When most Americans think of vacationing in Mexico, they think of all-inclusive resorts in Cancún, beautiful beaches in Tulum, or cruising around Cozumel, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. The rest of the country is often put off as one big scary place of crime, murder and drug cartels. So, when I told friends I was spending two weeks alone in Mexico City, they were like, "huh?"
I'm no stranger to taking the road less traveled. I spent half of the year traveling all over Africa. But no place has surprised me more than Mexico City.
A flight deal for $225 from the U.S. led me to the Mexican capital that chilangos (the locals) call the D.F., short for Distrito Federal. I found an Airbnb for $20 a night in Colonia Roma Norte, a bohemian hood with cocktail lounges, art galleries, restaurants and cafes, with no expectations other than to eat lots of tacos and drink lots of mezcal.
What I found in the D.F. was a sprawling metropolis rich in art, culture, history and gastronomy, rivaling world-class cities like New York and Paris. No wonder the New York Times crowned Mexico City the no. 1 place to go in 2016.
A photo posted by Charlise (@chartastical) on Aug 16, 2016 at 10:56pm PDT
A photo posted by Charlise (@chartastical) on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:37pm PDT
It has lots of flavor...
Fresh off the plane, I was twirled around a dance floor by chilangos at Pulqueria La Hija de Los Apaches. After sampling pulque, Mexico's oldest alcoholic drink made from fermented agave sap, I was ready for a night of Mexican-style wrestling at Lucha Libre. And it was only Tuesday.
The food is delicious...
With street food on nearly every corner and a restaurant scene that boasts three of the world's best (Quintonil, Pujol and Biko), Mexico City has it all. I became a regular at Tres Galeones for the fish tacos, Panederia Rosetta for the guava and cheese pastry, and Marisqueria el K-guamo for octopus ceviche tostadas, thanks to recommendations from travel concierge app Journy.
A video posted by Charlise (@chartastical) on Aug 22, 2016 at 3:19pm PDT
A perfect cocktail is never too far...
Steps from my Airbnb was one of the world's 50 best bars, Licorería Limantour, where craft cocktails (and presentation) are taken very seriously. The Mezcal Stalk with pineapple, lemon and agave syrup was my favorite. Trendy food court Lucerna Comedor's Sangria Iced Tea is made with a potent mix of red wine, mezcal and liqueur that kept me coming back for more.
The architecture is gorgeous...
A photo posted by Charlise (@chartastical) on Aug 22, 2016 at 11:07am PDT
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A photo posted by Charlise (@chartastical) on Aug 28, 2016 at 2:45pm PDT
History runs deep...
About an hour outside of Mexico City are the pyramids of Teotihuacan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ancient Mesoamerican city is thought to have been established in 100 BC.
A photo posted by Charlise (@chartastical) on Aug 18, 2016 at 8:56am PDT
Museums are everywhere...
Mexico City has more than 150 museums, second only to Paris. Museo Soumaya is stunning inside and out. Other world-class museums in the D.F. include Museo Nacional de Antropología and Museo Nacional de Arte.
A photo posted by Charlise (@chartastical) on Aug 24, 2016 at 7:26pm PDT
There's a park with a castle...
Bosque de Chapultepec is the largest city park in the Western Hemisphere. It's home to Castillo de Chapultepec, an 18th century castle that once hosted armies, presidents and emperors, as well as museums, a zoo, and an amusement park.
A photo posted by Bosque de Chapultepec (@chapultepeccdmx) on Jul 24, 2016 at 2:48pm PDT
Murals on murals...
"Los Tres Grandes" (the three great ones), painters Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquieros, are the godfathers of Mexican muralism. Their politically charged post Mexican Revolution murals can be found all over the city on public buildings, in parks, and in museums.
A photo posted by Charlise (@chartastical) on Aug 21, 2016 at 2:19pm PDT
Frida Khalo, obviously...
One of Mexico City's most beloved residents is artist and international feminist icon Frida Khalo. The famous blue house where she lived and died, La Casa Azul, is now a historic house and art museum in the borough of Coyoacan.
A photo posted by Charlise (@chartastical) on Aug 18, 2016 at 2:02pm PDT
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A photo posted by Charlise (@chartastical) on Aug 25, 2016 at 6:15pm PDT
P.S. Because of its high elevation, the CDC declared Mexico City safe from Zika.
Are you ready to visit Mexico City? Send me a direct message on Instagram for more tips.
Charlise is a travel writer and former editor at ESSENCE.com. Follow her travel diary on Instagram at @chartastical.