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Everything you need to know about a trip to Mexico City

Everything you need to know about a trip to Mexico City

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.


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.

Everything you need to know about a trip to Mexico City

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.

Historic Centre Mexico City

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

Teotihuacan Pyramids Mexico City

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)

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 Mexico City

Castillo Chapultepec

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

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

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.

In this area you’ll also find the Leon Trotsky Museum and Frida Kahlo Museum.

Lucha Libre Mexico City

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.


Everything you need to know about a trip to Mexico City

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:

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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Ashlea Wheeler

Blogger & Photographer at A Globe Well Travelled
I'm Ashlea, an excitable Australian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

33 Responses to “Everything you need to know about a trip to Mexico City”

  1. Virginie

    I loved Mexico City! Definitely not as scary I thought it might be. Teotihuacan was the best part of our trip 🙂

    Reply
  2. Diana Southern @ North to South

    Love this overview of Mexico City, Ashlea! You already have me wanting to go back (and we were just there for a month in April). Your summary seems to cover everything!

    Did you guys go on top of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Zócalo by chance? The tour was in Spanish, but it was fun crawling around on top of such a gorgeous building, and getting a unique view of the city — in my opinion way better than the aerial views you can get from the Torre Latinoamericana — with less people and a scheduled tour time, plus it was cheaper. 🙂

    Where are you two headed next?

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post Diana! And it’s great that you both loved it as much as we did 😀 I could definitely go back to explore it some more.

      Ooh no we didn’t head up there, but that does sound like a lot of fun. I like discovering unique rooftop views of a city. Your views from Torre Latinoamericana make Mexico City look waaaay clearer than when we were there!

      After one more week in Mexico (including 5 days of R&R in Playa Del Carmen) we head to Bolivia and Peru 😀

      Reply
  3. Alex Conomos

    Great post. I learnt the hard way that all museums and key tourist sites are closed on Mondays including Frieda Kahlo’s house in coyoacan so best to keep that day for other adventures. The highlight for me was the food, you can get by on amazing street food that costs next to nothing. I travelled as a solo female and was fine but was always careful to book legal taxis and not hail them from the street.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Ahh the attractions closing on Mondays is the worst, I really wish we’d found out about it before we went! That was one wasted subway ride to Castillo Chapultec (though it’s not so bad when the subway only costs .50c)!

      I totally agree with you on the street food, we were getting tacos for next to nothing, and they tasted AMAZING 😀

      Reply
  4. Corinne

    I haven’t been to Mexico City in a long time! I loved visiting Teotihuacan! I’ve got to go back!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Everyone who has been to Teotihuacan seems to have absolutely loved it! I’m glad you enjoyed it too, Corinne!

      Reply
  5. David

    We love Mexico city and when we tell people that they always say really Mexico city. Been many times and each time is new. We saw our fist bull fight there, frida kahlo’s house is nice to do if your into art. You can even have a drink in the bar where Poncho Villa road through the door on his horse and shot up the place! Way cool! Must hit!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      We had some people on our tour group visit Frida Kahlo’s house and they all seemed to enjoy it! I hadn’t heard the story about Poncho Villa, sounds like a great place to stop by on my next visit 😀

      Reply
  6. Mima Isono

    My husband likes Mexico (the city and the food) so much. I never been to Mexico. After reading your post I think I know why he likes Mexico so much. I’m going to agree to go with him to explore Mexico one day.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I think Mexico is something that needs to be experienced to be understood! It’s those differences in culture that make Mexico City so wonderful 😀

      Reply
  7. JC from Holland

    I’ve visited many Places in Central America and South America, but Mexico wasn’t one ot them, by the readings and looks of this blog I missed out on a lot.

    Reply
  8. Anna

    This makes me want to visit! I’ve only ever been to Cancun in Mexico, and I know I would love the rest of the country. Your pictures are beautiful !!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Anna! Cancun is great too, but the rest of the country is so different in terms of culture, landscape, and cuisine… Mexico really has so much more to offer than just the coastal resort areas. You should definitely check out Mexico City if you get the chance!

