Mexico City is one of my all-time favorite cities in the world, there is just so much to do and so much to discover, it’s a destination where you can easily keep coming back to and always have a completely different trip.
This vibrant and bustling city, as fun as it is, can also be very intimidating at first, luckily, every time I have visited Mexico City I have had local friends show me around, and share some insider tips and tricks with me, such as these tips for how to do the historic center of Mexico City like a local.
If you want to start with the basics make sure to check out: 10 essential things to do and see in Mexico City.
How To Do The Historic Center of Mexico City Like a Local
Get the best view of Palacio de Bellas Artes
Palacio de Bellas Artes is Mexico City’s house of arts and culture and is also known as the “Cathedral of Art in Mexico” since the gorgeous venue hosts all types of events in music, literature, theatre, opera, and dance, and is one of the most distinctive buildings in the historic center of Mexico City.
The Palace of Fine arts has a little plaza in the front of the building where you can sit down and admire the structure up close, however, there is a better way to actually get the bigger picture of the intricate building…
Right in front of the Palace of Fine Arts, there is a Sears department store which has a café with a terrace on the 8th floor that oversees Palacio de Bellas Artes beautifully!
The café is called don Porfirio, and all you need to do is order a drink to have access to the terrace and the view. Make sure to arrive earlier in the day to avoid crowds.
Eat as locals eat in the Historic Center of Mexico City at La Casa de Toño
The Historic Center of Mexico City is a great place to get a taste of typical Mexican food, however, it is also quite easy to end up in tourist trap restaurants that would ruin your idea of what Mexican food should be.
Luckily, right in the heart of the historic center of Mexico City, there is a location of La Casa de Toño, a “antojitos” restaurant that locals adore.
Antojitos literally translates to “little cravings” and this type of Mexican food encompasses all kinds of delicious Mexican street food from sopes to tostadas to flautas and more.
The menu at Casa de Toño is quite extensive which makes it the perfect place to experiment with Mexican street food in a restaurant environment.
Overall the quality of the food is amazing, the portions are generous and all for very affordable prices, that is why the locals will always happily line up during the weekends to feast here with their families.
An absolute must while visiting the historic center of Mexico City to experience it like a local!
Support street vendors in the Historic Center of Mexico City
I feel like no trip to Mexico City will ever be complete without coming back home with luggage full of colorful treasures as souvenirs, whether that is another beautiful ceramic skull, textiles, or a piece of art.
You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to Mexican souvenirs in the capital, however, if you want to support the small businesses, make sure to head out to the Cathedral in the Historic Center of Mexico City, where you will find a street market of local artists selling all kinds of hand made items such as the hand-painted ceramic skulls, handmade jewelry, handmade toys, embroidered bags, and much more.
You get it all in one place, sightseeing and souvenirs, and for a really good price while supporting the local artists and craftsmen/women.
Have a drink with a view of the Historic Center of Mexico City
While strolling around the Historic Center of Mexico City you will have sellers, sometimes even kids come up to you to invite you “up to their restaurant with a view”, and as good as that sounds, skip that, just to be safe, and instead visit this local-approved terrace.
Terraza Restaurante y Bar is the restaurant located on the 5th floor of the elegant Gran Hotel in the Historic Center of Mexico City, the menu is upscale Mexican cuisine, but they also have coffee and a drink menu.
The terrace overlooks El Zocalo and the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral and is the perfect spot to take a break from exploring and have an afternoon coffee with a view or enjoy dinner and a drink later in the evening.
Skip Starbucks – go to Cielito Querido Café
I have never really been the kind of person that looks for a Starbucks everywhere I go, but I know that sometimes while traveling we look for comfort wherever we can find it, and Starbucks is simply everywhere.
However, if what you need is a reliable caffeine fix while exploring the Historic Center of Mexico City but want to try something local, skip Starbucks and visit a location of Cielito Querido Cafe instead, the local coffee chain that very much looks like Mexican Starbucks, chain coffee shop but way more colorful with papel picado decorations and great Spanish slogans.
Cielito Querido Café has many locations throughout the city, but there is an even bigger concentration in the Historic Center of Mexico City so you will never have to go un-caffeinated. In fact, if you want an extra kick make sure to try “café de olla”, a dark and lightly sweeten Mexican coffee, one of my favorite drinks to get from here.
I hope you found this concise guide on how to do the Historic Center of Mexico City like a local helpful and I hope it makes you navigate this busy area with a little bit more confidence. Let me know if you have any questions about Mexico City that I can help you with. Have you been to Mexico City before? Is it on your list?