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Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

Explore with us the cultural, political, and economic capital of Mexico

“The truth is that the history of Mexico is a history in the image of its geography: abrupt and tortuous. Each historical period is like a plateau surrounded by tall mountains and separated from the other plateaus by precipices and divides.”

Octavio Paz
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
Palacio de Bellas Artes

In planning our third trip in 2022, we were limited to only a 5-day getaway. We needed to depart from Washington, DC, and we began researching where to fly nonstop to avoid losing time at our destination. Family and friends had recently made a trip to Mexico City and could not say enough about their experience. It had never been on our radar. What sold us was we had always wanted to see pyramids, and being only a four-hour flight; we felt it was our best option. It was super budget friendly too.

There was not a doubt we would enjoy ourselves, but we were not expecting to fall so in love with Mexico City. We had received some dire safety warnings from others before our departure, but we discovered those warnings could not be farther from the truth. This magnificent modern metropolitan city with a cosmopolitan vibe is one of the safest, cleanest, and most fascinating cities we have ever visited. One that deserved more than five days to explore, but we made every
precious moment count. It simply blew us away.

Explore with us the wonder that is Mexico City.

A bit about Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

Mexico City is one of the world’s most important cultural and financial centers and one of the wealthiest cities. Mexico’s capital is the largest city by population in North America. The population of Mexico City is 9.2 million, with about 9,900 people per square mile. The great Mexico City area has 21.8 million inhabitants, making it the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the world. It is an Alpha-level city because it is a major economic region highly integrated into the world economy. Once you arrive in this modern cosmopolitan city with skyscrapers and stunning architecture, it begins to make sense.

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

Mexico’s capital is the oldest in the Americas and one of two founded by indigenous people. The city was built on a group of islands in Lake Texcoco by the Mexica (Aztecs) around 1325, known as Tenochtitlan. The Spaniards almost destroyed it in the 1521 Siege of Tenochtitlan. This led to the Aztec civilization’s downfall, which had high mortality due to smallpox. The city was redesigned to Spanish standards. In 1524, the municipality of Mexico City was established, known as México Tenochtitlán, and as of 1585, it was officially known as Ciudad de México (Mexico City). Mexico City was the political, administrative, and financial center of a significant part of the Spanish colonial empire. The Spaniards stayed for centuries until independence from Spain was achieved in 1821.

Modern times
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

After years of demanding greater political autonomy, they elected in 1997 a head of government and legislative representatives. The city has several progressive policies, which differ from other parts of Mexico, such as elective abortions, some forms of euthanasia, no-fault divorce, and same-sex marriage. On 29 January 2016. Mexico City officially became known as Ciudad de México (CDMX), with a gained degree of autonomy. It is the seat of power in the country.

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

Origin of humans in the area

The oldest signs of human occupation in Mexico City are those of the “Peñón woman” and others. In 2003 a study placed the age of the Peñon woman at 12,700 years old, one of the oldest human remains discovered in the Americas. Studies of her DNA suggest the woman was either of Asian, European, or Aboriginal Australian origin.

Mexico City’s geography and environment

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

Mexico City is located in the Valley of Mexico, sometimes called the Basin of Mexico. This valley is located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in south-central Mexico. Its altitude is 7,200 feet above sea level, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes that reach elevations of over 16,000 feet. The city primarily rests on what was Lake Texcoco. Seismic activity is frequent in this area. Lake Texcoco was drained starting from the 17th century.

Initially, much of the valley lay beneath the waters of Lake Texcoco, a system of interconnected salt and freshwater lakes. When the Aztecs inhabited the area, they built dikes to separate the freshwater used to raise crops and prevent recurrent floods. This valley has no natural drainage outlet for the waters that flow from the mountainsides, making the city vulnerable to flooding. These dikes were destroyed during the siege of Tenochtitlan.

Map of Mexico City

Did you know parts of Mexico City are sinking?

