San Miguel de Allende Mexico Travel Guide

San Miguel de Allende Mexico Travel Guide

San Miguel de Allende.

I type this beautiful towns name and smile, looking back fondly on time spent here.  Simple, yet stunning. Slow paced, yet full of life.  Experiencing San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is something I recommend to anyone who has only experienced a Mexico resort or those who need a week of deep breathing and delicious foods.  My sister and I spent a week in San Miguel de Allende and after exploring almost every shop and many many restaurants, I’ve put together a first time visitors ultimate travel guide to San Miguel de Allende.

[Check out my other Mexico travel guides here]

Interesting Information about San Miguel de Allende:

San Miguel de Allende was a travel destination haven for artists and now boasts a large number of expatriate retirees.  Don’t let this discourage you though, San Miguel de Allende is still an authentic town and the retirees have discovered a calm, beautiful and easy living city to place roots that has a wonderfully mild climate.

Buildings within the city center are required to follow certain aesthetics, which is why the town has been able to preserve its charm.  In fact it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008! Wandering the streets you will see colonial style buildings, many with dwindling stone facades.

How to get to San Miguel de Allende:

Fly into the Leon airport, and hire a transfer service to drive you the one hour and 20 minute ride to San Miguel de Allende

We used Baijo Go shuttle service and loved it! 

You can also take a three to four hour bus ride from Mexico City

*based on the time it took us in the Mexico City airport and driving from Leon to San Miguel de Allende, a bus ride may be about the same amount of time to get there, if not quicker.  If you decide to take a bus from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende, check out this blog post by An Epic Education. Jason provides great details about how to do so.

Things to do in San Miguel de Allende

Enjoy the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

This church is the epicenter of San Miguel de Allende.  A stand out, neo-gothic style church known for its pink color and intricate towers.  If you can see this church than you can navigate your way around the entire town.

Explore the many other churches

All of the catholic churches are quite exquisite to walk through.  Here were our favorites:

  • Templo de Santo Domingo
  • Templo de San Francisco
  • Church of our Lady of Health
  • Templo del Oratorio de San Felipe Neri
  • Templo de Santa Ana

Wander the colorful streets

Soak up the charm of San Miguel de Allende by wandering through its serpentine streets.  Enjoy the buildings colors change seamlessly from amber, to blush, to merlot, to lemon all while also watching your step on the cobblestone streets (there are holes in the ground!).  Be sure to get lost among these streets and go into the small boutiques

Walk up to El Mirador

El Mirador is a lookout area in San Miguel de Allende.  It is a steep walk up but well worth the views. There were also fantastic, non-assertive, vendors up there as well.

Bring home local treats from Mente Cacao

Mente Cacao is a locally made chocolate and was one of the best chocolates I have ever tasted.  Their chocolate bars are made with simple, real ingredients of caco and honey (instead of sugar) and sourced from within Mexico.  These made for great gifts for our friends.

Explore El Charco del Ingenio

El Charco del Ingenio is San Miguel’s botanical gardens.  As beautiful as this place is, be sure to wear hiking boots or sneakers and cover your ankles.  There were so many huge spiders and bugs up there!

(*I wore sandals – not a smart idea – and couldn’t make it more than ten minutes in before I freaked out with the large bugs and ran back)  This is not walkable from the city, so I would suggest ordering an Uber to take you there.

[If you’re new to using Uber you can use this link to get a discount on your first ride!]

Go organic at the Mercato Sano farmers market

This organic farmers market was a favorite place of ours.  It is only opened on Saturdays so be sure to plan accordingly.  There were vendors outside serving freshly made to order hot food, vendors inside selling a variety of other goods and an indoor structure with two levels that had various food places too.

Slow down in Parque Juarez

Enjoy a serene walk through the Parque Juarez on your way to or from the Mercato Sano

Take a sustainable day tour and go horseback riding

We booked a half day horseback riding tour with Coyote Canyon Adventures and LOVED it!  Everything about this tour was well done and environmentally friendly.  Explore a privately owned canyon on an ‘adventure’ trail as they call it (not just meandering along a paved trail).  The horses well very well cared for by the guides who are true Vaqueros (cowboys).  And the lunch was held at one of their houses – a freshly prepared lunch with gorgeous views, and vegetarian friendly!  I can’t speak highly enough about this tour.

