Layer by Layer: A Mexico City Culinary Adventure - Atlas Obscura

Mexico City, Mexico

Layer by Layer: A Mexico City Culinary Adventure

Immerse yourself in the complex cultural identity of Mexico City, where pre-Hispanic, colonial, and contemporary influences collide.

On this culinary adventure, we'll explore mouthwatering local gastronomy, set against the backdrop of a vibrant megacity that thrums with the activity of a large population of regional migrants and modern transplants alike—tens of millions of souls make Mexico City what it is today. This unique trip is a celebration of the harmony as well as the dissonance that define this layered city.


This trip is best for people who are...

  • Curious about Mexico’s culinary history and culture, and eager to try its many specialty foods and drinks. 
  • Ready to walk 2 to 4 miles a day, whether on Colonial-era cobblestones or loamy farmlands.
  • Eager to make the most of each day—when you’re dining at market stands, traipsing through agave fields, and sitting ringside at lucha libre matches, you’ve got to cover a lot of ground.

On this 5-day excursion in and around Mexico City, we’ll experience moments when the city's numerous identities are expressed and aligned perfectly—for instance, enjoying a street snack of tacos al pastor while taking in a hidden Diego Rivera mural. But we’ll also be looking for the fractures, zooming in on specific influences: a heady Aztec brew, or a colonial-era mole recipe, or the unique, pre-Hispanic floating farms still in use today. We'll be sure to also head out of the center city in an attempt to isolate and better understand these culinary traditions.

From street food to contemporary Mexican dining trends, traditional restaurants to meals in local homes, our focus throughout the trip will be food and the people who make it. On the periphery of our taste buds will be the history, art, architecture, landscape, agriculture, and street life that brings everything together.

This adventure is limited to only 12 hungry explorers.

Trip Highlights

  • Agricultural visits: We'll be tracing our way back to the source of the foods we're eating, investigating the farming and production systems that feed into Mexico City.
  • Hands-on demonstrations and workshop visits: Meet with craftsmen—of food, art, and otherwise—and get a close-up glimpse of the unique work they create.
  • Unusual religious sites and museums: Mexico City has plenty of the obscure and the occult, and we'll be sure to explore this side of things.
  • Market tours and home-cooked meals: Take guided tours through bustling city markets and be welcomed into local homes for a proper, family-style meal.

INTRODUCING OUR PARTNER: CULINARY BACKSTREETS

Atlas Obscura has partnered closely with Culinary Backstreets to create and curate this unique experience. Culinary Backstreets is a global guide to local eats that publishes restaurant reviews and features on local culinary culture. They bring these stories to life on culinary tours and special events, offered in 12 cities around the world, and have extensive international experience with all things gastronomical.

YOUR MEXICO CITY CULINARY GUIDE

Paco de Santiago
Francisco de Santiago ("Paco"), one of Culinary Backstreets' Mexico Team Leaders, is a Mexico City native who has a deep passion for his country's cuisine. He is also a bit of a Renaissance man, as a former champion chess player and bullfighter. But these days, Paco focuses on the antojitos, or little culinary cravings of his hometown, which are a hallmark of a culinary tour of the city with him.

QUESTIONS?

Please email us at trips@atlasobscura.com or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.