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

Once the Spaniards took over during colonial times, they regularly drained the lake to prevent floods. Although none of the lake waters remain, the city rests on the lake bed’s heavily saturated clay. This soft base is collapsing due to the over-extraction of groundwater.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the city has sunk as much as nine meters (30 feet) in some areas. On average, Mexico City sinks 20 inches every year. This sinking is causing problems with runoff and wastewater management, leading to flooding problems. The entire lake bed is now paved over, and most of the city’s remaining forested areas lie in the southern boroughs.

Architects with a group of Mexican urbanists, engineers, and biologists have developed the Recovering the City of Lakes project plan. If the government approves, the project will contribute to the water supply from natural sources to the Valley of Mexico, create new natural spaces, and improve air quality.

It is striking when you see these sinking structures. Continuous efforts are occurring to save these buildings. We visited a church where the backside was collapsing. A rope kept people from entering, and the front half still had services. Many structures are roped off and haven’t been touched in decades. So when you hear Mexico City, it is no joke. They are working hard to fix what they can, but it is expensive and time-consuming.

Modeled after great European cities

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

There is a definite European feel to Mexico City. Two rulers modeled European cities; Emperor Maximilian of Mexico and Porfirian (1876-1911). The most recognizable icon of Mexico City is the golden Angel of Independence on the vast, elegant avenue Paseo de la Reforma, modeled by the order of Emperor Maximilian after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Under the rule of Poririan, the city underwent extensive modernization. Many Spanish Colonial-style buildings were destroyed and replaced by larger Porfirian institutions. His work reached outlying rural zones, transforming them into urban or industrialized districts, with most having electrical, gas, and sewage utilities by 1908. The initial focus was developing modern hospitals, schools, factories, and public works. Porfirian modernization arose in the Colonia Roma area and the development of Reforma Avenue. Many of Mexico City’s major attractions and landmarks were built during this era in this style.

What about all the bad stuff you hear about Mexico City?

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

It was a concern of several of our family and friends. Advising us never to leave our hotel, walk around at night and avoid eating the food. Mexico faces many problems, as most nations worldwide are. You hear about the drug cartels, political instability, police corruption, mistreatment of indigenous people, crime, pollution, and undrinkable city water. These all do exist, and Mexico can be a dangerous place to visit in certain areas. As whenever we travel, we review U.S. State Department warnings. Currently (December 2022) for Mexico City in the states.

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

“Exercise increased caution due to crime.

Both violent and non-violent crimes occur throughout Mexico State. Use additional caution in areas outside the frequented tourist areas, although petty crime frequently happens in tourist areas.

There are no restrictions on travel for U.S. government employees in Mexico State.”

That can be said in any city in the U.S.

Our Mexico City Visit Details

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

Mexico City 5 nights in early November 2022

It was our first visit to Mexico City and Ryan’s first visit to Mexico

Accommodations

Gran Hotel Ciudad de México
(Free with Chase Reward Points)

The hotel is located in the Historic District on Zocalo Square

How we got around

We walked 30 miles in the four full days we were day

When we needed to get places, we used Uber exclusively, and sometimes the wait was long.

Pre-purchased tickets/events:

Teotihuacan Pyramids (excellent private tour with Tepkan Tours booked via Tripadvisor)

Food tour

Mezcal Tour

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

The weather was sunny; Temps averaged in the ’70s. There was no humidity. It was perfect!

Top Tourism Destination

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

Mexico City is a destination for many foreign tourists. In 2021 the city had 32 million international visitors, which is when Covid kept many from traveling. The Historic center of Mexico City and the “floating gardens” of Xochimilco in the southern borough are World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Landmarks in the Historic Center include the Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo Square), the main central square with its Spanish-era Metropolitan Cathedral, and the National Palace. Where you would least expect it on the square is the ancient Aztec temple ruins of Templo Mayor. The Templo Mayor was discovered in 1978 while workers were digging to place underground electric cables.