Day trip to Guanajuato

We weren’t able to do this ourselves but it was recommended by many to spend a day at Guanajuato.  There are many tours on TripAdvisor you can find, or you can take bus from San Miguel de Allende to Guanajuato.  *Be warned that during slower times of the year, buses do not always run according to schedule

Spend an afternoon people watching at the Centro Historico

Where the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel is is an open square with a gazebo.  The area is surrounded by shops and restaurants too.  Enjoy an afternoon sitting near the gazebo people watching.  You’ll see a combination of locals, expats and visitors all enjoying the slow paced lifestyle San Miguel exudes.  And at night there are quite a few mariachi bands playing for the crowds as well.

A little bit more cliche, there are also vendors selling fake flower crowns in this square.  A fun memento of your trip and even more fun to wear around the town after you’ve had a few mezcal shots.

Where to eat & drink in San Miguel de Allende, for vegetarians:

La Posadita: had a great grilled veggie dish and large salads.  Their rooftop view of the church was close to town and stunning

Rosewood Hotel bar: one of the most beautiful hotels in San Miguel de Allende (possibly the most expensive too), with a grand view of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel and the entire town.  Go here for drinks and light appetizers and enjoy watching the sun set.

Via Organica: both vegan and vegetarian friendly!  Plus they have a grocery store which was great for us as we stayed in an AirBnB.  This is also where I bought bags of Mexican coffee beans to bring home

Azotea: a centrally located restaurant with delicious margaritas and a great mezal & tequila menu.  Their rooftop was cozy and modern.

Inside Cafe: a vegetarian friendly restaurant with an adorable terrace.  Their french toast was delicious and had a very friendly staff

Lavanda: a well known spot for brunch, they had a great menu.  Be sure to arrive when this place opens as its popularity can produce a long wait.  

Mama Mia: another spot with a great terrace, but better known for their karaoke nights.  Definitely a cultural experience to go here and watch everyone perform

Don Taco Tequila: a vegan restaurant with delicious tacos.  They also have amazingly spicy salsa too

It’s easy to understand why so many people have been visiting San Miguel de Allende Mexico.  This relatively small town carries so much character and life within its boundaries. To me it felt like an approachable place to fall in love with Mexico, a country so many fear to explore beyond their beach resorts.  Travel to San Miguel de Allende for the slow paced living, amazing food scene and warm colors.

[ Related: the Mexico City Travel Guide for first time visitors ]

TIPS for visiting San Miguel de Allende:

  • Don’t take picture of mariachi bands, unless you are willing to tip them… I learned this the hard way (albeit funny for my sister) by them turning their backs on me
  • The sidewalks are older cobblestones and many places have holes in them.  Be sure to look down when you’re walking around
  • That classic view of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel with the colorful alleyway is behind the church
  • The city is very walkable, so a rental car isn’t needed.  If necessary, you can also order Ubers here.
  • Each building has its own courtyards will gardens,, tall ceilings and brick layers.  These are great for pictures and to enjoy some moments of peace.
  • If you’re an art fan there are a ton of art galleries throughout the city

[ Related: the Mexico City Travel Advice for first time visitors ]

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Reasons to Explore Mexico

Reasons to Explore Mexico

So, why travel to Mexico? The better question is what are you waiting for?!

Mexico is a top destination for many, and year after year millions of visitors flock to its shores.  The secrets of this country however, lie within its boundaries. A land of color, flavor and history, Mexico has so much to offer its visitors, and much more to those willing to delve into its true culture beyond an all inclusive resort.  Read on for reasons to visit Mexico, beyond its popular resort beach towns.

Nine Reasons why you should visit Mexico

1. Delicious Food:

Many resorts cater to an ‘American’ diet, yet you can find the most delicious meal you will ever eat at a simple restaurant for a fraction of the price you’d pay back home

2. Mexico is affordable:

Hotels have reasonable prices, delicious food is cheap (and well made) and major sights have well priced entry fees.  It’s also cheap if you fly in/out of the Tijuana airport

Related: How to use the Cross Border Xpress bridge in Tijuana, Mexico ]

3. Mayan Ruins of Mexico’s past:

Mexico is stuffed with historic sites, depending on where you are visiting there are sure to ruins nearby.

