Aztec Antiquities, Festive Ambiance, and a UNESCO-Recognized Cuisine
Mexico City presents a kaleidoscope of experiences: it is a treasure trove of heritage from an ancient civilizations, bearing testaments in the form of pyramids and indigenous tribes. The city proudly displays the remnants of colonisation through stunning haciendas and palaces adorned in Baroque architecture. Coupled with the country’s contemporary lifestyle that thrives with bustling parties, the city encapsulates a rich tapestry of time and culture. And the cherry on top? The city’s vibrant culinary scene, which has earned the distinguished recognition of UNESCO for its authentic and diverse gastronomy.
Mexico City: The Mexican Capital of Contrasts, from Indigenous Tribes to Modern Cosmopolites
As the capital of Mexico, Mexico City is home to an impressive 22 million inhabitants. Much like any metropolis, the city is a melting pot of variety and contrast. Here, one can encounter indigenous locals vending handcrafted trinkets and delicious tacos, cosmopolitan hipsters, park-bound hippies, and fashionably dressed business people draped in their well-tailored suits. The society in Mexico City is distinctively polarised, with income disparities between different population groups forming a stark contrast. This disparity echoes through the cityscape, where elite neighbourhoods housing expats and millionaires exist in juxtaposition with slums. Its colonial architecture stands shoulder to shoulder with contemporary skyscrapers, which can be seen across the street from abandoned structures and semi-derelict houses.
Having weathered a war for independence, a revolution, a U.S. invasion, and several earthquakes over the past 200 years, the city still preserves historically significant Aztec monuments. A realisation of the city’s ancient history can strike you at any moment — encountering Aztec pyramid ruins in the heart of the city, or temples built by colonists from these very pyramid stones. Just a few blocks away, one can marvel at the stunning Palace of Fine Arts, adorned with intricate frescoes by Diego Rivera. And as an aside, Mexico City holds the world record for the second-most museums globally, only falling short of London.
Despite its cosmopolitan tendencies, the city reveres many Mexican traditions and customs. On November 1st, a grand parade marks the Day of the Dead. The city becomes a stage for floats dedicated to the country’s cultural peculiarities, while residents, donned in elaborate makeup and costumes, partake in a skeleton procession. In the evening visitors can enjoy the famed masked wrestling matches of lucha libre, a hallmark of Mexican culture.
Highlighting Must-Visit Attractions
Before the arrival of European conquerors, the region now known as Mexico was a cradle to numerous ancient civilizations. Echoes of the Aztecs, one of the world’s most advanced empires, can still be seen in archeological sites, as can remnants of the Mayan civilization, which became Spanish allies during the conquest. By that time, the Mayan culture was in decline. Fast forward three centuries to 1810, a 12-year war for independence was initiated, freeing Mexico from New Spain. By then, the majority of Mexico’s populace was mestizo – a blend of indigenous and Spanish blood. A century later, the nation was swept into the bourgeois-democratic civil war, the Mexican Revolution, which raged on for another seven years. The capital has skillfully incorporated monuments from all historical eras thanks to its myriad museums, cathedrals, monuments, and diverse architectural displays.
Unearthing Mexico’s Ancient Civilizations
The Aztecs, Olmecs, and Mayans once held sway in Mexico, their formidable empires engraving indelible marks on the tapestry of history. Within Mexico City and its vicinity, dozens of remnants from the mighty Aztec civilization have been meticulously preserved, providing a tantalising glimpse into the past. Meanwhile, the remnants of the Mayan and Olmec civilizations necessitate a visit to Mexico City’s museums (the esteemed Anthropology Museum, for example). This is due to the location of the pyramids and archaeological centres of these civilizations, which lie scattered across Mexico’s diverse regions, notably Tabasco, Veracruz, and the breathtakingly beautiful Tulum.
The Templo Mayor, a monumental religious edifice nestled within the heart of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, encompasses the ruins of the eponymous pyramid and two temples, all hailing from the first half of the 14th century. Modern Mexico City has risen from its ashes, preserving a tangible connection to this bygone era.
During the excavations, researchers unearthed more than 7,000 artefacts, subsequently incorporated into the collection of the Templo Mayor Museum. Translated from Spanish, the name signifies the ‘Great Temple.’ As per Aztec legend, this imposing structure was erected atop the sacred tree of Huitzilopochtli, considered by the Aztecs as the universe’s core. Hence, a 60-metre pyramid was constructed on this sacred spot, topped by two temples. One was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the deity of the sun and war, and the other to Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility. The Spanish Conquistadors wrought immense damage to the Aztec culture, but a few smaller temples managed to weather this storm, remaining largely unscathed.
Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Aztec culture as you journey through the museum’s eight distinct rooms. The south hall is dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of the sun and war, while the north hall pays tribute to Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility. Your exploratory sojourn through this temple complex not only deepens your understanding of Aztec history but also gives you an insight into what was once the epicentre of Mexican religious life, and a symbol of the Aztecs’ triumph over their adversaries.
The museum is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is 75 pesos (4.36 USD).
The south hall is dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of the sun and war, while the north hall pays tribute to Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility. Photo: Mike Peel / Wikimedia.org
Nestled in the sprawling expanse of Chapultepec Park, the Anthropology Museum is home to an impressive array of artefacts that once belonged to the ancient Mayan people. The Maya were a pre-Columbian civilization inhabiting the territories of what is now Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras. Their descendants still call these countries home.
The Anthropology Museum stands as one of Mexico City’s most significant museums and is a must-see for all those intrigued by ancient civilizations. It’s simply impossible to tour every gallery in one visit; there’s just not enough time. Hence, here is a list of some of the most noteworthy exhibits:
- The Bat God Mask (2nd century): This depiction of a human face represents Piquete Zinña, the Zapotec god of bats. The mask comprises several polished jade plates.
- King Pakal’s Mask (7th century): This is a jade artifact.
- Sun Stone (15th century): A 3.6-meter diameter, 1.22-meter thick basalt monolith weighing 24 tons, engraved with depictions of the Aztec worldview.
- Teocalli of the Sacred War (16th century): A volcanic stone monolith featuring symbols of the Mexican coat of arms – an eagle perched on a cactus, devouring a snake.
- Montezuma’s Crown (original – 18th century, copy – mid-19th century): The final Aztec ruler’s headpiece made of feathers. The original resides in Vienna’s Ethnological Museum.
- Obsidian Vase with Monkey Imagery: A masterpiece, the creation of which remains an enigma to archaeologists.
- Tlaloc Monolith: A seven-metre high, 168-ton statue of the rain god, located at the museum’s exit.
The museum’s souvenir shop offers a myriad of crafts made by artisans from across the Mexican states. Forgoing the typical mass-produced souvenirs from China, the store instead features handcrafted ceramics, textiles, and an array of home decor items.
Operating hours are from Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with an admission fee of 90 pesos 5.24 USD). Additionally, every day at 11 a.m. and noon, the museum offers free Spanish-language tours, adding a vibrant layer to the rich tapestry of your museum experience.
Teotihuacán, one of the most significant pre-Hispanic cities in history, is cloaked in a shroud of profound mystery and ancient allure. It is believed to have been established around 300 BC and was deserted between the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Though its original architects remain unknown, the Aztecs were the ones to christen it Teotihuacán.
During its zenith in the year 450 AD, it was the largest city in pre-Columbian America, teeming with a population of about 125,000 people, a staggering number for its time. Teotihuacán has been christened the “city of the gods,” a title brimming with mythic resonance.
Surrounded by a swirl of legends, it’s said that the city was settled by ancient deities who returned to earth following a catastrophic deluge. The Aztecs believed that it was here where the gods breathed life into the sun and heralded the dawn of a new epoch. These stories are intricately etched into the walls of the city’s pyramids, painting a vivid tableau of its mythic past. Scholars often draw parallels between these narratives and legends of other civilizations, unearthing numerous striking parallels.
The city is strewn with remarkably well-preserved edifices – the Avenue of the Dead, the Citadel, the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl, and the pyramids of the Sun and Moon. The sprawling site demands a full day to be appreciated, as it unfurls its secrets over acres of ancient grounds. It’s a time-worn testament to civilization’s past, beckoning the modern explorer with its enigmatic allure.
Cost-wise, the Teotihuacán complex is accessible to most, with entry fees per person set at 90 pesos (5.24 USD) and parking charges at 50 pesos (2.91 USD) per vehicle. For those seeking guidance and insight into this ancient world, guided tours are available through platforms such as Get Your Guide. The services of a local Teotihuacán guide range from 600 (34.91 USD) to 850 pesos (49.46 USD).
For the adventurous, there’s the sky-high opportunity to take a hot-air balloon flight over Teotihuacán, offering an unorthodox vantage point from which to marvel at this historical marvel. The flight lasts approximately an hour and departs at sunrise, catching the day’s most magical light. Balloon rides can be booked through agencies like Sky Balloons (as per the author’s personal experience) or through Get Your Guide, an online platform offering a myriad of excursions and activities. Travellers typically greet the sunrise suspended above the ancient Pyramids of the Sun and Moon.
Sky Balloons offers various packages to choose from. An intimate ride in a small basket costs 3750 pesos (218.20 USD), complete with a breakfast and champagne experience. For those okay with sharing the sky with others, a spot in a larger group ride is priced at 1500 pesos (87.28 USD). So, whether you’re a solitary sky-gazer or a communal cloud-cruiser, this unique experience is waiting to sweep you off your feet.
Where to Eat
For those seeking sustenance in Teotihuacán, “La Gruta” sits at the top of the list. This eatery, ensconced within a vast cave, is famous for its ambiance more than its culinary offerings. While the food and service are considered average, their guacamole is particularly noteworthy.
“Mictlán” offers a lesser-known, subterranean dining experience. Here, visitors can enjoy the Mexican mainstays such as tacos and guacamole. The cost of the dishes is generally consistent, and one can expect to spend roughly 310 pesos (18.04 USD) per person for a meal.