The Golden Angel of Independence on the vast, elegant avenue Paseo de la Reforma. This avenue was designed over the Americas’ oldest major roadway in the 19th century to connect the National Palace (seat of government) with the Castle of Chapultepec, the imperial residence. Today, this avenue is an important financial district in which the Mexican Stock Exchange and several corporate headquarters are located. Another important avenue is the Avenida de los Insurgentes, which extends 18 miles and is one of the longest single avenues in the world.

The Chapultepec Castle blew us away
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
Chapultepec Castle

Chapultepec Park is home to the Chapultepec Castle, now a museum on a hill that overlooks the park and its numerous museums, monuments, and the National zoo and the National Museum of Anthropology, one of the top museums in the world. Another piece of architecture is the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a white marble theater/museum whose weight is such that it has gradually been sinking into the soft ground below. Its construction began during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz and ended in 1934, after being interrupted by the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s.

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
Plaza de las Tres Culturas

The Plaza de las Tres Culturas, designed by Mario Pani, is the main square within the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City. It is called “Three Cultures” in recognition of the three periods of Mexican history reflected by structures in the plaza: pre-Columbian, Spanish colonial, and the independent nation of Mexico. Located near the square is the College of Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, the first and oldest European school of higher learning in the Americas, and the archeological site of the city-state of Tlatelolco, and the shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe are also important sites. At this site, a monument memorializes one of the darkest days of modern Mexico City’s history, the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre.

A double-decker bus, known as the “Turibus,” circles most of these sites and has timed audio describing the sites in multiple languages as they are passed.

Fun Fact

There are over 180 museums – the second highest in the world after London.

Our Observations

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

From the moment we arrived, Mexico City captivated and intrigued us. Mexico City is a modern cosmopolitan city with skyscrapers and architecturally beautiful buildings. There are substantially treed city parks. Gorgeous neighborhoods, such as the Roma Notre district. Large impressive monuments. A magnificent castle and endless historical sites. Wide boulevards with marble sidewalks. Incredible museums, some reputed to be the best in the world. It has top-notch shopping, upscale dining, and a vibrant nightlife packed with culture and hardworking, friendly people. It rivals some of the top cities in the world.

The first thing that struck us as we drove from the airport was how clean the city was. Clean in a mind-blowing way. It was crazy at times; in the city parks, there were workers sweeping leaves every 100 feet or so as they fell from the trees. The city has cleaners working 24 hours a day. We would see sidewalks pressure-washed late into the night.

How safe we felt
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

The second thing that surprised is how safe we felt everywhere. Despite dire warnings of danger from family and friends, we did not once feel unsafe. On a level as we did during a recent visit to Switzerland. We visited many districts throughout Mexico City and at the city’s edges. We never felt concerned for our safety, even late into the evening. It feels so safe because of the massive police presence in Mexico City. Many different kinds of police and some military too. The city has over 90,000 officers alone on the Police force (NYC reportedly has 35,000). Most shops and restaurants have security as well. Locals told us this was mainly to deter the “narcos.” As in any city, always be street-wise, take precautions, and always know your surroundings.

The lighting around the city is excellent, and some poles separate pedestrians and passing cars. Speed bumps everywhere keep speeds down. Many boulevards and wide sidewalks are marble. People were kind and never pushy, even when the streets were full of people.

