Mexico City (Ciudad de Mexico, or often shortened to CDMX) is a huge, sprawling city with an urban population of over 20 million people. The traffic is infinitely crazier than in Los Angeles and the level of air pollution rivals Bangkok’s. It’s loud, chaotic, and has a less-than-perfect reputation. Even so, we decided to plant ourselves in the city for a full week to properly explore.
Our visit didn’t get off to the best of starts. Arriving into one of the city’s main bus terminals, we decided to take an Uber to our hostel rather than risk taking the subway while carrying our big backpacks. This was our first (and sadly not our last) experience with just how mental traffic and driving is in Mexico City – it took us 1 hour and 16 minutes to travel 13 kilometres! In the middle of the afternoon!
We arrived at our hostel pretty flustered and in need of a beer, so set about finding some new friends who could show us where the closest bars were. Straight away we heard an Irish accent and introduced ourselves. Kevin had just arrived in Mexico, and had just had his backpack stolen from him in a park in the city centre. Luckily he had his phone and wallet in his pockets, but his passport was gone and he would have to spend the next few weeks in Mexico visiting police stations and waiting until the embassy could get him a new one. As we listened to the story we felt so sorry for him, and it’s fair to say we became a bit more worried about our own safety too.
That’s the reason I have no “real” photos from our week in CDMX – we both decided that it wasn’t worth the risk to carry my camera around each day, just in case the worst happened to us too. So I made do with iPhone snaps and we could both relax a little more since we weren’t carrying a bag or backpack around. In reality, I felt very safe everywhere we went and especially around our local neighbourhood so I’m sure it would’ve been fine anyway. We didn’t hear any other stories of muggings or theft for the rest of our stay, but better safe than sorry!
After another few small stresses (this time with ATMs) our initial spell of negativity was over, and we settled into the swing of life in CDMX pretty quickly. Our hostel was fantastic, one of the best we’ve stayed in on our trip so far in my opinion. It looked more like a boutique design hotel and the friendly poodle Scott was always around to brighten the mood!
I also fell in love with our neighbourhood, La Condesa. It’s mainly a residential area full of cafes and parks, with wide tree-lined streets and lots of young professionals out walking their dogs on weekends. Within walking distance is Roma, a similar neighbourhood with more trendy bars and nightclubs.
Most days we wouldn’t leave our little corner of the city. We’d take a walk in the park, followed by a visit to a market and then maybe enjoy an afternoon coffee or drink out on a sunny terrace. Carrying out everyday tasks like supermarket shopping or taking laundry to the local “lavandería” added to the feeling that we were living like locals. I started to feel like CDMX, despite it’s traffic, could be a very liveable city.
The food options in La Condesa weren’t bad either. Martin discovered his all-time favourite taco shop (Don Juan) and I was shocked by the amount of vegan restaurants – I alternated between the pizza place and vegan tostadas most days!
We did squeeze in our fair share of sight seeing too while we were in town. Within walking distance from our hostel was Bosque de Chapultepec, CDMX’s largest park which is also home to most of the museums. We set aside a whole day to visit the famous Museo Nacional de Antropología. It’s hugely popular with tourists and everyone raves about the volume of artefacts and the separate exhibitions for each pre-Columbian civilisation (Mayan, Aztec, Olmec etc.). Maybe it was because we had enjoyed a similar museum in Monterrey so much, but neither of us were as impressed as we expected to be! Sometimes more isn’t better.
In another attempt to be “proper tourists” we took the subway to Zócalo, the main square in the heart of the city. We thought we’d been clever visiting on a Monday morning, thinking it would be the quietest time. Instead, we walked straight into the middle of a mass socialist protest since it was Labour Day! The square was packed with activists wearing red t-shirts and carrying banners. We chatted to a few people just to figure out what was happening, then quickly made our way out of there by jumping onto an open-top bus tour – is there a better way to see the sights than by sunbathing at the same time?!
By far the most fun tourist activity that we did in Mexico City was to spend a Friday night at the Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling! Absolutely hilarious and such a spectacle in every way. We went with a group from our hostel and the highlight was that we were all given our own wrestling masks as a souvenir – expect these as every Halloween costume from us from now on!
An upside of spending so long in one place is that we met a lot of good people in our CDMX hostel. And that lead to a lot of good nights out! We frequented the hugely popular Pata Negra bar in Condesa (also a good tapas restaurant) and also loved locals bar Peralta, with it’s hopefully-ironic neon sign! Here we met the awesome Mario who took us under his wing and was determined to show us all a good night out in his home city. He took a us to a new nightclub above Peralta where we drank tequila straight from the bottle and danced until 4am.
Whenever we return to Mexico I can’t wait to go back to Ladina Bar in Roma. Barman Gio looked after us so well, and gave us the best introduction to drinking mezcal that we could get. Along with a some expertly made cocktails!
All of the travellers we met, but more so the locals that befriended us, made this city almost feel like somewhere we could call home. Which is not something we expected in a place this big! Similar to Los Angeles & London, Mexico City deserves more than a few nights to be fully experienced and I’m so glad we gave it the time we did.