It’s not often that I fall in love with a city, but my day in La Condesa Mexico City with Tasty Bites Tours made me realize I had been avoiding CDMX for far too long.
I hadn’t planned to visit Mexico City at all. But Rease from Indecisive Traveler and I planned a trip to Nicaragua for our birthdays. I knew they were experiencing some civil unrest in the capital but Managua isn’t safe at the best of times. Rease and I have both traveled extensively throughout Latin America and took the travel warnings with a grain of salt.
That was until all hell broke loose in the country. I wanted to return to visit the family I stayed with in Leon in 2010 and update my guide to Nicaraguan food.
But when Aeromexico was offering free flight changes even my Nicaraguan family agreed it wasn’t safe for us to stay. Instead of cutting the holiday short Aeromexico allowed us to travel to our layover city, Mexico City.
I was heartbroken because I really wanted to share Nicaragua with Rease as I knew she’d love it as much as I did. I haven’t written about the experience because I’m so torn over the privilege of being able to leave, while my Nicaraguan family…and all Nicaraguans, live through such a horrible time in their country.
>> READ: Rease’s post about Fleeing Civil Unrest in Nicaragua<<
We arrived in Mexico City with heavy hearts, although we did also spend a lot of time following #SOSNicaragua on social media, we decided we needed to enjoy our time while we were there and wanted to explore La Condesa Mexico City.
Even though I adore Mexico and I visit several times every year I have always avoided CDMX – why? I don’t know? I guess I thought Mexico City was too large, too cramped, too polluted, too dangerous to visit on my own.
As I write this I feel foolish.
Because Mexico City turned out to be one of my favourite cities in the world. Cosmopolitan. Modern. Affordable. Safe.
And. So. Many. Things. To. Do.
It’s almost overwhelming to share. There are so many Mexico City attractions. If we were sitting down having coffee my conversation would be all over the place. But to make this useful for you I’m gonna stay focused.
Let’s begin with one neighbourhood because it’s what started this love affair.
Why You’ll Love La Condesa Mexico City
La Condesa is often called a bohemian neighbourhood, but of course like everywhere else in the world bohemian is often replaced by hipster. And I don’t say that in a derogatory way.
La Condesa Mexico City is a modern neighbourhood with cool cafes and amazing restaurants interspersed with old school taco spots and shops that have been around for generations. It’s a little like Brooklyn and not as overhyped as the Roma neighbourhood next door.
It’s the kind of neighbourhood you want to live in.
There’s a canopy of trees lining streets dotted with Art Deco architecture. People are out walking their dogs. There’s food to eat on every corner and in between. It reminded me of when I rented an apartment in Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires – except a million times better.
But before you get too set on selling off all your things and moving to La Condesa, also know that it’s one of the richest aka most expensive neighbourhoods in Mexico City.
But hey that doesn’t mean you can’t visit and enjoy it all the same. Here’s what you should see:
Things to Do in La Condesa
You must be a dog lover to visit, or at least part of it as it is home to the neighbourhood dogs while their owners are at work. The park is thriving during the day with music, performances, runners and people just enjoying the lush, enormous park.
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Bosque de Chapultepec
Bordering La Condesa is a giant park within Mexico City, much larger than New York’s Central Park. It is an ecological space that is considered the lungs of Mexico City for its trees but is also a cultural heart with lots of activities for locals.
10 Best Tacos in La Condesa
I always like to do a walking food tour when I visit a city. It’s a good way to get to know the city, but I also monopolize the guide’s time by asking tons of questions about where I should eat and any other insider’s tips.
I had heard amazing things about Tasty BItes Tours Mexico City food tours from other travel bloggers. He offered to show Rease and I around for free, which really you cannot turn down. And bonus he’s Canadian!
But Robert isn’t some gringo who offered to take us to lame places. He’s lived in Mexico with his family for years, including La Condesa Mexico City.
This is why we chose a version of the Mexico City: Tacos, Mezcal & Helados Tour I say a version of it because there is so much food we had to tap out before it was over.
However, the normal tour includes 11+ tastings with specialty stores and vendors including artisanal ice-cream and mezcal. Maybe you’re thinking, hey why aren’t you touring with a Mexican in Mexico?
And I do love working with locals who were born and raised in a city but I don’t discount experienced foreigners as sometimes they are the best at pointing out weird and quirky things that would just seem normal to a local. And with Tasty Bites Food Tours the spots are still local and independent so small businesses benefit.
While you could easily just take a list (or this post) about the best tacos in La Condesa, a tour is so much more than that. Rob and his wife have eaten the neighbourhood and know the people.
He shares what it’s like to live there (good and bad) and La Condesa Taco stand owners are happy to see him. They know you want to shoot photos and video and welcome it.
Our meeting point for the tour. Tacos Hola has been around for 40 years and specializes in stewed tacos made in cazuelas, or clay pots. They begin cooking in the morning so Rob warned us not to visit after 2pm as everything is cold and not as good.