The top 18 things to do and see in Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
Temple Major Museum
  • Zócalo (Plaza de la Constitucion): El Zócalo is the central public square where the National Palace and Metropolitan Cathedral reside and is one of the most recognizable sites in Mexico City. A giant Mexican flag is at its center and has been the centerpiece of public gatherings since the Aztecs. It is often a place for significant events, and the baseball finals occurred when we were there.
  • National Palace: The Palace is home to the President of the Mexican government and sits along Mexico City’s Zócalo Square. The palace is a massive, ornate building with several gardens, murals, and fountains. Its highlights are the Diego Rivera murals painted in panoramic style across the palace’s walls, which are a must-see. These murals depict the stages of Mexican history, from pre-Columbian days to the current age.
  • Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral: Mexico’s national cathedral is an imposing and impressive ornate church on Zócalo’s Square. It was once an ancient sacred Aztec site, which has housed the city’s spiritual heart for centuries. The cathedral was built between 1573 and 1813 after the Spanish conquest. It is one of Mexico City’s many must-see attractions. Highlights of the cathedral include five naves, 14 chapels, underground catacombs, and a painting by famed Spanish artist Bartolome Esteban Murillo.
  • Templo Mayor Museum: Before Spanish colonization, Templo Mayor served as the religious center for the Aztec people. When Spanish conquistadors arrived in the late 14th century, the temple was among many destroyed. In 1978 the temple was unearthed in the heart of Mexico City on Zocalo Square. The area remains an active archeological site, and the adjoining museum houses more than 7,000 artifacts. The museum is fascinating and very well done.
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
Historic Center

Centro Historico: The Historic center of Mexico City is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a centuries-old city center, and an ancient agricultural area of canals and floating islands. Centro Historico is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city. It was once the seat of the Aztec Empire, where you can visit Montezuma’s ancient temple. The district has many of the city’s most notable historic buildings. It is also part of Mexico City that is sinking.

Palacio de Bellas Artes: Considered the cultural center of Mexico City, the Palacio is a must-visit. The palace’s exterior showcases art nouveau and art deco-style architecture, while the inside features marble floors and vaulted glass windows.

Bosque (Forest) de Chapultepec: This is the main park in Mexico City and encompasses 1600 acres. On the massive grounds, you will find museums, monuments, the national zoo, and the National Museum of Anthropology. The grounds are beautiful and are a gathering place for city residents. There are endless food carts to feed the park’s many guests.

Chapultepec Castle: Located in the Bosque de Chapultepec, it is now a museum on a hill that overlooks the park and city. The part has numerous museums, monuments, the national zoo, and the National Museum of Anthropology. The views here are stunning, and the castle is magnificent on every level and a joy to visit.

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
Stained glass at Chapultepec Castle
  • Museo Nacional de Antropología: Located within the famous Chapultepec Forest, the Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology) holds artifacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian era, dating from about 100 B.C. to A.D. 1521. The museum looks at how tradition, culture, and life were formed in all regions of Mexico. It is reputed to be one of the best anthropology museums in the world. The collection of artifacts is massive.
  • Museo Frida Kahlo: The Frida Kahlo Museum is known as the Blue House (La Casa Azul) for the cobalt-blue walls. It is an art museum dedicated to the life and work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. This is a top-rated museum, and buying tickets in advance is a good idea.
  • Cantina Culture: Cantinas are a way of life in Mexico. They are ideal spots for long lunches and late nights for people of all ages. In Mexico City, the cantina culture is strongest in the capital’s downtown area, Centro Histórico.
  • Traditional Markets: Such as the Mercado de San Juan, which is a large market with food stands, vendors selling produce, and all sorts of unusual things. It is an eye-opening experience and a great place to buy lunch. You will find many edible insects for sale and learn quickly that the locals appreciate this delicacy. This is where many restaurants will purchase their food.
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
San Miquel Market
  • The Palacio de Correos de México: Also known as the “Correo Mayor,” is located in the historic center of Mexico City, on the Eje Central near the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It was built in 1907 and is an active post office. It is a magnificent building well worth a visit. Its architectural style is highly eclectic, with the building having a mix of Art Nouveau, Spanish Renaissance Revival, Spanish Rococo style, Elizabethan Gothic,  and Venetian Gothic Revival. The building also has Moorish, Neoclassical, Baroque, and Art Deco elements.
  • Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe: The Basílica is an important religious site in Mexico City. The first basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary was not built until 1695. However, nearly 300 years of construction and environmental damage threatened the integrity of the basilica, so a new basilica was built on the same Plaza in the 1970s. The complex has many features, including the basilica, the ancient church, a gift shop, a museum, and a library. Though a young Basilica, it is stunning and worth a visit.
  • Teotihuacan pyramids: One of many UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Mexico City region, Teotihuacá contains some of the largest pre-Columbian pyramids in all of Mexico. It is about an hour’s drive from Mexico City. The site has many popular sites, including the Palace of the Plumed Butterfly, which showcases the Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon, which sits at the heart of the site. It was an intriguing step back in time. A guided tour is ideal; check with your hotel for reputable vendors.
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
Teotihuacan pyramids
  • Roma Norte district: This is the happening place to be. The hipster Roma Norte neighborhood is well-known as a restaurant hotspot in the heart of Mexico City. It’s filled with charming cafes, lovely outdoor seating areas, and top-quality restaurants with critical and commercial acclaim. The area has beautiful homes, quaint parks, and tree-lined streets. Our favorite restaurant was here, Blanco Colima.
  • Stroll along the elegant Paseo de la Reforma: The promenade is a wide avenue running across the heart of Mexico City. It was created during the reign of  Emperor Maximilian and modeled after the great boulevards of Europe; the planned grand avenue was to link the National Palace with the Imperial residence. Make sure to stop to gaze upon the Angel of Independence.
  • Take in a Lucho Loco Wrestling Match: Translated as “Free Fighting,” Lucha Libre is similar to American WWF Wrestling but usually includes more high flying jumps & athletic moves. Most contestants wear colorful masks to hide their identities. A visit to the Lucha Libre in Mexico City is essential to your visit to the capital and is great fun, if not a wild cultural experience. The locals often go in a group and have a few drinks and street food beforehand. Many organized tours will model that same experience. It was indeed a night to remember.
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
City Murals

