Mexico City, an insider's view.

There's the touristy places... and then there's what i can recommend you.

Mexico City, an insider's view.

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

Mexico City can fulfill every dream, expectation, or idea you may have about it... even nightmares... so wouldn't you like me to tell you where to go and what to avoid?${QuickSuggestions} The museums are high quality, you really oughta give a few of them a chance. There's all the nightlife and entertainment you could possibly wish for, and there's heaps of restaurants with every imaginable cuisine available. Cultural activities galore, you may even catch some festival or celebration. From the most modern architecture to colonial treasures to the most ancient ruins, Mexico City is a live display of our roots, our way of life, our culture and influences, at our best and worst. And i'm about to make sure you'll only take in the good stuff.${BestWay} This city is huge. It's actually the world's largest, and if you were fortunate enough to arrive by plane at night, you know what i'm talking about. I recommend you stay someplace nice and safe. Plan to spend the day in a specific area of the city, get there by taxi 'de sitio' (don't hail a cab off the street), and walk around. I don't really recommend buses, microbuses, or peceras (public transportation), and only some subway lines are safe enough to ride. But I'll get into this in detail on another entry.

Cafebreria El Pendulo

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

You can come and have lunch, dinner, or just an evening cup of coffee with a piece of pie... but you'll stay for much longer than the duration of that meal. This cafe is a highly cultural spot, attracting well-read crowds and art-lovers. It sells books, cd's, and movies of all kinds, and appealing to all tastes.

Sit on the terrace and watch the people strolling by, take in the sunset, the lovely breeze...or sit inside, where they have comfy sofas and coffee tables resembling a cozy living-room, inviting you and your party to chat for hours. More often than not, there'll be a movie playing on the upstairs screen. Or you can catch a live jazz band some weekday evenings...

The polanco cafe is my personal favourite, but they have another one in La Condesa neighborhood, and the third's inside the Santa Fe shopping mall.
Cafebreria El Pendulo
Alejandro Dumas 81, Polanco
Mexico City, Mexico
+52 80 4111

Vips, Sanborn's, Toks, California

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

These are all diners that strive to become restaurants. Think Denny's. You'll find everything in their menus: from a hamburger or a club sandwich, to a hot soup, tacos, enchiladas, or a nice steak and fries. They usually have either a salad bar or a fairly good selection of house salads, and an assortment of desserts. They open from real early to about midnight (24 hour ones no longer exist), most of them having drugstores, and an annexed store selling books, candy, magazines, cd's, toys, and make-up.

However, I do not really like Sanborns. I always would rather go to Vips. The service and quality of food are much better, as are the decor and ambience of the place. Also, Vips strives to offer you a yummy selection of desserts and good coffee, both of which are rather lousy in Sanborns. California and Toks's strong point would be their salad bar, but I'd still rather eat at Vips, above any of these. You'll get a clean place with a somewhat fast service, not-cheap but not-expensive meal that is quite safe to consume (unlike street vendor tacos or tortas), a relaxed ambience to have a chat, and the convenient store. Most have parking of their own, free of charge if you show your ticket when paying your tab. This is not authentic folkloric real mexican food, if you're looking for local color, look elsewhere.
Vips, Sanborn's, Toks, California
Throughout Mexico City
Mexico City, Mexico


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Becs on November 24, 2000

A personal favourite of mine. These restaurants are a chain, they differ in name, but you can identify them by the white type on dark green background signs. Ranging from Carlos'n'Charlie's to Barraca Orraca, to Señor Frogs, any of these all have excellent mexican food, great ambience, and a feel 100% mexican. If you want to experience what the mexican hospitality is all about, try real local food, have a few beers or tequilas, and just have a good time (on the city or at a beach), ask for the local Charlie's. There's heaps everywhere.
Paseo de la Reforma 382
Mexico City, Mexico, 06600
+52 5 208 2150


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

Any taxi will know where to drop you off if you ask him to take you to 'El Mercado de Coyoacan.' This is usually on just saturdays and sundays on Coyoacan's square. Get there in the morning, take in the live performers, visit the church, stroll the streets, take your time on every one of the market stands that interest you... bargain for what you want to buy.

You will be amazed at the variety of people you will encounter on this place. You'll find lots of artistic and bohemian characters and also Harley riders, native Indians, and high class intellectuals. Then, have lunch in one of the many streetside cafes and restaurants offering the most incredible nouveau Mexican cuisine (I recommend 'Los Danzantes'), or choose to step into a traditional cantina ('La Guadalupana'), our version of a pub, and have real mexican food. Then explore the stores in the nearby streets.

