When most travelers think about taking a trip to Mexico, the first things that come to mind are usually the luxe all-inclusive resorts in places like Playa del Carmen, the wild party scene at hot spots like Cancún, or perhaps a nice cruise down the Mexican Riviera, but there’s a previously overlooked destination that’s quickly becoming a major tourist attraction — Mexico City.
Mexico City has seem amazing improvements in safety, transportation, and infrastructure in recent years, including the implementation of a truly wonderful bike-share program. (Photo: Ecobici_DF/Facebook)
The truth is, Mexico City has been a pretty incredible place for years, but plagued by a not-so-incredible reputation that kept many travelers away. But as they say, “Los tiempos se cambian,” and the Mexico City of today is a far cry from the Mexico City of the 1990s or early 2000s. Thanks to major improvements in infrastructure, transportation (including a bike-share program), and public safety, the city is having a major comeback. It’s not just tourists who have taken notice: Mexico City has been attracting young artists, chefs, and mixologists from all over the world who are relocating there and contributing to a very exciting cultural renaissance.
The majority of tourists heading to Mexico City will probably spend their time visiting its famous old standbys like the iconic Blue House, where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived, and Chapultepec Castle (the only true royal castle in North America), and certainly these attractions are worth a visit. With the combination of the city’s quirky nature and the recent cultural revival, there’s even more to see and do in the largest city in the Western Hemisphere than ever before. And the best parts, you probably won’t find in your standard guidebook.
Mexico City has been a major artistic mecca for centuries, and it’s certainly got plenty to see. From the Diego Rivera murals to public sculptures like the Angel of Independence to the incredible private art collection of Museo Soumaya, it’s not short on pretty things to feast your eyes on. The city is also home to a rising contemporary art scene, with plenty of galleries and local artists to satiate the traveling art lover.
View works by some of the top up-and-coming Mexican artists at Marso. (Photo: Iniciativa Curatorial MARSO/Facebook)
Housed in a beautiful building dating back 100 years to when French architecture was all the rage, the Marso art gallery is one of the best places to see emerging artists from both the local and global art scenes. The gallery is dedicated to showing great international art as well as promoting Mexican artists abroad through its partnerships with galleries around the world. With its rotating schedule of resident artists and curated shows, you might find sculpture, paintings, photographs, and more conceptual work on display, but whatever the current show is, you can be sure that you will be amazed by some of the best contemporary Mexican artists around.
Kids and adults alike will love the incredible vintage toy collection at the Museo del Juguete Antiguo. (Photo: Museo del Juguete Antiguo Mexico)
With more than 140 museums, Mexico City is home to more than any other city in the world. On top of major players like the Anthropology and History Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Modern Art Museum, you’ll also find a bevy of more unique collections like the Cartoon Museum, the Pen Museum, and the Chile and Tequila Museum. When it comes to the city’s offbeat museums, you can’t get more fun than the Museo del Juguete Antiguo México (MUJAM).
Vintage Mexican Star Wars toys on display at the Museo del Juguete. (Photo: Lauren DeLuca)
What began as Japanese-Mexican architect Roberto Shimizu’s childhood love of toys and pop culture, grew into a staggering collection of 60,000 items, ranging from small dolls and figures to life-size robots. Be sure to check out the expansive Mexican wrestling collection, featuring all thingslucha libre — handbills, paintings, posters, masks, figures, and an amazingly comprehensive collection of items from famed luchador El Santo’s career. While you’re viewing the incredible array of toys at MUJAM, be sure to keep an eye out for Mexican versions of popular American franchises like La Guerra de las Galaxias (Star Wars), Los Amos del Universo (He-Man), and El Hombre Elastico (Stretch Armstrong).
See some beautiful and unique street art that rivals what you’d find in any museum, like this stunning mural by Andrik Noble. (Photo:@streetart_chilango/Instagram)
Once you’re done embracing your inner child, take a walk around the Colonia Doctores and Colonia Roma neighborhoods to view some of the incredible street art in the area. Aside from his love of toys, MUJAM’s owner is also the curator for a local street art initiative. With a rich history of public murals dating back almost 100 years, it’s no wonder that the residents of Mexico City would embrace a contemporary revival of this traditional art form. Numerous local businesses donate the walls of their establishments as blank canvases for local street artists to create incredible vibrant public works of art. Wander at your leisure, or take aguided tour to really dive into the world of the Chilango street art scene.
Learn all about the fascinating historical and cultural importance of chocolate at the MUCHO Mundo Chocolate. (Photo: Lauren DeLuca)
For a taste of the sweeter side of Mexico, be sure to head to MUCHO Mundo Chocolate — a museum entirely devoted to chocolate (because who doesn’t love chocolate?). In Mexico, chocolate isn’t merely a sweet treat or occasional indulgence, but a rich part of its culture with a fascinating history. Learn about the artistic, cultural, and gastronomic importance of chocolate through various displays, artifacts, demonstrations of traditional preparation, and, of course, tastings.
Trust us, you’ve never really had hot chocolate until you’ve had authentic Mexican hot chocolate. (Photo: Lauren DeLuca)
Channel your inner Willy Wonka as you stand in a room covered wall-to-wall in chocolate tiles, and be sure to stop by the store and café, where you can taste artisanal chocolates produced in-house (the chile-chipotle white chocolate is especially divine), and wash it all down with a cup of authentic Mexican hot chocolate.