Dining in Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

One of our biggest surprises (there we many) while visiting Mexico City was our dining experiences. When traveling abroad, we always seek diverse and authentic dining, avoiding popular tourist places or American cuisine. In seeking recommendations, we ask locals where they feel is the most genuinely local cuisine.

Mexicans love to eat, and although the city has many restaurants, the sidewalks were full of food carts, pop-up stands, and even vendors selling food that was balancing on their heads. There were also a few cases of people selling food out of baby carriages. The norm in the historic district was on one side of the sidewalk were portable food stands lining the length of the street, and on the building side were many restaurants to choose from. It was a remarkable sight. Restaurants, even street vendors, are open very late in most cities.

We can say there was not one bad meal in our whole time there. Of course, street food is tremendous here and always popular. We tried the street tacos and a few other dishes, which were excellent. We also went to several upscale restaurants and were blown away by the quality, presentation, exceptional cuisine, and ambiance. There were meals; if you did not know better, we were at some fancy, at the top of their game, L.A. restaurant, except prices were way lower! Some are comparable to Michelin stars and better than some we ate recently in the U.S.

This is not the Mexican food you know in the U.S.
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
Guacomo;e with Pork Rinds

You will be shocked if you expect the food to be anything like the typical Mexican restaurants in the U.S. There was nothing similar; even the chips were markedly different. It also seems instead of chips; they prefer chicharrones with their guacamole. The salsa we were served many times never had one tomato chunk. We are not complaining; the Mexican food in Mexico will make it hard to ever eat Mexican again in the U.S. The food alone would bring us back. Having exceptional service, exquisite decor, gorgeous and intricate presentation, and top-quality cuisine for as little as we paid is mind-blowing.

Trusting in the food you are unfamiliar with takes a bit of adventurous spirit, but we can say we never had any regrets. We never had any G.I. illnesses or symptoms during our trip. We strongly recommend avoiding the water; our hotel even provides bottled water to brush your teeth. The quality and uniqueness of the cuisine in Mexico City alone would bring us back for another visit.

