Aeromexico Flight 454 from Havana, Cuba lands in Mexico City, Mexico at 8:20 am on June 18th. Our connection flight back to Medellin, Colombia leaves in 11 hours. Just outside of the airport the biggest city in the american continent awaits. Over 20 million people live in Mexico city (including the metropolitan area), so traffic gets a bit hectic sometimes.
In any other city, 11 hours might seem like plenty of time to leave the airport, take a metro downtown, have some lunch, see some sights, drink a coffee, and head back to the airport with no rush. But Mexico City’s traffic and public transportation can be a nightmare if you are a newbie (like us). Luckily, we had a friend who had been living in the city for over three years who was willing to take us on a quick tour.
We took an Uber to her place in Condesa and from there headed to our first stop: breakfast. Sam and I love Mexican food, and this was going to be our first time experiencing real Mexican food. We headed to a restaurant/café called Doña Blanca (Río Nazas 210 Esq. Río Ganges) where we had three different waiters approaching us as soon as we sat down. One of them handed us the menus, another one carrying two jars, one with coffee and one with juice, offered us something to drink. The third one was carrying a basket full of pastries. This is such a great idea. In Spain I am always the person who devours the entire basket of bread before the actual meal arrives. So, having a cup of hot coffee to drink and a pastry to eat to calm my hunger while looking at the menu sounds awesome to me.
I got the “Mata Hambre” which translates to “hunger-killer”. It was a plate of red chilaquiles on top of cheesy bread with eggs and beans, and it was one of the best breakfasts I have ever had in my entire life:
The best part? Three breakfasts like this, plus coffee, juice, and pastries for the three of us: less than $10 USD. Not per person, in total. This is actually no surprise, according to the Backpacker Index 2017, Mexico City is ranked as the 3rd cheapest city in Latin America (among main destinations). Just to give you an idea, according to Expatistan, Mexico City is 38% cheaper than Rio and 30% cheaper than Buenos Aires (and 62% and 67% cheaper than London and New York respectively).
Stomach full and batteries recharged, we headed downtown to see some of the sights Mexico City has to offer. We walked from Condesa towards the Chapultepec Castle down the Paseo de la Reforma. Our first stop was at the Angel de la Independencia, probably one of the most famous monuments in Mexico City:
We kept walking down Paseo de la Reforma until we arrived at the castle. At this point, we had been in Mexico City for about two hours, and we have to say that everywhere we had gone thus far seemed pretty safe, especially around Paseo de la Reforma. Mexico City (and Mexico as a whole country) has a bad reputation for being a pretty dangerous city. But just like in any big city, it really depends on which areas of the city you visit and the time of day. Anyway, it is always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and not show your foreign-ness too much.
Our next stop was Chapultepec Castle, which currently serves as the National Museum of History. It was originally designed in 1775 by a Spanish Vicery as a royal residence. However, it wasn’t until 1864 when Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico lived there that it was actually used for its original purpose.
After this visit, we headed to our last stop in Mexico City: the Zocalo. The Constitution Square, commonly known as the Zocalo, is the main square in Mexico City where we also visited the Metropolitan Cathedral, which is worth checking out. This is one of the biggest tourist hotspots in the city, where many visitors take pictures in front of the massive Mexican flag placed in the middle of the square (we did too, of course).
There are many restaurants located on the terraces of the surrounding buildings where you can get an incredible view. These restaurants are not expensive but they are definitely pricier than the restaurants you can find just a few blocks away. It’s also worth taking the elevator up to one of the terraces and admiring the view over a beer. If you are on a tight schedule like we were, you can just pretend you are interested in the menu and snap a few shots. The picture at top of this article is a good example of it.
Of course, we just couldn’t leave the city without eating again, so we walked towards the Palacio de Bellas Artes down the busy pedestrian Francisco Madero street, where we switched our backpacks into chestpacks for the first time that day. Just a couple of blocks away from the Palacio, we found this small restaurant where we had some amazing tacos:
I have never met people more proud of their food than Mexicans, and they have every right to be. This taco stop led us to the end of our day in Mexico City. We took the metro back to the airport (which by the way, has a few of its cars exclusively designated for women and children) and flew back to Medellin. But we will be back.