“Gran Teocalli” provides a buffet-style dining experience with an array of dishes, including traditional Mexican fare. A bonus for families with little ones, this spot also includes a playroom for children.
Teotihuacán is just an hour’s drive from Mexico City. A one-way taxi ride from the city’s historic centre will cost you between 700 (40.73 USD) and 800 pesos (46.55 USD). There are also tours available, typically priced around 800 pesos (46.55 USD), that include transportation. For those comfortable with public transit, buses depart from the northern bus terminal every 10-15 minutes (from Exit 8) starting at six in the morning. This way, the journey to Teotihuacán becomes as much of an adventure as the destination itself.
The Epoch of New Spain
This historical phase unfolded over nearly three centuries, spanning from 1521 to 1810.
Anchored in the heart of the historic district, the Cathedral is a monument hewn from the stones of ancient pyramids disassembled by Spaniards in the aftermath of their Mexican conquest. Situated at the intersection of the four prime districts of the old city, Tenochtitlan, the Cathedral once represented the spiritual core of the Aztec capital. It proudly stands as the first cathedral of America and one of the most consequential temples on the continent. The edifice took over 250 years to build — from 1573 to 1813 — and as a result, its architecture represents an eclectic mix of styles popular over these centuries.
The Cathedral’s grandeur is genuinely awe-inspiring, its proportions stunning from both outside and within. Its bell towers can accommodate up to 56 bells, though they currently house 35. Boasting no fewer than 150 windows, and 16 side chapels each dedicated to a specific saint, the Cathedral promises a journey of discovery. Rumour has it that the Cathedral’s basements conceal the foundation of the ancient pyramid of Tonatiuh. Additionally, they also preserve the remnants of an Aztec altar, once a site of human sacrifice. The Cathedral is home to two of the largest 18th-century organs in America, whose grandeur resonates during Sunday services.
It welcomes visitors from 9 am to 5 pm daily, and admission is free.
Another site of note is the Santo Domingo Cathedral, a prime example of Baroque architecture. It served as the headquarters of the most critical Dominican monastery in Mexico for several centuries, although now, only the temple remains.
The Expanse of Constitution Square
Unfurling across the urban canvas of Mexico’s capital city, Constitution Square — or “Zocalo” as it’s known to locals — stands as the largest plaza in Latin America. Spanning an impressive 46,000 square metres. The affectionate moniker “Zocalo,” translating to “pedestal,” bears witness to an ambitious yet unfinished architectural endeavour.
Back in 1843, the country’s then-president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna commanded the construction of a monument to celebrate Mexico’s independence. This monument, envisioned to rise from the very heart of the capital, was destined for a site that was previously a bustling marketplace. The market was swept away, plans were laid to erect a column graced by an angel at its apex. However, fate had a different design. The U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1846, coupled with economic and political turmoil, derailed the monument’s fruition. Construction had barely advanced beyond the laying of the monument’s foundation, an eight-metre diameter pedestal standing a mere 30 centimetres high. Over the ensuing years, this base became the foundation for a kiosk nestled within a garden in the square. Although the pedestal was later removed and the garden was transformed into a plaza, the term “Zocalo” remained etched in the local lexicon.
Constitution Square is the citadel of Mexico’s political, economic, and religious power. It’s a living tableau where the indigenous and viceregal past coalesce with a nearly half-millennium-long history. It’s a melting pot where Mexicans gather to revel in celebrations or voice their sentiments in demonstrations. Beyond the Cathedral’s grandeur, the square is framed by an array of the country’s landmark structures — City Hall Palace, the Government Building, the Templo Mayor complex, and a selection of galleries.
The Majesty of the National Palace
The National Palace, founded in 1522, serves as a stately presidential residence, the pulsating heart of Mexico’s executive power. Before the Spanish conquest, this site was home to the palace of Montezuma II, the last Aztec emperor. Later, it transformed into the regal residence of the viceroys of New Spain. Over its half-millennium narrative, the edifice has undergone numerous modifications and expansions. Today, it showcases a fusion of architectural styles, marrying neoclassical, baroque, and neocolonial elements in a harmonious tableau.
While the palace hosts official receptions within its grandeur, it generously opens most of its halls to curious visitors. The jewel in its crown is the collection of frescoes by Diego Rivera, one of Mexico’s most revered painters, adorning the palace’s interior.
The Enchanting Casa de los Azulejos
Casa de los Azulejos, or the “House of Tiles,” is one of Mexico City’s most captivating and beautiful residential palaces from the 18th century. True to its name, the building’s facade is adorned with azulejos – the blue and white tiles renowned from the city of Puebla. This architectural gem does not stand as a mere monument but lives and breathes with the rhythm of the city, housing restaurants and shops within its stunning blue walls.
The palace is a must-visit not just for its striking exterior, but also for its richly decorated interiors. Once inside, you’ll find an awe-inspiring collection of art. Among the palace’s treasured possessions are the unique peacock frescoes by Romanian artist Pacologue, painted in 1919, and ‘Omnisciencia,’ one of the earliest works by the celebrated Mexican painter José Clemente Orozco, created in 1925.
The Casa de los Azulejos invites you to discover its many facets – dine under ornate frescoes, shop in historic splendour, or simply enjoy the exceptional art and architecture. It’s not just a place to visit, but a location to truly experience.
The Serene and Artistic Neighborhood of Coyoacán
Coyoacán, a quiet, resplendent neighbourhood situated in the southern reaches of Mexico City, is a verdant oasis away from the city centre and its bustling attractions. A 30-40 minute drive brings you to this preserved colonial-era settlement, where cobblestone streets meander through residences painted in a vibrant array of colours. This district is a paradise that has long been the haunt of artists and creative spirits. Even today, the scent of bohemia lingers in the air, the streets echoing with the whispers of its artistic past. It is here where you’ll find the intimate Frida Kahlo Museum, otherwise known as the Blue House, which was the birthplace and home of this world-renowned artist. Just around the corner lies the house of the revolutionary Leon Trotsky, preserved as it was during his last years in exile.
This peaceful neighbourhood with its charming colonial houses and rich history offers a serene counterpoint to the urban bustle of the metropolis. Whether you’re a lover of art, history, or simply want to experience the slower, tranquil pace of life, Coyoacán is a must-visit. Its enchanting streets and vibrant past will leave you with a palette of unforgettable memories.
Ambling through Coyoacán, don’t miss the chance to hop on one of the neighbourhood’s charming tourist trams, offering two distinctive tours – the “Cultural-Historical Tour,” that embarks in the mornings, and the atmospheric “Tour of Legends” held after sundown. While tours usually run in Spanish, you may find a guide fluent in English, ready to weave tales of Coyoacán’s past. Tickets for these delightful journeys cost 95 pesos (5.53 USD), and the tram departs every 45 minutes from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the starting point located in a square near the coyotes fountain.
Over the weekend, Coyoacán buzzes with activity as local fairs sprawl across the Hidalgo square, a vibrant blend of colour and local craftsmanship. Here, beneath the watchful gaze of the monument to Miguel Hidalgo, known as the father of the Mexican Revolution, you can haggle for unique souvenirs and savour authentic Mexican street food. In the nearby Century Garden, don’t miss the iconic coyote fountain, a masterpiece crafted by sculptor Gabriel Ponzanelli. This bronze coyote, leaping amidst a tumble of rocks, is not just a popular photo spot but is also steeped in history, a nod to the area’s name – ‘Coyoacán,’ which in Nahuatl means ‘Place of Coyotes.’ So whether it’s day or night, Coyoacán invites you to immerse yourself in its colourful culture and historic charm, taking home memories as vibrant as the neighbourhood itself.
Mexico’s Freedom Journey
Mexico’s battle for independence, waged over 14 tumultuous years from 1810 to 1824, was initiated in the city of Guanajuato, some 210 miles from Mexico City. This epoch-defining period of the nation’s history is brought vividly to life within the capital’s own vibrant hub of cultural exploration.
Museum of Mexican History
The swirling stories of Mexico’s struggle for freedom take shape at the Museum of Mexican History in Mexico City, colloquially referred to as “El Caracol” – the Snail. The building earned this moniker thanks to its distinctive spiral design, which symbolises the cyclical nature of history. Since 1960, this museum has been educating the public, primarily youngsters, about Mexico’s transformative journey. The exhibits span from the heart of the independence struggle up to the adoption of the 1917 Constitution. Dive into the rich tapestry of Mexican history every Tuesday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. for an entry fee of just 80 pesos (4.65 USD).
The Monument of the “Angel of Independence”
Another stirring testament to Mexico’s independence era stands tall as one of Mexico City’s most famous landmarks – the “Angel of Independence” monument. Crowned by a gilded angel statue, this 164-foot column was designed by the renowne
d architect Antonio Rivas Mercado in 1910. The statues at the base of the monument embody Law, War, Justice, and Peace. Additionally, a bronze sculpture of a lion with a child represents the Mexican people, epitomising their strength in conflict and decency in times of tranquillity. Though currently closed, a hidden stairwell of 200 steps inside the column traditionally leads visitors to a panoramic viewpoint. The monument also serves as the resting place for 14 independence heroes, their remains entombed within. As a symbol of Mexico’s spirit and resilience, the monument is often the starting point for protest marches, parades, and major public gatherings, a living testament to Mexico’s enduring struggle for independence.
Chapultepec Castle: A Regal Legacy
Built in 1785, Chapultepec Castle distinguishes itself as the only royal castle in all of Latin America. It stands as a majestic testament to Mexico’s royal past, offering visitors a glimpse into the opulence of bygone eras. The castle’s preserved original interiors, including a stunning fountain, are like a step back in time. The castle’s balcony provides a sweeping panorama of the verdant Chapultepec Forest and the sprawling Mexico City skyline.
Inside, the castle is home to a portion of the collection of the Historical Museum, showcasing artefacts and displays from the Spanish conquest to the dawn of the 20th century. On the second floor, the castle offers a unique experience – the preserved chambers where Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg and his wife, Princess Charlotte, once resided. This glimpse into the intimate living quarters of a real emperor and empress brings history alive in an engaging, personal way.