Our Favorite Restaruants

Since we did not have a favorite restaurant, we will detail the ones we had our best meals at individually. The slide show below will be a mixture of our dishes during our visit.

For the first four restaurants, we strongly recommend having a reservation.

  1. Limonsneros is an upscale and elegant restaurant in the Historic District. They deliver gastronomic excellence with ingredients and the traditional cuisine of Mexico with a contemporary touch. It was an exceptional experience and the perfect meal to end the trip to Mexico City. We did the 9-course gourmet tasting menu with wine paired with every course poured by their excellent Sommelier for only $85 a person.
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

2. Blanco Colima is in the gorgeous and elegant Roma neighborhood along the gastronomic corridor of Colma Street. The restaurant is in a lovely Porfinian-style house that takes your breath away when you enter. The excellent cuisine is an avant-garde Mexa-Spanish with a unique flair and a magnificent cocktail selection.

3. Azul Historico, within the Historic District, is located inside the Hotel Downtown, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The restaurant is in a charming courtyard predominantly lit by candles hanging from the trees under a movable roof. All our food was delicious and served on beautiful serve ware, which added to the experience.

To learn how to make the most of your dining experiences abroad
click here.

4. The Terraza Restaurant is located on the 5th floor of the Gran Hotel Cuidad de Mexico in the Historic District with views of Zocalo Square. It has one of the best restaurants and bars in Mexico City. The breakfast buffet is expansive and excellent. The regular menu has standard items like guacamole (we loved it!) and street tacos to haute cuisine. We had several meals here and enjoyed the food and the attentive staff.

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
Oaxaca en Mexico

5. Oaxaca en Mexico Restaurant in the Historical District offers traditional Oaxaca cuisine in a brightly colored and cozy atmosphere. To ensure the unique flavors of Oaxaca, the dishes are crafted from scratch. They are known for their excellent Mole Sauces.

6. La Mascota Cantina was one of our stops during our food tour and is in the Historic District. It is a simple boisterous place where you will mostly find locals and an authentic Mexican experience. Patrons come for the cocktails because they get free and unlimited food from a daily list of about 8-10 dishes. We were not expecting the quality to be good, but that was not the case; nothing fancy but delicious traditional Mexican fare. The experience here is what is worth the visit. Ideally, pay cash as they add a charge for cards.

The photos are of the various dishes we ordered. Regretfully we don’t have some descriptions as the dishes were part of a tasting menu not listed on the menu. Our servers often spoke limited English, so we did not understand what they described. Nonetheless, it was all delicious!

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It is all about the Mezcal

In Mexico City, though, it was all about the Mezcal. It did not taste like the Mezcal we have tasted in the states. We did two Mezcal tastings, had some at the end of a meal, and ordered a couple of Mezcal cocktails. Have to say we have become a fan! If you aren’t a fan of experiences outside of Mexico, give it another try here in Mexico City.

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

We expected more margaritas but were wrong there too. Now, not saying there were no margaritas, but they seem less popular than most other cocktails. People here love their mixed drinks, and we saw some fantastic concoctions on the menu.

Beer is also popular, and they seem to have some lovely local microbrews, even of the dark variety. Wine was less common, but during our last dinner in Mexico City, we had wine with every one of our nine courses. Some of the wines we tasted from Mexico were very good.

Where to stay

  • Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
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Slide show of the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico

During our stay in Mexico City, we stayed at the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México. It is one of the most beautiful and stunning hotels we have ever visited.

The origin of this historic building dates back to the 1500s. At the time, it was the residence of the Royal Accountant. In 1895 it was bought by a Frenchman planning to build the first shopping center in Mexico. The building was constructed at the height of Porfiriato (the rule of General Porfirio Diaz). The most dramatic element of the hotel is the Tiffany-style glass ceiling, one of the four largest in the world. Created by Frenchman Jacques Gruber in 1908, it is stunning in the light of the day. Eventually, the store closed, and in 1968 it reopened as the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico.

