On my way back from Cuba, I had a 3 day stopover in Mexico City – as I had a layover there anyway, I figured I might as well spend a couple of days there.
Mexico City, Ciudad de Mexico also stylised as CDMX, is the largest city in North America and is also at altitude – over 7,300 feet, which I hadn’t realised beforehand. The city is in a basin and surrounded by peaks and volcanoes which makes for an interesting descent into the airport.
I had arrived from Cuba in the early evening. I was staying at an Ibis Styles in Zona Rosa district. After a brief wander and a McDonalds (ordered in my faltering Spanish), I had an early night as I had an early start the following day for a guided tour around some of the main sights in the centre of the city.
I was met at the hotel by my guides and we took a local bus and then the Metro to the historic centre of Mexico City. We emerged from the metro onto the Zocalo, the main plaza in Mexico City. We visited the Templo Mayor and its museum which contains heaps of artefacts from the excavation of the site, and lots of history on the Mexica peoples. We popped into the cathedral briefly as mass was taking place, and then walked through the streets towards the Palacio de belles artes (Palace of Fine Arts) and Alameda Park. The trees all around the city had this gorgeous purple blossom (I visited in March 2019).
We then had authentic Mexican tacos for lunch (delicious) and visited Diego Rivera’s famous mural before heading to San Juan market to try some (less delicious) local delicacies including grasshoppers and ants. I can’t say I enjoyed them, but when in Rome…
That was the end of the guided tour, and I took an Uber back to my hotel for a quick refresh before heading off down the Avenida Chapultepec towards Chapultepec Castle (featured as the starting point of series 2 of the BBC’s Race Across The World). I wandered around the castle and its grounds for the rest of the afternoon before heading back to the hotel for another early night.
The next day I had another guided tour – in the morning we took the metro out to the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe in the north of Mexico City. The site contains the Old Basilica and a Modern Basilica which was built in the 1970s as the Old Basilica was sinking due to the terrain on which CDMX is built. Following repairs, the Old Basilica is still open to the public to visit but the masses are mainly held in the Modern Basilica which can hold up to 10,000 people.
In the afternoon, we took a local bus about 25 miles outside of the city, to the Teotihuacán pyramids. The 2 main pyramids here are the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. I was quite surprised to find that we were allowed to scale both of them, as well as some of the smaller pyramids surrounding the site.
We then went to a local obsidian shop, and stopped by a local hostelry where we tried pulque and tequila, and then went for dinner for some more genuine Mexican fare. After dinner we headed back to the city on the bus, and then I took the metro back to my hotel.
The next day was my final day in CDMX, though my flight wasn’t until late in the evening so I still had a full day to explore. I’d booked a ticket to the Frida Kahlo museum, and made my way there via the metro. The metro in Mexico City definitely has a reputation and as a solo female traveller I certainly had to have my wits about me. The front carriages on Metro trains are reserved for women and children only, and I used these when travelling on the metro by myself. I also wore my backpack on my front, as indeed many of the locals were doing. I didn’t feel unsafe, but I was well aware that I needed to look out for myself.
The Frida Kahlo museum is in her former house in Coyoacán, and is a bright azure blue. That, along with the queue, makes sure you can’t miss it! An incredibly interesting woman.
So, in summary, Mexico City was well worth a couple of days on a stopover. Lots of history, great food and loads of interesting things to see. Definitely recommend!