Spend a weekend in Mexico City. It’s just enough time. Pack your jeans to sight see and plan to change into cocktail casual for dinner. Enjoy the exotic feeling of a foreign country, and relish that it came without paying the price in jetlag.
Stay in the Centro Historico and plan to soak up the local culture. Explore Parque Alameda, enjoy the fountains and manicured gardens. Eat a snack – try tacos with meat and grilled nopales piled high on hand made corn tortillas, and make sure to squeeze a lime over the top. Buy perfectly sweet aguas frescas made with guavas and soursop to sip as you mull over the Diego Rivera mural. Watch the skateboarders, the couples, the babies and ponder the lives of the locals in the park.
Go to dinner at Maximo Bistrot in Condesa. Catch an uber, it won’t cost you much. As you arrive, observe the distinct vibe of the neighborhood. Get the tasting menu – it isn’t overly adventurous but you’ll learn about the new Mexican cuisine growing in the city. Walk off all 7 courses by finding the nightlife in the neighborhood. It’s lively, and just a few blocks over. The crowd is young and full of tourists. If you find yourself in need of a midnight snack afterwards, catch another uber to the Taqueria El Califa, and marvel at the delicacies you can put on a taco – like a thin and delicate ‘pancake’ made of melty cheese. Wonder why tacos in a restaurant never taste as good as tacos seasoned with truck fumes from the street.
Go home and rest up for a big day of sightseeing.
Start the next morning at a leisurely pace. Walk to El Cardenal for their famous breakfast. Put your name on the list and walk another block to the Zocalo instead of queuing up with the other patrons. Marvel at the size of the town square when you see it, and all of the colonial buildings. Turn your attention to the Catedral Metropolitano and feel dwarfed. Go in and take your time staring in awe at the architecture, golden altars, artwork, and giant organs.
Make your way to the museum of the ruins of the Templo Mayor, a UNESCO world heritage site. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a performance of an Aztec dance in traditional warrior garb. Walk through the ruins and marvel at the advanced technologies and rich culture apparent even in the ancient foundations. Wonder how they created working plumbing from stone and why they chose to use it for fountains. Brush your head against an archway and muse that the tallest person they could imagine was an average height today.
Find out that the temple you are walking through is one of the oldest and smallest layers of what used to be an imposing tower and pick your jaw up off the floor. Find out that the church and all the buildings surrounding the square were built from stones taken from the outer layers of the temple. Pick your jaw up again. Look at the artifacts in the museum and try to imagine them in the ruins you just walked through.
Go back to El Cardenal for your snack sized breakfast. Peek into the bakery as you go up the stairs. At your table, select a fresh pastry from the basket the waiter brings and eat it with the hot chocolate whipped with a molinillo at your tableside. Walk back to the hotel and get ready to eat at one of the world’s best restaurants.
At Quintonil, get the tasting menu, and prepare to be blown away with small bites packed with flavor, and traditional ingredients coaxed into haute cuisine. Marvel at the chef’s passion for his food every time he comes to your table to plate your dish and discuss the contents. Thank him for his art before you leave.
Walk off your 22 course lunch at the Bosque de Chapultepec – you’ll have plenty of space because it’s twice as large as Central Park. Make your way up Chapultepec Hill to Chapultepec Castle. Explore the museum filled with gold and precious artifacts from days of Emperor’s as well as soldiers. Reflect on what it means to be a patriot as you gaze upon the mural of The Boy Hero. Find a few peaceful moments in the gardens overlooking the city and the smog. Wonder what it would be like to wake up to that view.
Go home to refresh yourself and dress for your dinner reservations. Get hyped about eating at another of the world’s best restaurants, this one with a celebrity chef – Pujol! When you arrive at the new location, take a moment to appreciate the way the architecture makes the the inside feel al fresco. Eat another delicious meal, and head home to fall into a food coma with after dinner chocolates in your pocket.
Get an early start on Sunday morning to pack. Get to the Palacio de Bellas Artes before it opens, and spend some time walking in the gardens and appreciating the architecture. When you finally enter, try to catch a glimpse into the theater as you climb the stairs to the galleries. Take in the treasure trove of murals and art works by Mexican artists. Go to the very top floor to see blue prints and models of the building itself.
When you leave the Palace, take a detour to the Palacio de Correos, to see the most beautiful post office ever. Wander around and wonder if the people who send their mail here still complain if there’s slow service.
Grab a snack at the Churreria el Moro down the road. Salivate a little when you see the giant churros being piped into boiling oil as you walk in. Seat yourself and enjoy the live music as you peruse the menu for chocolate and churros. Tell one of the matronly figures in 50’s diners uniforms what you would like, and in minutes light and crispy churros dusted in cinnamon sugar will arrive at your table. Sip the subtly sweet chocolate and savor each bite.
Once satisfied, go back to the Bosque Chapultepec, this time the other side, to visit the national Museum of Anthropology. Realize you could spend all day here, but ration your time with each artifact. Once you’re cutting it close to departure time, head back to the artisan market in Parque Alameda. Sip an horchata as you shop for gifts. Decide to eat grasshoppers as a snack if you’re braver than me, or go to a cerveceria to order tacos and watch football with the crowd.
Before you’re ready, sit in Mexico City traffic one last time before getting on a plane home. Use the time to plan your trip back.