Every year thousands of tourists flood Mexico’s beaches along the Yucatan to throw back margaritas and get burnt to a deep tomato red. Pity these sunbathers because they’re missing out on Mexico’s greatest jewel–the bustling urban jungle of D.F., more commonly known as Mexico City. Here are just a few of the reasons to book your flight to CDMX this year:
Cheap is the watchword
There are affordable flights running to Mexico City from almost every city in the U.S., just hop on Skyscanner or Hipmunk to see what’s closest to you. There are plenty of budget-friendly AirBnB and hostel options whether you’re traveling solo or with your whole crew. The exchange rate has been holding steady at about $1 USD to 20 MXN pesos which means paying for your days on the ground is a breeze. Plus, some of the greatest sites in Mexico City are free: the Zócalo, Mexico’s iconic main square where an enormous Mexican flag flies in front of the cathedral; the Ministry of Education, where you can walk through three floors of Diego Rivera murals (as long as you bring your passport for the guards to check), and the historic Correo Mayor post office in the downtown, a beautifully restored memory of the Gilded Age. Most museums have student discounts, just be sure to check if you need to pay extra for a photo permit (which usually costs a few bucks per person).
You’ve been missing out on house museums.
Mexico City celebrates and preserves the homes of its greatest figures. Dolores Olomedo‘s home, a luxurious estate where peacocks and pure-bred Xoloitzcuintle dogs roam the grounds, has a fantastic collection of art and a quiet cafe to relax in. Get there right when they open at 10 AM to beat the crowds. The Franz Meyer museum is worth a visit for its courtyard alone. If you make a reservation, you can tour visionary architect Luis Barragán’s beautiful home and studio as well as his Gilardi house, where every room is a different color. No Mexico City trip is complete without buying into Fridamania–Frida Kahlos’ fascinating life is honored at the Casa Azul, the home she grew up in and later shared with Diego Rivera. Check out the fashion exhibit in the back garden, filled with Frida’s sketches, outfits and hand painted corsets.
You’ll never eat better
It wouldn’t be a bad life to survive solely off of Mexican hot chocolate and fresh churros but don’t limit yourself. Most breakfasts begin with picking a pastry to go with your coffee or juice and then serve you up a dynamite plate of chilaquiles and eggs with hot sauce. Eat conchas, the iconic Mexican sweetbread, constantly. You have to try mole at least once during your trip and there are dozens of varieties so don’t say no just because you haven’t liked mole in the past. Chapulines, grasshoppers marinated in lime, are a delicious snack and, as the locals say, a great source of protein! Grilled cactus, cochinita pibil and flan are all necessary indulgences. You’re never more than a few steps from a restaurant in Mexico City, from the street carts serving up tacos to the five star establishments–so eat up!
Art for every era and every style
Mexico City pays constant homage to the muralistic tradition of Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros but the art scene is hardly static. One of Mexico City’s greatest assets is the way it blends art together in a common space. After completing your Frida Kahlo pilgrimage to the Casa Azul, walk up to Coyoacan’s town square and check out street artist Saner‘s incredible wall tucked inside the Museo de Culturas Populares. The edgy galleries of the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods are sandwiched between giant street art projects. Stop to admire the “Mi Vida con Síndrome di Down” (My Life with Down Syndrome) mural right outside of the gorgeous Proyectos Monclova gallery. Take your obligatory selfie in front of the stunning Soumaya museum but don’t think you have to spend the whole day on the European collection inside–just a few steps away is the Jumex museum, which showcases fantastic contemporary art. Stroll down Avenida Juarez to see both the formal arts housed in the iconic Bellas Artes and Museum of Popular Arts and the kitschy folk art on sale in the booths that spill out of the parks onto the sidewalks.
Even in the dead of winter, it rarely dips below 50 degrees so Mexico City’s trees stay green and flowers are still blooming along the walls and medians of the streets. You can spend an entire day at the enormous park of Chapultepec, which is twice the size of New York’s Central Park. The glamorous castle sitting at the top of the central hill (no water bottles allowed inside so ditch yours before you go in) gives you a panoramic look over the city. You can rent a paddle boat on the lake, shop in the pop-up stalls or just soak up the sun. There are modern and popular art museums tucked into various nooks and crannies of the park, as well as the massive Anthropology Museum, which houses tens of thousands of artifacts. Remember that museums are free on Sundays which is good for your budget but means huge crowds everywhere! Chapultepec is the largest park in the city but there are smaller neighborhood parks and gardens everywhere. The National University has beautiful sprawling lawns perfect for sunbathing, flying kites and throwing around a frisbee. The best part of vacation is letting yourself relax, so kick off your shoes and feel the grass between your toes.