      Reply
  9. Katie

    I only spent 3 nights in Mexico City and as it was our first stop of a seven month trip through Latin America, it was all a bit overwhelming so we decided to go a couple of day trips. We visited San Angel for the excellent market, Basilica of our Lady of Guadelupe, Teotihuacan, Xocimilco for the canals and Coyoacan where we wandered the centre and visited Frida Kahlo’s house. I loved everything we saw and I really want to go back to explore the many different neighbourhoods that make up the city, but independently next time.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Sounds like you got to see lots of the city, Katie! But I know what you mean, there are always more things to see! Definitely an excuse to go back 🙂

      Reply
  10. Matthew

    Mexico it’s awesome!! We went there 5 years ago and we loved it, food, culture, music!!
    Have you ever been south of Mexico? Central America rules!! cheaper and sometimes nicer…and definately safer!!
    I live here and share some tips on my http://www.nicaraguayestravel.com/

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I was actually going to head down through Belize and Guatemala this trip, but we ended up doing South America instead. I’m sure I’ll get back there someday, from what I’ve heard, the rest of Central America is equally as good as Mexico 😀

      Reply
      • Matthew

        Yeah definately! and way cheaper than Mexico.. !! I hope to see south america soon !

        Reply
  11. Julián

    Hey Ashlea,

    I´m mexican and I´ve been living in Mexico City my whole life (27 years). I loved the review, it´s perfect, it´s amazing how well you described the city and all the highlights, I even got goosebumps jaja. For everyone who reads it, I can affirm that this is the best review I have ever seen for my city. Unfortunately, Mexico City is a huge huge city and after 27 years living in it I haven´t discovered it completely, but for sure you covered the basics jaja. What I most like about living here is all the new places, stories and food you can discover. If you have a local friend for sure contact him and I´m sure you´ll have a great time.

    Tip: also travel inside Mexico, get to know Los Cabos, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Cancun, Bacalar, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and the Riviera Maya, etc, it´s a huge country so you will find different food, climate and traditions in each region.

    PS: the story about the cantina and Pancho Villa is true.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Julián! You’re absolutely right about it being a huge city, it would take many years to explore it properly!

      I loved the other areas of Mexico too, you can find some more in my post on 7 of Mexico’s best kept secrets. Mexico is one of my all time favourite countries and I’ll definitely be heading back to explore some more sometime in the future!

      Reply
  12. Estefi

    Hi! I really love your post about Mexico City! I am originally from there but I now live in the USA. The reason why people do not wear shorts or skirts is because Mexico still has a very conservative culture.

    Reply
  13. Tony

    I’m heading to Mexico City in March for. Long weekend Fri night – leaving Tues morning – what should i do on monday?

    Reply
    • Beth

      Hi Tony! I would love to know what ya’ll ended up doing because we have the same amount of time planned for a weekend in November!

      Reply
  14. Beth

    I love this post about MX City – I was wondering if you had information on the tour of the Teotihuacan Pyramids. Did you use a company/have your hotel schedule something/or just rough it? We are planning a trip in November and would love to add this to our itinerary!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You should absolutely do a tour of Teotihuacan! It’s honestly one of the most mind-blowing places I’ve ever been, and it’s great to have a guide who can explain the history of it as you’re wandering around. My day tour was organised through the extended tour that I was doing, but I remember seeing a bunch on Viator so check some of those out 🙂

      Reply
  15. jennifer

    What would you suggest bringing/wearing? I’m doing a Viator tour in the end of November/early December! It my first trip out of the country!

    Reply
  16. RC

    Mexico City is a fantastic destination. I liked it the 2nd time a lot more!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Isn’t it great! I’m glad you liked it more the second time – I was thinking of going back again and it’s good to know that it will be just as enjoyable 😀

      Reply
  17. Emma

    as a mexican woman citizen, everyone knows that if you wear skirts or shorts to mexico city you’re going to be whistled at by workers or homeless

    Reply
  18. Alex S

    That’s crazy that the pollution has been reduced to the point that it’s on-par to LA. Hopefully they continue to push to reduce the pollution even further. Wearing pants instead of shorts makes sense. Even in Chicago you don’t wear shorts when going out or going to a nightclub. You look like a “slob.” Great tips!

    Reply

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