah.gob.mx, closed Mon.), with amazing artifacts from the Aztec culture. This was the site of temples to the rain god Tláloc and the god of war, Huitzilopochtli.
Palacio de Bellas Artes (Av. Juárez s/n, tel. 55/5130-0900 ext. 2512 or 2518, Open Tuesday through Sunday 10 to 6) is a performance venue and has murals by famous Mexican artists.
Palacio de Iturbide (Calle Madero 17, free, weekdays only) has changing exhibits of major artists.
Museo de la Ciudad de México (Calle Pino Suárez 30, closed Monday), about five blocks from the zócalo, has changing exhibits of Mexico City artists and writers as well as permanent exhibits in a beautiful building, formerly the Palace of the Dukes of Santiago de Calimaya.
Museo Nacional de la Revolución (Plaza de la República s/n, Col. Tabacalera, Tel. 55/5566-1902, open Tuesday through Sunday 9 to 5) is dedicated to Mexico’s infamous Revolution.
Parque Chapultepec is a huge, reasonably green park that once provided hunting grounds and fresh water for the Aztec nobility. Lovers row about on the lake (or kiss under the trees), kids chase balloons, vendors sell all sorts of snacks and trinkets. There are a number of worthwhile museums (including the must-see Anthropology Museum), a performance venue, and a zoo.
Within Parque Chapultepec
Housed within Chapultepec Castle, el Museo Nacional de Historia (1ra Sección, Bosque de Chapultepec, tel. 55/4040-5226 or 55/4040-5214, http://www.castillodechapultepec.inah.gob.mx) is open Tuesday through Sunday 9 to 5. There are paintings and artifacts from Mexican history.
El Museo de Arte Moderno (Paseo de la Reforma s/n, at Calzada M. Gandhi, Bosque de Chapultepec, tel. 55/5553-6233 or 55/5553-6211) houses paintings by Remedios Varo, Juan O’Gorman, Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and other notable Mexicans. Closed Mondays.
The world-class anthropology museum, Museo Nacional de Antropologia (Bosque de Chapultepec, tel. 55/5553-6381, http://www.gobiernodigital.inah.gob.mx) is a must see, with fabulous displays and artifacts of Mexico’s many important pre-Hispanic cultures. Closed Mondays, it’s otherwise open 9AM to 7PM.
Museo Tamayo de Arte Contemporaneo (Paseo de la Reforma at Calzada M. Gandhi s/n, Bosque de Chapultepec, tel. 55/5286-6519 or 55/5286-6539, http://www.museotamayo.org) has paintings by its namesake as well as his collection of contemporary art from around the world.
Northern Mexico City
Those interested in Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe, should make a pilgrimage to Villa de Guadalupe (Plaza de las Américas 1, Col. Villa de Guadalupe; tel. 55/5577-6022, ext. 137 or 206; Open Tuesday through Sunday 10 to 6). There are several churches and chapels; in the basilica is a cloak supposed to have belonged to the indigenous peasant Juan Diego, who reported the first appearance of the holy lady in post-Conquest Mexico. The image of the Virgin on the cloak, supposedly transferred there by mystical means, is clearly visible. Metro stop: La Villa-Basílica or Deportivo 18 de marzo.
Bars and Nightlife (All Neighborhoods)
There are so many different places to party in Mexico City that it’s best to check with the locals to find somewhere that suits you. Here, however, are a few of our favorites (or our friends’ favorites!).
Liverpool Pub (Av. Insurgentes Sur 858, South of Tlalpan) plays Beatles, Creedence Clearwater, and other tunes popular with boomers. On weekends they have cover bands.
Also popular with people who like rock and roll is Bar Sixtie’s (Av. Insurgentes at Sonora, Col. Roma, tel. 55/5264-3213 or 55/5264-5069).
Karisma Cantina (Campos Eliseos 219 at Aristóteles, across from the Presidente Intercontinental Hotel, Col. Polanco, tel. 55/5280-1872 or 55/5282-0466) is a popular bar serving food as well as a variety of alcoholic drinks. It’s popular with people of all ages and on weekends sometimes has live music.
Bar La Opera (Calle 5 de Mayo #10, Centro Histórico, tel. 55/5512-8959) is mentioned in all the guide books, as it’s very old and traditional and has hosted the visiting Revolutionaries and other famous people. Its interior is richly decorated. Worth a visit for its historical value and charm, it’s open until midnight except Sundays, when it closes at 6pm.