Mexico City is packed with hotels and many stunning hotels. This is a significant business city in the world market. Many businesses operate here that will demand lovely places to stay.

That ceiling!
Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

The ceiling might be the “pièce de resistance,” but the hotel has many other glorious aspects. Take in the beauty of the majestic Louis XV chandelier at the hotel’s entrance. The hotel has two Otis panoramic cage elevators over 100 years old that are still operational and fun to ride. Sit in the lobby on the red velvet furniture while you take in the glorious setting. The hotel has grand staircases and lovely decor throughout.


The Terraza is a beautiful open-air restaurant and bar on the rooftop. Enjoy spectacular views of Zocalo Square and its historic buildings. The restaurant staff was kind and welcoming each time we stopped by. This luxury hotel, with its 60 modern and beautifully classically decorated rooms, offers high-quality and attentive service. What made it even more fun was we paid nothing for it. We used our Chase reward points for a two-room suite with views of Zocalo Square. But our points converted to about $250 a night, a mind-blowing price for such elegance. Our stay was a truly unique experience, and we cannot recommend it enough. It ranks as one of our favorite hotels ever.

You can check out this hotel and other hotels in Mexico City using the links below.

Booking.com

Booking.com

Expedia

Tidbits all visitors should know

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
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We were surprised how many locals did not speak much or, at times, no English. Even in the upscale restaurants, we had servers who spoke minimal English. Most menus were available after scanning a barcode. Most restaurants had English as an option when on the phone.

Apple Pay was the most common method we used to pay for anything. We had no concerns about using our card. We came with about $250 worth of pesos and used maybe $150 worth.

Public transportation, we heard, was not the easiest and did not go to many areas of the city. We used Uber to get around. Though the wait was long at times, we could not complain as the fares were so cheap. It always felt safe. Drivers, as a whole, seemed pretty calm. The streets in Mexico City are full of enormous speed bumps, so no one goes fast. There are also often posts between the sidewalks and where the cars drive, a brilliant idea to keep pedestrians safe.

The churches in Mexico City are everywhere; this is a Catholic hub.

Our favorite moments and highlights

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

This is tough as we loved everything about Mexico City. The food was a highlight. How walkable, clean, and safe this cosmopolitan city is incredible. Our hotel was one of the most beautiful hotels we have ever stayed in. The Teotihuacan pyramids and Temple Mayor were fascinating. The parks are gorgeous, and the city’s architecture is fascinating. The people were welcoming, engaging, and kind. Then there is Mezcal; how can that not be a highlight? Finally, the fact that a trip to Mexico City does not break the bank is a big plus.

Sounds like a perfect trip? It was despite some mishaps

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

Joelle had a nasty fall on Day 2 of our visit to Mexico City at the Teotihuacan Pyramids. Shortly after we arrived, she fell on the last step of the only structure you can climb and briefly lost consciousness. Her fall resulted in a concussion, broken hand & ankle, severe leg contusions, and lots of bruising and abrasions. The fractures were not caught until she got home. What saved the day was Joelle’s need always to be prepared. She has a substantial first aid kit in her backpack. We could clean and dress all her wounds; there were a lot! With her wounds dressed, we continued with our tour. It pays to be prepared. Check out Joelle’s post on what medical supplies to pack when traveling here.

To add more craziness to the situation, Ryan tested positive for Covid (his first time) upon our return and was quite sick for an entire week. Joelle went on to see doctors at home that diagnosed the two fractures. In the end, we still call it the perfect trip. Mexico City shined despite these mishaps. If that doesn’t speak to this city’s greatness, I don’t know what would.

Americans are moving to Mexico in droves

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!
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Americans are moving here in large numbers. Mexico beats out the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Spain for relocation destinations, maintaining its spot as the top ex-pat hub for Americans. In 2021, some 16,000 Americans moved to Mexico, and that number continues to rise year over year. It is estimated 1 million Americans live in Mexico. One of the top reasons many Americans are moving south is the lower cost of living in Mexico. Housing, healthcare, food, and transportation are just a few of the things that are significantly cheaper in Mexico than in the United States. We can attest to that; your dollar goes far there.