The castle is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 5pm, for an admission fee of 90 pesos (5.24 USD). As you step into the grandeur and history of Chapultepec Castle, you’re not just observing history – you’re living it.
Enveloping the castle is Chapultepec Park, Latin America’s largest urban park. Its expanse doubles that of New York City’s Central Park, providing a green oasis in the heart of the bustling city. Here, under the sheltering canopy of the trees and around the serene lake, visitors can leisurely stroll, rent bicycles, or even hire paddle boats.
The park is divided into three zones: historical, tourist, and ecological. The historical section is the most vibrant and crowded, brimming with activities, and on weekends, teems with tent-lined aisles offering food and souvenirs. This zone is home to five museums, a zoo, a botanical garden, two cultural centres, 19 fountains, and approximately 55,000 trees, predominantly cedar.
Cross a bridge from the bustling historical zone, and you’ll find yourself in the park’s tourist section. This quieter region, frequented by fewer people, hosts three restaurants, four museums, and a handful of fountains, perfect for those seeking a quieter day in the park.
Lastly, the park’s ecological section was declared a protected natural area in 1992. Currently, only parts of this zone are open to visitors as the government is working on a restoration plan. This part of the park was once home to a large water park and children’s centre, both now abandoned and a popular canvas for graffiti artists.
Chapultepec Park, a jewel of urban greenery, provides an escape for locals and tourists alike, offering a tranquil respite amidst the whirlwind pace of city life.
Mexico’s Revolution: A Turning Point in History
Mexico’s revolution from 1910 to 1917 was a pivotal moment in the country’s history, ushering in profound political and social changes. Sparked by the public’s discontent with Porfirio Diaz’s dictatorship, the revolution escalated into a full-fledged civil war. It began with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero, who objected to the re-election of General Porfirio Diaz, a figure who had ruled the country for over thirty years. Among the primary causes were social inequality, the lack of political freedom, foreign companies displacing peasants from their lands, and poor education standards (with 80% of the population illiterate).
The revolution prompted Diaz’s resignation, the nationalisation of oil, the implementation of a new constitution, and a host of significant reforms — agrarian reform, public education improvement, employment enhancement for workers, and the formation of labour unions. Notably, many large estates (haciendas) were redistributed among the peasants who worked them.
One of the country’s most significant historical sites is the Monument to the Revolution, boasting the world’s largest triumphal arch at a height of 67 metres. An observation deck at the arch’s pinnacle offers 360-degree views of the city. On the ground floor, you’ll find the Museum of the Revolution. And for an exquisite sunset viewing, you can ascend to the twin domes, located at the building’s highest point, 80 metres above ground. Also housed within the monument is Cafe Adelita, designed to replicate a train car from the time of the Mexican Revolution.
Operating hours: Monday through Thursday from 12:00 to 20:00; Friday and Saturday from 12:00 to 22:00; Sunday from 10:00 to 20:00. Admission is 50 pesos (2.91 USD).
The Torre Latinoamericana: An Iconic Skyscraper in Mexico City
The Torre Latinoamericana is an emblematic fixture in Mexico City’s historical centre. The 44-story skyscraper, the tallest building in Latin America from its completion in 1956 until 1972, was the first major structure adorned with an aluminium and glass façade outside of the United States. More significantly, the Torre Latinoamericana pioneered earthquake-resistant construction, withstanding seismic events measuring 7.9 and 8.1 on the Richter scale in 1957 and 1985, respectively, without sustaining any significant damage.
These milestones made the tower a beacon of resilience and innovation, with its earthquake-resistant design serving as a blueprint for other high-rises built in seismically active zones. Today, the Torre Latinoamericana is more than a testament to architectural ingenuity; it is also a vibrant cultural hub. Along with housing the Bicentennial Museum, it hosts an array of rotating exhibitions, serving as a significant focal point of Mexico City’s rich and evolving artistic landscape.
Artistic and Cultural Epicentre
With an impressive tally of over 150 museums, Mexico City proudly stands as the city with the second-largest number of museums in the world, bested only by London.
Palace of Fine Arts
The Palacio de Bellas Artes, or Palace of Fine Arts, is a resplendent fusion of Art Nouveau and Neoclassical influences, an architectural gem that plays host to a constellation of museums. Its numerous domes sparkle with crystal coverings, and the palace’s ornate facade, resplendent with intricate sculptures and reliefs, is an artwork in its own right.
The interior is even more captivating, with the upper floor graced by stunning frescoes crafted by some of Mexico’s most celebrated artists, including Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Roberto Montenegro. Each mural tells a story, a vibrant slice of Mexico’s rich and varied cultural tapestry.
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is more than an artistic hub. It also houses the National Museum and the Museum of Architecture among other cultural spaces, each regularly hosting a variety of exhibits that speak to the country’s diverse artistic heritage.
Operating hours are from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. The entrance fee is 85 pesos (4.95 USD), with an additional 30 pesos (1.75 USD) fee for photography rights. Note that only cash payments are accepted.
The Blue Oasis of Frida Kahlo
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is renowned for her surrealist self-portraits, a legacy of art that intertwines her life experiences, elements of nature, and Mexican identity into a distinctive, compelling style. The museum that honours her life and work, also known as Casa Azul or the Blue House, is a vibrant tribute, resplendent in its cobalt-blue exterior that captures the essence of the artist’s bold colour palette.
The Blue House served as Kahlo’s birthplace, childhood home, workspace, and ultimately her final resting place, and the site remains largely unchanged since her time, giving visitors an immersive glimpse into her artistic process and personal life. The museum showcases not only Kahlo’s works but also those of her husband Diego Rivera and other 20th-century artists
Visitors unfamiliar with Kahlo’s life and work are advised to watch the film “Frida” for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the artist’s oeuvre. The art within her blue-walled sanctuary becomes even more compelling when viewed against the backdrop of her tumultuous life and profound influence on the world of art.
The museum operates from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on Tuesdays, 11:00 am to 6:00 pm on Wednesdays, and 10:00 am to 6:00 pm from Thursday through Sunday. Tickets cost 250 pesos (14.55 USD) and must be purchased online two weeks in advance due to the high demand and limited capacity. Same-day visits are not possible.
Dolores Olmedo Museum: An Artistic Sanctuary
In the heart of Mexico City, the late Mexican businesswoman Dolores Olmedo’s former estate beckons. Eight years before her passing in 2002, Olmedo converted her sprawling property into a museum, which today serves as a testament to her eclectic taste and lifelong passion for art and culture. Visitors can lose themselves in the lush gardens that envelop the museum, where peacocks roam freely and the rare Mexican hairless dogs known as Xoloitzcuintles claim their home. The estate-turned-museum houses Olmedo’s private collection, a rich amalgamation of works from the nation’s most revered artists. Among the treasures are 148 pieces by Diego Rivera and 26 creations by Frida Kahlo, complemented by a mesmerising assortment of Mesoamerican sculptures and figurines.
An exploration of the museum unveils insights into Olmedo’s fascinating life as narrated through family photographs and artworks gathered from her extensive travels. Her legacy is preserved within the museum walls, capturing the essence of a woman who was not only a successful entrepreneur but also a fervent patron of the arts
The museum is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm from Tuesday through Sunday. Admission costs 50 pesos (2.91 USD), but visitors enjoy complimentary entry on Tuesdays.
Mexico City’s Folk Art Museum and College of San Ildefonso: An Artistic Journey through Time and Tradition
Nestled in a striking Art Deco-style building in Mexico City’s historic heart, the Museum of Folk Art offers an intimate look into the vibrant world of Mexican crafts and folk art. This ivory-hued edifice is a treasury of native creativity, from ceramics and textiles to an assortment of other crafts. It’s an immersive journey through the diverse indigenous cultures of Mexico, each state bringing its own unique flavour to the artistic tableau. Notably, the museum is celebrated for its collection of “alebrijes” – vividly painted animal figurines carved from wood.
The museum is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. The entrance fee is 60 pesos (3.49 USD).
College of San Ildefonso
Continuing your artistic exploration, a visit to the College of San Ildefonso is a must. This museum and cultural centre holds a significant place in Mexico’s art history, regarded as the birthplace of Mexican muralism or monumental art. The central patio, enclosed by rounded arches and Baroque-style corridors, offers a serene ambiance that compliments the rich history this institution embodies.
Visitors can explore the college from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Guided tours are available, providing insights into the site’s frescoes, architectural design, and the role it played in the Mexican revolution. Entry costs 50 pesos (2.91 USD), while Sundays allow for free admittance.
Housed in the former Palace of Communications and Public Works, the National Art Museum, locally known as MUNAL, is a cornucopia of artistic splendour. The building itself, an architectural masterpiece conceived by Italian architect Silvio Contri and initiated in 1904, rivals the beauty of the artworks it houses. With its dazzling marble spiral staircases, exquisite statues, and resplendent Baroque-style ceilings, MUNAL is undeniably one of Mexico City’s most Instagram-worthy locales.
The gallery’s extensive collection spans various epochs, presenting artworks from the era of kings to the mid-20th century. MUNAL opens its doors to the public from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Entrance costs 80 pesos (4.65 USD), and photography permission comes at an additional 30 pesos (1.75 USD).
Museum of Pop Culture
Not far off, you’ll find the Museum of Pop Culture, a cultural institution dedicated to preserving, studying, promoting, and disseminating Mexican art. Established in 1983 by ethnologist and anthropologist Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, the museum is a vibrant celebration of Mexico’s rich artistic tapestry.
Visit the Museum of Pop Culture from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, Tuesday through Thursday. From Friday to Sunday, it extends its opening hours to 7:00 pm. Entrance is a mere 18 pesos (1.05 USD).