Specialty bookstores galore, you'll find anything to do with art, literature, music, religion, philosophy, mythology, cults, magic... when the night falls, some places come alive with live bands, such as 'El Coyote', where you can just sit back and relax while having a beer...what a perfect day.
Natación y Squash Coyoacan
Belisario Domínguez, 161
Mexico City, Mexico, 04310
+52 5 5546530

Amusement Parks

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

'La Feria' in Chapultepec's 3rd section is a good amusement park with an awesome roller coaster. This is definitely the best feature of the whole place, which has the traditional fun: house of mirrors, smaller coasters, and all those other rides that spin you, drop you, throw you, or shake you in every which way and direction. Then there's the better known 'Six Flags', south, in the Pedregal. This is a more Americanized park, much larger, with the different 'lands' within (Polenesian, Western, kiddie, so on), featuring coasters, splashing water rides, haunted house, the gravity-defying house of Uncle Chueco, bumper cars, go-carts, carousel, harmless rides for small children, theaters and shows, including dolphins (this was once home to the now famous orca from 'Free Willy': keiko), heaps of shops and eateries... a day's worth of family fun. A visit to Six Flags is definitely worth it for your kids.
La Feria in Chapultepec
Mexico City
Mexico City, Mexico

Papalote, Museo del Niño

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

This museum was built especially for children, and it's absolutely devoted to teaching them heaps of stuff in a fun way. But it's so good, adults often wanna go too, so thursday nights are the best night to go kidless. You not only go through lots of different chambers teaching you everything from electricity to music to color to forces of nature...they also have a flight simulator, and an IMAX theater featuring interesting and educational movies worth staying for. Disney's Fantasia 2000 played here for a long time. The IMAX theater has an additional cost of $35 pesos (this is about $3.5 us dlls).
Papalote Museo del Niño
Avenida Constituyentes 268
Mexico City, Mexico, 11560
+52 5 2371781

Museo Nacional de Antropologia

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

This museum is everything you'll need to visit to learn a day's worth all about mexico's native indigenous cultures. It's devoted to Mexican anthropology, the prehispanic cultures, archeological collections, and ethnography. Every chamber is focused on one specific geographical zone, geological era, or native culture, displaying an array of utensils, clothing, site maps, scale models of cities, and replicas of the more important ruins and treasures. The exhibitions are quite large, so you may not finish the whole thing in a day if you take it slowly...pick up the pace a bit or ask for a guided tour. It has a cafeteria, a souvenir shop, and an impressive library where you may do intensive research, for it's one of Mexico's finest.

The museum's open tue-sun, 9 am - 7 pm. Tickets are $25 pesos, except sundays which are free.
Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia
Paseo De La Reforma Y Calzada Ghandi (colonia Polanco Chapultepec)
México, Mexico, 11560
52 5553 6266; +52 5

Cinepolis, Cinemex and Cinemark

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

These three complexes are scattered all over the city, housing several movie theaters each, all in the American style. They show the latest Hollywood productions, some percentage of Mexican movies, and some of them feature film festival movies and art films. You can buy coffee or sodas, candy or popcorn, pastries or sandwiches, and choose from the wide variety of films and times, everything your heart desires. Each theater has comfortable seats (most reclinable), wide hallways, thx or dolby surround sound, wide screen, and air conditioned.
Cinemex WTC
Montecito 38
México, Mexico, 03810
+52 5 4883388

What to do?

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

RUINS - driving off Mexico City by Insurgentes Norte, you may visit Teotihuacan. Its majestic pyramids of the Sun and the Moon are as impressive as the Calzada de los Muertos (avenue of the dead). Recent excavations discovered mural paintings and some hidden chambers. The energy and magic around this place can be sensed year-long, not only in the festivals of equinox and solstice. However, if you don't want to leave the city, downtown you can visit the 'Templo Mayor', the ancient city on which mexico city was built upon the arrival of spaniards. Now uncovered, you can step into the museum and the diggings, take a guide and learn all about the ancient Tenochtitlan. Founded on a lake, you'll learn how canals had to be made as transport and communication ways, proceeding to fill the lake up only to build on it the rest of the city.

ZOCALO - Paying close attention to the buildings in the Zocalo and the sidewalk, you will notice the evident sinking each building undergoes because of its weight, especially the Cathedral. Spaniards built their own churches on top of aztec temples, to override their religion and impose christianity, so you can see the excavations of Templo Mayor (Aztec ruins) right next to the Cathedral and other Spanish buildings (colonial architecture), right next to modern day sites... three cultures, mixed together in one place... that's what mexico's all about: the natives, the spaniards, and the resulting mestizos of today.