Itinerary
Day 1
Arrival & Welcome
  • Arrive in Mexico City and check into our group’s hotel. We encourage you to plan your arrival earlier in the day to give yourself some time to relax, settle in, and wander around the neighborhood.
  • This evening, we'll enjoy a lively welcome dinner at Limosneros, where chefs Marcos Fulcheri and Carlo Méndez will work with pre-Hispanic ingredients, colonial techniques, and modern creative twists to create an unforgettable meal. In a private room, we'll share our first of many meals and conversations together. Paco, your main culinary guide, will introduce himself and give you a glimpse into what the week will hold.
Day 2
The Many Layers of Mexico City
  • After breakfast at our hotel, we'll be spending the day in downtown’s Centro Histórico, exploring our trip's themes through food, history, and culture. Today will be a crash course in the history of Mexico City, with visits to the “obscure side” of major monuments and to sites that are hidden from view.
  • We'll visit Templo Mayor, a pyramid built in the 1400s and the former site of human sacrifices. We'll explore the colonial city, built over the ruins of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan using the same lava-stones from the Aztec temples.
  • For lunch, we'll be dropping by a family-run Oaxacan grocery/restaurant in the heart of one of the city’s oldest commercial districts, Barrio de la Merced. Once home to large communities of newly arrived Jewish and Lebanese merchants, the area is also the birthplace of the famous Carlos Slim, an immigrant who went on to become Mexico’s wealthiest man.
  • The afternoon may include visits to the Diego Rivera murals, Bellas Artes Palace, the Blue Tiles House and Zócalo Main Square, among other highlights. Paco will be sure to bring us to any special events or exhibitions taking place at the time of our visit!
  • In the evening, we'll set out on a taco tour, hitting a number of nighttime taco stands, including an al pastor spot housed in an auto repair shop. Along with classic tacos, we’ll also have the chance to taste ones made with brains, bull’s eyes, and intestines.
  • Afterwards, head back to the hotel for some well-earned rest, or check out some of the city's night life on your own.
Day 3
The Building Blocks of Mexican Cuisine
  • After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll head to a bustling local market awash in produce, flowers, food, and crafts to learn about the ingredients that serve as the building blocks of Mexican cuisine. We’ll get a taste of what’s in season and also dabble in a light sampling of food specialties from around the market.
  • After touring the market, we'll make an exclusive visit to the nearby private home and workshop of the famous Linares family. This family is considered to be the most important producers of Mexican folk art, and during our visiti, we'll learn about the mesmerizing cultural traditions they are trying to preserve.   
  • For dinner, we'll enjoy a paired mezcal tasting led by a bottler who travels the Mexican countryside in search of small batch producers of the spirit. The mezcal will be paired with dishes such as Taco de cochinita piblil, Guacamole con chicharrón, Tostadas de flores de jamaica, and Quesadillas de flor de calabaza con queso.
Day 4
Mole & Milpa Alta
  • Today, we’ll head to Milpa Alta, a center of mole production on the outskirts of Mexico City. We'll be delving deep on the subject of all things mole, learning about ingredients, production techniques, regional varieties, and how this food represents the colonial heritage of Mexico.
  • On our way to Milpa Alta, we’ll stop by the home of a local villager to learn about the artisanal production of pulque, a pre-Hispanic drink made from the sap of the agave-like maguey plant.
  • During the afternoon, we'll visit private homes and markets to gain a better sense of daily life and the food that shapes and defines it and finish our visit with a late lunch starring—what else?—mole.
  • This evening, take some time to rest and relax from the long day in Milpa Alta, and have dinner on your own or with some of your fellow travelers.
Day 5
Culinary Heritage in Xochimilco
  • Rise again to a refreshing breakfast in our hotel, before an action-packed day exploring Xochimilco. Xochimilco, a green oasis on the southern edge of the city, is a highlight of the region and treasure of Aztec-era living culture. Unlike many pre-Hispanic-era monuments that are entombed in museums, Xochimilco is a living place with working farms and much to see, eat, and drink, all linked to pre-Hispanic Mexico.
  • For lunch, we'll have a meal on board a traditional flat-bottomed boat as we float along Aztec-era canals. These waterways have been in use for more than 2,000 years and are now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our meal will be prepared by locals using products from the chinampas, the area’s famous “floating farms,” one of which we'll have the chance to visit. Back on land, we'll check out a local market and get a taste of pre-Hispanic Mexico via tlacoyos, a fried masa cake, and tacos made with meat slow-cooked inside the leaves of the maguey plant.
  • We'll then visit the area’s enchanting Dolores Olmedo Museum, located in a rambling hacienda from the 16th century and home to an important collection of works by Diego Rivera and other Mexican masters.
  • Tonight, after returning from Xochimilco, we'll attend a Lucha Libre wrestling match followed by a visit to Mexico City's vibrant "mariachi square" for live music, dancing and one more festive meal together!
Day 6
Farewell & Departure
  • Today, depart for home or onto your next destination—or, if you'd like, spend a few more days exploring Mexico City. Our guide will be happy to provide additional recommendations.
  • Until the next adventure!
The Fine Print

 

YOUR ATLAS OBSCURA EXPEDITION TO MEXICO CITY INCLUDES

  • Five nights of hotel accommodation. (A limited number of single rooms are available at a supplemental cost of $320. Otherwise we'll work to place singles of the same gender together.)
  • All meals and transportation during the trip, including in a private coach for visits outside the center city. Travel within the city will be by foot and public transportation.
  • An experienced, local English-speaking guide to accompany you throughout the trip, as well as special guests throughout. 
  • Admission to all proposed activities, locations, and events.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all that Mexico City has to offer!

NOTE ON FLIGHTS

For flights in and out of Mexico City International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez), we suggest you arrive by 3 p.m. on April 2 and depart anytime in the morning on April 7. We are happy to book you extra nights at the group's hotel and provide suggestions for things to do and see in the city on your own.

NOTE ON ITINERARY

Itineraries are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, whose schedules and availabilities may change in coming months. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, then we will always replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value.

NOTE ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking 2 to 4 miles each day and remaining on their feet for long periods of time. Keep in mind that Mexico City is a bustling and crowded place!

PAYMENT

The total cost of this trip is $2,465. You will be charged a non-refundable $500 deposit to hold your space. The final payment of $1,965 will be due by January 15, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions. For travelers wishing to have single accommodations during the trip, an additional $320 will be included in the final payment.

TRAVELERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR

  • Transportation and flights to and from Mexico City.
  • Airport transfers.
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
  • Baggage charges.
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.
  • If applicable, applying for a Mexican visa (not required for U.S. citizens).

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