Dive into the Currents of Contemporary Art
An artistry powerhouse founded in 1981 by the eponymous Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo, the Tamayo Museum offers visitors a chance to explore an immense collection of international contemporary art. Tamayo gifted his own works to the collection, creating a rich fusion of personal and global creativity. Housed in a building designed by Mexican architects Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon and Abraham Zabludovsky, the museum itself is a masterpiece of aesthetics. Constructed from reinforced concrete and faced with white marble, its unique design perfectly complements the contemporary art pieces it hosts. The museum also features a charming boutique offering contemporary art objects and books, adding another dimension to your visit.
Operating hours are from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday, with an admission fee of 85 pesos (4.95 USD).
Museum of Modern Art
In the same realm of artistic modernity, the Museum of Modern Art, with its distinctive round building crowned with a golden dome, is a shrine to Mexico’s modern artistic luminaries. Showcasing a broad spectrum of works from masters such as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and of course, Rufino Tamayo, the museum engages visitors with its array of paintings, sculptures, photographs, multimedia, and more.
Open from 10:15 am to 5:30 pm, Tuesday through Sunday, entrance to the museum costs 70 pesos (4.07 USD). On Sundays, the museum graciously offers free admission.
Rising as a minimalist architectural marvel in Mexico City, the Jumex Museum is home to one of the most significant private collections of contemporary art in Latin America. This cultural institution houses a wealth of works by the likes of Andy Warhol, Martin Kippenberger, Saya Tumbli, and Damien Hirst, offering a dynamic dive into the contemporary art world. With its sleek design, the building has become an Instagram hot-spot, drawing crowds eager to capture the perfect shot with its stunning backdrop. This trendiness, coupled with the museum’s groundbreaking exhibitions, fuels a vibrant, youthful energy that pervades the space.
The museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday, offering a welcome surprise: free admission. The Jumex Museum is a must-see for contemporary art enthusiasts and photo aficionados alike. Here, the passion for creativity converges with the city’s vibrant pulse, offering an immersive exploration of art in the Latin American context.
Mexico’s Cornucopia of Private Collections: Journey to the Heart of a Nation’s Identity
Immerse yourself in Mexico’s artistic realm with a visit to the city’s spectacular private collections.
At the Soumaya Museum, erected by the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, you’ll encounter a breathtaking array of artefacts from the industrial revolution era, plus sculptures by master craftsmen like Auguste Rodin. Encased within a 151-foot futuristic structure resembling a gargantuan anvil or a distorted hourglass, the museum’s exterior sparkles with hexagonal aluminium panels that evoke honeycombs. This impressive facility, devoid of windows to protect its priceless artworks from direct sunlight, welcomes the day’s rays via a small opening between the roof and the top floor. Open daily from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm, entrance is free of charge.
Franz Mayer Museum
Next, venture to the Franz Mayer Museum, housing a remarkable collection assembled by the German-born financier. Here, Mexican silver, ceramics, textiles, and furniture are celebrated and displayed. The array of everyday items extends to maps, globes, carpets, and books from across the world, all nestled within an 18th-century building, once a monastery and hospital. The museum opens from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday to Friday, and from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm over the weekend. Admission is 85 pesos (4.95 USD), with free entry on Tuesdays.
Luis Barragán House and Studio
Also explore the Luis Barragán House and Studio, the former home and workspace of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect. This captivating museum draws design and architecture enthusiasts keen to examine Barragán’s ingenious manipulation of colour, light, shadow, form, and texture. Known as one of the first Mexican architects to incorporate vibrant traditional Mexican colours into his designs, Barragán’s distinct style still resonates today. Visit the museum from Monday to Friday, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, or over the weekend from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Admission is 400 pesos (23.27 USD), with student tickets available at 200 pesos (11.64 USD). To guarantee entry, book your tickets two weeks in advance online or arrive early to join the queue.
The Lev Trotsky Museum
Nestled in Mexico City lies the home-turned-museum of the dissident and Russian revolutionary, Lev Trotsky. After receiving a death sentence in 1939, Trotsky and his family sought refuge in Mexico. It’s within these walls that he spent his final days and faced an assassination attempt – evidence of which can still be seen in the bullet holes dotting the walls. The museum complex, encompassing the house, garden, and exterior walls with a watchtower, was declared a historical monument in 1982. By 1990, on the 50th anniversary of Trotsky’s assassination, it also became a foundation, aiding those seeking political asylum and facing persecution from their governments.
Museum of Memory and Tolerance: A Tale of Humanity
The Museum of Memory and Tolerance offers a poignant journey through films and exhibits dedicated to the importance of tolerance, respect, human rights, and remembrance. Key historical episodes recounted include the Armenian genocide (1915), the Khmer Rouge reign in Cambodia (1975–1979), the persecution of indigenous populations in Guatemala (1981–1983), and the Tutsi massacre in Rwanda (1994). Step inside from Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, with ticket prices ranging from 55 (3.20 USD) to 140 pesos (4.36 USD).
A Peek into Celebrity: The Wax Museum
Residing in a historic house, the Wax Museum showcases over 200 wax figures, ranging from Mexican presidents to fictional characters from movies and cartoons. It’s a whimsical trip where history meets pop culture, allowing visitors to rub shoulders – albeit waxed ones – with some of the world’s most famous personas.
Ripley’s Museum: A Trove of Eccentricities
Modelled after a mediaeval castle, the Ripley’s Museum, created by famed cartoonist Robert Ripley, transports visitors into a world of oddities. Ripley, a global traveller, collected a medley of unique objects from around the world, making the museum a testament to his adventurous spirit and insatiable curiosity.
Stepping into this peculiar castle, adults and children alike are drawn into a realm of wonderment and strange fascination. Highlights of the collection include a life-size wax replica of the world’s tallest man, intricate miniature heads crafted by the Hibara tribe of Ecuador using real skin of their enemies, a man with two pupils in each eye, and African ritual figurines. You’ll also discover peculiar animal species, diverse miniatures, collections of teeth, and even a flute made from human bone.
The museum opens its castle gates from Monday to Sunday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Tickets for adults start from 190 pesos (11.06 USD).
The places we’ve mentioned are but a handful of the most popular museums in Mexico City. For an even more in-depth exploration of the city’s rich cultural landscape, discover more museums and their detailed information here. Immerse yourself in Mexico City’s remarkable world of art, history, and even the peculiar – there’s always something to stir your curiosity.
Mexico City Sightseeing Map
Festivals and Shows: A Celebration of Mexican Spirit
Independence Day, September 15: A Day of National Jubilation
Mexico’s Independence Day is a day of solemn remembrance, the atmosphere is jubilant, patriotic, and infused with an infectious party spirit. The official proceedings take place at Zocalo Square, where the President delivers a rousing patriotic speech. Musical performances, parties, and firework shows light up the cityscape, while the urban environment is draped in the national flag’s green, white, and red. Street vendors and restaurants redouble their efforts to entice guests, tequila flows freely, and mariachis—musicians performing traditional Mexican music—roam from one venue to another, adding to the festive ambiance. On the following day, September 16, a military parade featuring an array of military hardware marches through the city streets.
Speaking of mariachis, these musicians bring a distinct cultural flair to Mexico’s celebrations. They perform traditional Mexican music, with a majority of their songs themed around love—often unrequited love, a sentiment that resonates powerfully within Mexican culture and beyond.
Day of the Dead, November 1-2: A Celebration of Life and Death
The Day of the Dead, or “Dia de los Muertos,” is one of Mexico’s most iconic festivals, brought to global attention by the animated film “Coco.” Far from being a sombre occasion, this unique event is a vibrant celebration of life as much as death. It is a time when Mexicans honour their deceased loved ones, creating offerings of their favourite foods to remember and celebrate their lives.
Across Mexico City, a grand parade fills the streets as people dress up in elaborate costumes and paint their faces in the colourful and iconic “calacas” (skull) makeup. There’s not an ounce of sadness to be found; instead, joy and merriment prevail, even in cemeteries. The atmosphere is nothing short of electric, marked by a distinctive, brightly-coloured aesthetic and a heartwarming ethos of love and remembrance. If you ever have the opportunity to be in Mexico City during this period, we highly recommend it.
The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, December 12
A religious event par excellence, the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is celebrated with great fanfare. Fireworks illuminate the night sky, parades fill the streets, and special masses are held in honour of the Virgin Mary at churches throughout the city.
Vive Latino Music Festival, March-April
For those interested in the contemporary Spanish-speaking music scene, the Vive Latino festival is a must-visit event. Taking place annually at the Foro Sol Stadium on the eastern outskirts of Mexico City, the festival offers a stage to emerging Latin American artists. While the festival features an eclectic mix of genres, it has a notable leaning towards reggae, ska, and rock.
For a taste of Mexico’s unique cultural concoctions, head to a Lucha Libre match. Wrestling in Mexico is not just a sport but a spectacle — and an unmissable one at that. Colourful costumes and masks distinguish the wrestlers, who are divided into ‘technicos’ (good guys who play by the rules) and ‘rudos’ (the bad guys who resort to any means necessary). Female wrestlers also frequently feature, adding another level of interest to these theatrical battles. Initial matches are conducted in anonymity, with the wrestlers’ faces hidden behind their masks. However, the stakes are high: if a luchador loses, they unmask and wrestle without it in future matches.
Tickets can be purchased at the Arena Mexico or through Ticketmaster. Prices depend on the date, the popularity of the wrestlers, and the location of the seats, but generally, you can expect to pay around 100 pesos (5.82 USD) and upwards. These exciting events offer a unique insight into Mexican culture that is quite unlike anything else.
A Colourful Cruise through Xochimilco
Just south of Mexico City lies the district of Xochimilco, home to an extraordinary network of canals and “floating gardens” – a technique the Aztecs used for farming. Today, these waterways offer a vibrant experience as you are ferried through on brightly painted gondolas called ‘trajineras’. Several piers, such as Nativitas, serve as the departure point for these gondolas. For just 30 pesos (1.75 USD), you can claim a spot on one of these vividly decorated boats. If you’d prefer a more private experience, a complete boat can be rented for a 90-minute ride at the cost of 450 pesos (26.18 USD).
