First trip to Mexico city

Old Feb 4th, 2010, 10:33 AM
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First trip to Mexico city

My husband and I are going to Mexico city for the 1st time on Feb 10th for a week & a half's stay. I need to know what to see... any hidden gems that travel books miss out on and about safety/precautions to be taken while there. You folks at Fodors always give me the best advise.... so looking forward to some more.
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Old Feb 4th, 2010, 11:27 AM
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I wouldn't consider it hidden, but most guidebooks do not adequately convey how really pleasant it is to walk around Condesa and parts of Roma.

Also not exactly hidden, but it's worth the effort to go down to Coyoacan to see Frida Kahlo's house.

I live in Washington DC so am in no position to comment on how safe another city is. However, everyone says don't hail a cab on the street in Mexico City, so don't.
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Old Feb 4th, 2010, 12:56 PM
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Thanx for the reply. I am a artist an definite intend seeing Frida Kahlos home... espeially since I have also seen the movie. Thank you and shall keep in mind about the cabs.
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Old Feb 4th, 2010, 01:08 PM
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YOu are staying in Mexico City for a week and a half? I love Mexico City but that is a long time. Have you thought about about an overnight trip to Puebla (2hrs away by 1st class bus for $17 each way), a wonderful small colonial city w/wonderful architecture, ceramics, and an outdoor artist studio area?
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Old Feb 4th, 2010, 01:25 PM
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Well, my husband has work there for a week, so we are going a bit early to do some sightseeing. I understand that Mexico city is a bit unsafe and am looking for advise on this eventho I have read up quiet a bit of info about the safety factor. I also read that transportation is plagued by robberies, so am not sure about traveling to places far.
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Old Feb 4th, 2010, 02:45 PM
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Robertino has given you good advice on Frida Kahlo's house and on taxi protocol. The official pre-paid taxis at the airport are safe, otherwise the drill is to have your hotel or restaurant call you a taxi from a radio service.

I have found the subway to be safe with one exception -- Hidalgo Station at rush hour. Two friends of mine were pick-pocketed there when we foolishly boarded an already jammed train. Generally I think you would be fine, but do take care if the car gets crowded.

There are certain neighborhoods in which you should not walk at night. Most of those are not in tourist areas except perhaps Plaza Garibaldi, where some go to hear mariachi music. Arrange for a taxi if you go.

Streets in the Centro Historico can be deserted at night. This is where I like to stay and I've never had a problem, but a taxi would be insurance. In this area a few sights, not exactly secret, are the cathedral, the templo mayor and its adjacent museum, and the Diego Rivera murals at the National Palace. These buildings are on or near the zocalo, one of the great attractions of the city. It's an enormous square filled with vibrant street life, over which a huge Mexican flag flies, raised an lowered with great ceremony by the military, sometimes with marching bands.

The Terrace Restaurant in the Hotel Majestic offers a good view of the action and a serviceable lunch.

I would also second emd3's advice on taking a short trip to Puebla.
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Old Feb 4th, 2010, 09:41 PM
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My safety advice: Avoid looking prosperous. Don't wear jewelry that is expensive or that even looks expensive. If possible, take money out of the ATM located in the hotel and do it as you go up to your room, not just before you go out on the street.

I would definitely recommend Casa Luis Barragan http://www.casaluisbarragan.org/ which is a UNESCO site. http://mexico-city-spanish.com/luis-...nd-museum.aspx You need reservations, and be sure to indicate if you want an English-speaking tour guide. It is not far from Chapultepec park.

Also, in the Centro Historico, is the Museo de Arte Popular (folk art museum. It's one of my favorite museums anywhere, and also has a wonderful museum shop.

http://www.casalamm.com.mx/ Casa Lamm, in Roma, is a cultural center in a 1913 house. There is a restaurant there in addition to galleries, bookstore, etc.

Bazar Sabado (only open on Saturdays)is good for shopping. It is generally in the same area as Frida Kahlo's house, so you could go to both the same day.

The anthropology museum is, of course, fabulous, but I also really liked the modern art museum (both in Chapultepec).
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 05:47 AM
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If you are going to Coyoacan to the blue house (very worth it), make it a day there. There is a nice sized, manageable indoor market, very interesting w/a nice Mexican candy section, a bird section, straw baskets, pottery, etc. There is a nice area in the central part of town where there are vendors set up in the park, lots of families around, people playing music, etc. Nice restaurants there. It is a cool town.

