- Visited October 2018
Hola amigos! I began my Mexico adventure in the densely populated and vibrant capital city of Mexico City, which is around 7500 ft above sea level. My visit timed perfectly with the Día de Muertos holiday, AKA the Day of the Dead, which on the downside meant that the city was busier than usual with tourists, but it was exciting to be here for the holiday, after watching films such as ‘Spectre’ and ‘Coco’. When thinking of Día de Muertos, many will picture the spectacular parade which opens ‘Spectre’ without knowing that the parade was only created for the film – though clever city officials have since arranged a parade to attract tourists every year since the film’s release in 2015. If you want to be here for the parade, it takes place on the Saturday before the national holiday 1st – 2nd November. As I had a ticket for the New Orleans Voodoo music festival that weekend I was unable to fly to Mexico City until after the parade, but there was still plenty to see around the city in celebration. Rather than being a sombre event, Día de Muertos is a joyous remembrance of lost loved ones. Figures that were featured in the parade were left on display until 4th November in the Zócalo, or Plaza de la Constitución, to give its formal name. Particularly in the evenings, the surrounding streets thronged with people dressed up in various Halloween-style outfits or as La Catrina. Alters were created in buildings and in the streets for people to pay their respects. Many families choose to celebrate privately in local cemeteries and respectful outsiders are welcome although you may feel more comfortable staying around the main tourist areas if you don’t want to intrude.
If you intend to come to Mexico City, give yourself enough time to explore its delights. I stayed for almost a week and didn’t get to do everything. This is a large sprawling metropolis! Public transport is good though. The metro is easy to use and cheap – 5 pesos a ride. You buy your ticket from the seller at the ticket booth. Trains can get very packed so even though you can get the metro from the airport, you may prefer to take a taxi if you have luggage. I braved the metro and it was an experience! I don’t speak much Spanish (though I am working on it…) and the locals don’t speak much English but they were very helpful, aiding me in working out what line to take to reach my desired station. It wasn’t easy but I made it to my hostel OK. Free wifi is not as available here as I’ve found in other countries so I would recommend buying a local sim card with a basic data package to help you get around – I paid 70 pesos for a sim card and data when I arrived and it really made life easier.
My hostel offered a free walking tour which was a great introduction to the city and key historical sites such as La Catedral Metropolitana, the beautiful art deco Palacio Postal (post office) and Palacio de Bellas Artes. A visit to the La Catedral Metropolitana is an absolute must. The Frida Kahlo museum, located in the Colonia del Carmen neighborhood of Coyoacán, is one of the most popular museums in Mexico City and I would recommend buying your ticket online as visitor numbers are restricted so only a certain number of people are allowed in each day. I couldn’t get a ticket during my stay (probably due to the high volume of tourists here for Día de Muertos) but I will be returning for a night next week and have managed to acquire a ticket for then.
A trip to Mexico City would not be complete without an evening of Lucha Libre – Mexican wrestling – at Arena Mexico. My hostel organised a package for 600 pesos which included a ticket, mezcal, tacos and transport but some hostel mates and I were able to do it much cheaper. We shared an Uber to the venue and bought tickets on the door. They only had 80 peso tickets left but you will have a good view wherever you sit. It was good fun – part sport, part theatre. You are not allowed to take in your own food or drink and be prepared for your bag and yourself to be searched as you enter. They don’t like you to take in cameras but they’re OK with smart phones and you can take photos and videos if you wish.
Though there is plenty to do in the city itself, a popular day trip is to the pyramids at Teotihuacan. You can get an Uber there or do what we did – a 5 peso bus ride to Mexico Norte bus station and then bought 104 peso return tickets. To buy tickets, turn left when you walk in the station and head towards the end, looking out for the counter that says Teotihuacan. The bus journey is about an hour. Once at Teotihuacan, you have to pay a 70 peso entry free which grants you access to the pyramids and the museum. Take water, sunscreen and a hat with you as there is not much shade.
Some other suggested places to visit: La Condesa and Roma areas of the city (Merced Roma is a hip food court – had lovely food here); Castillo de Chapultepec, the Chapultepec Castle (which featured in Baz Luhrmann’s iconic ‘Romeo + Juliet’) in Bosque de Chapultepec; Xochimilco, known for its brightly painted canal boats; and Santuario Nacional del Angel de la Santa Muerte, a church dedicated to the Mexican skeleton saint.
Two food recommendations: I had delicious authentic Mexican food at Salon Corona and Cafe El Popular. You should also try street food places that have a queue of locals outside – a good low-budget option.
*Note on the weather – when visiting late October/November, be prepared for intermittent rain showers. Each day began with the sun shining but it did rain every day. Take an umbrella or lightweight rain jacket with you as well as sunscreen. It’s easy to underestimate the sun when it’s cloudy.
Selection of pictures from my stay: