After a fleeting – yet super colourful – visit to the stunning architecture of Casa Gilardi, it was time for our next stop. With just three days to explore the vast entirety of Mexico City, we didn’t have much time to lose. The next attraction on our list was the equally colourful Trajineras of Magic Xochimilco. One of my favourite things about Mexico City is how bright it is. Accents of colour light up nooks and crannies on the streets, and it really represents what a vibrant society the country has.
Xochimilco is one of the 16 boroughs of Mexico City, south east of the city centre. It’s a neighbourhood particularly famous for its canals, which remain from a lake system from the historic Valley of Mexico. Take a short Uber ride outside of the downtown, and already you’ll be able to see the climate and environment soon start to shift. Vast mountainous areas appear, and it all seems a little warmer.
Xochimilco nowadays hosts a whole variety of visitors coming specifically for its canals. With around a whopping 110 miles of canal, and artificial islands known as ‘chinampas’, it’s easy enough to hop on a gondola to explore the Mexican waterways. In fact, since 1987, the area is a World Heritage Site. We rocked up with a bunch of beers and the mandatory guac and chips, and negotiated with the sellers for our own gondola for around 750 pesos for two hours. Make sure you too negotiate!
Trajineras of Xochimilco
The rainbow coloured gondola boats are also known as trajineras. It’s quite a sight, with masses of colourful trajineras floating along the canals. People come to celebrate and socialize with family. You can expect to see sights along the way, people dancing, and mariachi bands playing. Vendors shift hot corn cobs, popcorn, micheladas, sombreros, and beer along the way also.
Among the vibrancy, you’ll see plenty of islands (or chinampas), which people use for growing flowers and vegetables. If you take the two hour float like us, you’ll pass flower gardens and a wildlife centre, complete with reptiles and other animals.
It’s a really fun experience that I’d recommend to anyone visiting Mexico City. You’ll see (and hear) all sorts and meet a bunch of friendly people. Be sure to bring your own drinks and snacks, and enjoy the ride.
Look, I found my very own trajinera!
Isla de las Muñecas
One of the slightly more peculiar attractions along the canals of Xochimilco is the Isla de las Muñecas (or Island of Dead Dolls). It was actually never intended to be a tourist attraction, and has a pretty sad history. Legend has it that the island is actually dedicated to the lost soul of a girl who died young in spooky circumstances. She supposedly drowned and was discovered by a caretaker, and now it’s said the dolls are possessed by her spirit. A floating doll was one day discovered and the caretaker hung up the doll to a nearby tree in momento of the girl, and others soon followed.
There are rumours the dolls move and open their eyes, making the island a little creepy. Now, the island is home to hundreds of dolls hanging on the trees. If it’s a little spooky on a sunny day, I can’t imagine how it must look at night!
We wound up our two hours after an awesome sensory overload on the gondola. One thing I’d been told to try before getting to Mexico City is a michelada. If you’re unfamiliar with micheladas, I guess one way of describing it is a cocktail. It’s a Mexican beer with lime juice, sauces, spices, tomato juice, chilis, and a flavoured salt rim. Rather like a Mexican Caesar you could say, for any Canadians reading this.
It’s quite an acquired taste, but it’s cheap as chips! At around $3CAD for the biggest cup of beer you’ve ever seen, it’s pretty good value. In fact, it lasted us the entire Uber journey back between two of us.
Fifty Mils, Four Seasons Mexico City
Our next port of call after a quick change was the infamous Fifty Mils in the Four Seasons Mexico City. Fifty Mils actually made the World’s Top 50 Bars. The hotel’s outdoor inner courtyard is absolutely beautiful, and there’s vegetation pretty much everywhere. To the side, you’ll find the iconic bar which boasts an air of colonial Britain thanks to its Chesterfields and warm interior. The menu is also really interesting and innovative, most of which focus heavily on unique presentations.
I picked a ‘Mr White Rabbit’, a fusion of Tanqueray, creme de cassis, St Germain, and English breakfast tea syrup. Although not one of the most dramatic presentations, it came with a few strands of gold. You place them into your mouth with a sip of cocktail and the most bizarre reaction takes place. Liz opted for the ‘360 Cocktail’. It’s a blend of Tanqueray, acai syrup, grapefruit juice, and Earl grey tea. It also comes in an ice glass that’s designed to water the flower pot below as it slowly melts. At around $15CAD, they aren’t bad value as world class cocktails. Add it to your list!
King Cole Bar, St. Regis Mexico City
While we’re on the theme of hotel bars, here’s our next: the Nat King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Mexico City. It’s just a little further down the Avenue de Reforma, so perfect for a posh hotel bar hop. I also hear the St. Regis Mexico City is actually the most affordable property in the St. Regis. I can certainly vouch for the fact the hotel and its bar is beautiful.
The service is excellent, the staff are awesome, and the ceviche is on point. Although perhaps a little less out there as Fifty Mils in the Four Seasons, it’s still a beautiful bar that’s worth a visit. With the night still relatively young (despite being awake for nearly 36 hours), we soldiered on to the Loft. It’s a recommendation from locals and also a really fun place to end your night.
On that note, it’s time for bed! Until next time.
That’s my guide to Xochimilco, one of my favourite parts of my Mexico City trip. Have you been to Xochimilco? If so, what did you enjoy? Where are your favourite watering holes in the city? Share all your tips in the comments!