Reaching Xochimilco is as straightforward as it gets: a quick metro ride will take you to the Xochimilco station, from which the piers are just a kilometre away. The journey promises a splash of colour, history, and local tradition, adding another unforgettable layer to your Mexican adventure.
Shopping Adventures in Mexico City
Mexico City invites you to immerse yourself in its rich tapestry of shopping experiences, from traditional crafts to high-end fashion. For an authentic keepsake from your travels, head to the Mercado Artesanal Mexicano. This bustling artisan market brims with handmade crafts, keepsakes, and even works of art. It’s open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and weekends from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
When it comes to luxury shopping, you’ll find boutiques from internationally renowned brands lining the chic Avenida Presidente Masaryk in Polanco, or housed in posh shopping centres like Palacio de Hierro and Paseo Interlomas.
For those seeking a contemporary spin on Mexican design, the Roma district is a treasure trove of boutiques showcasing modern Mexican designers and vintage clothing stores. And, nestled in the charming neighbourhood of Coyoacán, Casa de Luna offers a carefully curated selection of jewellery, ceramics, and textiles that beautifully capture the spirit of Mexican craftsmanship. From bustling markets to exclusive boutiques, shopping in Mexico City is a journey of discovery through the country’s vibrant culture and aesthetic.
Culinary Delights of Mexico City
Renowned for its unique ingredients and preparation methods, Mexican cuisine, a UNESCO-designated intangible cultural heritage, is a vibrant blend of flavours, colours, and textures.
Here’s a taste of Mexico City’s gastronomic treasures:
First up is ‘Masa’, a dough crafted from dried corn soaked in an alkali solution, a process known as nixtamalization. This staple forms the base of numerous traditional dishes, such as tortillas and tamales.
The fiery soul of Mexican cuisine is undoubtedly the Chili pepper, with hundreds of varieties ranging from mild to tongue-scorching—think Jalapeño, Serrano, Poblano, and Habanero.
Epazote, a potent herb often added to bean dishes, adds a layer of complexity with its slightly bitter flavour. It is believed to aid digestion.
Then there’s Achiote paste, a bright red and slightly spicy blend made from ground annatto seeds and various other spices. It’s used for marinating meats and fish, and serves as a key ingredient in regional dishes like Cochinita Pibil and Pollo Pibil, slow-roasted pork and chicken, respectively.
Nopales—pads of the prickly pear cactus that share a textural similarity with aloe and have a slightly tart flavour. These are commonly used in salads, soups, and stews.
Mexican chocolate has a rich history stretching back to the ancient Aztecs and possesses a unique flavour profile. Prepared from ground cocoa beans, sugar, and spices like cinnamon, vanilla, or chilli, this chocolate has an undeniably bold character. Used in the making of the Champurrado beverage and the spicy Mole sauce, it’s a must-try culinary experience in Mexico City. For chocolate aficionados seeking a deeper dive into this delicious subject, the city also hosts a dedicated chocolate museum. It’s an immersion into Mexico City’s flavorful past, a deliciously rich encounter that’s simply too sweet to pass up.
Today’s Mexican culinary landscape straddles a beautiful line between the past and the present. Modern chefs put a fresh spin on traditional dishes by introducing elements from diverse culinary cultures or employing innovative cooking techniques. Despite these twists, the essence of Mexican cuisine—the cherished ingredients like agave, cocoa, pumpkin, zucchini blossoms, corn, and chilies—remain preserved, offering a vibrant culinary exploration of Mexican culture in each bite. At the heart of this culinary dance is the humble taco, an emblem of Mexican cuisine. This fundamental dish—composed of a corn or wheat tortilla brimming with various fillings—speaks to the enduring allure of Mexico’s gastronomy.
The taco, in its simplicity and versatility, stands as a testament to Mexico’s rich food culture, adapting with the times yet remaining deeply rooted in tradition.
In the sprawling culinary landscape of Mexico City, with a thousand diverse establishments serving up delectable tacos, choosing just one can be daunting. Here are a few handpicked suggestions to guide you, especially if your taste buds are craving tacos with beef, pork, or chicken.
Taquería El Califa is a standout, with its “el pastor” taco—a personal favourite. This culinary delight features beef, garnished with fresh herbs and pineapple—a vibrant treat for your palate.
Another commendable destination is El Fogoncito, a well-established taquería chain with a menu proudly focused on the art of the taco.
For those looking to venture off the beaten path, seek out the taco de nopal—centred around the nopal cactus. For an even more adventurous experience, try the taco de tripa—beef tripe, taco de lengua—tongue, taco de buche—pork stomach, or even the taco de ojo—cow’s eyes.
Then there’s Azul Histórico, which gracefully inhabits a 17th-century edifice once home to Countess Miravalle. It appears every dish on the menu here is designed to please, but we have a few particular recommendations.
Chilaquiles are fried pieces of corn tortilla drenched in a chilli-based sauce and slowly simmered until soft.
Enchiladas are thin cornmeal tortillas enveloping a filling—often chicken—served in a creamy sauce.
Enfrijoladas are similar to enchiladas, but swap the sauce for a bean purée. Escamoles, or ant larvae nestled in agave roots, are sautéed with onions until they take on a cottage cheese-like texture, with a flavour evocative of toasted rice boasting a nutty aroma. These are usually enjoyed wrapped in a tortilla. If you have an affinity for seafood, give the Huachinango—a Red Snapper native to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast of the U.S.—a try.
At Blanco Colima, the breathtaking floor-to-ceiling windows, intricately detailed mouldings, and the column-adorned terrace evoke an air of refined sophistication. The culinary offerings blend the flavours of Spanish Mediterranean cuisine with Mexican ingredients—a playful yet harmonious dance of cultures on a plate. True to Mexico’s taste, many dishes feature chilli as a star ingredient. The familiar ribeye steak takes on a novel guise here, served as a taco with crushed chicharrón (fried pork rinds) and bean puree—a classic Mexican delight. Be sure to sample the Mexican version of Pimientos de Padrón here—mildly spiced yet exquisitely flavoured peppers.
Carmela y Sal, an establishment renowned for its innovative gastronomy and mixology, captures the vibrancy of the seasons through its ever-changing, intriguing menu. From July through September, they serve the chile en nogada – a mild chilli pepper stuffed with meat, nuts, and raisins, blanketed in a creamy walnut sauce, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds – a dish that not only tantalises your taste buds but also paints a colourful picture on your plate.
Just a stone’s throw away from the Templo Mayor and the National Palace, nestled behind the cathedral, you’ll find La Casa de las Serenas, housed in a 16th-century edifice. Here, it is highly recommended to indulge in the ceviche, a traditional Mexican dish made from fresh fish, shrimp, and other seafood, marinated to perfection in lime juice. Also, don’t miss out on their chicharrón served with guacamole. The chicharrón, a crispy snack made from fried pork skin, is a bite of heaven that offers a delightful crunch with every nibble.
Established in 1925, Salón Tenampa has long been a vibrant setting for historical film productions. Yet, the true allure of this place is not the food but the mesmerising performances by the mariachi musicians. The restaurant, located in Garibaldi Square – the birthplace of mariachi – serves as a live, pulsating testament to this rhythmic tradition.
Testal Dolores draws in crowds specifically for its mole. Mole is a spicy sauce concocted from an assortment of peppers, vegetables, and spices. There are several variations: the black mole, a classic, renowned variant crafted from 30 ingredients, including six types of chilli peppers and cocoa; the red mole, the spiciest among all mole sauces; and the yellow mole, a medley of onions, garlic, tomatoes with the addition of cumin and coriander. There are also more exotic types such as the almond mole or the blueberry mole (which is not spicy at all). The sauce is typically served with rice and meat, adding an extra dimension of flavour to an already hearty dish. Truly, a taste of mole at Testal Dolores is an exploration into the layered depths of Mexican culinary tradition.
Tetetlán, housed within a former stable elegantly redesigned by renowned Mexican architect Luis Barragán — the sole Mexican recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1980 — stands as a striking testament to aesthetic ingenuity. Here, visitors can partake in a modern Mexican culinary experience. One noteworthy dish to sample is huitlacoche, consisting of corn kernels uniquely infected with a type of fungus, served with three distinct sauces. Each bite seems to blend Barragán’s architectural brilliance with the intricate tapestry of contemporary Mexican flavours.
On the other hand, Quintonil — named after a green Mexican herb, which makes its way into some dishes and cocktails — occupies a coveted spot in the top 50 restaurants worldwide. To truly immerse yourself in the diverse landscape of Mexican cuisine, we recommend their tasting menu. However, if you wish to venture independently through the menu, it offers a plethora of unique Mexican ingredients like nopales (cactus), grasshoppers, ant larvae, and chicatanas (also known as leaf-cutting ants). This culinary exploration embodies a blend of tradition and innovation that aptly captures the spirit of modern Mexico.
Exploring International Cuisines
Bellini, perched on the 45th floor of the World Trade Center, holds a Guinness World Record as the only revolving restaurant in Mexico and the largest in the world (spanning over 1000 m²). It’s more about the experience — to dine in a revolving restaurant — as the fare here is international European, lacking in any unconventional dishes. Yet, the constantly changing vista brings its own unique flavour to your dining escapade.
Bistro 83 presents a contemporary take on Mediterranean cuisine. Chefs employ sous-vide techniques, a method involving precise temperature control for cooking. The restaurant’s pièce de résistance is its garden terrace, considered one of the most picturesque in Mexico City. Its architectural prowess is no less impressive, with the building and interior spaces reflecting a colonial style that mingles effortlessly with the modern gastronomic outlook.
Cambalache offers an authentic slice of Argentina right in the heart of Mexico. Famed for its family recipes and specialising in churrasco, a style of grilled meat dishes, Cambalache whisks its patrons away on a delicious journey through Argentine flavours.
Casa Prunes bills itself as a gastronomic home, featuring a “living conscious menu” that undergoes a transformation every season, inspired by collaborations with renowned chefs from around the globe. The menu incorporates Mexican ingredients (chilies, squash blossoms, huitlacoche, various types of corn) into seafood, meat, and vegetable dishes, all prepared using French techniques.