ARCHITECTURE - Also downtown, walking around will open your eyes on why this was once called the City of Palaces. Heaps of buildings are incredibly lavish in style and decor (see the Edificio de Correos, Palacio de Mineria, Palacio Nacional...), ranging from the colonial times to the Porfiriato (the turn of the century, when the french influence was at its strongest). Bellas Artes is a perfect example of this. Its interiors are art deco, but what's impressive is its exteriors... this palace offers all kinds of cultural events. CULTURE - Its museum has hosted exhibitions from Rodin's sculptures to Van Gogh's paintings... the Opera season offers fans a wide selection of masterpieces, also the classical music concerts are of top quality. With a cafe and a small store, this is a good place to take a break if touring el Centro (downtown). Or not...

RESTAURANTS - there's a myriad of restaurants of all kinds, prices, and cuisines just walking distance... the infamous 'La Opera' Cantina offers traditional mexican cuisine, and still prouds itself on having a bullet-hole on the ceiling, fired by Pancho Villa, one of our Revolution icons. But restaurants are not all that exists in abundance downtown.

MUSEUMS - You'll find that most of the gorgeous buildings house museums. Franz Meyer Museum is right across from Bellas Artes, and is well worth a visit if you like art, so is the Museo de San Carlos, and the Palacio de Mineria. This all was just downtown. Coming to Mexico allows you to choose among a plethora of activities to do and places to visit... I recommend you check one of the major papers (Universal or Reforma will publish a weekend annex to help you decide on an event or restaurant, activity, museum, or cultural event), or buy a 'Tiempo Libre' magazine. It will detail the events going on in the specific time you're spending here, the temporary exhibits of the museums, the festivals that may be happening from music to movies to art to cuisine.... or visit one of the many webpages that help you choose what to do, for example,


Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

Dresscode: avoid looking like a tourist. Ok, so you're naturally blonde and you can't even learn to say thank-you in Spanish... just don't wear shorts in the city (nobody here wears them, they're 'beachwear'), and avoid wearing anything like sandals with knee-high socks, or hawaiian shirts. You'll stand out even in crowds. Also, try to conceal where you keep your cash. That bag around your belt is like an invitation for trouble. Mexicans usually wear slacks, or skirts and dresses. We dress in tailored suits for work, something like polo shirts and khakis (men) and sundresses (women)for weekends... but jeans are quite the garment of choice everywhere, anytime. So, jeans and a shirt will do just the trick.

Casual places won't deny you a table or anything, but fancier restaurants do have a strict dress code, requiring (mostly at night) at least a tie. Nightclubs won't let you in if you're wearing sneakers. We like to dress up for dinner in a restaurant, or when going out to a nightclub... so if you plan on any such activity, pack accordingly: a nice pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt will do for men, as will a little black dress for women.

Moving around safely

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Becs on November 11, 2000

Yes...all you've heard is unfortunately true. But I live here, and that makes me fit to help you avoid becoming a victim of any kind of crime. It's real easy to be safe.

Here's the scoop: everybody, from the lower middle classes to the high ones, have a car. So stepping on the public transportation will instantly introduce you to the very poor, and the petty criminals. There you are, at least a head taller than the crowd, carrying around a map and a camera... guess who's the easy target here. I don't recommend renting a car, because if you don't know your way around, you'll easily be trapped in the worst traffic jams you've seen and maybe get lost in dangerous parts of town. Some of them are right next-door to the touristy places.

Ride 'taxis de sitio.' These are the cabs you call for. Your hotel or host should be able to give you a phone number for the closest taxis site, and they'll come pick you up, sometimes agreeing to get you again wherever they left you, at a designated time, or otherwise referring you to another site. Do not hail cabs off the street, you might get mugged. If you do get mugged, for whatever's holy to you, give them the damn bag. They'll probably just snatch it and run. If you fight them, you'll get into more than you bargained for. So keep little cash in that bag, conceal the passport and big money somewhere inside your clothing close to your body or in the hotel's safe deposit.

The subway is a rather good one. I recommend the line from Polanco to the Centro (downtown), but many others aren't really safe. Avoid it at night, or just be on your toes.

Keep handbags crossed from your shoulder across your chest and have a firm grasp on it. Do not get distracted. Keep alert and watchful of people approaching you or passing you by. When in doubt, follow your instinct. If you get scared, don't risk it. Keep off dark places, avoid straying in lonesome ones too. Look self-assured. You'll be all right.

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