I rarely visit the same city twice. Why would I, when most ill-informed, ad-driven websites out there estimate that there are upwards of 200,000 cities on our planet? I don’t have time to keep going back to the same ones! And yet, oddly, I’ve found myself in Mexico City three times. For some reason I just can’t get enough of this megalopolis with a population of nearly twenty million. (Just typing that makes me want to go play the original Sim City!)
Hmmm… looks like they’re building a lot of industrial and commercial zones, but they haven’t even powered their waterfront residential zones yet!
Anyways, what to do in Mexico City?
You can start by chilling at the Zocalo. That was, in fact, a terrible pun. Do not count on being able to chill anywhere near Mexico City’s zocalo, as it’s huge and hectic. We’re taking bigger-than-50,000 square metres huge. And there’s not really any shade, so the sun will be shining down on your head. However, if you happen to be visiting near Christmas, you may find the city center has been magically turned into a Pepsi-themed Winter Wonderland, complete with soda-sponsored snowmen and skating. Then you can chill out.
Sit on a bench. I don’t think you understand how awesome the benches of Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma are. If you’re lucky enough to find a bench not occupied by a sleeping homeless man (don’t worry, they’re way less aggressive than North American and European panhandlers), take a seat beside an upside-down man, or inside a deck of cars being blown away by the breeze, or on a ship, or on the laps of two friends who are just happy to be spending time together while also providing tourists with a comfortable seat upon which to rest their weary legs (maybe you shouldn’t have worn those bejewelled flip-flops, hey?). I would also like to point out that I’ve spent over eight months in Mexico and the only time anyone tried to scam me was here, amongst the beautiful benches of Paseo de la Reforma. My would-be scammer was a well-dressed middle-aged, Caucasian, American man who claimed to have lost his plane ticket home. I was polite but firm in my unwillingness to help him, and later, when I Googled my story, I found he’d been scamming English-speaking tourists in Mexico for years with his sad tale. Online reports suggest another man is working the resort areas of the Yucatan. He’s a portly African-American male who claims to be a pastor with a diabetic wife. He’s actually a scammer with a pocketful of cash that he swindled from other English-speaking tourists. Don’t avoid these areas… just avoid these scammers. And take note of the fact that they’re not Mexican.
Mexico is actually pretty friendly to vegetarians like myself. Mexico City is particularly great for vegetarians, and there are a number of restaurants that I can’t recommend enough. Jugos Canada is located in the city center and serves up amazing fresh juices to order. I’m convinced their flu-fighting blend of various citrus fruits with honey has saved my immune system on more than one occasion. Further outside the center, in historic Condesa, you’ll find Flor de Lis, an old, family-run restaurant serving up tamales filled with everything you can imagine. On my most recent visit my arrival coincided with a huge pick-up order made by some military personnel, so I spent my entire meal worrying that as I dug into the moist, zucchini-and-cheese-filled masa a machine gun would actually go off and kill me. Totally not an irrational fear. But hey, if it’s good enough for the military, it’s good enough for me.
And I would have to be crazy to let you visit Mexico City without handcuffing you, shoving you in the back of a van and making you go to pretty much the coolest place in and around the city, Xochimilco. I get the appeal of Teotihuacan and its huge pyramids, but (and I’m about to expose my status as a total non-intellectual) to me, a ruin is a ruin. A pyramid is a pyramid (even if it’s a round pyramid). And for God’s sake, an ampitheatre is an ampitheatre. But brightly-painted boats, named after women, that sail the last of the waterways from the days of Montezuma and Cortez? And floating mariachis? And men in canoes selling corn on the cob? You can’t get that just anywhere! Rain (like when I visited) or shine (pretty much the other 364 days a year), Xochimilco is awesome.
Got a question about visiting Mexico City? Post it below and I’ll respond as soon as possible! Need the newest edition of the Lonely Planet? Order here!