The restaurant is nestled within a house that’s over a century old. Its design is reminiscent of Gaudi’s architectural style in Barcelona, with a touch of the ambiance from “The Great Gatsby”. The ground floor harbours a gigantic revolving bar in the centre, delivering bottles in a circular motion — a system inspired by old European lifts. The restaurant also takes pride in crafting its own ice for cocktails and employs proprietary methods of fermentation and distillation to achieve desired flavours.
El Moro, a historic café known for its delectable traditional churros — long Spanish doughnuts, deep-fried, sugar-dusted and occasionally filled with cream — is the nation’s first churreria, serving up these delights since 1935. Its founder, Francisco Iriarte, migrated from Spain to Mexico, bringing along this national delicacy and establishing the café. Following Francisco’s demise, his brothers relocated to Mexico to continue the family business. El Moro still remains a family-run establishment, passed down from generation to generation. They serve classic churros, with no fillings, dusted in powdered sugar or cinnamon. And the best way to enjoy these sugary treats is with a cup of hot chocolate.
Fishers offers delightful seafood dishes made from top-quality ingredients (king prawns, salmon, crab, Mexican fish such as grouper and robalo) served with an assortment of sauces (Rockefeller, chilli, sweet and sour, and others). The ambiance here is familial, devoid of unnecessary grandeur or glamour. It’s a popular hangout spot for locals who often visit with relatives or friends for a late breakfast following a night out.
Hunan presents a sophisticated Asian dining experience. It’s not uncommon to spot local politicians and celebrities enjoying the food here. This restaurant will surely appeal to those who fancy Singaporean-style rice, seafood, Peking duck, and other Chinese delicacies. Their delicious hot starters — steamed dumplings or shrimp spring rolls, and fresh vegetables in bean sauce, are worth trying. There are three locations throughout the city.
Ivoire is a French restaurant in the heart of Polanco district, boasting a sophisticated vintage charm. Meat enthusiasts will be thrilled with the Beef Wellington — a complex dish featuring a beef tenderloin smothered with mushroom duxelles and bacon, wrapped in puff pastry, and baked. It may be challenging to prepare, but the restaurant does an excellent job ensuring the meat is tender and juicy.
Kolobok is a delightful Russian restaurant opened, naturally, by Russians. Though staffed entirely by Mexican chefs, the food here is undeniably authentic and mirrors the home-cooked meals you’d find in Russia. You can order classic dishes like borscht served with sour cream, dumplings, varenyky (filled dumplings), even sauerkraut and cottage cheese pancakes, known as syrniki. The syrniki is particularly rare in Mexico as cottage cheese is not a standard ingredient — the restaurant uses either a slightly salty cheese called requesón or makes their own fermented cheese.
Kumoto by Tori Tori offers a Japanese dining experience with a focus on impeccably made sushi rolls.
La Otilia, a cosy cafe serving healthy fare, nestled in a garden in the heart of Polanco. Every dish here is free of gluten, lactose, and sugar. The cafe boasts the most delicious eggs Benedict in Mexico City, offering a healthier option for those who still want to savour the flavours of the city.
Lago Algo is the ideal choice for those desiring a breakfast amidst nature. Situated in the Bosque de Chapultepec park and adjacent to a lake, it provides an enchanting setting. Expect a breakfast spread of omelettes, fruits, muffins, and other baked goods, including the traditional Mexican chilaquiles — fried tortilla pieces drenched in chilli sauce. Lago Algo presents a vast selection of international and Italian dishes: risotto, pasta, seafood, burgers, and salads, allowing for a truly varied gastronomical experience.
Ling Ling by Hakkasan offers an Asian-inspired dining journey, albeit, with a primarily Japanese cuisine focus. It features an extensive selection of cocktails and spirits — from Mexican mezcal to imported beer and Japanese sake. Positioned on the 56th floor of a skyscraper, the restaurant commands an incredible view of Mexico City, with a 360-degree vista from the glass terrace being especially stunning. The restaurant’s interior further mesmerises, designed like a garden — an unexpected sight at such a height.
Since 1924, Loma Linda has been serving up meats grilled on wood charcoal — the pioneer of such an offering in the capital. The menu offers a generous selection of meat dishes: quality Black Angus steaks and hearty meat broth known as jugo de carne. With its longstanding tradition, Loma Linda guarantees a dining experience steeped in authenticity and rich flavours.
Madre is a popular choice for breakfast, nestled in a stunning mansion. It serves breakfast in the garden, and after 1 pm, opens its rooftop terrace. With a menu featuring European and Mexican dishes, Madre’s overnight chilled oatmeal served with berries and edible flowers is a must-try. Pancake enthusiasts, avocado and salmon toast aficionados, and fans of starting the day with a ‘Mimosa’ cocktail will also find solace here.
Maximo Bistrot, recognized amongst the top 50 restaurants in Latin America, takes pride in using local, seasonal ingredients paired with seafood. Noteworthy dishes include grilled octopus with mole-de-olla sauce — a Mexican chilli pepper-based concoction — and sweet potato, or morels served with a sherry emulsion and foie gras. The restaurant decor exudes a green aesthetic with plenty of plants, and many dishes are garnished with edible flowers, offering not just a culinary delight but a feast for the eyes as well.
Niddo combines a Mediterranean influence with an exceptional breakfast spread. The wide variety of baked goods and desserts take inspiration from cuisines across the world, from Thailand to Africa and Italy. They serve Mexican coffee sourced from the state of Chiapas, delivering an authentic blend of flavours.
Nin is a Mediterranean restaurant tucked in a bohemian district. Despite the simplicity of the dishes, they impress with their taste. Nin boasts its own bakery and a fine selection of wines. Visitors are recommended to try their chocolate mousse cake or fig cake, to enjoy a sweet culmination of their dining experience.
Panaderia Rosetta stands out as one of the most famous bakeries in the city, all thanks to its founder, Elena Reygadas. In 2010, Elena opened the Rosetta restaurant, repeatedly recognized as one of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America. She also won the ‘Best Female Chef in Latin America’ award in 2014.
The bakery offers a wide selection of baked goods and cakes. Choices range from the classic tiramisu or lemon tart, to traditional Mexican delights like ‘concha’ (sweet bread with flavoured sugar toppings), doughnuts filled with mamey (a native Mexican fruit), cornbread, and guava-flavoured croissants.
Locals hold breakfasts here in high regard, and given the absence of table reservations, there may be a wait in line. Weekend wait times may extend up to an hour, although weekdays promise a quicker turnover.
Pujol, while Mexico doesn’t have any Michelin-starred establishments, this restaurant’s chef has earned personal recognition from the prestigious awarding body. Pujol, named as the finest restaurant in Mexico by the Wall Street Journal, is led by chef Enrique Olvera, an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America and the culinary mind behind the in-flight menu for Aeromexico’s business class.
The restaurant is known for its tasting menu that gets a seasonal refresh, composed of local ingredients. Diners can choose between two sets, ‘Maize’ or ‘Sea,’ each featuring seven dishes from appetisers to dessert. Given Pujol’s acclaim, it is advised to book a table several weeks in advance.
Rosa Negra does not try to impress with the extraordinary, but it simply offers delicious fish, seafood, and steaks. It embodies the joy of straightforward, high-quality food.
Ruta de la Seda is a cosy bakery and an ideal breakfast spot that uses organic ingredients in all its dishes. They serve a delightful ricotta and zucchini flower omelette, a potato quiche, and a variety of pastries made from alternative types of flour like almond and rice. These pastries feature rose and lavender essences for an aromatic and unique flavour profile. The café has the distinction of being the country’s first organic bakery, pioneering the use of alternative flours and real tea as primary ingredients, particularly matcha. This dedication to healthful and sustainable ingredients makes it a must-visit for the conscious food lover.
Sonora Grill is a chain of restaurants specialising in the magic of grill-cooked food. This bustling grill restaurant serves mouthwatering steaks and unique types of fish that you would only find in Mexico. The flavours are as varied as the landscapes of the country itself. The succulent steaks have won the admiration of tourists and locals alike, ensuring this spot a permanent position on the culinary map of Mexico.
Tierra Garat is a popular coffeehouse chain sprinkled throughout the city, frequented by freelancers with their laptops and students seeking a quiet study spot. It’s a hub of creativity, pulsing with the energy of a city that never sleeps. Among the plethora of beverages on offer, the personal recommendation is the chilled chocolate on coconut milk. This refreshing and decadent drink is a must-try for any visitor, making Tierra Garat more than just a coffee shop—it’s a glimpse into the city’s contemporary lifestyle.
The nighttime pulse of Mexico City beats with a rhythm all its own, in a concert of diverse bars and clubs that encapsulate the city’s vibrant spirit. A typical week sees a surge of activity in clubs over the weekend—primarily Friday and Saturday, occasionally Thursday—with bars serving as hubs of social interaction throughout the week.
With a stringent entry policy and a cover charge, these clubs tend to attract a more affluent crowd. Typically, the entrance fee is tied to the purchase of one, two, or even three bottles of alcohol, depending on the club’s prestige and the size of the group.
For those with a penchant for the music of the 1980s and 1990s, Patrick Miller serves as a time machine back to those eras, offering a nostalgic trip on the dance floor.
Kane is a more relaxed venue where the face control isn’t as rigorous, offering an assortment of Latin music genres ranging from pop and reggaeton to electronic beats.
Sens offers a more exclusive clubbing experience, its strict face control maintaining an air of exclusivity and attracting the elite of society.
Then there’s Café Paraiso, a tropical oasis in the heart of the city, where Colombian cumbia music reigns supreme, serving up an immersive cultural experience.
Whether your preferences lean towards pulsating dance floors or more laid-back social settings, Mexico City’s animated nightlife is bound to provide a memorable experience. After all, this is a city that embraces the night with an energy and spirit that’s truly captivating.
Mexico is renowned for several alcoholic beverages that have gained international fame, yet there are also more locally centred options that still command presence in every local bar.