If you’re looking for a no-nonsense bar where the locals go to drink, head for La Mascota (Calle Mesones 20 at Calle Bolívar, Centro Histórico, tel. 55/5709-7852). You get free snacks with drinks, and there are full meals (different ones each day) such as tortas (breadroll sandwiches) and breaded chicken and spaghetti as well. There’s a two-drink minimum---and we’re not talking mineral water---even if you want to eat. The music is loud and the ambience very informal.
Tourist info booths throughout the downtown area are staffed by well-informed, English-speaking, and generally helpful people. You’ll find these on the zócalo next to the cathedral; by Palacio de Bellas Artes, on the Alameda; near Lago de Chapultepec, in Chapultepec Park; and the Angel de la Independencia Monument on Paseo de la Reforma, among many other places.
Tourist kiosks and tourist-oriented restaurants and shops give out many useful map-guides and free publications. At magazine kiosks you can purchase Tiempo Libre (in Spanish), which gives the week’s movies, theater and dance performances, and other things to do.
For info before you visit call the English-speaking help desk at 01800/008-9090.
New York transplant and author David Lida (http://davidlida.com) has a quirky blog on all things Mexico City, with links to other excellent Web pages.
There are official taxi stands within the bus stations and at the airport. There’s also a metro station at the airport (a bit of a walk) to access downtown and parts of the city. An airport bus station saves passengers arriving by plane from taking time-consuming intra-city buses to get to destinations outside Mexico City.
DF Bus Stations
There are four main bus terminals in Mexico City, at the four cardinal points. Which bus station you use depends in which direction you are traveling: north, south, east or west. Obviously if you’re headed to (or coming from) the east of Mexico City, you’ll use the bus station on that side of town, and so on. It’s pretty straightforward, but if possible call ahead to confirm before making a long schlep through the crowded city streets.
Mexico Norte, AKA Cien Metros Northern bus station: Av. Cien Metros No. Exterior 4907, Colonia Magdalena de las Salinas, Tel. 55/5277-0727 or 55/5567-3102
Mexico Observatorio (Poniente) Western bus station: Calle Sur 122 at Río Tacubaya, Colonia Real del Monte, Tel. 55/5277-0727 or 55/5516-0021
Central del Sur (AKA Tasqueña) Southern bus station: Av. Cien Metros Exterior 4907, Coyoacán, Tels. 55/5689-8679 or 55/5689-8681
TAPO Eastern bus station: Calzada Ignacio Zargoza 200, Col. 10 de Mayo, Tel. 55/5784-3077
There are many bus lines serving the area. Depending on your destination, you may use ETN (www.etn.com.mx, tel. 01800/800-0386), Primera Plus or TAP, among others. Make reservations through Ticketbus (tel. 01800/702-8000 anywhere in Mexico, www.ticketbus.com.mx). See http://www.mexicoguru.com/buses-in-mexico.php for more information.
Getting Around Mexico City
Mexico City has 11 metro lines covering several hundred kilometers of track. Because surface-street traffic is so congested, it’s a relatively quick and convenient way to get around town. Tickets at this time cost 3 pesos.
In a city of this size there are more buses than one could count. But two of the routes of most interest to visitors are those on Paseo de la Reforma, which extends northeast all the way from Parque Chapultepec to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The major north-south artery is Avenida Insurgentes, which passes through or near the Zona Rosa, Colonias Roma and La Condesa, the university (UNAM), the Olympic Stadium, and the Cuicuilco archaeological site.
The trolley-like, bright red Metrobus has its own lane in the middle of the street. Because it’s slightly more expensive than city buses (at 5 pesos), it’s also less crowded and cleaner. And being newer, it is also more efficient. Buy a plastic card at a Metrobus dispensing machine, at the same time purchasing credit in units of five pesos. The card costs 10 pesos; hold on to it and “recharge” it to purchase more fares later. Because the person behind you will want to get on with his day, he will undoubtedly help you figure out the machine the first time you try to use it.
Taxis in Mexico City have a bad name. “Renegade” taxis have a reputation (diminished in recent years) of abducting passengers and extracting money from their ATM cards, and we certainly don’t want that. However, standing on a busy street and wanting to get from point A to point B, one generally takes a chance and hails the first passing cab. If this idea doesn’t sit well, choose a taxi from a taxi stand, or ask the hotel or restaurant or museum you’re visiting to call a cab for you. You’ll pay a bit more for this service, but not too much. The exception is taxi service from pricey hotels, which can cost three times (or more) the fare of a street or taxi stand taxi. Many taxi drivers ask you which route you’d like them to take, as much to see if you’re savvy as to avoid being berated if you get stuck in traffic. If you don’t speak Spanish or don’t know your way around town, just smile, bluff, and hope for the best.