If you’re a history dork + food person + maybe a little awkward, here’s some ideas after booking a trip on impulse.
Arrive to the Mexico City airport for your first solo trip ever, anxiously wait for your bag; nervously say hi to people in your hostel on arrival; contemplate all of your life choices up until now; go on a free walking tour of el Centro Historico
Eat some al pastor and suadero tacos at Taqueria Tlaquepaque with a new friend from the tour.
Get some sweets at a random shop because they were very pretty
Sleep at Viajero El Centro
Have a cortado at a cafe; take a 27 minute stroll to meet for a market tour of Mercado la Merced you signed up for the night before; eat EVERYTHING on said market tour; learn about pre-Hispanic food (anti-Spanish colonization is a theme here); eat all the fruits, 7 different types of mole, edible insects (sustainable! very snackable! Pre-Hispanic food was very plant based! Includes Puerto Rico! (F*ck colonialism)); eat some quesadillas with flor de calabaza y huitlacoche (look it up – one of my favorite things I ate on the trip); a taco that looks like it has too much on it but it WORKS; sit at a cafe and talk with the group about languages, gentrification of our cities, the Instagram-ification of food, and have a mariachi band play Cielito Lindo in front of your table; cry for the first time when a mariachi plays Cielito Lindo.
Eat at Pitahuya Vegana, a vegan restaurant. Very trendy BUT very good. Try tepache! A fermented pineapple drink. Have dinner with a friend you made on a walking tour.
Get a very large but excellent tamarind margarita from a bookstore/cafe that I can’t remember the name of.
After getting the hang of existing in CDMX, spend the day in El Bosque de Chapultepec: one of the largest urban parks in the Western Hemisphere, twice the size of Central Park. Go to the Castillo de Chapultepec, a castle built during Spanish colonization and now a national history museum. Realize you can read in Spanish, your brain is just melting a bit. More importantly, get one of the best views ever from this dreamy balcony. Ask people to take pictures of you and realize you need to learn how to take pictures. The selfies were fine though.
Walk back down listening to Nano Stern and have a major main character moment. Take a papaya break on your walk. Think sad thoughts about fruit in the US.
Spend a few hours in el Museo Nacional de Antropología, which brings visitors through the pre-Hispanic history of Mexico. Exhibit halls discuss the civilizations that lived in the territory of Mexico including North, West, Maya, Gulf of Mexico, Oaxaca, Mexico, Toltec, and Teotihuacan. Be mad about how much history you didn’t learn about in school. Make a mental plan to hire a guide next time you go so you can get an even deeper look into pre-colonial history of Mexico.
Realize you haven’t eaten anything and have a panini and sneaky afternoon cortado while you charge your phone at another cafe/bookstore facing a very cool Starbucks.
Return to your hostel for a salsa night with a live band. Have someone comment on your dancing as “not bad” and you know what, you’re gonna take it. Margaritas for dinner.
Friday is Coyoacan day, one of the dreamiest boroughs in the city. Before spending the morning at La Casa Azul, the home and studio of Frida Kahlo, have some chilaquiles verdes at La Cochina de mi Mama in the Coyoacan market. Have café de olla for the first time, coffee made with cinnamon and piloncillo, a raw dark sugar. Shed a quick tear for how good this meal was. Walk over to Casa Azul. This is a must-do, taking you through Frida Kahlo’s life and death through her and Diego’s works but also her personal belongings, clothes, and other items.
Spend some more time in the garden of the house as well, which is immaculate to say the absolute least.
Spend a few hours walking through the neighborhood, stopping in Cafe Negro for a few hours to write in your journal and charge your phone, um, in a main character, mysterious, quién-es-ella sort of way.
Go on a free walking tour around Coyoacan and learn more about the history of the neighborhood. Meet travelers from all over, get inspiration and advice for planning the big trip. Speak French with some peeps from Quebec! Also told my French is pas mal et tu sais quoi? Je vais le prendre.
Go back to the hostel with les Québécois and realize that’s who you heard in the hostel speaking French. Get some rest and meet up with a study abroad friend at Cafe Tacuba, a very dreamy restaurant in Centro.
Meet with more friends, including a Peace corps friend for mezcal at Bosforo then over to el Almacen, one of the institutional LGBTQ bars in Mexico City. Share peace corps stories, conversations that can’t really be shared with anyone else.
Drunkenly teach your very fun Uber driver how to spell his name in Farsi so he can get it tattooed on his arm.
Eat a slightly hungover breakfast before heading out to Xochimilco with people from your hostel. Go for a boat ride along the canal, take tequila shots, have a michelada, listen to music. Pure vibes. Cry again as a mariachi plays Cielito Lindo.
Spend all of your money at the Mercado de Artesanías, eat more tacos and an agua fresca de guayaba that brings you back to life.
Have your friend do your make up and hype you up for salsa at Mama Rumba, wear a dress you’ve been scared to wear, take shots at an Irish pub across the street before going in, because I needed all the confidence I could get, and then witnessing absolutely incredible dancing. More shots I think? And making a one year plan to come back and CRUSH the dance floor. Watch me.
Wake up and do everything to try and bring your body back to life before going on a 7 hour excursion to Teotihuacán, an ancient Mesoamerican city that is home to ancient pyramids, preserved murals, and family compounds built like 2000 freaking years ago! Have an amazing guide but also walk for like 10 miles while you’re still hungover. The dichotomy of fun and pain.
Go to a local workshop to learn about the many uses of the Maguey plant, including making pulque, an alcoholic bev made from the juice of the plant. Try pulque, tequila, mezcal, and some other local alcohols that you can’t remember very well because you are holding on for dear life. Actually the shots did make me feel better.
Check into The Red Tree House, your splurg hotel for the last two nights and the dreamiest place you’ve ever stayed in.
Go out with friends from the hostel to Club Rico in Juarez for one more night out. Shots continue to be a good idea. Finally, bailamos reggaeton.
This is the day to chill. Museums are closed. Eat a very nice breakfast at your hotel, once more reviving you from the good decisions you made. Take a walk around Condesa, drink a cortado at Volador Cafe, visit el Mercado Medellín, eat more fruit and talk to the vendor about sad U.S. fruit. Get told que ojos lindos, felicidades by a flower vendor and ya tu sabes that went straight to my head. Just spend the rest of the day existing. Relax at your beautiful hotel, have some lovely chats, drink a glass of wine. Conquer your irrational fear of eating dinner alone at a restaurant, to realize you really enjoy it. Talk with your server at Amaya, Omar, about their natural wine selection like you know anything about natural wine.
Lay in bed listening to sad Spanish indie music because you’re sad. STRONGLY consider cancelling your flight.
Spend the morning being sad but grateful. Talk to two ladies you met in the hotel who were fabulous. Chat with some of the guys who work there about wanting to cancel your flight. Eat one last beautiful hotel breakfast. Resist all urge and impulse to stay longer. Start planning the next trip back.