I would use this to get around: Metro. The system in Mexico is slick and you can get to every single tourist attraction and location of interest underground. It costs MX $3, which is approximately the equivalent of an old grocery receipt that went through the wash and a hair elastic you found at the beach. So, cheap. I will say this, however: while it is faster than any other mode of transportation in the city, changing lines means walking at least 5 minutes to get from one platform to the other in many cases and the distance between stops is pretty significant. A ride that looks quick and easy may, in fact, be a bit of a haul if you’re towing a heavy backpack or a toddler or both. (Ugh. I hope you’re not doing that.)
I would stay here: In Zona Rosa. There are tons of budget hostels and high end-hotels in this area, so it’s easy to find a room that fits your style and budget. It’s a great location because it’s near a metro stop and the area is full of shops, bars, cafés and restaurants. It’s not super Mexican-y, but it’s safer than the more “authentic” neighbourhoods and, in my solo traveler opinion, that’s a big plus. Having said that, I didn’t stay here. I stayed at a hostel near the zócalo called Hostel Amigo Suites and it was decent. The staff were wonderful and the place was very clean and well-organized but, like I said, the neighbourhood wasn’t the very best. I didn’t get murdered or kidnapped or anything, but there were a few times where I definitely felt like anything was possible.
I would eat here: There’s a neighbourhood called La Condesa in Mexico City that kind of reminds me of So-Ho or Greenwich Village in NYC. It’s full of little bistros and cafés, as well as some trendy and highly acclaimed restaurants, most of which line Avenida Michoacán. On the other hand, street food in Mexico is just so cheap and tasty that it’s worth whatever may happen to your digestive system as a consequence. Little food stands are everywhere and, if you see one with tons of people waiting in front, hit it. FYI: It’s a tough scene for vegetarians, so if you don’t eat meat be very clear when ordering and, if you speak Spanish, ask about the ingredients just to be sure. Another option is Sanborn’s, which is sort of like the Mexican version of Denny’s. There are locations all over Mexico and my father, an honest-to-goodness Mexican, used to go to Sanborn’s every single Sunday with his father after church. I’m not saying it’s particularly delicious or gastronomically mind-blowing, but it’s definitely a bit of an institution in Mexico. There’s usually a small department store adjacent to the restaurant as well, which sells everything from hangbags to iPods to toothpaste to kitchy knick-knacks, should you be in the market.
I would drink here: Once again, La Condesa and Zona Rosa are two hot spots for all things trendy and happening, so if you’re looking to grab a few coronas with a few amigos, take a stroll in either of these neighbourhoods. I can’t give you any specific recommendations because my hostel sold cold beer out of a vending machine for MX $20, so I really didn’t venture too far from the rooftop patio once the sun went down. Sorry.
I would do this: Mexico City has got some really great galleries and museums for your contemplation. For artsy folk, Frida Kahlo‘s house is really quite a spot. The artist was born and died in a little blue hacienda just down the way in an area called Coyoacan, which is accessible by metro and a lovely place to spend half a day or so. The house has many of her unreleased works on display, as well as a huge collection of personal items that belonged to both Kahlo and her husband, artist Diego Rivera. Definitely worth the trip and MX $55 entrance fee. An obvious choice, but still worth mentioning, is the Museum of Anthropology. Full of national treasures from ancient Aztec and Maya civilizations, among others, it’s an easy trip no matter where you’re staying and is even better if paired with a trip to the ruins at Téotihaucan. If spandex-clad adults jumping on top of each other appeals to you, make a solid effort to catch a Mexican wrestling match while in town. There are two arenas, Arena México and Arena Coliseo. Arena México is the big, main venue, but it’s in a SUPER sketchy part of town so be sure to either catch a cab or, even better, go with an organized tour. Coliseo is in a nicer neighbourhood, and is also smaller and cheaper, meaning you can get closer to the action for less. Despite being the sort of B-List arena, the “quality” of the “wrestling” is still “awesome”. Either way, both spots sell bazillions of masks/tshirts outside and beer/snacks inside, so bring a few extra pesos. Arena México will make you check your camera at the door so don’t bring it, but they don’t seem to care at all about cell phone cameras once inside the stadium.
I wouldn’t do this: Rent a car in Mexico City. Not only does driving look like a really terrible experience in D.F., the place is already full of pollution and nasty air so maybe don’t add to the situation and just use the great public transportation systems in place already.