Do not miss a day at Teotihuacan. There is a reason it is in all the guidebooks. It is an amazing archeological site, with a central road with pyramids lining it. Awesome. And that is coming from someone who has been to a lot of great archeological sites, including Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu, etc. Teotihuacan is impressive. There are tour buses that will take you there from your hotel.

That is good advice re not wearing expensive jewelry. IMO, do not even wear a little gold bracelet or necklace. When I travel I use a PakSafe purse, which no one can slice off or slice into, it has steal cord in the handles that go over the body, and steel mesh throughout the purse. Good for peace of mind, and I like the purses. They are available online.

There are certain things I do in Mexico City to stay safe. I do not walk around deserted areas at night - and a lot of the city does slow down a lot at night. I do not walk through parks at night, not even the edge of parks- like the subway stop next to Belles Artes is on the edge of Alameda park, and I do not get off there at night. I was given that advice by a Mexican who lives in the DF. But I do take the subway and use taxis.

I suggest since you will be there for 10 days or so, get a good laminated map. I like the Streetwise map of the DF the best. It can be ordered online. And Moon's guidebook in Mexico City - really good.

You might be interested in going in to see the stained glass Tiffany curtain at the Belles Artes. Incredible. Only open during for viewing at certain times, check the website. Also, I believe some restoration work is going on- I hope that will not hinder you from being able to see the curtain. The bldg. itself is magnificent.

Ballet Folklorico performs at the Anthropology Museum (used to be at the Belles Artes but has been moved). Beautiful performances. Check their website. Your hotel can get tickets.

Please consider a day at least (if not an overnight) in Puebla. It is only two hrs on a nice first class bus, and really is worth it. A lovely colonial town.

The Cuidadela market in Mexico City is a great handicraft market. Every handicraft from all over Mexico is there, and it is all good quality. Puebla's pottery, Olinala work from Guerrero, Huichol beading and yarn paintings from Nayarit, tin work, silver jewelry, good quality clothing, embroidered purses, leather work, on and on. Do not miss a stroll thru there- you might end up spending an whole afternoon there if you want to shop.

also, the govt. run FonArt handicraft stores (there are 5) in the DF is very good, has a good representation of handicrafts from all over the country. I like the one downtown west of the Alameda Park. It is not too far from La Cuidadela.

Where are you staying in Mexico City, what hotel? Might be able to give you some advice about the immediate area you are staying in.
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 06:48 AM
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All this makes me want to get back to Mexico City right now!
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 06:55 AM
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Dear Robertino,Fradiavolo,Maryanntex,Emd3.... You guys are precious! Thanx for all that sound advise and website links. And yes, I will keep my jewelry to bare minimum... preferably will wear no jewelry. Both my husband and I are originally from India eventho we have lived many yeas in this part of the world. So we are aware, somewhat, about traveling safely in unknown places (within India), however it is quite a different story in a place where the language & culture is totally unknown. Yet, philosophically speaking... we are all pretty much the same.

My husband and I will be located in Centro Historico... either in the Embassy suites or Hampton Inn. The Paksafe purse is a great suggestion and am already looking for it.

My husband and I are thinking about considering the trip to Puebla... Let us see how we feel after we reach Mexico city.We do plan on many of your suggestions especially the pyramid, market place, museums and am particularly excited about the folk museum & folklorico dance in the anthropology museum.

There is so much to consider and I thank you so much for the pointers... do keep them coming as you remember.

Cheerz - V
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 07:05 AM
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BTW, do any of you know how the weather will be in Mexico city now? Like.... next week!?
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 07:08 AM
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The weather.com says pretty manageable temps... but have any of you gone there this time of the year?
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 07:32 AM
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I thought the weather in February was pleasant -- high sixties and low seventies during the day. Cooler at night so you might want to bring a light sweater or jacket.
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 12:26 PM
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oops, it is actually spelled "Pacsafe."

http://www.pacsafe.com

REI, Magellan's, Travelsmith, Zappos, and other sites sell them online.

