First Timer’s Guide to Mexico City: Food & Places to Visit

Orange wall Guadalupe Mexico City

This past year in April, I had the pleasure of solo-traveling to the beautiful and historical Ciudad de México (also known as CDMX or Mexico City) for the first time. And from my immersive 5-day experience, I’ve created this First Timer’s Guide to Mexico City, so you don’t have to do much research.

Beach in Tulum

Recap from Celebrating my 30th Birthday in Tulum

For my birthday, I decided to travel to Mexico and visit three popular cities: Tulum, Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta

For the first leg of my trip to Mexico, I celebrated at the boho-chic beaches of Tulum with my cousin. For the second leg, I solo-traveled through the colorful and historic roads of Mexico City. And lastly, I enjoyed the sunny and festive zones in Puerto Vallarta with the boyfriend.

As a female who was interested in solo-traveling to Mexico City, it definitely sounded a little scary and out of reach, but I am here to tell you that it was not as bad as it seemed!

I would 100% recommend anyone (especially females!) to travel solo at least once in their lives… whether it’s internationally or in your own country. It’s an empowering, unique, and fun experience, and I feel that I’ve gained so much insight about myself while traveling alone.

If you haven’t solo-traveled yet… THIS IS YOUR SIGN.

As it was my first time traveling to Mexico City, especially as a solo female traveler, here is a guide on the neighborhoods and activities I enjoyed, the hotel I stayed, and all the delicious meals I ate.

Traveling To and Around Mexico City

For my first timer’s guide to Mexico City, I will cover the flight from Cancun International Airport (CUN) to Mexico City Airport (MEX), and how I traveled around Mexico City.

Flight from Cancun to Mexico City

To get to Mexico City International Airport from Cancun, I flew on Viva Aerobus, and even though the flight ticket was CHEAP, the experience was very stressful and not worth the time and savings. One caveat was that I could not check-in on my phone prior to my flight, which meant I had to wait in an insanely long line with the rest of the passengers once I arrived to the airport.

CUN to MEX Airplane ticket (One-way): $106.42 USD (with the Light travel discount)

My advice: Save yourself the headache and pay a little extra for Aeromexico.

If you’re planning to snag a cheap flight through Viva Aerobus, just know that you get what you pay for: Long wait times, no leg room in-flight, and STRESS before your flight. I’d rather pay a little more to ride with Aeromexico, which I did on the way to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) from Mexico City (MEX).

Safety and Traveling Solo in Mexico City

When traveling solo in Mexico City, in my experience, I felt safe.

But of course as a tourist, you will always have to take precautions, especially as a solo female. But with that said, I never had any red flags when walking down the streets of Mexico City. (I’ll talk about which neighborhoods in a bit.)

Nonetheless, my major-key tips when you’re a female traveling solo:

  • Walk through busy and/or lit streets
  • Personally, I did not stay late out after dark, but if you are, make sure you give someone your plans for the night
  • Message someone when you are arrive back to your hotel
  • Share your whole trip itinerary to someone you trust
  • Share your location

My primary modes of transportation while exploring Mexico City were: Walking and using Uber.

Uber in Mexico City

Uber to Casa Decu

When traveling in Mexico City, I highly recommend taking advantage of the cheap and safe rides with Uber. As a female solo traveler, I felt safe knowing that this person was vouched by the company, and I was able to notify my ride to a family or friend if I wanted to.

When having to travel across town, I would recommend taking an Uber in Mexico City, because it is so CHEAP. A ride, which typically would be about $35-50 in Seattle, only took me $2-3!

Neighborhoods to Stay in Mexico City

From my own research and heard from travelers who have visited before, Roma Norte is the spot to be. There’s nightlife, tons of great food, and in my opinion, the centrality and ease of the location. Definitely a must-stay in my First Timer’s guide in Mexico City.

Due to pricing and finding a hotel though, I chose to stay at Casa Decu, which is in the heart of Hipódromo (just south of Roma Norte). I loved staying in this neighborhood, because it was walkable to all the hip bars, known restaurants, and bakeries. I was next to a city park, and I felt all-around safe while walking through this neighborhood.

Places to Visit in Mexico City

If you are a first timer traveling to Mexico City, I’d recommend going to these places below. These sites below are solo-traveler friendly in Mexico City, meaning I felt safe while traveling to and throughout these places.

Below, I’ve divided Mexico City tourist sites into major neighborhoods.

