Tours in Mexico City

The next stop on our roving retirement was Mexico City because our flight to Europe went through there and we had never visited before. We purposely changed our plans so we could spend four days in Mexico City. We chose to say in Centro, the area around the main town square of Zocalo because we wanted to see the historical part of the city and we were told traffic can be very bad, which is absolutely true.

Walking Tour of Centro

We arrived in the morning, so we arranged an afternoon walking tour of the area through CityUnscripted since we enjoyed their personalized service in Tokyo last year.

Our guide provided lots of commentary on the history of the area and Mexico in general as well as the architecture, which, to put it mildly, is a mish-mash of styles. No building better represents the style melting pot better than the Metropolitan Cathedral in Zocalo plaza. Over the course of three centuries, 20+ architects guided construction of the Cathedral in whatever fashion was contemporary to their time. The result is a riot of styles, including Gothic, Baroque, Churrigueresque and Neoclassical. “Interesting” would not do it justice.

There are many Art Deco buildings constructed in the building boom following WWI. The Palacio de Bellas Artes is a prime example. A further stylistic curve-ball was a classic Parisian Metro entrance installed nearby in 1998. The style riot continues.

Hop-on, Stay-on Bus

We spent the next morning doing some work for the blog. Early in the afternoon, we walked 3 blocks back to Zocalo plaza to pick up the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus. We enjoyed these in Sydney and Johannesburg and thought it would help us quickly cover much of this incredibly large city. We did wind up covering much of the city, just not very quickly.

There are five distinct bus loops with some interchange points. Diana particularly wanted to get on the Green route to see the University of Mexico (UNAM), a World Heritage Site. The bus we boarded (red loop) at Zocalo plaza takes roughly one hour to complete, busses run every 20 minutes, while the Green Bus runs every hour and takes three hours at best to complete. I keep forgetting to say no to the three-hour tour. 🙁

Unfortunately, the tour company has not adjusted for traffic in this massive city of 22 million and every bus ran late. Worse, the map we were handed when we boarded did not show where we could hop off and catch a returning bus sooner. As such, we felt trapped on the bus. This map I found online will help you make a more informed decision about using their service if you so choose.

Getting Off the Bus

As the hours wore on, the sky darkened and the temperature dipped. We were a bit underdressed for the cool evening. We eventually had to insist on stopping the bus so we could get off and grab an Uber to an evening performance we were attending at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Thankfully, we arrived in time, but not by much.

Market Tour

We always try to book a market or food tour in new cities that we visit. In Mexico City, we found a market tour through Airbnb Experiences. It covered three markets and provided some food sampling along the way.

La Merced Market

Our first market was La Merced. This market has a variety of everyday items, including produce, meats, dairy, spices, and housewares. We kicked off our day with a breakfast quesadilla made with blue corn, very tasty. You can’t shop on an empty stomach.

Our host, Ho, told us that La Merced is a market where small businesses, i.e. street vendors, go to get supplies. They often buy 1-10 kilos of items here and prices and quantities are set accordingly. Regular grocery purchases are usually done at local supermarkets or small shops around town. We sampled a few items, such as Mole, as we passed through La Merced.

Our next stop was for a quick street taco. All the flavors of the individual ingredients came through in every bite. Yum!

Sonora Market

Then we walked a little way to the Sonora Market, a.k.a. the Voodoo market. Here you can purchase potions, items for spells and live animals for, well, whatever you want.

San Juan Market

Finally, we went to the Mercado de San Juan. This market transformed in recent years to be a gourmet market, where tourists and the local upper class could go for fine foods and beverages. We noticed the produce is immaculate, often packaged and it costs more than at La Merced. Still, if you gotta have that authentic Gruyere and salumi, this is a good place to go.

We finished our tour with a mezcal tasting, orange wedges and worm salt, because, why not! It’s hard to beat this roving retirement.

Which market appeals to you?

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  1. We really enjoyed it. I’m sure we’ll go back, there’s so much more to see.

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