If the first image that comes to mind when you hear “Mexico” is the touristy (but beautiful) strip of Gulf Coast beaches, think again. The real Mexico is much more than spring breakers, cruises, and resorts. What if I told you the best destination in Mexico isn’t the beach at all, but the capital city?
A sprawling home to 20 million people, Mexico City is one of the largest greater metro areas in the Western hemisphere. Packed with world class foods, art, and one-of-a-kind experiences, it should definitely be on the travel radar of every mobile photographer.
When you’re ready, here are the best places for you and your phone to go in Mexico City. You can easily hit all these spots in a weekend:
Take a ride in Xochimilco
A Sunday afternoon tradition, the Embarcadero of Xochimilco will be one of the most relaxing and picturesque things you do while visiting Mexico City. Known as the “floating gardens” of Xochimilco, these canals are filled with brightly painted boats made for relaxing and hanging with friends. Rent a boat for a couple of hours and sit back and enjoy the ride through the canals. Buy a bucket of beers from one of the storefronts ashore, and then stop along your ride for some tacos, elotes, and more. It really feels like one big party as you pass other friendly patrons and mariachi bands. The colorful boats and occasional stops provide the perfect photos to show off your fun and relaxing ride.
Travel Tip: The cost is around $350 MXN per boat, per hour; don’t let the boat handlers pressure you into paying more. If you’re down to make new friends, hang around the entrance for other small groups to arrive and split the cost between everyone.
Kick back in El Zocalo
One thing I love about countries like Mexico is how much their culture and communities center around public squares. Historically, they have served as the cultural epicenter of civilization, where religion, government, trade, and social interactions merge. Mexico City has many squares still thriving today where locals go to eat, meet, and attend religious ceremonies. Take a walk around the wide open Zocalo to see the National Palace, home of the Mexican government, and gander inside Metropolitan Cathedral, Latin America’s oldest and largest cathedral.
Travel Tip: If you’re a foodie, take to the side streets at the Zocalo. It’s surrounded by a popular shopping district with chain restaurants, so if you’re looking for something more authentic, venture off the beaten path to find the perfect street taco.
Climb high at Teotihuacan
Mexico City already sits at around 7,000 feet above sea level, so you may not want to venture out to the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon on your first day. Let yourself acclimate to the elevation for a day, and then take the hour ride out to Teotihuacan to visit these ancient Aztec pyramids. There’s something so captivating about standing at the top of a structure built by the hands of people who lived thousands of years before you. Using the Moment Superfish will let you take in every corner of the surrounding landscape.
Travel Tip: Most of Mexico City is easy to get around, thanks to ridesharing apps, but the hour ride out to Teotihuacan can be one that’s hard to get a ride back, so try renting a car instead. Set it up ahead of time because many car rental facilities in Mexico City can be low on inventory, and the mountain of paperwork will eat into your day if you rent same-day.
Find color in La Condesa
La Condesa is aptly hailed as one of the hippest neighborhoods in Mexico City. It’s filled with cute cafes and independent shops. Head over in late afternoon to get the best light and wander the side streets to find beautifully colored walls and lush foliage. When shooting these walls, I utilized the Moment App to adjust my temperature and exposure to find the perfect balance of light and warmth.
Travel Tip: You can get along just fine without knowing much Spanish, but knowing a few Spanish phrases can help you eat your way through the city:
1. In Latin culture it’s considered rude for a waiter to bring you your check without asking, so when you’re ready, simply ask for the check, they aren’t just ignoring you. Ask the waiter “La cuenta por favor,” meaning “the check, please”.
2. Grabbing a coffee or snack to go? Simply order and say “para llevar” meaning “to take away”
3. Coffee is a staple in just about every culture, but there can be some distinct difference. If you like drinking Americanos, know that “Americano” just means a plain coffee in Mexico, so ask for a “cafe espresso Americano” to get that high octane espresso and water mix.
Wherever you find yourself in Mexico City, it’s best to embrace the culture of the wonderful people there. You’ll find the locals to be welcoming and warm, just be sure to extend the same respect in asking before you take their photo.