The travel writer Pico Iyer once said, “Travel lays the table for the feast you enjoy sitting still back home. Stillness is the end point of any trip; it’s the way you convert sights into insights and bring the experience (in every sense) home.”
Travel lays the table for the feast you enjoy sitting still back home.
That quote rings so true for me. In the last year and a half, I’ve traveled to Italy, Thailand, Korea, Scotland, Israel, Seychelles, Turkey, London and Mexico. I’ve also traveled to Cambodia, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Hawaii and Canada and, of course, all the best parts of Northern California.
I’d love to help you plan your next trip, laying the table for a feast you’ll remember and enjoy for years to come. Here are my recommendations for where to eat, stay, and visit, and inside peeks into each culture.
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Mexico City, or the DF (Distrito Federal), is a vibrant, intoxicating and romantic city. My boyfriend James and I spent 3.5 days there, and I came back home buzzing with energy. With a population of over 20 million, it’s no wonder the city is so lively.
- Just 30 miles from Mexico City (and a 45-minute bus ride away), this ancient Mayan city is home to breathtaking pyramids and ruins. Even to this day, the origins of Teotihuacan remain a mystery. (The inner Indiana Jones in me was going nuts!) Be sure to climb up the steps of the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon pyramids and then head to lunch at La Gruta, the nearby restaurant in a cave.
- Utilitario Mexicano: Bon Appetit called this housewares shop the “Muji of Mexico” and Marina, my bff from Casa Goliana, described it as “everyday Mexican things, but cool.” Everything – from the store design to the blankets, baskets and ceramics – are beautifully minimal.
- Barrio Alameda: We happened upon this set of shops when we were looking for the now-closed-Centro-location of Utilitario Mexicano. The space is fun and design-y with tons of plants, bars, restaurants and quirky boutiques.
- Expendio Durango: Although it’s a small space primarily serving coffee/sandwiches/pastries, Expendio Durango also has cute home and kitchen goods for sale, like salts, honey and pretty wooden vessels. Worth popping in after lunch next door at Contramar.
- Public parks
- Even though Mexico City is a bustling metropolitan area, there are lush green parks everywhere. On Sundays, the whole city hangs out in them. It’s really fun to just hang out, walk around, drink a coffee and people watch. Chapultepec is the main park, rivaling the likes of Central Park, complete with a castle, a zoo and a few museums.
- Farmers markets
- Farmers markets in Mexico City are fun because you can walk by all the food stalls and see what’s cooking and buy handmade treats and souvenirs. We went to the Mercado Parque Lincoln, which happens every Saturday in Polanquito, a three-by-three-block area with cute cafes and restaurants.
- Frida Kahlo Museum: We didn’t get a chance to go to the Blue House, but would love to check it out on another trip. Lines are long, so buy your tickets in advance!
- Casa Luis Barragan: I wanted to see the home of Luis Barragan, an influential Mexican architect who’s known for his use of bright colors in modern architecture, but we didn’t make it. Next time! Note: Reservations are required for admission.
- Read the full post (with pictures!) on things to do in Mexico City.
Want to know what guests bring to a Mexico City dinner party? Or what it’s like to live there? Get an inside peek into the culture here.
Where to stay in Mexico City
La Roma – We stayed in La Roma, a district known for its hip vibe and tree-lined streets. I splurged and booked Casa Goliana, a boutique bed and breakfast, and it was well worth it. It’s a historic house with eight guest rooms, waffle-knit bath robes and slippers, and Marina, the effortlessly cool woman working the front desk (whom I secretly wanted to be best friends with). Tons of restaurants, bars, shops and parks are within walking distance, and the European-inspired architecture was beautiful.
Other neighborhoods – I also hear Condesa, which is the district right next to La Roma, is a nice place to stay. If you want to get real fancy, stay in Polanco, where luxury shops and fine dining line the streets.
Another boutique B&B option – I would have loved to stay at Chaya (the hammock rooftop!), but it was booked.
Best restaurants in Mexico City
From street stalls (literally on the sidewalk) to fine dining, Mexico City has it all. A lot of the research I did on where to eat highlighted Japanese, French and Italian restaurants, but all I wanted to eat was Mexican. So! Here’s my list of Mexican restaurants we ate the heck out of. Note: Burritos are not a thing here.
Very affordable ($): Taqueria Orinoco. So, so good. How good? We-went-twice-in-3-days good. Seriously, order the tacos with meat, order the tacos with meat and cheese, and whatever you do, order the thing at the bottom of the menu that’s like a quesadilla. They also have amazing frijoles, aka beans, which arrive in a soup with spring onions, bits of tortilla chips and cilantro on top. I was obsessed.
Really nice ($$$): Contramar. If I think of a place that encapsulates everything about the perfect lunch spot, this is it. The ambiance and diners are almost as intriguing as the dishes themselves. From a woman wearing a tiny white tube top beneath a perfectly over-sized, menswear-inspired suit to our waiter presenting the raw fish fillet they planned to cook for us seconds later, Contramar was a visually and gastronomically pleasing restaurant. They’re known for their tuna tostadas with crispy leeks and whole grilled fish. (p.s. I didn’t know I liked tostadas until I came here.) For dessert, order the fig tart and the spiked iced coffees. Trust me.
High-end ($$$$): Pujol. A Google search result defined Pujol as a “world-class restaurant.” Another called it “cozy and casual.” I haven’t been to enough restaurants in the world to know quite where this ranks, and unless you’re Gwyneth Paltrow and eat this fancy on the reg, it’s not the type of place you just pop into for take-out. But it also isn’t uptight or stuffy. So I’ll just say this: Everything was a delight, including the starter of two baby ears of corn, covered in a spicy mayo with a dusting of crushed ant powder, and mole that had been aged for 1400+ days. A must-visit at least once.
Dessert ($): El Moro. Four words: Churro ice cream sandwiches. The line forever snaking around the corner goes quickly, and the entire shop is so cute. And while most of the menu is cut and dry (churros with and without sugar or with or without dipping sauce), over half a dozen varieties make up the hot chocolate menu!
Most unique ($$): La Gruta. Set inside of a cave and just steps away from the Teotihuacan pyramids, La Gruta is one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever eaten in. The food’s just okay but the tamarind margarita is tasty and the cave setting can’t be beat.
Know what a fish tea is? How about a burd? Keep reading to brush up on your Scottish slang and learn how to talk like a Glaswegian local.