Mexico is ideal for those who want to live in a cosmopolitan city with the best dining, nightlife, museums, and culture at their fingertips and affordable prices.

Conclusion

Mexico City, Mexico City: A Bucket List Must!

This will be a short and sweet conclusion. Go to Mexico City; it is worth visiting. It is nothing less than spectacular. The cuisine is some of the best in the world. It is a beautiful, clean, and safe city. It is a haven for lovers of architecture. The city is full of history and home to several wonderful museums, UNESCO sites, and art galleries. There’s a nightlife scene to suit everyone. It is friendly to your travel budget. Finally, it will change your opinion of Mexico.

For The Official Mexico City Visitors Guide, click here.

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Photo Gallery of Mexico City

Thank you for joining us on our adventure through tantalizing Mexico City

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Squaremouth.com

Our favorite travel insurance site!

If you book a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured. Not just for the little stuff but the big things like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, uses top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover COVID-19 medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.

To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.

MedjetAssist

Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world

They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover COVID-related transport as well.

Medjet carries its own policies. The policy is only for transport and no other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.

To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.  

Expedia.com 

Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours 

Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.  

Booking.com

Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours 

Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.

We always check Expedia and Booking.com to verify prices. At times, one is sold out of rooms while another at the same place has rooms. As well we often find some European hotels, especially smaller ones, on Booking.com but not on Expedia. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.

Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO)

Are you traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?

With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.

VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network with access to all lodging forms should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family with no problems.

Viator

As the leading marketplace for travel experiences, Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier.

With industry-leading flexibility and last-minute availability, it’s never too late to make any day extraordinary. This one site has it all and has experiences throughout the world. We use them often during our travels, especially for food tours. We especially take the time to read the reviews provided.

Amazon.com

An excellent source for travel essentials and guides

We now have our own Amazon Storefront with all our favorite travel accessories and gear in one place. Check out our travel store at the link below.

Wanderers Compass Amazon Storefront

Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. On behalf of their customers, teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com offer extensive options to customers.

We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.

HYDAWAY

This is not your ordinary drinkware company. The HYDAWAY difference is what their products do when you’re not using them. Practical and portable, HYDAWAY doesn’t take up unnecessary space in your already-packed life or pile up in landfills. We all know that trying to pack light while being environmentally conscious can be difficult. Having the right items can make a world of difference. HYDAWAY provides that.

We have used their collapsible water bottle, carrying case for the water bottle, and collapsible insulated drink tumbler. They are all lightweight and durable. A conservation-focused product you can be proud to buy.

Use our Promo Code. WANCOM15, at checkout for 15% off your Hydaway order

Welcome Pick-ups
(Airport and sightseeing service)

A global leader in ground transportation for travelers. They help hundreds of companies worldwide enhance their services and boost their revenue with our 5-star ride experiences and hassle-free automation.

Founded in 2015 in Athens, Greece, Welcome Pick-ups goes above and beyond the standard transfer service as the first company to deliver a holistic, in-destination travel experience. From the moment a traveler arrives at a new destination until they return home, Welcome accommodates all their travel needs (transfers, travel products, things to do, information) as the easiest, friendliest, and most personalized solution.

PhotoAiD

Do you feel like you are wasting time visiting an on-site photographer only to be embarrassed by the photo? Would you like control of the final product? Get the perfect VISA or passport photo online with PhotoAID.

When traveling, you often need to apply for official documents such as a passport, ID, and different kinds of licenses or cards. Those applications require a picture that must meet specific conditions to be accepted, depending on the country. Now, it is possible to take this picture at home without the help of a professional photographer. PhotoAiD allows you to take the perfect biometric photo that will be approved by you without leaving your home.

This article contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Mexico City
Art Work in Mexico City

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