4. Pristine beaches:

Some of the best beaches line the coast of Mexico, with white sand and teal blue waters

Related: How to be eco-friendly at the beach ]

5. There is something for everyone:

Mountains, volcanoes and canyons: beyond the beaches lies incredible natural places to explore.  Did you know there is a canyon in Mexico that is longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon? (check out Copper Canyon)

6. Mexico City:

One of the most populated cities in the world, Mexico City is an incredible place to explore

[ Related: Check out my Mexico City Travel Guide]

7. National Parks & Nature Preserves:

There are so many natural wonders to explore in Mexico. You could watch the migration of thousands of Monarch butterflies in Mexico!  

8. The Mexican people:

I’ve found that there are great people no matter where you travel (as well as not so great people).  Those who I’ve met in Mexico have been easy to talk to, no matter the language barrier and have a wonderfully contagious love for their country.

9. Mexican Mescal:

As someone who has never enjoyed Mescal, I swear it tastes better in Mexico.  Ask for advice on which brand to order a shot of and enjoy the smooth and smoky flavors wash over your taste buds.

Most people have experienced Mexico through an all-inclusive resort on a coastline.  While great for some epic relaxation and over indulging in buffets and cocktails, this is often a glittered over false interpretation of the country’s actual culture.  Mexico is viewed as a hub for margaritas, mariachi bands, tequila, tacos, long catered beaches and lots of parties. If you step further into the country you begin to experience something beyond those comforts. You will find a land of vibrant colors that blend together old world history and local charm.  If visiting Mexico, enjoy the slow paced life that exists where the crowded beaches transition to lush jungles, where stunning architecture meets incredible nature, and where you can taste the humbleness in their food.

Read more to prepare for your trip to Mexico City here!

Mexico City Travel Guide

Mexico City Travel Advice

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Seven Unexpected things to do in Mexico City

Seven Unexpected things to do in Mexico City

As the most populated city in the Western Hemisphere, Mexico City is filled with so much to experience (and to eat!).  While there are sights that can’t be missed, if you have time on your side or are eager to do something out of the ordinary, then check out this list of seven unexpected things to do in Mexico City:

Seven Unexpected Things to do in Mexico City

1. Visit pyramids that aren’t in Egpyt

If the ruins at Zocalo aren’t enough for you, check out the Mesoamerican pyramids of Teotihuacan.  It was once one of the largest cities in the world and is preserved quite well.

2. Walk around their many city parks

I applaud the city planners of the early 19th century, for they purposefully set aside public land for greenery throughout the city.  Ranging from epicly large, like Chapultepec, to quaint and quick, parks are where the locals are resting and are a great place for people watching.

3. Find the most unique street art throughout the neighborhoods of La Condesa and Roma

Just walk around and you’ll easily be able to spot unique pieces throughout these neighborhoods.  It’s the also the area I would recommend staying too

[ Related: The Best Neighborhoods to stay in Mexico City ]

4. Ride the canals at Xochimilco

Experience a more party like canal ride than you would in Venice, Italy at the canals of Xochilmilco.  Enjoy floating restaurants and drinks while listening to live music in this unique place.

5. Explore ancient ruins

Similar to Rome, Italy, Mexico City has ancient ruins in the heart of their historic center.  Walk around the Zocalo to witness architecture from the Aztecs of Pre-Columbian days to Catholic churches built in the early 1600’s.

6. Enjoy amazingly cheap & delicious vegan food

Mexico City is known for their food scene.  You can find any cuisine you’d like here, but you’d be remiss to visit and not eat Mexican food.  What’s best is that there is a plethora of vegan food places that will have your mouth watering long after you’ve visited

Related: Check out the vegan food tour and my sister and I did together ]

7. Dog watch

Mexico City’s Roma and La Condesa neighborhoods are very dog friendly (meaning many people are now adopting dogs as pets, not necessarily that a lot of establishments allow dogs inside), so on any given weekday you can spot groups of 20+ dogs hanging with their walker or being trained in the public parks.

