Mexico City: Weekend Getaway

When people think “getaway” they tend to think of Vegas or Montreal. And when they think “Mexico”, Canadians likely imagine the turquoise waters of the Cancun/Playacar area or the cobblestoned charms of Puerto Vallarta.

But guess what makes a fantastic Mexican Getaway? Mexico City. The greater Mexico City area has a population of 21 million, making it one of the largest cities in the world, with the arts, shopping, historic and gastronomical scene to match.

It’s easy to be too ambitious when you plan just a short stay. For a 3 night escape, consider staying in the historic district, within walking distance of the Zocalo, the massive central square. You’ll be within walking distance (don’t even think of renting a car) of the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral, shops and department stores, cafes, restos and the always informative and interesting Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tour. A 24-hour ticket on these double deckers gives you unlimited rides on a circuit which makes several stops, and provides English commentary on what you are passing. There is also a Metro/subway stop right at the Zocalo, and while you have to keep a very keen eye and grip on your belongings, it’s an authentic way to see a slice of Mexican life.

Another fun option is to take an Urban Adventure Markets tour. These hugely-fun half day tours are limited in size – there’s usually just a handful of you – and include the services of an entertaining local guide to explain everything from what Mexicans typically eat for breakfast to the educational system. The Markets Tour takes you to Albelardo Rodriguez food market, famed for its murals painted by students of Diego Rivera, the famed and controversial artist; the eye-popping flower market and – creep-factor alert – the witchcraft market, for voodoo dolls, magic potions and lucky charms.

Don’t forget to bring along a Spanish-English dictionary. While most Mexicans in the tourism sector speak English, a surprising number of restaurants (mainly the informal ones) have menus in Spanish only, and shop attendants, for the most part, don’t speak English. Memorize a few words ahead of time such as gracias, por favor and buenos dias (thank you, please and good day) and the locals will be very appreciative.