Mexico City is a dynamic, cultural melting pot peppered with ancient Aztec sites, beautiful art galleries, fascinating museums, and some of the best restaurants in the entire world. So, how do you ensure you don’t miss out on any of it? Here is our guide to Mexico City: how to get there, what to see, where to dine, and where to stay so you don’t miss out!
How to Visit the City
Mexico City is easy to reach by air from all around the world. Regular flights operate to the city’s airport from North and South America, Europe and Asia. Buses arrive into 4 main city bus stations from the Yucatan, Pacific Coast, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, and more. There are also bus services operating from the US border and from other countries in Central America. If you prefer to drive to Mexico City, the country has a wealth of decent road networks which can transport you to the capital from all directions.
How to Travel Around Mexico City
Mexico City is a vast, sprawling metropolis and even walking from Centro Historico to Chapultepec Park can take 1.5 hours! The historic city center can be explored on foot, and if you plan to venture further afield, there are plenty of ways to navigate the capital. Buses operate frequently to all neighborhoods and there is a Metro subway service which is simple and cheap to use. The subway even has dedicated carriages for women which is great news for solo female travelers to Mexico City. Taxis and Ubers are easily accessible, or you can hire a car and drive through the city – although with almost 22 million people, the roads can get busy!
Mexico City Neighborhoods
Centro Historico, or the historic center of Mexico City, is packed with incredible plazas, palaces, a cathedral, and myriad museums. Many tourist hotels are located near here making it easy to explore on foot. The Zocalo is the beating heart of the city – a huge square flanked by the National Palace on one side and Metropolitan Cathedral on the other. Highlights include the Templo Mayor Museum – showcasing ruins of the old Aztec city Tenochtitlan, the Palace of Fine Arts – the city’s fine arts gallery displaying collections from prominent Mexican artists, and the National Culture Museum, with exhibits focusing on ancient and contemporary world cultures. Dining in Centro Historico is a mix of traditional Mexican eateries, international restaurants, and upscale Mezcal bars, plus there are a multitude of bakeries and fast food outlets.
Chapultepec is a charming neighborhood, home to the largest green area in the Mexico City. Away from the hustle and bustle of the center, its park has forested walkways displaying sculptures of poets and writers, a fun boating lake, an amusement park, castle, zoo, and several museums. Surrounding the park, the district itself offers great shopping, trendy cafes and a range of Mexican, Asian and Mediterranean restaurants.
Polanco is an affluent neighborhood, 20 minutes’ drive from Centro Historico. It’s famed for its designer shopping, elegant boutique hotels, and some of Mexico City’s finest restaurants. By day, explore street markets, browse chic boutiques and museum exhibits, by night, feast on innovative Mexican fare in Pujol or Quintonil – both ranked in the world’s top 25 restaurants.
La Condesa is one of the city’s prettiest neighborhoods, adorned with art deco houses and tree-lined avenues. It offers a lively cafe culture and a selection of international restaurants, plus it has some of the best nightlife in Mexico City, courtesy of its buzzing clubs, rooftop bars, and stylish lounges.
Food, Drink & Nightlife of Mexico City
Mexico City is a foodie’s dream come true. With some of the world’s best restaurants on your doorstep, tasty street food, and stylish cafes and cantinas serving creative Mexican cuisine, it’s the perfect place to sample delicious new dishes. You can dine inside palatial tiled houses, tree-covered bungalows, and vintage-styled colonial mansions. Cuisine served ranges from Mexican, Argentinean and Mediterranean to Middle Eastern and Asian. Polanco and La Condesa are renowned for having some of the world’s best restaurants, plus upcoming Roma and Coyoacan have amazing culinary offerings too.
When it comes to nightlife, Mexico City boasts a number of upscale Mezcal bars, working class cantinas, and speakeasy style hideaways. If you wish to dance until dawn, Zona Rosa and La Condesa neighborhoods are home to some of the liveliest clubs in the city.
If you seek retail therapy, Mexico City has everything you desire from designer clothing boutiques and upscale jewelry stores to handicraft markets and interior design stores. For a no holds-barred shopping spree head for Polanco and Avenida Presidente Masaryk. This avenue is the Mexican equivalent of the Champs-Elysees with international designer brands galore including Gucci, Hermes, and Rolex, plus a range of independent clothing and accessories stores. There are also other superb shopping malls including Reforma 222 and the compact Centro Coyoacan which sell everything from cosmetics and Spanish clothing brands to food and books. However, if you wish to shop like the Aztec’s once did, head for a “tianguis”. These local street markets, like the Tuesday market in La Condesa, are filled with a kaleidoscope of colors and frequented by vendors who grow their own produce outside the city. One of the best city markets is Mercado Coyoacan which sells textiles, food, and handicrafts within a bustling labyrinth of narrow alleyways.
Culture can be discovered on every corner of Mexico City. The Metropolitan Cathedral, National Palace, Templo Mayor Museum, and Palace of Fine Arts in Centro Historico are main tourist highlights, as is Chapultepec Park a short drive away. However, if you wish to discover the leafy neighborhoods of Mexico City you’ll find historic cafes, “tanquis” – Aztec-style markets, art deco houses and cozy art galleries. You can experience colorful carnivals and festivals throughout the year in Mexico City and museums in the capital are dedicated to everything from ancient Aztec cities and pre-Hispanic drinks to interactive economics, shoes and Frida Kahlo!
Mexico City’s accommodations cater to all tastes and budgets. From luxury 4 and 5-star chain hotels like the Four Seasons and Hyatt Regency to smaller, state-of-the-art boutique offerings in bohemian neighborhoods, the city has them all. The areas of Polanco, La Condesa, and Coyoacan are popular areas in which to stay, with design hotels offering tranquil respite from the busy city streets.
Places to Visit near Mexico City
Around 45 minutes from Mexico City lies one of the country’s most famous archaeological landmarks – Teotihuacan. Several pyramids and ruins remain from the ancient Mesoamerican settlement with a long avenue connecting them all. It was once the largest city in the pre-Colombian America’s with a population of over 125,000 people. You can admire intricate, mathematically precise architecture of the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon and imagine what life was like living in such a city. The city of Toluca is also a wonderful place to see if you enjoy learning about the culture and history of Mexico. There are several museums and beautiful indoor botanical gardens with stained glass windows to enjoy. A short drive from Mexico City are the meandering canals of Xochimilco. You can take a colorful flat boat ride along them and discover all about the ancient agricultural practices of the Aztecs. There’s delicious Mexican food and entertainment in the form of mariachi bands, and if you’re feeling bold, you can even stop off at the thoroughly creepy Valley of the Dolls!