Tequila is known all over the world. It is derived from the blue agave plant and produced in several states across Mexico. It’s a potent symbol of the country’s rich cultural heritage and a staple in any Mexican bar.
Pulque — this traditional Mexican alcoholic beverage comes in various flavours and might remind some of a “milky” vodka. With an illustrious history stretching back to pre-Hispanic times, pulque is a quintessentially Mexican drink that offers a unique taste of the country’s rich past.
Michelada — this is a unique concoction of beer, lime, salt, and chamoy—a sweet-and-spicy chilli pepper paste. There’s a broad spectrum of flavours and colours that a Michelada can come in, with some bars adding sweets or even shrimp to the mix. It’s a refreshingly tangy beverage that is as colourful as the Mexican culture itself.
Mezcal — a tequila analogue, mezcal is made from a different variety of agave (not blue) and delivers a sharper, somewhat smoky taste. This distilled alcoholic beverage is steeped in tradition and reflects the complex diversity of Mexico’s regional flavours.
Gin Gin Condesa — a stylish bar that boasts an impressive selection of cocktails, hookahs, and a menu replete with mouth-watering delights like pizzas and burgers. Its chic ambiance is sure to make your visit memorable.
Handshake — a hidden gem that earned the title of Best Bar in North America in 2021, and was ranked second among the world’s 50 best bars. This secret bar exudes exclusivity, so remember to book a table in advance.
La María Chelada — here bartenders have mastered the art of crafting the Michelada, a drink that, while commonly served across Mexico, reaches its pinnacle in their skilled hands. Open from 12:00 to 22:00, it’s the perfect spot to relax with a drink.
Limantour is known for its innovative cocktail offerings. The Suculenta de Oaxaca is a signature blend featuring peanut oil, tequila, banana liqueur, calvados, ginger syrup, apricot, black tea, and Japanese loquat soda. The Margarita al Pastor pairs tequila with beef taco flavour, while their standout Mr. Pink mixes gin with grapefruit, rosemary, basil, and lemon.
Los Insurgentes — a specialised “pulquería” that is a go-to spot for anyone eager to try pulque, a traditional Mexican alcoholic beverage.
Tlecán — a must-visit for anyone looking to explore the taste of mezcal, with a vast selection sourced from different regions.
Cityzen, Toledo Rooftop, Supra Roma Rooftop — these rooftop bars offer panoramic views that add an extra layer of magnificence to your cocktail sipping experience. Enjoy the stunning cityscape as you sample their array of drinks.
In-depth City Quarters: Where to Live
Mexico City can be a puzzle box of contrasts, where districts teeming with open drug trade and avoided by taxi drivers can sit just a stone’s throw from key attractions. Therefore, the choice of your living area and the spots where you choose to spend time, particularly after dark, becomes crucial. Here, we illuminate the safer corners of Mexico City and caution against those areas better left unexplored, even during daylight. However, it’s vital to remember that a vigilant eye and careful demeanour are necessary wherever you go when night falls.
Safe and Central: Condesa, Lomas de Chapultepec, Polanco, Roma. These upscale, bustling neighbourhoods are situated in the heart of the city, offering a blend of safety and proximity to cultural landmarks.
Safe and Further from the Center: Interlomas, Coyoacán, Narvarte, San Angel, Santa Fe. These areas, while somewhat distant from the city’s core, offer tranquil residential retreats away from the bustling city centre.
Safe During the Day, Riskier After Dark: the Historic centre, Colonia Doctores, Xochimilco, Tlatelolco, Tlalpan. These districts brim with historical and cultural significance but warrant caution as the sun sets.
Centrally Located But Somewhat Risky: Santa María la Ribera, San Rafael, Juarez. These central districts offer proximity to the city’s heart, but also come with their share of security concerns.
Dangerous: Iztapalapa — a vast district in the south notorious for high crime rates. Ciudad Neza — located east of the airport, this area suffers from high poverty and violent crime. Tepito — a black market district slightly north of the centre.
Safe and Central
Condesa: Budget Accommodation in Historic Mansions
Condesa, with its verdant canopy of trees and architectural delights, is a perfect neighbourhood for leisurely strolls and exploring the charming Art Deco mansions.
Pros: Condesa’s architectural beauty is indisputable, and finding budget accommodations, including in historic buildings, is entirely possible. It’s generally safe and frequented by many foreigners, meaning English is widely spoken in cafes and restaurants, and dollars may even be accepted for payment. Dining options abound, with a rich selection of restaurants, cafes, and bars to choose from.
Cons: The very vibrancy that defines Condesa can turn into a downside as lively bars and restaurants may contribute to a noisy night time atmosphere. There can also be a fairly high number of panhandlers in this area.
San Miguel Chapultepec and Lomas de Chapultepec: Affluence Amidst Verdant Surroundings
San Miguel Chapultepec is a petite residential neighbourhood, triangular in shape, with the considerable advantage of being near the expansive forest park, Bosque de Chapultepec. Home to the eponymous Chapultepec Castle, this park adds a fresh touch of nature to the city.
Meanwhile, Lomas de Chapultepec is one of Mexico City’s most elite neighbourhoods, primarily composed of private homes. It is an area that offers every amenity for a comfortable life: top-tier schools, parks, restaurants, and salons—all within walking distance and underscored by high safety standards. Yet, it’s better suited for long-term residency rather than short tourist trips.
Pros: High-end accommodations and infrastructures, a forest park ideal for walks, and fresh air are some of the advantages this area boasts.
Cons: Accommodation is expensive, and there’s a scarcity of hotels—mostly private homes dominate the landscape.
Polanco: An Enclave for the Elite
Polanco is one of Mexico City’s most upscale neighbourhoods, boasting an array of exquisite restaurants, designer boutiques, and the city’s highest concentration of five-star hotels. It’s a safe area for walks and an advantageous base for visiting the capital’s main attractions. Notable landmarks include the Soumaya Museum and the Anthropology Museum. Compared to other districts, Polanco exudes less authenticity, reflecting more of a typical metropolis with its numerous skyscrapers, offices, and shopping centres.
Pros: A secure neighbourhood with convenient infrastructure, a wide selection of hotels, restaurants, shops, and proximity to the Soumaya and Jumex museums.
Cons: Expensive housing, potential noise due to the multitude of restaurants and cafes.
Roma: Historic Mansions and Expats
Roma is a large district divided into North and South. One of the city’s most beautiful historic areas, Roma is characterised by its mansion houses with French floor-to-ceiling windows and an abundance of greenery. A century ago, it was a district for the affluent elite; today, it is popular with young people and expatriates, with some establishments even accepting dollars.
Pros: Stylish establishments make it an excellent spot for a Sunday brunch; boutiques, vintage shops, and contemporary art galleries. The neighbourhood is ideal for walking and is conveniently located within reach of the historical centre to the northeast and the city’s best museum in the Bosque de Chapultepec park to the west.
Cons: The cost of housing has significantly increased due to the influx of European tourists. It can also get quite noisy due to the many restaurants and bars.
Reforma: A Haven for Business Travelers and Hotel Chains
North of the Zona Rosa, facing the bustling Paseo de la Reforma, lies the Reforma district, a cityscape dominated by towering skyscrapers, reminiscent of a local financial district.
Pros: Its convenient location makes it an ideal spot for tourists, offering easy walking access to the historical centre and main attractions. The district abounds with bars and restaurants and hosts numerous international hotel chains, primarily catering to business travellers. Nestled within Reforma, one finds the quaint Tokyo Cuauhtémoc district, featuring elegant boutique hotels (such as the refined Ryokan) and high-end restaurants. On Sundays, Reforma avenue partially closes to make way for cyclists.
Cons: While Reforma can be quite expensive, hotels catering to various budget ranges can be found. Despite its central location, the street lacks significant attractions which are located slightly off the beaten path.
Safe and Far from the Center
Interlomas and Santa Fe: A City Within a City
These districts are often overlooked in travel guides, yet they offer a glimpse into modern Mexico. These districts feature a skyline dominated by skyscrapers, elite restaurants, shopping centres, and gated high-rise residences.
The Interlomas and Santa Fe zones form a city within a city. Interlomas hosts the top university in Mexico (Anahuac) and boasts a large private residential sector. On the other hand, Santa Fe is dense with skyscrapers, apartment buildings, and a splendid park. However, it’s worth staying in these areas only if you plan to travel around the city by taxi or private car, as public transportation is nearly non-existent here.
Pros: Excellent infrastructure, numerous restaurants, hotels, shopping centres, and services, safe environment.
Cons: Expensive, necessitates travel by car or rideshare services. The districts are distant from the city centre and major tourist attractions.
Colonial Construction: Coyoacán and San Angel
San Angel is another district located far from the centre (a 40-minute drive), next to Coyoacán. It’s a peaceful and quiet area with several markets and art galleries, such as Flux/Lab, Baga 06, and the Arte Carrillo Gil Museum.
Pros: Beautiful architecture, many galleries and museums, fairly safe
Cons: Far from the main tourist attractions. The restaurants mainly cater to tourists.
Narvarte: Quiet and Typical Life of Mexico City Residents
Narvarte is another residential, family-friendly, and quiet district. It’s distant from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can find Airbnb accommodations here, but there are few hotels. This district is worth considering if you’re seeking peace and a taste of typical Mexican life. Narvarte has many restaurants serving traditional food, as well as the large Parque Delta shopping centre.
Pros: Affordable housing, bars.
Cons: Far from main tourist attractions.
Safe During the Day, But Dangerous After Dark
Historic Centre — Main Attractions are Here
Pros: Main attractions, colonial architecture, and many pedestrian areas, restaurants, and bars. Despite this, the accommodation in the centre is mainly budget and mid-range.
Cons: There are many pickpockets, crowds of people during the day, and it can be quite noisy.
A few more districts where it’s better not to wander at night: Colonia Doctores, Xochimilco, Tlatelolco, Tlalpan.