Centro Histórico (Historic Center of Mexico City)

  • Zócalo | Largest plaza in the world casting an enormous Mexican flag in the center. I started off here and hit the next several places below
  • Gran Hotel with its gorgeous Tiffany-style ceiling | Worth visiting in my opinion! Check out this gorgeous and grand colored ceiling, while you’re on the way to Gran Hotel’s rooftop restaurant. Grab a cocktail and lunch before you start walking West to the other tourist sites and shopping
  • House of Tiles | Check out the outside of this building while walking through Centro Histórico
  • Palacio de Bellas Artes | Beautiful architecture. Known venue to host art, music, and various events
  • Shopping | Tons of shops (such as Nike, H&M, etc.) when walking from Zócalo to Palacio de Bellas Artes

Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park)

More Sites in Mexico City

  • Frida Kahlo Museum | Loved this museum, and I’d recommend to anyone visiting CDMX. Walk through Frida’s colorful “Blue House,” view her various homemade dresses, and learn more about her art pieces, childhood, and her relationship with famous Mexican artist, Diego Rivera
  • Mercado de Sonora | Come to the Sonora Market to see various items being sold, from party decorations, piñatas, children’s costumes, toys. This market is also known for their “brujería” – witchcraft items, such as tarot, incense, idols, and crystals. Very interesting and a new experience to walk through
  • Arena México | I personally have not gone here (due to shows not being available due to COVID), but this is on my list when I do visit CDMX again. Go here to watch a lucha libre match live!

Food and Restaurants in Mexico City

My absolute favorite part of traveling is eating all the new foods a city and culture has to offer, and Mexico City definitely had a LOT of places to choose from… from fine dining to local taco street trucks.

If it is your first time in Mexico City, here is a good starting point on places to eat (or what not to eat). Mexico City has so many foods and restaurants; there are definitely more places to check out, but here is everything that I tried.

Breakfast in Mexico City

  • Green (or Red) Chile Torta from La Esquina del Chilaquil | MUST GO! If you’re going take ONE thing from this post, you MUST visit this place. My mouth is drooling as I type this. This was the best thing I ate in Mexico City. I got there around opening at 8am on a Monday, and there was no line
  • Brunch at Lardo | Fancy brunch spot with delicious pastries, desserts, and plates! I would come back to try their lunch and dinner menus
  • Assortment of pastries and desserts at Ficelle | Stopped by this bakery multiple mornings after my morning walk around the park and exploring around the city. Beautiful pastries!

Lunch/Dinner in Mexico City

  • Marlin tacos from El Pescadito Taquerías | Trust me; two tacos is plenty. I feel like a plate of tacos isn’t complete without a soda on the side
  • Lunch at Gran Hotel | Rooftop restaurant overlooking Zócalo. I’d recommend enjoying lunch or afternoon cocktails up here after a full day shopping and sight-seeing through Centro
  • Seafood at La Ostra | I was craving ceviche, so I quickly googled this spot close by my hotel. I did enjoy it as a quick lunch spot, but I’m sure there are better, higher-end places
  • Duck tacos from El Auténtico Pato Manila | No, no, no! I google “Best Tacos in Mexico City” and stumble upon this spot on multiple sites. The “Chinese” duck tacos just felt so inauthentic to me. But who am I kidding… I was in Mexico City.
  • Dinner at Restaurante Temporal | If you’re in the Hipódromo neighborhood, I’d recommend coming here. Everything from their grilled picaña to their goatling tacos to their mezcal sour; I was pleasantly happy throughout my whole meal

Desserts in Mexico City

  • Churros from El Moro | Better than Disneyland churros; yep, I said it. I’d advise getting the condensed milk dip over the chocolate dip, but why not try both

⇒ Thank you to my good ol’ friend Dennis @D2, who recommended the majority of these spots. I thank you; my stomach thanks you!

Other Tips When Traveling to Mexico City

While traveling to Mexico City, here are some things I’ve noted and wished I knew before arriving.

  • Cell phone service: Check with your mobile phone provider if Mexico is covered. Luckily for AT&T, I was covered, so I was able to use Uber and Google Maps as needed
  • Download Google Translate: Especially if you do not know Spanish. I was able to communicate to the locals when I had questions about the area or if I was looking for a site
  • Pack an external charger: Because you’ll most likely be using Google maps and Uber the majority of the time navigating through the city, your phone battery will most likely drain quickly

Final Thoughts

Hotel rooftop with cathedral
Gran Hotel rooftop overlooking Zócalo

Traveling solo allowed me to realize that I am independent; I am brave; and I am smart enough to choose where I want to go in life, literally and figuratively. I can make a left here; turn around and take a different path; or change my plans altogether.

Traveling solo allowed me to understand that in life, I am capable to figure things out when needed and be confident with who I am and where I stand. The ability to be independent while traveling is so empowering to me, and I enjoy it so much!

And with that said, if you have any questions on traveling to Mexico City or any questions on traveling solo, don’t be afraid to comment below. I’m here to help! 🙂

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

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