No matter what you decide to do, there are plenty of unexpected things to do in Mexico City, so be sure to arrive eager and hungry.

Read more to prepare for your trip to Mexico City here!

Mexico City Travel Guide

Mexico City Travel Advice

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Roma and La Condesa Neighborhoods of Mexico City

Roma and La Condesa Neighborhoods of Mexico City

Why you should stay in these neighborhoods when visiting Mexico City

Note: this post contains affiliate links to products we love and have purchased ourselves on Amazon. Clicking these links doesn’t cost you any extra money, and you’re supporting us by doing so. You can view our disclosure page for additional details

“What neighborhood in Mexico City should I stay in?”  A question I asked myself with concern once our flights were booked, as I had very little knowledge about Mexico City and where it was safest to stay as a female traveler.  When traveling for vacation, typically visitors are only staying for a handful of days, a week at best, so choosing the best area of a city to stay in is key to a great experience.  This is why I cannot recommend enough for those traveling to Mexico City to stay in the Roma or La Condesa neighborhoods.

Here is why these are the best neighborhoods to stay in in Mexico City:

        Roma, Mexico City and La Condesa, Mexico City are bordering residential neighborhoods to each other, with overlapping lines of distinction between the two.  Pedestrians can walk effortlessly and best yet, they’re centrally located within the massively spread out Mexico City districts. Both are southwest of the historic district and a quick walk to the ever popular Chapultepec Park.  And for female travelers, the areas are very safe.

        Visiting a major metropolitan city one would assume a hustle and bustle of passersby and brick and mortar as the only views in sight.  Roma and La Condesa contrast from the centro historico district of Mexico City – which is what most people know the city for. The Roma and La Condesa neighborhoods are home to whimsical tree-lined streets that guide you to scenic parks, where you can catch a breath of fresh air (literally!).  This area was originally home to aristocrats and slowly transitioned to a place where artisans could set up shop, to now, where it is home to a multitude of quaint boutiques, aromatic coffee shops and delicious restaurants. All of this makes the Roma and La Condesa neighborhoods one of the most walkable places in Mexico City.

        The best way to truly encapsulate life here is by walking.  You could spend hours wandering the streets. I would suggest starting your day at La Cucurucho coffee shop, and ending at one of the many restaurants with a world-renowned chef.  In between you will want your camera out as there is a multitude of exquisite street art throughout the area. Street art is mixed between the colorful french style decor that favors an Art Deco design, construction areas (due to the earthquake of 2017, the Roma and La Condesa neighborhoods were hit the hardest), and contemporary buildings.
Related: A Vegan Food Tour in Mexico City ]

        The quirky subculture that resides in Roma and La Condesa of Mexico City makes it the best place for visitors to stay.  Staying here is safe and exciting, as each corner has a quirky new place to discover. You will be able to enjoy the antiquity and bustle of historic Mexico City, while sleeping in a neighborhood that is bursting with another sub culture entirely of its own persona.

Planning a trip to Mexico City?  Check out my Mexico City Travel Guide!

Differences between Roma and La Condesa:

Roma is divided into two separate colonias: Roma Norte & Roma Sur

Roma is a bit edgier & cheaper than La Condesa

Here are places I would recommend staying at:

AirBnB : if you’re new to using AirBnb here is a discount code for you to use on your first stay!

Historic Building in the Roma neighborhood

Hotel Parque México (Boutique Hotel)

Capital Suites Luxury Residences & Offices

FlowSuites Condesa – Adults Only

Scroll through to see more pictures from the Roma & La Condesa neighborhoods of Mexico City

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How to use the CBX Bridge

How to use the CBX Bridge

From San Diego to Tijuana and back again!

Did you know that American based travelers can fly to Mexico for cheap?  By using the CBX Bridge in San Diego, California passengers can book a flight to Mexico with a Mexican airline for nearly half the cost (if not less) than it would cost to fly out of San Diego or Los Angeles directly.  However, there is a lot of confusion on what this bridge actually is, where to go to cross it and if it is safe for travelers. Read below for my experience and all of the information that you will need to use the CBX bridge at the Tijuana Airport.

Related: Nine Reasons to Visit Mexico ]

What is CBX?