I knew it was a full day of meat so I chose a chile relleno taco, which is NOT stewed meat – but it IS a mistake. Yet, I LOVE chile relleno tacos and so I made a misguided decision and it ended up being my least favourite of the day. For some reason it had guacamole on top, which is rare to see in Mexico. Sure you get avocado, but never full on guac. It made it kinda soggy.
But I did love the service as calling it surly is an understatement. Rob warned us that the woman wasn’t the friendliest (although other staff are) and somehow I found it kind of charming in a Soup Nazi kind of way.
Tacos Hola did close this month as the health department wanted them to put up a glass window.
Amsterdam 135, Hipódromo, 06100
Serving tacos al pastor – aka the king of tacos yet these tacos aren’t quite 100% Mexican.
El Tizoncito has been around since 1966 and claims to have invented al pastor, which means shepherd style. Lebanese immigrants started arriving in Mexico in the late 1800s and they introduced the rotating spit, which is now known as the trompo.
However, El Tizoncito had the foresight to add the pineapple, which makes el pastor so beloved.
Av. Tamaulipas 122, Condesa, 06140
Want to know where Rob goes for Mexican craft beer and bit of mezcal with friends? Rease and I loved this stop so much we came back for ahhh….souvenirs for home.
We stopped in for some mezcal, while tequila is a type of mezcal it must be made with 100% blue agave. Whereas mezcal can be made from any type of mezcal.
Staff here shares information without being condescending and is really great about providing a number of options as well as sampling and then resampling bottles you may want to buy.
I brought a bottle of smokey mezcal back to me to Cuba and none of my Cuban friends liked it. I was completely okay with keeping it all to myself.
Juan Escutia 24 B, Condesa, 06140
Tacos Don Juan
This spot was once a butcher shop but now serves some of the best tacos in La Condesa Mexico City. It is only open 10am-4pm, and while they serve a variety of tacos from costilla to pieza de chamorro and serve carnitas on weekends.
Also the men here are SO nice and were happy to pose for photos and video.
Calle Juan Escutia 35, Condesa
I cannot emphasize this enough – I am all about sauces! Although we were nearing full stomach capacity we had to go to get shrimp tacos.
This corner restaurant has been around for generations and while you can get a deep fried chili stuffed with shrimp and cheese to order, the shrimp taco was one of my favourite that day.
Across the street an older woman with a green cart sells amazing steak and mashed potato. Don’t miss out if you find her there.
Calle Atlixco 38, Condesa, 06140
From the same company that owns the many Maque Cafes that are packed for brunch throughout the city is this organic ice cream shop. It’s just a few doors down from the La Condesa Maque, but if you want to go for breakfast you better get there before noon.
Calle Ozuluama 4, Hipódromo, 06100
Taqueria El Greco
Although new trendy restaurants have pushed out older neighbourhood spots in La Condesa, Taqueria El Greco is thriving.
A different take on tacos, this spot serving árabe style tacos has been around for 40 years. Oaxacan cheese and meat marinated in minced parsley, onion and salt is served on a pita.
Av Michoacán 54, Hipódromo, 06100
Condesa Restaurants You’ll Adore
The neighbourhoods of La Condesa, and Roma are next to each other and so similar that many people group the two of them together. Some also include the upcoming neighbourhood of Colonia Juarez. In many cases these recommendations are technically in Roma Norte so don’t crucify me for bending the rules.
I wanted to share things that were a short walking distance in La Condesa as Mexico City is a gigantic city.
And huge props to Tasty Food Tours Rob for also sending me this list of recommendations. This is why you take a food tour the first day, you’ll discover where locals really love to eat.
You’ll notice I didn’t include Mercado Roma, which I heard from several locals that it is overpriced and more style than substance.
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One of the best values in La Condesa is Fonda Fina (Medellín 79). The executive chef, Jorge Vallejo of Quintonil, was once the chef at Pujol and was the runner up on Top Chef Mexico.
It opens at 1pm for lunch and serves traditional Mexican with a modern twist.
Medellín 79, Roma Nte., 06700
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Many people don’t realize that Mexico, the land of tacos and tortas, is also home to some of the best bakeries. Bread and desserts are HUGE in Mexico. Even as someone who professes I don’t like sweets, I always make an exception in Mexico.
So many people advised me that if I could only eat at ONE place in Mexico City it had to be at Panaderia Rossetta.
Havre 73, Juárez, 06600
Colima 179, Roma Nte, 06700
Puebla 242, Roma Nte, 06700
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Molino El Pujol
Everyone raves about El Pujol, or at least they did. I’ve heard mixed reviews that the price and wait aren’t worth it. But this is where Molino El Pujol comes in, a relaxed tortilleria where you can try great food without the formality of fine dining.
If you were dying to try the famous El Pujol chicatana (flying ant) mayonnaise, you can also find it here.
