Whether Mexico City is your destination, or you’ve just managed to sneak in an extended layover, there is so much to see and experience. Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX) is now on our short list of places to come back and live for an extended period of time. We are absolutely enchanted by the city, and stretched our layover into something more. If you’re looking for one magical day, this post will walk through a day in CDMX featuring some of our family’s favorite spots.
Like most other cosmopolitan cities, CDMX has a structured and simple to navigate transportation system in place. The metro/busses can take you nearly everywhere. Pink taxi cabs abound, and are easy to get ahold of – be sure to agree on a price before you jump in. Uber is all over the city, and was our preferred choice for travel to and from the airport. Many neighborhoods offer grab and go bike rentals, which are a popular choice. Where you stay can make or break a visit if you enjoy exploring on foot as we do.
Where to Stay
After careful research, we settled on the neighborhood La Condesa. It is a charming area that is simultaneously hip and ‘old world’ romantic. The architecture is beautiful, and the main streets have a wide green space for bikers and walkers. When we travel as a family, we prefer to stay in an AirBnB. The extra space, comforts of a home, and birds eye view of life as an ‘almost’ local can’t be beat. Our apartnment in CDMX has everything we need, plus a pool, roof top lounge area, and a kids play structure right in front of our unit. Every morning the kids grab a snack and let themselves out to play. Meanwhile, we laze about a bit, then sit in the living room to work and keep an eye on the kids through the floor to ceiling windows.
Our favorite place for breakfast in La Condesa is Amore Ti Amo. At first glance, it’s a cute little coffee and smoothie stand with a few pan dulce available for takeaway. We originally stopped to grab the kids mango smoothies, and got to talking with the owners. (This is how we meet some of the best and most interesting people). They insisted we try their coffee to teach our foreign palates a valuable lesson. I am not a coffee drinker (I know….), and I ended up ordering a cup the following morning. So good!
On our second visit to the cafe, we asked about the breakfast menu. The owners directed us next door, and met us there to welcome us into their home. They have a beautiful garden in the back that has been converted into a restaurant space. It is magical. Everything from a traditional Mexican breakfast to hot cakes are served. There isn’t a single thing we’ve tried that wasn’t satisfying. It’s the perfect start to your day.
After breakfast walk or bike to the famous Chapultepec Parque. If you happen to catch market day, press the pause button and sample everything. Yum. Continuing on to Chapultepec. The massive 1700 acre park is bigger than New York’s Central Park, so you won’t get to all of it in a day…or month. There are a few highlights not to be missed, however. People of all ages will be enchanted by the castle and Casa del Lago (Lake House). If you’re traveling with kids, try to squeeze in a visit to the zoo (it’s free!) and, of course, the double decker carousel. We first encountered a bi level carousel at a Christmas Market in Germany, and still get excited whenever we come across one. There are a few other attractions near the carousel, a ropes course, and plenty of vendors and concession stands throughout.
The food hall trend has officially hit CDMX, and Mercado Roma does not disappoint. Grab a bite to eat and a beverage, and find a seat at the communal table to mingle and people watch. Live music is featured several evenings each week, and the market becomes a vibrant social scene. We spend hours wandering the stalls, and seem to discover something new each time. Be sure to grab a water and a small box of macarons before jumping on the Turibus.
Tour the City
CDMX is the first city we have ever taken a ride on a tour bus. It stops right in front of the Mercado Roma, and takes you to the Museo Frida Kahlo. We decided it might be a good way to see things we would otherwise miss in a car. The fare is quite reasonable, and tickets can be purchased on board.
Whether you have kids or not, head to the top level of the bus where the breeze will hit you and the views are much better. (Be sure to bring appropriate sun protection.) Sit back, relax, and watch the city go by. Or, if you’re like me: remain alert, constantly remind your kids to keep their arms inside the bus, and take copious mental notes of parts of the city to explore another time.
La Casa Azul
Frida Kahlo’s home turned museum is easily the number one reason we decided to extend our stay in Mexico City. Her story drew our whole family in, and it is so exciting to see it come to life. Be sure to spend time reading up on her life, work, and post humous impact. If you have kids, check the event schedule for crafts and activities sometimes offered. Also, the museum website has a fantastic interactive site geared towards school aged children. Ours love perusing her wardrobe and dressing ‘Frida’. Some of her wardrobe was discovered in 2004, and an exhibit entitled “The Appearances Deceive: Frida Kahlo’s Dresses” is currently on display. It’s a fascinating bridge between the past and the present, and living with her physical disabilities.
The entire museum is captivating, and peaceful, and inspiring all at the same time. It is absolutely not to be missed. Their are plenty of spaces to sit and contemplate, and small snacks are offered at the on site cafe. The gift shop has a wide range of Frida-centric items, and apparently our kids need all of them. Go figure.
Hop back on the Turibus, and take it back to the Mercado Roma. Now walk two doors down, and behold, Parcela. This restaurant is hip and welcoming with impeccable service for anyone, but it is pure magic for parents. The majority of the space is an outdoor play area complete with tree house, climbing structures, garden, outdoor kitchen and more. Everything is created from natural materials and is designed to engage and pique the curiosity of children. It’s like a little Waldorf/Montessori dreamland.
When you enter, everyone gets a wristband to match kids and parents. A security guard mans the entrance (though there is also a gate) to ensure no child leaves unattended, and a guide keeps an eye on the playing kids and engages them with different activities. Meanwhile, the older members of the party relax in the outdoor dining area, and, you know, actually get to taste their food. And the food. It is incredible. We’ve eaten all three meals here, and have loved every one. After we’ve finished eating, we order a cocktail, and fetch our kids for their meal. They will protest, but everyone can happily agree to more play time after dinner. Parcela is a great choice for the food and atmosphere alone, but it is a ‘must do’ if you’re accompanied by little ones.
On your way back home, you will pass through some of the brightest night spots in the city. La Clandestina, in Condesa, is a favorite for those who partake. It’s a tiny hole in the wall with more varieties of mezcal than you can imagine. You will most definitely need to lean on your bartender for advice on which to try and why, but there is no wrong choice here.
*full disclosure: Whether you are a parent, or a girl (or guy) of a certain age, or just plain tired, it is perfectly respectable to take a page from our book, skip the night cap, and head straight to bed. No judgement here.
Join over 50,000 worldschooling families, digital nomads and wanderers-at-heart, with our step by step tips, tricks, and everything in between. We've done all the work so you don't have to! Oh, and did we mention it's totally FREE?! Stop calling it a dream, and start making a plan.✨