Life Update: I’m Moving to Mexico City!
Hello! Thanks for reading! It’s been a fun six months getting this blog off the ground. Since I bought my domain name, I’ve been to countries in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean as well as to some great cities in the US. What I haven’t written about (much) in my blog is where I start and end each trip: the Carolinas! In June 2017, I moved from Seattle to Columbia, the capital of South Carolina which is located about 100 miles south of Charlotte.
However, I won’t be calling South Carolina home for much longer. In a few weeks I’m moving to Mexico City to take on a new role with the company I’ve been with for the past year. If you’ve met me personally, then you know that a defining experience in my life was the year I spent studying abroad in Shanghai (pictured below) when I was in college. I loved living abroad then, and I am so excited to immerse myself in a new culture and language once again!
As you can imagine, Caffeinated Excursions will probably begin to feature cities throughout Mexico and countries throughout Latin America. Colombia, Panama, and Brazil are just a few on my wish list! However, I’ll still come back to the US multiple times a year and I hope to make it back to Europe and Asia soon. No matter where my travels take me, my goal in writing this blog will remain the same: to provide other travelers with helpful information and to inspire readers to explore these amazing destinations!
I was thinking about what else to discuss in this post, and I decided to give a sneak preview of the most prominent and visible attractions Mexico City has to offer! I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve already been three times in the past year, so I’ve been able to check out many (but not all) of the famous tourist destinations. After I live there for a few months, I’ll write a new post highlighting the city’s better-kept secrets I uncover.
So let’s dive into the whirlwind tour of my new home!
With a metropolitan population of over 20 million, Mexico City (Ciudad de México, or CDMX) is the capital of Mexico and the largest city in North America. With constant construction, vendors on every corner, and crazier traffic than you’ll ever see in the US, CDMX has the kind of energy that invigorates cities like New York, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Despite being prone to severe earthquakes, the city is home to Mayan ruins, colonial cathedrals, and towering skyscrapers. And although mountain peaks aren’t visible from many areas, the city sits at a staggering 7400 feet above sea level (Denver is only 5300).
Like other cities of similar size and significance, Mexico City has enough things to do to last a lifetime. With that said, there are a few main attractions that every visitor should see. One thing I really like about this place is that you only need a long weekend to see its most famous sites. But be warned: if you visit once, you’re going to want to come back for more!
Logistically, CDMX is easy to get to from all major airports in the US. Flights are shorter than you might think and customs has always been relatively quick in my experience. They’re also not too expensive: I’ve found one-way tickets from Charlotte for about $140. And even if you end up paying a bit more for the flight, you’ll probably end up saving the money once you arrive; everything from subway tickets to tacos is much cheaper here than in the US.
Attractions in the City
My top recommendation is Bosque de Chapultepec, or the Forest of Chapultepec. As a massive urban green space that houses a museum, a castle, and squirrels that visitors can feed by hand, Chapultepec really gives Central Park a run for its money.
You could easily spend multiple days exploring the park, but if you’re short on time make sure to visit Chapultepec Castle. There’s a small entrance fee which is about 70 pesos if I remember correctly. In my experience, it’s better to go in the morning (the entrance line in the afternoon was pretty long and you’ll be waiting under the midday sun).
Wander through the beautiful courtyards and rooms filled with authentic furnishings from the days when royalty occupied this extravagant residence. The castle also has its own museum with exhibits on Spanish colonization and Mexican independence.
If you have time afterwards, head over to the National Museum of Anthropology which is also located in Chapultepec Park. It has a bunch of interesting exhibits, but the most impressive one is the collection of Mayan artifacts. It’s especially cool to see ancient standards of beauty reflected in the statues on display. Language enthusiasts like me will also appreciate the huge slabs of stone carved with the incredibly intricate Mayan script.
On the other side of town is the Zócalo, a massive public square in the oldest part of the city. On one side of the square is the Metropolitan Cathedral, which was open to visitors when I was last here. This area feels almost European and is pretty touristy.
