Mexico City Travel Guide

Mexico City Travel Guide

Mexico City! As one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, Mexico City is a vibrant, bustling city with so much to see and do. As a travel writer and Mexico enthusiast, I'm excited to share my insider tips for visiting this amazing destination. With centuries of rich history and culture, world-class museums and galleries, delicious food and nightlife, Mexico City has something for every type of traveler.

Table
  1. Getting There
  2. Neighborhoods to Stay In
    1. Centro Histórico
    2. Roma & Condesa
    3. Polanco
    4. Coyoacán
  3. Getting Around
  4. Top Things to Do
    1. Zócalo & Cathedral
    2. Chapultepec Park & Castle
    3. Frida Kahlo Museum
    4. Templo Mayor & National Museum of Anthropology
    5. Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe
    6. Day Trips from Mexico City
  5. Where to Eat & Drink
    1. Traditional Mexican Food
    2. Markets
    3. Trendy Food Scene
    4. Local Nightlife
  6. Best Time to Visit
  7. Budget Tips
  8. Travel Safety Tips
  9. Useful Spanish Phrases
  10. Final Thoughts

Getting There

Mexico City has two international airports:

  • Benito Juárez International Airport (MEX) - This is the main airport located only 6 miles from the city center. It offers flights from major airlines around the world.
  • Toluca International Airport (TLC) - A smaller airport located about 40 miles outside the city center. It provides an alternative option and is used mostly for domestic flights.

The metro and bus systems provide affordable public transportation into the city center from both airports. There are also many private shuttle services and taxis available.

Neighborhoods to Stay In

Mexico City is divided into 16 delegaciones (boroughs) that each have their own unique vibe and appeal to travelers. Here are some of the most popular areas to stay in:

Centro Histórico

  • This historic downtown area is perfect for first-time visitors.
  • Iconic sights like the Zócalo, Metropolitan Cathedral, and Templo Mayor are located here.
  • Accommodation ranges from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels.
  • Can get very busy during the day but quiet at night.

Roma & Condesa

  • These two hip neighborhoods are amongst the most popular to stay in.
  • Home to beautiful parks, art galleries, restaurants, bars and cafes.
  • Great area for exploring Mexico City's arts, culture, food and nightlife scenes.
  • Mostly mid-range and high-end accommodation options.

Polanco

  • One of the safest and most upscale areas of the city.
  • High-end hotels, fine dining, designer shops and art galleries.
  • Close to major attractions like Chapultepec Park and Castle.
  • Home to many expats.

Coyoacán

  • Charming neighborhood with cobblestone streets and historic buildings.
  • Known for its arts scene, cafes, and the iconic Frida Kahlo Museum.
  • Accommodation ranges from hostels to boutique hotels.
  • Offers a quieter vibe away from the bustling city center.

No matter where you stay, the metro, bus and taxi systems make it easy to explore all areas of this massive city. The location that's best for you depends on your travel style and budget.

Getting Around

Public transportation is the most affordable and efficient way to explore Mexico City.

  • Metro - With 12 lines and over 140 stations, the metro can get you to most major attractions. It operates from 5am to midnight daily.
  • Metrobus - This is a network of high-capacity buses that run in dedicated lanes. It connects key spots across the city.
  • Bus - Extensive network of local buses to neighborhoods not serviced by the metro.
  • Taxi - Taxis are everywhere and fares are cheap compared to other major cities. Make sure to only take official sitio taxis. Agree on a price before getting in.
  • Uber - Uber operates throughout Mexico City and offers an affordable and safe alternative to taxis.

Other transportation options:

  • Ecobici bike share - Over 480 stations with 6,000 bikes available for short term rental.
  • Turibus - Hop-on hop-off double decker sightseeing buses that hit all the top attractions.

Top Things to Do

With over 150 museums and over 200 cultural centers, there is no shortage of incredible things to see and do in Mexico City. Here are some must-visit attractions:

Zócalo & Cathedral

  • The heart of Mexico City's historic center and main gathering point.
  • Site of the Templo Mayor, one of the main temples of the Aztec empire.
  • Home to the Metropolitan Cathedral, largest cathedral in Latin America.

Chapultepec Park & Castle

  • One of the world's largest urban parks sprawling over nearly 700 hectares.
  • Boasts zoos, lakes, fountains, archaeological sites and museums.
  • Chapultepec Castle houses the National Museum of History.

Frida Kahlo Museum

  • Former home and studio turned museum of the iconic Mexican artist.
  • Offers an intimate glimpse into Frida's unique life and artwork.
  • Located in the charming neighborhood of Coyoacán.

Templo Mayor & National Museum of Anthropology

  • Templo Mayor is a main Aztec temple excavated right in the heart of the city.
  • The National Museum of Anthropology has the world's largest collection of ancient Mexican artifacts.

Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe

  • One of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world.
  • Commemorates the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1531.
  • Architecturally unique church worth visiting for its history and grand scale.

Day Trips from Mexico City

Some fantastic easy day trips to take from the city include:

  • Teotihuacan - Explore Mexico's most famous ancient pyramids only 25 miles outside the city.
  • Tepoztlan - Picturesque town with pre-Hispanic pyramid surrounded by beautiful mountains.
  • Taxco - Historic cobblestone town known for impeccable silver craftsmanship and charm.
  • Puebla - Stunning colonial city with delicious food scene just 2 hours away.

Where to Eat & Drink

As one of the culinary capitals of Latin America, the food scene in Mexico City is incredibly diverse and delicious.

Traditional Mexican Food

Some classic dishes and where to try them:

  • Tacos - Head to street food stalls in neighborhoods like La Condesa, Roma and Juarez for authentic tacos al pastor.
  • Mole - Sample Oaxacan-style mole at classic restaurants like Pujol or Casa Oaxaca.
  • Tamales - Look for vendors in the Historic Center and Polanco dishing out freshly made tamales with various fillings.
  • Seafood - For ceviche, fish tacos and more, visit Contramar in Roma.

Markets

Experience the sights, sounds and flavors of Mexico by shopping and eating at its vibrant markets:

  • Mercado de San Juan - Gourmet food market with restaurants and exotic ingredients.
  • Mercado de la Merced - Lively traditional market to try Mexican street food.
  • Mercado de Coyoacán - Sample sweets like chocolate caliente and churros.
  • Mercado Roma - Trendy indoor market with food stalls and craft vendors.

Trendy Food Scene

In addition to traditional fare, Mexico City offers innovative modern cuisine:

  • Pujol - Repeatedly named one of the best restaurants in the world for its elevated take on classic Mexican dishes.
  • Quintonil - Cutting-edge establishment known for foraging local ingredients and inventive tasting menus.
  • Lago DF - Dramatic lake views and contemporary Mexican fare in Polanco.
  • Mezcalerias - Hip bars specializing in Mexico's smoky, complex mezcal like La Clandestina and La Botica.

Local Nightlife

Sip tequila or mezcal and dance the night away at:

  • Clubs in Roma and Condesa like Jules Basement
  • Cantina bars like La Clandestina
  • Rooftop bars like Licorería Limantour
  • Live music venues in Coyoacán and Colonia Juárez

Best Time to Visit

Mexico City enjoys pleasant weather and events year-round. High season spans the cooler, drier months from December to April when you'll find ideal weather but larger crowds and higher prices. June through August sees heavy rains during the low season. Here are some key annual events:

MonthEvent
MarchFestival Vive Latino - Massive rock en español concert
AprilSemana Santa Celebrations - Religious events and festivals around Easter
MayCinco de Mayo Festivities - Celebrations for Mexico's victory over French forces
SeptemberIndependence Day (Sept 16) - Parades and fiestas for Mexico's independence
October - NovemberDay of the Dead Celebrations - Parades, parties, and altars honoring deceased loved ones

Budget Tips

Mexico City offers plenty of free and low-cost things to help you stick to a budget:

  • Take walking tours of historic neighborhoods and view sites like street art and monuments.
  • Attend free concerts and cultural events in Zócalo Square.
  • Explore many of the city's museums and galleries on free entry days.
  • Eat and drink at local markets for cheap, authentic food and drinks.
  • Use the metro, bus and bike share systems to get around instead of taxis.
  • Shop at places like Lagunilla Market for good deals on art, crafts and antiques.

Travel Safety Tips

Mexico City is generally quite safe, especially in the main tourist areas. However, as with any major city, you should take some basic precautions:

  • Only take radio taxi or Uber instead of hailing cabs on the street. Agree to fare before getting in.
  • Keep valuables secured and be aware of pickpockets in crowded areas.
  • Carry small amounts of cash and avoid flashing expensive jewelry or electronics.
  • Stay alert and avoid isolated or poorly lit areas at night.
  • Only drink bottled water and be mindful of any food safety concerns.
  • Check government websites for any travel warnings before visiting.
  • Consider travel insurance for trip cancellation, lost baggage etc.

Useful Spanish Phrases

Practicing just a few Spanish phrases will help you navigate your trip:

EnglishSpanish
HelloHola
GoodbyeAdiós
PleasePor favor
Thank youGracias
You're welcomeDe nada
Excuse mePerdóneme
Yes
NoNo
Do you speak English?¿Hablas inglés?
I don't understandNo entiendo

Final Thoughts

Whether it's your first or fifth visit, Mexico City always amazes with its rich culture, warmth of the people, delicious food, and incredible energy. Follow these tips to plan the trip of a lifetime. Let me know if you have any other questions as you prepare for your travels! I'm happy to provide additional Mexico City travel tips and recommendations based on your specific interests.

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