The first time I stepped foot outside my hotel in Mexico City, I instantly fell in love with the place.
Mexico City has received a bit of a bad rep in the past, but if there’s one thing travel has taught me, it’s that the majority of reputations are meaningless.
Mexico City is not crime-ridden and littered with trash as you might think. To me, the city felt much like being in any other large European-influenced city. The people were lovely, there were street food vendors on every corner creating all sorts of delicious smells to tempt you as you wander by, and you could choose from a heap of super amazing sites and activities.
Yes, there were a lot of people, but it didn’t feel overcrowded – just busy enough to make you realise that everyone here loves being out and about. And it doesn’t feel touristy. The people who travel to Mexico City are mostly other Mexicans or Latin Americans, so the tourist areas have kept their local charm.
If you’re planning a visit anytime soon (and I highly recommend that you do!) here’s everything you need to know about a trip to Mexico City.
View from Castillo Chapultepec
A few interesting facts
Mexico City’s population is almost 22 million, making it the 7th largest city (by greater population) in the world.
Mexico City was once the most polluted city in the world, until the mid-nineties when the government decided to take a bunch of actions to curb its carbon emissions. The subway system was built, and restrictions were put on cars and drivers allowing them to only be on the road certain days of the week. Pollution levels are now on par with Los Angeles.
Gardens of Castillo Chapultepec
How to get around
From the airport you can take a taxi to the city for 200-300 pesos (there are a few ATMs after immigration in the airport to get cash out). Take your pick of taxi stand to negotiate a price. We went to one that offered us a ride for 350 pesos, then tried another and scored the same route for only 215 pesos.
Throughout the city you can use taxis or Uber to get around. For taxis you can negotiate a fare or pick a metered taxi (just make sure the meter is turned on before you take off).
The subway system is also a convenient and cheap way to get around as tickets cost only 5 pesos. We found it very similar to the Paris or Moscow subway system. Peak hour is something you should definitely avoid as the trains are extremely overcrowded – this seems to last from about 3pm to 7pm.
Zócalo (Main Square)
Where to stay
The CBD has plenty of options for places to stay. We made ourselves comfortable at Hotel Metropol which had a great location and comfortable rooms.
Around the historic centre is where you’ll find most of the hotels, but don’t be afraid to go a little further out to save some moolah. The city is pretty damn large so just pick a place where public transport is convenient.
When to go
Mexico City has a mild climate year round, ranging from 7-21ºC (45-70ºF) in December to 12-27ºC (54-80ºF) in May. The city can get pretty drenched during the rainy season, so travelling in the dry season (between November and April) would be a smart idea.
THE BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan
The Teotihuacan Pyramids are about an hour’s drive from the city centre, and are well worth the journey. The UNESCO world heritage site includes two major pyramids and ruins of the ancient city.
These are some of the last remaining pyramids that you can actually climb and it’s predicted that in the next few years even that won’t be possible due to deterioration, so be sure add a Teotihuacan day tour to your Mexico City itinerary!
Metropolitan Cathedral in Zócalo (Main Square)
The Zócalo (main square) is the third largest in the world, after Tiananmen Square in Beijing and Red Square in Moscow.
This is the middle of the historic centre, where you’ll find a bunch of the oldest and most important buildings in Mexico City.
Castillo Chapultepec is a Spanish-style castle, about 15 minutes from the main square via the subway. It has super pretty views of the city and features a great historic museum.
Don’t make the same mistake we did and attempt to visit on a Monday, as the castle will be closed to visitors.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) is in my opinion, the most beautiful building in the city! You can go inside to visit the performance theatre and art museum, or just head to the cafe atop Sears across the road for this money shot of the building.
Colourful buildings in Coyoacán
Coyoacán is a super cute historic suburb south of the city, about 25 mins walk from the Coyoacán subway station. Head to Plaza Hidalgo and you’ll come across the most beautiful collection of restaurants, shops, and historic buildings.
Lucha Libre masks
Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling). This is quite similar to WWF wrestling, but it’s a little more acrobatic and the wrestlers are wearing colourful masks and capes that make them look sort of like weird superheroes.
We got our tickets from Ticketmaster and collected them from Arena Mexico a few hours before the match, but you can also see Lucha Libre as part of this Mexico City day tour.
multi-day TOUR OPTIONS:
If you’re unsure whether you should do Mexico City on your own, do a group tour! I did Mexico City as part of a 15-day Mexico City to Playa del Carmen tour. Here are a few more options:
- Intrepid offers a 4-day Mexico City Stopover.
- If you want to visit Mexico City for Day of the Dead, try this 5-day Mexico City Day of the Dead tour.
a few More Pro tips
- If your Spanish vocabulary is as empty as mine, download a Spanish phrasebook app and Google Goggles, as only a handful of locals speak English and signage/menus almost never include it.
- Blend in with the locals by wearing long pants. You won’t see anyone (aside from children and tourists) showing their bare knees with shorts or skirts. We attempted to Google the reason for this and were unsuccessful in finding an answer, but we ended up finding out from a friend that it was because the Mexican people consider long pants dressy, and they wouldn’t dare leave the house without looking their best.
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