Directly north of Chapultepec is the neighborhood of Polanco, an upscale residential neighborhood that’s home to many embassies and consulates. A walk along its tree-lined Avenida Horacio is a great way to relax after a day of exploring other parts of the city. At the center of this neighborhood is the Parque América, a small but charming park, and the Parroquia de San Agustín, a beautiful cathedral that towers over the surroundings buildings. A few blocks down is a distinctive pyramid-shaped shopping mall called Palacio de Hierro. Inside you’ll find high-end department stores as well as some nice restaurant choices on the upper level.
After you check out these areas, there’s one day trip you have to take that will bring you outside of city limits. If you’ve always wanted to see pyramids, you don’t have to book a vacation to Egypt. Once you’ve made it to Mexico City, there are a couple right in your backyard…
Someday soon I’ll write a mini-post explaining how to get to the pyramids via bus from the city center for only a few dollars. What’s important to know is that there’s a huge archaeological site located at Teotihuacan, 30 miles outside of the city. The famous Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon stand tall amongst the ruins and offer some great views of the surrounding villages and mountains.
Visiting the pyramids is going to take a whole morning and afternoon (but is definitely worth it), so you might as well have a late lunch at one of the touristy restaurants nearby. I really liked trying cactus at the one I ended up at when I visited with my cousin, and our waiter even gave us free shots of tequila!
Speaking of food and drink…
Man oh man, you have not had Mexican food until you’ve had it in Mexico! In contrast to many Mexican restaurants in the US, meals tend to be slightly less heavy and a bit spicier. However, with countless choices in Mexico City, you can always find exactly what you’re looking for.
One of my favorite restaurants (pictured above) is La Casa de Toño. They have a few locations throughout CDMX and offer a huge variety of different dishes with different toppings. Try a horchata, michelada, or sopes (a traditional Mexican dish that is sort of like an open-faced taco topped with your choice of meat).
If you tend to crave international cuisine, never fear! Mexico City has tons of options for standards such as Japanese, Chinese, and Italian, as well as some other restaurants that specialize in Spanish tapas or regional seafood dishes. I even found a Venezuelan restaurant where I tried pabellón criollo (a traditional Venezuelan dish shown below).
A cool area to check out with tons of hip bars and restaurants is Hipódromo. If you’re looking for some fancy mezcal cocktails or a modern take on Mexican cuisine, try some restaurants in this neighborhood such as La Capital.
Feeling a bit hungry? I don’t blame you! The best part about dining out in CDMX is that it won’t break the bank: even with a drink and appetizer, dinner will probably only cost about $13. And a casual lunch could be $5 or less!
So you’ve seen some of the sites in the heart of the city, gotten a preview of the pyramids in Teotihuacan, and been informed of all the amazing dining choices you will have in Mexico City. Which just leaves one question…
Have You Booked Your Flight Yet?
I have to admit that a year ago, Mexico City hadn’t even crossed my mind. The first two countries I visited post-graduation were the Bahamas and Bermuda, and it was only after this that I began to look at spending a long weekend in Mexico. If you’re like me, you may have grown up in the US and just never given much thought to visiting our neighbors to the south.
For readers who weren’t familiar with Mexico City, I’m hoping that this post has showcased some of the amazing things that exist not too far from home (for American readers, anyways)! If you do visit, feel free to reach out with any questions you may have! As always, stay up to date on safety information (I’ve never had any issues in CDMX, but other states in Mexico may require extra precautions). You can check State Department warnings here.
In any case, I am glad that I visited Mexico City last year because it really exceeded my expectations in every way. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me here professionally; I’m also excited for all the new travel opportunities that will come with being based in Mexico. And who knows, maybe I’ll be adding content to the blog in Spanish soon! 🙂
Saludos / cheers,
Kevin ( The Caffeinated Wanderer )