The beautiful interior of Limonsneros. (Photo: Limosneros)
In a city almost as famous for its food as it is for its art and museums, you’re going to want to sample the many exciting options in the culinary scene. While more touristy options like the Sanborns restaurant at Casa de los Azulejos (“House of Tiles”) might be tempting, there are plenty of better places to get your foodie fix. Skip the Sanborns, and head to nearbyLimosneros for some truly incredible Mexican fare that goes well beyond your everyday taco. The cozy chic dining room of Limosneros is flanked by gorgeous stone walls that (like everything else in Mexico City, it seems) have a history dating back for centuries. Enjoy incredibly fresh salsas (with or without crickets added, a house specialty) and guacamole prepared tableside before diving into the extensive and delicious menu.
The crunchy cocopaches might look scary, but are actually quite delightful. (Photo: Lauren DeLuca)
If the thought of cricket-infused salsa doesn’t make you cringe, the menu features several truly exquisite insect dishes, including perfectly smokyescamoles (ant eggs) and crispy cocopaches (beetles) atop zucchini-flower ravioli. For the more conservative eater, the menu offers plenty of insect-free options, including a melt-in-your-mouth rib-eye taco and an insanely delicious duck dish served with apple, arugula, and raisins.
At the Hidden Kitchen, enjoy a beautiful private meal expertly prepared by chefs right in front of your eyes. (Photos: Hidden/Facebook)
Some of the most exciting things taking place in Mexico City’s culinary scene aren’t even found in restaurants. A new class of chefs is taking an innovative approach to standard dining, and pop-ups have been the mode du jour in recent years. When it comes to the local pop-up scene, the best of the best is without a doubt the Hidden Kitchen.
Chef Gerardo Aguilar and his crew serve up incredible dishes including fresh seafood, ceviches, sweets, and meats. (Photo: Lauren DeLuca)
Once a month, the Hidden Kitchen hosts pop-up dinners all over the city, treating up to 45 people to a tantalizing tasting menu created just for the event. If you aren’t in town when one of these events is taking place, fret not. Twice a week, it also hosts a truly amazing chef’s table where up to 10 people can dine right in the kitchen. The incredibly charming Chef Gerardo Aguilar and his team of sous chefs will wine and dine you, cooking up a delicious multicourse feast right in front of your eyes all while providing great conversation and a wonderful background soundtrack of Mexican hip-hop. The tasting menu changes nightly, and selections might include incredibly fresh fish, pasta, or ceviche dishes. At only 600 pesos (approximately $32) a person, including wine, this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience at a price that simply can’t be beat.
The outstanding tacos at El Borrego Viudo. At only 50 cents a piece, you can go ahead and try one of each. (Photo: Lauren DeLuca/Instagram)
Of course, no trip to Mexico City would be complete without some tacos. With a city full of taquerias, it could be tough to choose where to go to get your fix, but one hole-in-the-wall taco joint that is a must-visit is El Borrego Viudo. Set on an unassuming street corner in the Tacubaya neighborhood, it features only tacos with your choice of filling (including topnotch al pastor and longaniza sausage, as well as tongue and brain for the more adventurous) and is pretty much exactly what you want in a street taco spot: simple tacos done exquisitely. While a bit on the small side, the tacos cost only 9 pesos a pop (that’s a whopping 50 cents). You can try the whole menu or just get five of your favorites without breaking the bank. And since they’re open 24 hours, this is pretty much the perfect place to get your late-night taco fix after hitting the bars.
Sample local and international craft beers by the bottle or pint at El Depósito. (Photo: El Depósito DF/Facebook)
Speaking of bars, the Mexico City mixology scene is certainly shaking things up. A relatively new phenomenon, Mexican microbreweries have been popping up in increasing numbers in recent years. Gone are the days of sipping on the ubiquitous Coronas or Modelos without any more exciting options around. Now, craft beer lovers can head to a number of beer bars in Mexico City, the local favorite being El Depósito. With several locations, including one in the heart of the poplar Condesa neighborhood, El Depósito is a wonderfully comfortable watering hole that boasts more than 160 international and local beers, as well as several of its own in-house brews on tap.
Enjoy the warm breeze coming in through the fully open front of Limantour as you work your way through their impressive cocktail menu. (Photo: Limantour)
If you’re more of a cocktail connoisseur than a beer drinker, Mexico City certainly has you covered with a rising mixology scene that is on par with the best bars in New York or any other city. For some of the best cocktails in town, head to Limantour, a wonderfully chic, but laid-back open-air bar with an extensive menu of tasty libations.
Limantour’s quirky cocktails like the Florero Atlántico are as fun as they are tasty. (Photo: Limantour/Facebook)
With an upscale tiki-bar vibe, several of Limantour’s house drinks and punches are served in whimsical glasses, including parrots and sharks, an incredible martini-glass-teacup hybrid, and a hollowed-out bamboo shoot. The Florero Atlántico — an expertly-crafted cocktail consisting of gin, Bougainvillea-infused vermouth, lemon juice, grapefruit syrup, and Campari served in a fish mug — is a favorite among the bar’s customers and as soon as the first sip hits your lips, you’ll understand why. And if nothing on the menu strikes your fancy, the expert mixologists are more than happy to whip up something amazing on the spot.
Pick up some local artisanal salsas, honey, and more at Tlapería Gastronómica. (Photo: Tlapalería Gastronómica/Facebook)
After tasting so much of Mexico City’s amazing culinary creations, you’ll definitely want to bring some Mexican flavor back home with you. Before you leave town, be sure to stop by Tlapalería Gastronómica to grab some gourmet goodies to bring home for friends and family (and of course, for yourself). This specialty grocery store is the latest brainchild of the gastronomic gurus behind the acclaimed Tacos El Parnita. The shop features an incredible array of artisanal products that you won’t find anywhere else. Browse their selection of chocolate, mole, honey, salsas, coffee, jams, wine, and more. All the items in the shop are 100% handmade in Mexico and are the perfect way to enjoy the incredible flavors of Mexico even once your trip has ended.