        CBX stands for Cross Border Xpress.  It is a pedestrian facility located on the San Diego/Tijuana border that allows people to walk straight into the Tijuana airport from the United States.  People call it the CBX bridge, as it it technically a covered, indoors, pedestrian walkway.

Where is CBX & How to get there from the United States?

        Surprisingly, the CBX bridge facility is not the same border that you drive across when trying to get to Baja California.  It is located in San Diego, but it is approximately 15 minutes drive from the border patrol into Tijuana.  From central San Diego (Mission Valley/USD area) it will take approximately 20 minutes to drive to the Cross Border Xpress.  It is very easy to park or drop off as it has a clearly marked entrance and roadway to the front doors.

Preparing to use the CBX bridge & the costs of crossing

  • Make sure you have a boarding pass available; this proves that you have a reason to be crossing into the airport
  • Purchase a ticket to cross in advance; this can save you time by not having to purchase in person at a kiosk (really it’s not that much time saved, but more convenient for ease of access)
  • Tickets are $30 for a round trip crossing, $16 for one way, or $105 RT/$55 one way for families (four to six people)
  • Just like any other trip to the airport, prepare how you will get there.  Whether that is having a friend drop you off, parking your car (see detailed information below) or a ride share service.
  • Parking is $17/day, and you pay when you return.  It’s cheaper to order a Lyft or Uber

[New to ride sharing?  It is one of the most convenient ways to get around if don’t want to or cannot drive.  Use these links to receive discounts on your first ride with them! Lyft // Uber ]

How to Cross the Cross Border Xpress

        Walk inside the set of doors that are closest to the drop off area (if you drive past the cross walk speed bump you’ve gone past the correct doors).  With your boarding pass and CBX ticket in hand, walk to the tables inside to complete immigration forms. At the inside entrance, an agent will scan your CBX ticket, ask if you have your passport and boarding pass then will allow you to walk across the pedestrian sky bridge.

        The bridge itself is modern and covered, and there is an official line marking where you actually cross from the United States into Mexico!  At the end of the bridge you enter directly into the Tijuana airport terminal. Find your airlines ticket counter if you need to check any bags.  If not, head to security as you normally would at any other airport. Except this time you’ll be walking over with a smile of satisfaction that you not only very easily crossed into another country, but that you most likely saved yourself a lot of money flying out of Tijuana to your destination!

Flying into the Tijuana Airport, to cross back into the United States

        Almost identical to how you can cross from the United States into the Tijuana airport through CBX bridge facility, you cross back.  After the baggage claim area, there is a clearly marked area for the CBX bridge. Show your CBX ticket to an agent and then cross back over the pedestrian bridge.

*Do NOT exit the airport into Tijuana– the agent will guide you, but be present and aware regardless.

        Customs at the CBX bridge facility has little to almost no lines to wait in.  They scan your luggage, but you don’t have to take anything out.  Declare anything you bring back with you, and then walk across the bridge and outside to your ride back home.

Utilizing the Cross Border Xpress in San Diego is a wonderful way to travel for cheap to and from Mexico.  It is set up to be convenient and easy for travelers, and as someone who has used it, i can attest to its convenience and ease of use.  Have any questions — feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Happy travels!

[ Related: Interested in planning a trip to a Mexican destination?  Check out my travel guides for Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende to gather some inspiration! ]

TIPS for Using the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) in San Diego, California

  • Flying out of Tijuana airport is cheaper than another US based airport if you are flying to a location in Mexico or Central America.  This isn’t always 100% true, but 90% of the time you will find a much better deal
  • People often say to leave time for traffic, however I drove down to the CBX facility a couple of times (different days of the week and different times of the day) and never had a traffic issue.  It is almost in the middle of nowhere so is not a traffic heavy area. And with there not being much to do in the airport I wouldn’t suggest showing up very early as you’ll arrive and go through the facility quickly and then be bored at your gate.
  • The security lines are much shorter here, so no need to stress the time spent waiting to go through
  • Currently there are not many food options in the airport (this also depends on where your gate is/which airline you are flying), however we saw signs stating that new eateries are being added in 2019.
If you’re curious about the CBX bridge being at the Tijuana border crossing, I captured screenshots of the distance between the two.  It’s about a 15 minute drive between the two.

