Mexico City & Dia de Muertos
When we’d tell friends and family who had visited Mexico City before that we were heading there for Dia de Muertos, they all had the same reaction. Their eyes would light up, they’d tell us about something we’d HAVE to see, and end with “I wish I were going.” Like, without fail, everyone had the same reaction. And now that we’ve been, we’ll give that exact same reaction to anyone who tells us they’re going, with maybe a bit of passive aggressive jealousy. Mexico City is hands down one of the most fantastic places we’ve visited, ever.
This is an annoying blog post to write, because the instinct is to talk about how good the food is and how kind the people are and how gorgeous the architecture is, but just saying it sounds so generic and really doesn’t do it justice. Visiting Mexico City, and particularly visiting during Dia de Muertos, gave us an emotional reaction. The city is sprawling, like, huge. But even with it’s massive size, it’s so dense in culture and has such a sense of place. It’s hard to describe, but there is something incredibly exhilarating about being in a city of 22 million people, but still feeling like you’re in a tight knit community. Like, do you know how impossibly rare that is?
There’s not much else to say, because words don’t really do it justice, but here are some quick reasons why you should go:
Affordability: Most international travel isn’t cheap, and I think a lot of folks feel it isn’t a reality for them. I’m here to tell you that you are wrong! Get that passport, honey. Getting to Mexico City is pretty affordable from most U.S. cities (our flight from Houston was $200 roundtrip each). Once you are there, if you’re coming from the U.S., you’re going to feel like you’re suddenly rich, as everything from lodging, to food, to transportation is much less expensive, while still having the quality you’re used to. We took an Uber out of the city for 1.5 hours and it was $18. Most of our dinners were decked out with wine and cocktails and several courses and often totaled at $50. And that was way more excessive than we needed to be to enjoy ourselves. Like, pretty wild. It also means you can tip like a total baller, which you don’t have to do in Mexico at all, but like, you probably should (as people working the service industry in all parts of the world deserve all of the money and kindness you can give).
Authenticity: Folks who live in the U.S. might have a hard time forming a realistic opinion on what is and what is not Mexican culture. Mostly because of bastardization of the culture by racist white people, the popularity of Tex-Mex (which is legit in it’s own right), and popular media not always showing an accurate depiction of Mexican culture. So, if you live in the U.S., it will probably serve you well to learn a bit more about your neighbor to the south through a visit. As with all international travel, you’ll probably realize your entire perception of Mexicans and what Mexico is like is wrong, and that it’s a beautiful and flawed place just like everywhere else, with people who are beautiful and flawed and diverse, just like everywhere else.
The Fucking Food: Y’all there’s no way to describe it. If you’ve been, you get it. If you haven’t, you’re like, “yeah boo I’ve had good food chill out.” But, no. This isn’t just good food. It’s GOOD FOOD. We’ve had GOOD FOOD twice in our international travels, once in the streets of Jerusalem with fists full of fluffy pita and hummus, and now in Mexico City. So visit, and you’ll get to experience real Mexican food, and incredible mole, and truly phenomenal soups like pozole rojo. God. The food. Is. So. Good. We’ve got a list of a few spots to eat below!
Best Spots for Your Instagram
San Angel Neighborhood: the best spot for super colorful street photos and cute alleys and cobblestone roads. Get dropped off at Plaza del Carmen, grab a hot cocoa from Oveja Negra Barra de Cafe & walk up Calle de la Armargura towards Santisimo. Get lost in the streets and take all the photos. On Saturdays there is an arts and crafts market in Plaza del Carmen that is actually really fantastic, so check it out!
El Centro: the historic city center! You won’t get super colorful photos here, as it’s pretty much all stone, but it’s quite impressive and you’ll be able to see ruins and sample a lot of street food.
Mercado Jamaica: see how Mexicans shop and sample some local fruits and food vendors! It’s a bustling market, and we spent two hours just touring half of it. The butcher section is pretty gnarly, so be warned! But the produce section and mole / spices sections will yield some cute photos and samples. Also, you should buy some mole to take home with you :)
Coyoacan: visit the Frida Kahlo museum! It looks amazing, but since we were there for a huge holiday weekend it was pretty much untouchable as the line wrapped around the block. This area also had a bunch of gorgeous streets to stroll down, and some cute restaurants.
Our Favorite Dining Spots
Well, first what must be said is that the street food in Mexico is obviously incredible. Grab elotes, esquites, and street tacos whenever you can. You’ll find a lot of spots to do this in and around El Centro, but really there’s street food and corner restaurant stalls throughout the city. Below are three places that are fantastic, and best visited for a cozy dinner with drinks.
Cafe de Tacuba: This historic spot is absolutely 100% stunning, reasonably priced, and delicious. Holy shit. Go. Here. For. Dinner. You can try out a bunch of different small plates and authentic Mexican dishes (we ordered the appetizer platter for two and it was a great decision). The mole enchiladas are… they are… wow. Located in El Centro.
Azul Historico: Hey have you ever wanted to eat little fried pieces of dough stuffed with roasted duck covered in mole sauce in the courtyard of a 17th century building, surrounded by a dim glow of lanterns hanging in trees all around you? With a bottle of wine that’s like $15 U.S. dollars? Yeah? Perfect. Go here. It’s on the pricier side by Mexican standards, but a meal for two with appetizers, drinks, entrees, and desserts shouldn’t run you much more than $60 USD. Located in El Centro.
Paramo: Bon Appetit said this place is like a hipster paradise without the pretension, and that’s pretty spot on. It’s got straightforward food that is done very well and at reasonable prices, nice craft cocktails and mezcal, and an ambiance that is cozy and bustling. It was pretty much amazing. You may want to make a reservation as it can get packed. Located in Roma Norte.
Where to Stay
We really enjoyed our stay in El Centro, the historic city center, but it definitely feels like a downtown area. It’s busy and bustling and you’re not going to get those bright walls and more rustic feeling Mexican streets. But, it’s got incredible restaurants, easy access to most of the neighborhoods you’ll want to visit, and you just kinda have to walk outside to be in the thick of it all. Other neighborhoods friends recommended for a stay: La Condesa and Roma Norte.
Our visit to San Andres Mixquic for Dia de Muertos
We visited San Andres Mixquic for Dia de Muertos, a Mexican holiday where relatives and loved ones who have passed away are honored through grave visits, ofrendas (altars), and celebration. It’s one of the biggest Dia de Muertos celebrations in Mexico City, and took us about an hour and a half long drive to get to from the city center. People used buses and scheduled cars to get there, and we took an Uber, so that’s an option if you plan to go in the future!
When we arrived, it was like a big block party with tons of food vendors, music, dancing, etc. It was a little strange to see the duality of both joyous and somber moments, but if you’re from New Orleans (like us) and have ever seen a jazz funeral, you might kinda get the vibe. Once we walked through the block party portion of it, we got to the actual cemetery and church. This is where the graves covered in flowers, candles, and offerings were. It was beautiful, and sad, and happy, all at once. People were taking a lot of photos and inviting visitors to see the spreads of flowers and offerings.
Afterwards, we walked through the neighborhood behind the cemetery where there was more food and music, and residents had opened their houses up to show their ofrendas in their living rooms. It was hands down one of the most amazing experiences we have ever had, and we’re so grateful for all of the folks who invited us to experience their holiday with them.
If you ever plan to visit Mexico City, you won’t be disappointed. Thanks for reading, darling!
xoxo Beau & Matt