Saturday, July 20, 2024

The Layover: Mexico City

Let’s say you’re planning your next trip to Mexico. Exciting, right? Your vacation is coming up and so is the opportunity to experience a new part of the country you’ve never seen before. But as you’re researching flights, you realize that a layover in Mexico City is almost unavoidable.

In my experience, layovers at Benito Juarez International Airport can range from 2 hours to over 24 hours. So, what do you do if you’re stuck in Mexico City for a full day? If this is your current situation, here’s how you can embrace your inner Anthony Bourdain!

If you’re stuck at the airport for a day, getting out and enjoying the city can make a trip so much better. (Carlos Aranda/Unsplash)

How to get around Mexico City. 

Before you kick off this short adventure, there’s one thing you have to keep in mind: traffic. If you want to explore Mexico City, be prepared to sit in a taxi or Uber for at least one hour. Sometimes even longer if it’s between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on a weekday. 

The good news is things get much easier to navigate once you’re in the city center. Most car trips will take between 15-45 minutes on average. 

It’s also possible to take the metro into the city, although if you’re not familiar with how the system works. It can be daunting, especially if you’re a first-time visitor. 

Taxis and Ubers are your best options to and from the airport. Expect to pay anywhere between 300 to 500 pesos. 

Let’s get cultured. 

Chapultepec Park

Chapultepec Park.
Chapultepec Park, Mexico City’s oasis of calm. (Sed/Unsplash)

If you’re looking to stretch your legs after the taxi ride, why not begin in Chapultepec Park? It’s a beautiful area filled with nature, little shops, and, of course, the famous Castillo de Chapultepec at the very top of the hill. 

Entrance tickets are roughly 250 pesos (US $15) per person. So, it’s affordable and the perfect way to introduce yourself to Mexico City. The castle was home to European royalty, Mexican presidents, and was even the headquarters of a military academy. It’s also a fantastic place to take photos for your social media pages. 

Address: Bosque de Chapultepec I Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11580 Mexico City, Mexico. 

Anthropology Museum

The National Museum of Anthropology is probably one of the best history museums in the world. (Reddit)

Still in the mood for a history lesson? Chapultepec Park is only a 20-minute walk from the Museum of Anthropology. It houses thousands of Mayan archeological findings in 23 exhibition halls. A ticket only costs 90 pesos, but you can book a guided tour for a little more. 

Address: Av. P.º de la Reforma s/n, Polanco, Bosque de Chapultepec I Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11560 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico. 

Restaurants & Taquerias

A whole morning of exploring can work up a big appetite. Thankfully, Mexico City can easily help solve that problem. But you don’t have time to gamble when you’re on layover. So, here’s a few solid restaurants that’ll satisfy your hunger: 

Mi Compa Chava

Mi Compa Chava
There is (probably) nothing better than a tower of shrimp. The historic center of Coyoacán makes it even more delicious (Mi Compa Chava)

If you’re in the mood for seafood, you can’t go wrong dining at Mi Compa Chava. Take an Uber or taxi from Chapultepec Park to its Coyoacán location for a unique culinary experience. But if you rather save money and take the metro, transfer onto Line 3 and get off at “Coyoacan”. 

When you’re done, you’ll only be a 15-minute walk from the Frida Kahlo museum. If you have time once you’re done with your meal, you can easily add another exciting chapter to your day exploring Mexican culture. 

Address: PRESIDENTE VENUSTIANO CARRANZA, Felipe Carrillo Puerto ESQ, Coyoacán, 04000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México.

La Cueva Leon

A fantastic taqueria to go for lunch or dinner is La Cueva Leon. It’s one of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been to, and their staff couldn’t be friendlier. 

Again, you can take an Uber or taxi from Chapultepec Park, the distance will be the same as heading to Coyoacan. 

Address: Av. Stim 1342, Lomas del Chamizal, Cuajimalpa de Morelos, 05129 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México. 

Panaderia Rosetta 

Roma’s Rosetta is THE one-stop pastry destination in the city center. (Panadería Rosetta/Facebook)

Do you have a sweet tooth? Or maybe you’d rather have a light meal. No problem – just head over to Panaderia Rosetta in Roma Norte. It was even featured on the hit Netflix show Somebody Feed Phil. 

There, you’ll find a wonderful selection of sandwiches, conchas, guava rolls, coffee, and so much more. It’s essentially an Italian bakery with lots of Mexican influence. 

Address: Colima 179, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico. 

Neighborhoods & Parks

The Condesa neighbourhood is the most Instagrammable of Mexico City’s districts. (Pueblos de México)

In Mexico City, you have the big three neighborhoods: La Condesa, Roma Norte, and Polanco. Each one of these locations has its fair share of top quality restaurants, cafes, and bars. 

If you want to prioritize convenience on your layover, staying in those areas is my suggestion. There are also lots of guided tours that happen in these areas, so that’s something else to keep in mind. 

While you’re in La Condesa or Roma Norte, you might as well check out Parque Mexico and Parque Espana. Not only are both parks beautiful, yet they’re also great places to sit down and people watch. 

Hotel options

Considering the traffic jams in Mexico City, it’s best to stay near the airport if you’re tight on time. Trust me, you’ll be thankful you did when you made your flight home. You don’t want to be sitting in the middle of the highway for two hours, praying you’ll reach your gate. I’ve done it before, and it’s not a fun experience. 

If you can stay less than a kilometer away from Benito Juarez Airport, you’ll be more comfortable and have a better sleep. While this isn’t the best choice for longer visits, the traffic makes it a necessity for short-term visitors. These are the hotels I’d recommend: 

Hotel MX Aeropuerto

Address: C. 17 5, Valentín Gómez Farías, Venustiano Carranza, 15010 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México. 

We Hotel Aeropuerto

Address: Blvd. Puerto Aéreo 390, Moctezuma 2da Secc, Venustiano Carranza, 15530 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México.

Feel like Anthony Bourdain yet? 

Of course, it’s impossible to see everything there is to see in Mexico City during a short layover. But if you plan carefully, you can have a good taste. And who knows, maybe that’ll inspire you to rethink staying in an all-inclusive resort the next time you think of vacationing in Mexico. 

Ian Ostroff is an indie author, journalist, and copywriter from Montreal, Canada. You can find his work in various outlets, including Map Happy and The Suburban. When he’s not writing, you can find Ian at the gym, a café, or anywhere within Mexico visiting family and friends.

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