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Vegan Food in Mexico City

Vegan Food in Mexico City

A self run vegan food tour in Mexico City, with our favorite places to eat!

Most vegetarians and vegans already enjoy Mexican cuisine as it can very easily be made for a plant based diet.  There is one neighborhood in Mexico City that has done a particularly wonderful job at having great vegan food in Mexico City.  The best part- it’s all vegan AND it tastes amazing! Vegan food in Mexico City can easily be found, and lucky for Mexico City visitors is that the city is filled with good food options on every corner.

My sister and I impulsively decided to spend a day enjoying multiple vegan eateries around the Roma/Condesa neighborhood in Mexico City.  I’ve included all of the places that we really enjoyed and in an order that follows along a walk throughout the area.  Follow along the listed places below for a tasty vegan day!

Related: Why Stay in Roma or La Condesa in Mexico City ]

*Note: the order of the places listed were done so to make it as convenient to walk around as possible.  No backtracking or out of the way places.

Roma & La Condesa, Mexico City Vegan Food Tour

Chiquitito Cafe’

Simple, beautiful decor matched with equally delicious coffee.  Start here to rev up your engines for your marathon day of eating.

Ojo de Aqua

This is a small chain in Mexico City, known for their fresh juices and entrees.  Order a large juice from their extensive menu, and sit with a view of the park fountain.  *Similar to ordering at Panera, place your order at the counter and receive a number that you bring to your table.

El Pendulo

A beautiful coffee shop and bookstore.  You may not need another coffee by this point, but El Pendulo is a neighborhood favorite so spend some time wandering through the aisles of books.

Plan V

Plan V has the cutest interior and an all plant based menu (with an English menu too!).  We really enjoyed their enfrijoladas.

El Tako Vegano

Split an order of three of their tacos made with fresh green (spinach) tortillas.  Our favorite was the Alhambra taco, and was made even better with their selection of delicious salsas and incredibly friendly staff!

Por Siempre Vegano

Por Siempre Vegano is a vegan food truck.  Or should I say, it is the most epic food truck ever.  The line for lunch was crazy long, but well worth the 15 minute wait.  We ordered the torta with seitan and avocado, and as I write this my mouth is watering.  This food truck opens at 1pm and is perfect for lunch.

Mercado Roma

Mercado Roma is a delicious and easily accessible gourmet food market in the heart of the neighborhood.  They have a vast array of dining options and a lovely open seating area towards the back. Walk around to see all of the different options, but don’t miss El Moro with the most delicious churros I’ve ever had.

*there is also a spice vendor which is a great souvenir idea for Mexico City

Cucurucho Coffee

A simple, and delicious coffee shop with beans sourced from within Mexico.  You can purchase beans here which is a huge plus if you enjoy bringing coffee back home like I do.  Bonus- they only use sustainable cups and are pet friendly!

La Pitahaya

Now that you are recaffeinated (or at least stocked up with coffee beans to bring home), stop into La Pitahaya.  This vegan eatery is cozy and delicious with an all plant based menu known for their pink taco shells made from beetroot.

Casa Quimera

Casa Quimera is a vegan food market that I have read about online — I have not been here myself.  I wanted to add it to this list as it’s fairly close to La Pitahaya and is supposed to have quite a few vegan food options inside.

There are food tours that you can book and pay for in Mexico City.  In fact, we took one! However, this is a day that you can easily navigate for yourself.  I removed some locations that we went to where we didn’t love the food. So, what you’ve read here are the top places!  And I’m sure I’m missing a few more great places. If you’re walking and see a vegan restaurant that isn’t listed here, be sure to check it out and start creating your own list of vegan food places that must be visited in Mexico City.  If you don’t want to spend an entire day doing this, then mark a couple of these places down to enjoy while out exploring. You won’t be disappointed.

TIPS for a self run food tour:

  • If youre doing this with another person, split an entree so you can eat throughout the day
  • If you can only choose one place to eat at, go to Por Siempre Vegano vegan food truck.  I still dream about the food from there.

Visiting Mexico City?  Check out this Mexico City Travel Guide

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