Mexico City: Days 4 & 5 – Xochimilco, La Condesa, and Roma Neighborhoods

On our family’s last full day in Mexico City, we decided to take a day trip to the Xochimilco Canals. What fun! Apparently, Mexico City used to be on a swampy island in Lake Texcoco, making this area the best taste of what this city might have looked like before the Spanish came. On the way back to our hotel, we explored the La Condesa and the Roma Neighborhoods. After returning to the Historic Center, we also made a quick stop at the Torture Museum.

Xochimilco Canals

Getting from the Historic Center to Xochimilco Canals is easy by Uber. For only 200 pesos (US$10), we took a 45 minute cab ride 22km across town. Unless you are on a shoestring budget, figuring out public transit in Mexico City doesn’t make much sense. Sure, a bus ticket is only 5 pesos, but when split across a group, most foreign visitors can probably afford $2.50/person for a cab vs. $0.25/person for a bus.

On arrival, we realized that we were a little early and it took a few minutes to figure out where to go to get a boat. In the end someone directed us to his friend’s boat for a “tip.” He actually had us pay him the full amount for the boat (500 pesos/hour, or US$25) and told us to give the driver a tip. Since our Spanish is far from awesome, we weren’t 100% sure if we translated this correctly, and were half wondering if we’d have to pay again when leaving. Since we only rented the boat for an hour, we figured that worst case was that it would be a US$25 mistake. In the end, it all worked out.

The boats ended up being even more fun than expected! While this is a popular excursion for tourists, it is even more popular with the locals, particularly on weekends. The guidebooks indicated that Sunday afternoons are particularly busy, perhaps too much so for an out-of-town visitor just trying to get a taste. The boats hold up to 20 people and have tables for picnics, games, and more. We even saw that some people had hired a mariachi band to ride on their boats with them. We see the appeal, especially for a large group of locals looking for a low-key way to hangout on a Sunday afternoon.

Our boat only had the 4 of us. You pay by boat, not by person. As soon as we launched, a small boat with a cooler pulled up to the side of our boat and offered to sell us drinks or snacks, so we got a few sodas.

Then a boat with a mariachi band pulled up. We initially said no, but then regretted it. A short while later, another band pulled up and played us a song for 150 pesos.

As we floated down the canal, we saw lots of flower markets, bathroom houses, and more that you could request your captain to make stops at. At the 30 minute mark, our captain turned around. I think that I could have easily spent at least another hour on the boat, and definitely saw the appeal of a 4 hour ride with extended family or friends.

On the way back, it was getting closer to lunchtime and more of the locals were coming out. This meant that if you wanted to hear mariachi music, all you had to do was be on the canal. If you decide to take a canal tour, decide whether you want the quiet canal to yourself – go early on a weekday, or whether you want a lively party with lots of other people on the canal – go at lunchtime or a little later. The weekends are likely to be very crowded, so avoid that time period if you can.

Mercado de Jamaica

From here, we decided to take an Uber to the Mercado de Jamaica, a beautiful flower market!

After taking a delightful stroll through the market, we thought about getting lunch here, but we had been struggling with stomach issues and didn’t want to risk eating anywhere that might make it worse. Some of the best tasting food can be found at markets like these, but the hygiene standards aren’t always as awesome as one would hope.

La Condesa Neighborhood

Feeling very hungry and trying to figure out the best strategy for lunch, we decided to catch an Uber towards the La Condesa neighborhood. Lunch in Mexico is late by US standards – 2pm is more typical, and many restaurants are not open much before this. Not being used to this, all of us were getting quite cranky. We had a few ideas and picked one of the first we came to even though I wasn’t thrilled with the ambiance.

Lunch came with the soup of the day, which was quite tasty, but it did have a strong shrimp flavor that the boys didn’t care for. I got a fish special, which looked amazing, but ended up just being okay.

Feeling refreshed, we set out for a walk through the neighborhood. As it turns out, if we would have waited a little longer to get food, we would have been able to sit in a cuter location. Sometimes hunger trumps the unknown.

There were several cute parks that we wandered through, a few shops, and a lot of restaurants.

Roma Neighborhood

Eventually, we came to the Roma Neighborhood. While La Condesa felt a little more hipster, the Roma neighborhood had a similar vibe, but felt a little more high end.

There was a nice tree-lined avenue and more restaurants, but we were getting tired. We took a quick look around and decided to catch an Uber back towards the Historic Center.

The Torture Museum

The boys loved the boat tour through the Xochimilco Canals, but we knew that walking through trendy neighborhoods wasn’t their thing. James appreciates some good architecture, but there is only so much of that you can do before teenagers get bored.

Trying to find something that would delight them, we asked if they wanted to go to the Torture Museum. How many teenage boys wouldn’t love a good torture museum?

This one didn’t disappoint. There were quite a few torture devices on exhibit and most of the signs were bilingual Spanish/English, so they were able to read to their hearts content.

Our Evening

Our evening was pretty low key. The boys took another walk with Jeremy, but then we just picked up a few snacks for dinner and hung out in the hotel. While the most of the touristy areas of Mexico City are reasonably safe, if you wander outside these zone or stay out past when most other people are out, you may be putting yourself at risk. We did so much each day, that 8:00pm was a perfectly reasonable time to call it quits.

Our Last Morning

With a 1:00pm flight, we had a little time in the morning, so decided to wander around the Historic Center one last time. On arrival to Mexico City, our first activity was to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral. I was so tired and cranky, that I didn’t fully appreciate it, so Jeremy dragged me back to look at it again. He was right! It was much more beautiful than I remembered and could rival many of the cathedrals in Europe!

We took one more walk down to the Torre Latino building, then went back to our hotel to pick up our bags and head to the airport!

The Airport

The Mexico City airport is much smaller than you would expect from the size of the city. Fortunately, they were not having the type of staffing shortages that Europe was having and we were able to get our bags dropped off and through security without too much trouble.

Once through security, we still had about an hour and a half before boarding, so we found a restaurant to hang out in. I got some really good chilaquiles! If you take tortilla chips and top them with warm enchilada verde sauce and some chicken, you will have a good idea of what a chicken chilaquiles is.

Eventually it came time to board our plane. On to Guadalajara!

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