This edition of the “Travel Like A Local” series is brought to you by Laura Bronner, author of the Eternal Expat. After 8 years living in 6 different countries, she is now based in Mexico City, the city she will talk about in this post! Read on to find out all the local insider tips on how to travel Mexico City, including where to stay, where to eat and off the beaten track locations!
Hi Laura, tell us a bit about yourself! What city do you feel like a local in?
Hello! So, I’m Laura, a blogger and travel writer over at Eternal Expat. I’ve been living abroad in different countries since 2010, and I currently like a local in Mexico City.
How long did you live there for?
I’ve lived here for almost two years! Crazy how quickly time goes!
What are your favourite places to eat?
My favorite places to eat are at street vendors or small taco restaurants around the city. My absolute favorite spots are at El Huequito for the tacos el pastor, Taqueria el Greco for tacos Arabe, Tacos Alvaro Obregon for pastor alambre, and El Pescadito for marlin tacos.
For something a little bit fancier, check out Pujol and Merotoro. They both do fantastic upscale Mexican cuisine.
Do you have a favourite place to study or work?
I usually work from home, but I do love going to El Pendulo in Polanco (there are other locations around the city, but I really love this one).
What about when you want to relax? Do you have a favourite relaxing spot?
There is a little place inside Chapultepec Park where you can get away from all the noise of the big city. It’s called the Auditorium and there are a few benches, speakers that play classical music, and it’s totally surrounded by bamboo.
Is there a typical activity locals do in their free time?
With such a big city (over 22 million), locals do all kinds of things in their free time. You’ll find most restaurants packed on the weekends for brunch or late lunches at around 3pm. People also love to head to Chapultepec Park or to one of the great art museums like Soumaya or Franz Mayer to see what exhibits are on for the week.
What is your favourite activity or thing to do in Mexico City?
There is so much to do in Mexico City, but I almost always end up strolling around Condesa, getting a coffee, and sitting in Parque Mexico to read or people watch.
Do you have a favourite photo spot?
The city’s main square where you can find the cathedral, the parliament building, Aztec ruins, and tons of visitors is actually one of my favorite photography spots. I love all of the old buildings contrasted against the often blue skies. For really great views and photo opps, I recommend going to the top of the Latino Americana building.
When is the best time to visit Mexico City?
I think the end of the wet season is the absolute best. Luckily it coincides with one of the city’s best events – Day of the Dead. I think the end of October and most of November is the best time to visit Mexico City. The weather is perfect – blue skies, warm temperatures of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day (21 degrees Celsius) and still warm at night. You can enjoy the Day of the Dead Parade, see the city come to life with marigold flowers everywhere, and experience a very fascinating part of Mexican culture.
What’s one “touristy” thing in your city everyone should actually do?
Ride a boat at Xochimilco. It’s a popular weekend activity for Mexico City locals, but it can feel quite touristy when you’re there. Go with a few friends, rent a boat, and bring music and beer with you. Then enjoy the spectacle as Mariachi Bands float over to your boat to play music and women paddle over with freshly made tacos and quesadillas.
What’s one “off the beaten track” place people don’t normally know about but should know about?
There’s a stunning set of Aztec ruins that often gets left out of guide books for some reason. It’s easily accessible by public transport and Uber and it is a really awesome spot if you enjoy history. It’s called Cuicuilco and has a really beautiful five-story round pyramid.
Any tips or tricks on how to navigate Mexico City?
If you don’t mind crowded subways, the Metro is the cheapest and fastest way to get around the city. Avoid it during rush hour when everyone packs in like sardines. Uber in Mexico City is another easy and cheap way to get around, but again, avoid travel at rush hour or you’ll be sitting in traffic for hours.
Any tips on how to visit Mexico City like a local so that travellers reading this can blend in?
Learn a few Spanish phrases and what the different street foods are before you come. Very few people in the city speak English and if you want to enjoy all of the amazing street food, you’ll definitely want to know what you’re ordering. Don’t worry about being perfect, but it will help you immensely as you travel around the city.
What is the best area in Mexico City to stay in? Any specific hotels you can recommend?
There are plenty of great places to stay in Mexico City. If you want to be near all of the history, stay in the Historic Center at Chaya B&B. If you want to be in the hipster part of town near cool bars and good cafes, stay in Roma Norte at La Palomilla. If you want to be near the parks, good tacos, and plenty of top-class restaurants, stay in Condesa and Condesa Haus.
Other good neighborhoods worth checking out are Polanco and Coyoacan, although the latter is a bit far from most of the attractions.
What do you love most about Mexico City?
The food. I truly love the cuisine from the humble street taco to the fantastic cosmopolitan restaurants. I’ve never had a bad meal in Mexico City.
Anything else you want to share about Mexico City?
Just embrace it. Mexico City is chaotic and loud and sometimes not that glamorous, but it’s also full of kind and funny people, amazing food, beautiful architecture, and world-class museums.
Have you been to Mexico City before? How did you find it? Let us know in the comments below! If you want to go beyond Mexico City, check out this guide to visiting Teotihuacan, beautiful pyramids that you can visit on a day trip from Mexico City.