I have the "city safe 200" model purse. I love it. Large enough for a guidebook and all my other stuff and a water bottle pouch on the side- and importantly the straps on these purses are adjustable so I can wear it across my body in front. I also have the "sling safe 200." I use that when I don't need one as big as the City Safe 200, like when I go out at night to dinner or whatever.

http://www.pacsafe.com/www/index.php...activity_id=44

I love these products. When I travelled to Peru last yr I got a Pacsafe backpack that had an insert in it that was reinforced w/wire mesh also. I removed the insert and used a pacsafe steel cord to attach it to the radiator in my hotel rm., and I kept camera lenses, laptop, etc. in there when not in use and when I was out of the room. I felt like my belongings were totally secure.
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 01:03 PM
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Is it the Embassy Suites Reforma that you are speaking of? That is not really in the Centro Historico, but it is a wonderful location, close to the Ciudadela shopping market I spoke of above, and the Alameda Park, Palacio de Belles Artes, Fon Art store, etc. Very nice hotel.

In the lobby of the Sheraton Centro Historico hotel across from the Alameda is a branch of a very good Mexican restaurant, La Cardinal. Not what you think of as Mexican food, but really good "real" Mexican food. I believe that location is only open through lunch time, but you might try to go for lunch, it is good.

The Hampton Inn Historico is much closer to the real Centro Historico. It is a block off of the Plaza de la Constitution, or the main Zocalo in Mexico City. You'd be a block away from the main cathedral, the Zocalo square where there is usually something going on on weekends, the Templo Major, the Palacio Nacional, the very historical seat of govt. where the Diego Rivera murals are, etc. Very hopping area. Lots of shops on the side streets fanning out from the Zocalo, bakeries, churches, pawn shops (where I have gotten good buys on Oaxacan gold earrings, etc.), lots of vibe there. I love this area and prefer to to the Embassy Suites location, altho the ES location is also very good and that ES hotel is likely more upscale.

I LOVE MEXICO CITY. It is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Next to New York, it is my 2nd favorite large city in the world. It tops Paris for me.
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 01:05 PM
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Did I already recommend the Moon Guidebook to Mexico City? It is the best, IMO.
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 01:15 PM
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I know it is in all the guidebooks, but the House of Tiles (Sanborns) in the Centro Historico is a cool bldg. SO much great architecture in the DF.

People always recommend the Cafe Tacuba in the Centro Historico. It is pretty good traditional food, but crowded and the service not so great. But it does have that Panchi Villa gunshot in the ceiling, lots of stained glass, paintings on the ceilings, etc. and the mariachis go around playing while you eat. AND very importantly, they are open til 11:30 pm which is late for Mexico City.

I have personally avoided Plaza Girabaldi, an area where mariachis play outside and at a lot of restaurants, because it has been associated w/high crime in that area.
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 01:35 PM
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Dear Emd3.... I am noting down points in a little book from all your emails. Yes, I have heard that the Girabaldi area is not that safe and anyways, my husband and I don't expect to be lurking about town too late into the evening. And like you pointed out real Mexican food... not tex-mex... tastes so fabulous due to the various sauces.

We shall be staying at the Hampton the 1st few days and then shifting to Embassy suites... or it is possibly the other way around... not sure. So I suppose we can enjoy the best of both for different reasons.

Your descriptive emails and enthusiasm is very appreciated. Thank you!
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Old Feb 5th, 2010, 04:54 PM
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There are 2 Frida Kahlo 2 homes in Mexico City: the Coyoacan home she grew up in and died in; and the smaller San Angel home she shared with Diego Rivera. Both are worth visiting. If you have any interest in Russian history, I also recommend visiting Trotsky's home, which is just a few blocks walk from Kahlo's Coyoacan house.

There are tons of things to see in the Mexico City area, so you may not have time to leave town. But if you want a nearby excursion, I suggest the town of Cuernavaca. It is about 1 hour away by express bus, and contains several places of interest.

I agree with the suggestion of seeing Ballet Folklorico. It was a wonderful show when I saw it a few years ago.

But above all, do not miss the Anthropology Museum, the world's largest collection of pre-Colombian artifacts. If you have any interest at all in Aztec or Mayan history, it is a fascinating place.
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