Gral. Benjamín Hill 146, Hipódromo Condesa
Craft Beer and Cocktail Bars in La Condesa
La Condesa is such a popular spot for nightlife in Mexico City that you can find hidden bars, some intentionally hidden and others just small spots.
Conveniently located a short walk from where Rease and I returned to buy reposado. El Trappist is home to an ever changing selection of Mexican craft beer. It’s a tiny spot with only four tables inside and four outside but feel free to stand and hang out with friends.
Av. Álvaro Obregón 298, Hipódromo Condesa
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One of the bars that is impossible to find as it’s purposely kept a secret. But you can message them for directions on their Facebook page with what time you plan to go and they’ll respond immediately.
In true speakeasy style you’ll be guided through a secret passage/beer fridge to enter the bar.
Londres, Juárez, 06600
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Parker & Lenox
Hotels in Condesa Mexico City
As our plans were thwarted in Nicaragua and we had to decide on a hotel quickly. I used IHG Rewards Points so we knew we were staying somewhere that could be a good base. While the Condesa neighbourhood is filled with beautiful architecture and plenty to see we decided to stay in the much less well known neighbourhood of Santa Maria de Ribera.
Reviews of our hotel said it wasn’t special and there was nothing to see but I found it to be the opposite. Sure, there weren’t pretty buildings and the tourists that come along with it. Instead it was just locals living their daily lives.
It’s likely no one has written about the place where we’d eat breakfast each morning for $2. But it was clearly a neighbourhood favourite as it was always busy. It was only a ten minute walk from Centro Histórico and a short Uber from everything else. It wasn’t the prettiest but there was plenty to see and to catch a glimpse of what it would be like to live in Mexico City.
If you’d like to stay in La Condesa the good news is that there are options at a variety of budgets:
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Hotel Condesa DF
The original boutique hotel in La Condesa before the neighbourhood became of the coolest in Mexico City – if you can place that post 2005. Aside from being one of the most popular places to stay in La Condesa, it’s also home to a great bar.
It’s known for its instagram friendly rooftop and the underground nightclub, which is rammed on weekends.
El Parque Mexico
A boutique hotel, which has recently changed hands and has been under two years of restoration. You cannot beat the location across the Parque Mexico. It’s a modern hotel but doesn’t have the sterile generic feeling it instead embraces Mexican interior design and the neighbourhood’s art deco heritage.
Hippodrome Hotel Condesa
Another great option if you’d like to be close to a park as it is within walking distance to Chapultepec.
Is La Condesa Mexico City Safe?
Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world There are almost 9 million people living in Mexico City or 21 million if you count the outlying areas. This makes it just slightly larger than New York City.
I like to compare cities that people feel comfortable in when talking about safety of a city or country because I think it’s more practical than saying sure, Mexico City is safe you just need to be careful.
Duh. I think you knew that.
So here are the facts…according to Wikipedia so take them with a grain of Internet fact salt.
Mexico City currently has one of the highest police officer to resident ratios in the world, with one uniformed police officer per every 100 citizens. The murder rate in 2009 was 8.4 per 100,000 — by comparison, higher than the 5.6 in New York City but much less than the 14.8 in Atlanta.
And if you feel comfortable traveling to Chicago, Miami or Philadelphia you should know in 2017 these cities had double the murder rate of Mexico City.
But what is it like on the ground? Rease and I felt completely comfortable walking around La Condesa, wandering the streets and stopping into bars and shops.
Did we worry about getting murdered in Mexico City? No. Like most major cities the most likely thing to happen is theft so we kept our bags on us, just as we would in Barcelona (the pickpocket capital of the world) or Rome (the scammer capital of Europe).
We took Ubers at night instead of walking. And as we weren’t looking for drugs or participating in other illegal activities we didn’t need to worry about the drug cartel – which is the source of many of Mexico City’s murders.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I have been lucky enough not to visit a hospital while traveling…so far. But I have been robbed – first in Saigon, then robbed in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua and my sister was robbed in Quito, Ecuador.
Nothing ruins a vacation like an unexpected expense like going to the hospital or the police station for a theft report. Consider investing in travel insurance, it’s a gamble because you may not need it but it’s a good thing if you never need to use it.
Condesa Mexico City Resources
I mentioned Rob above for our taco tour of La Condesa but I’d take any tour he hosted. He was such a great resource on the tour for things to do in Mexico City, other great places to eat in La Condesa and Roma – but most importantly what things to avoid.
I met Anais while traveling in Colima in Mexico and liked her right off the bat. Born and raised in Mexico City she also runs food tours in Mexico City so of course I need to return to eat with her. You could just rip her recommendations from her site but really you’d be missing out on eating in Mexico City with a local.
I also met Lydia while at the same conference as Anais, and went to the market to discover more things to eat in Colima. Lydia is American but has lived in Mexico City for so long people were always professing that her Spanish is better than most Mexicans, I’d trust her food knowledge of the city to be the same.
She runs food tours in the city and has also published this guide to Roma.