Not Very Safe, But It’s Central
San Rafael and Santa Maria la Ribera — Intellectuals and Street Food
These are two neighbouring central districts with art-deco architecture and modern art galleries. Both districts are interesting for their combination of last century mansions and modernist apartment buildings. They used to be home to intellectuals: professors, artists. For this reason, there are many modern art galleries and theatres here. Locals mainly love these areas for their abundance of street food.
Pros: The cheapest accommodation in the centre is here. Non-trivial architecture and lots of inexpensive cafes.
Cons: The least safe district among the central ones, although it is still quite safe. There are few good restaurants and bars.
Juarez — Gentrification and Parties
Located west of the Historic Centre is the compact Juarez district. Once it was one of the most popular districts in Mexico City, then it had a period of decline, and now it is experiencing a revival and gentrification. There are many galleries, trendy bars and LGBT flags here, and to the north is one of the biggest party districts in Mexico City — Zona Rosa.
Pros: Lots of restaurants, bars, shops — perfect for those who came to Mexico City for nightlife. But at the same time, it’s not far from the centre and the main attractions.
Cons: It can be noisy at night and crowds of drunk people.
Navigating the City
Mexico City offers an array of public transportation options to navigate its bustling streets: buses, trolleybuses, metro-buses, minibuses, and the metro. Cash payment is accepted directly by the driver for buses and minibuses. An all-in-one Integrated Mobility Card, which is also usable for bike rentals, is valid across all these transit systems. The cost of an unfilled card stands at 15 pesos (0.87 USD). Cards can be purchased at metro station counters or at metro-bus stop kiosks.
To simplify the use of public transportation, consider downloading the “Metro — MB” app. It provides schemes for the metro, metro-buses, and buses, and even offers a route planner. However, please note that routes can only be plotted separately for each type of transport. Google Maps is also handy for this purpose, as it can chart routes that involve both buses and the metro.
While public transport in Mexico City is efficient, its safety standards may not be as high. Petty thefts are not uncommon in Mexico City, so it’s wise to exercise caution. Avoid carrying large sums of money, keep an eye on your pockets and bags, and consider wearing your backpack in front for better visibility and control.
Metro-Bus: These large red buses traverse dedicated lanes on Reforma and Insurgentes Avenues.
Currently, there are seven metro-bus lines, all interconnected with the metro. A ride on the metro-bus costs 6 pesos (0.35 USD), or 30 pesos (1.75 USD) for line 4, which services the airport. Free transfers from metro-bus lines to the metro are not available. However, you can switch from one metro-bus line to another for free within a two-hour period. This does not apply for the route to the airport, where a new ticket must be purchased.
Metro: The subway system in Mexico City can be a bit less secure than the metro-buses. The metro stations are typically crowded with people from diverse areas of the city, including the very impoverished regions. Central stations or stations in safer neighbourhoods (refer to our neighbourhood living section) can be utilised for short journeys. A metro ride costs 5 pesos (0.29 USD).
Buses, Trolleybuses, Minibuses: The fare for these surface transport modes range from 5-6 pesos (0.29 USD – 0.35 USD). We strongly advise against their use, as some originate from very poor areas of the city. These modes of transport are regulated by private entities rather than the government, often leading to a more lax approach to schedules and cleanliness.
In Mexico City, the urban bike rental program Ecobici (HSBC) offers a great way to navigate the city. To rent a bike, first download the Ecobici app and register using your passport details and a valid payment card. Once your information is verified (typically within a few minutes), you can scan the bike’s QR code and set off on your journey.
The rental pricing is as follows: a day pass costs 104 pesos (8.15 USD), a three-day pass is 208 pesos (12.10 USD), a week’s rental is 346 pesos (20.13 USD), and an annual subscription comes in at 462 pesos ((26.88 USD).
Once your tariff is paid, you can pick up a bike and ride for up to 45 minutes at a time, returning the bike to any station within this period at no additional cost. You can make an unlimited number of trips, provided each is less than 45 minutes. In essence, you’ll need to switch bikes every 45 minutes to avoid extra charges. If you exceed the 45-minute window, additional charges apply: from 46 to 60 minutes is 25 pesos (1.45 USD), and every subsequent hour is 50 pesos (2.91 USD). If the bike is in use for over 24 hours, an 8,000 pesos (465.49 USD) deposit will be deducted, which is refunded once the bike is parked. Therefore, always ensure your trip is properly ended when you return your bike.
In the bustling heart of Mexico City, taxis are quite an identifiable feature, flaunting a coat of vibrant pink. According to Mexican regulations, each taxi must prominently display the driver’s identification card on the passenger’s side of the back seat window. The card should include a photograph, the driver’s name, and the number of the vehicle. All drivers receive this ID card upon registering with the government as official taxi operators. The picture on the card should match the driver’s appearance, and the vehicle number should correspond with the taxi’s number. Moreover, the beginning of each taxi number must carry either an ‘A’ or ‘B’, denoting that the taxi is registered within the official taxi system.
A metre calculates the fare, with the base rate starting at 8.74 pesos (0.51 USD), and it increases by 1.07 pesos (0.06 USD) for every 250 metres or every 44 seconds. From 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., the fare increases by 20%, giving you an approximate idea of how much a ride might cost during these hours.
Inside every taxi, a Libre or Ocupado sign on the passenger side of the windshield indicates whether the taxi is available or occupied. You can hail a taxi in the street, ask a hotel or restaurant to call one for you, or find one at taxi stands, often located near shopping centres.
When you halt a taxi, ensure the letters A or B precede the vehicle’s number, the driver’s ID card is present, and the photo on the card matches the driver’s appearance. If any of these conditions are not met, it’s safer to find another taxi. It’s a simple checklist that ensures your journey through Mexico City remains as carefree and delightful as possible.
Online Services. Mexico City is not only known for its vibrant culture and cuisine, but also for its modern amenities. Two of the most popular ride-hailing services operating in the city are Uber and Didi. As you hail a ride through these apps, make sure to verify the driver’s appearance against their profile picture and the vehicle number provided in the app. Utilising these online services is arguably safer than flagging down a roadside taxi. With the luxury of tracking your journey via the app, you can share your route with friends and family, ensuring they are updated about your whereabouts. In addition, Uber offers a unique security feature — a code that needs to be given to the driver before commencing the journey. This helps to avoid confusion and potential safety issues, particularly during night-time travels when it can be difficult to discern the vehicle’s number.
However, it’s important to note that not all ride-hail drivers are willing to venture into every neighbourhood, so be prepared for potential cancellations and longer wait times, especially if your destination is away from the city centre. In such instances, traditional taxis or public transportation may be your saviours. Remember, Mexico City is a bustling metropolis with a variety of transport options, ensuring that you can always find a way to your desired destination.
Renting a car can be an appealing option for anyone over 18 with a valid driver’s licence. The typical rental cost for a standard vehicle such as a Kia Rio or Nissan Sentra hovers around 700 pesos (40.73 USD) per day. Interestingly, some rental agencies in Mexico City don’t require a credit card for the transaction. And for those concerned about protection on the road, local insurance can be conveniently arranged at the rental agency itself.
The option of renting a car is particularly advantageous if you’re planning frequent trips outside of Mexico City and prefer not to be tethered to the bus schedules. But do bear in mind that navigating the traffic in this bustling city can be challenging. With many drivers taking an aggressive approach, it might take some time to adapt to the rhythm of the roads. Another factor to consider is the difficulty of finding parking, especially in the city centre. So, if you’re contemplating renting a car, do weigh these factors against the freedom and convenience it offers.
How to Get There
The voyage from Europe to Mexico is a surprisingly straightforward affair. Most significant European cities offer direct flights to Mexico City, catapulting travellers from old-world charm to the heart of the New World.
Venturing Inland: From Cancún to Mexico City
The allure of Mexico’s capital can prove irresistible, even for those basking in the Caribbean sun of Cancún. Whether by plane, bus, or car, there are numerous options to get from the beach to the metropolis.
Aeroplane. If time is of the essence, a flight from Cancún to the Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City can be the most efficient choice. These flights, offered by various airlines, are frequent and cover the distance in just four hours, with prices ranging between 1000 (58.19 USD) and 3000 peso (174.56 USD).
Alternatively, for the budget-conscious traveller, there’s the Adolfo López Mateos International Airport in Toluca, about 60 kilometres from Mexico City. Flights to Toluca take around two and a half hours, and from there, direct buses will bring you to Mexico City within an hour for about 200 peso (11.64 USD). The cost of a flight from Cancún to Toluca can be as low as 600 peso (34.91 USD). With careful planning, this can be an affordable and time-efficient travel option.
Bus. For those not in a hurry, a scenic bus journey could be the ticket. Companies like ADO, Autobuses Unidos, and OCC operate services that will get you from Cancún to Mexico City in approximately 27 hours. Prices start at 1000 peso (58.19 USD), with an average ticket costing around 1500 peso (87.28 USD). The earliest bus departs at 9:45 AM and the last at 4:30 PM.
Car. Lastly, if the open road beckons and you yearn for the freedom of a self-drive experience, car rental services are available at the Cancún airport. Despite the 1,600-kilometre distance between the two cities, the highways are well-maintained, though the journey will still take between 18 and 20 hours. This adventurous route, although demanding, will reward you with views of Mexico’s diverse landscapes and the opportunity to stop and explore along the way.
How to Get From the Airport to the Heart of the Capital
Mexico City’s bustling airport, featuring two terminals, offers a multitude of transportation options to connect travellers with the city. A train running between terminals is available for those with a connecting flight ticket. At Terminal 1, you’ll find the entrance to the platform near exit 6, and at Terminal 2, look for it near exit 4.
Metro. The Terminal Aérea metro station (on the yellow line) is located in Terminal 1, and provides connections to 12 other lines. However, newcomers to Mexico City may find this option overwhelming, particularly during rush hour. The city’s metro system is often packed with locals and navigating through the crowds with luggage can be quite the challenge.
Metrobus. Alternatively, you can take the Metrobus line 4, which goes to the airport and offers connections to the metro system or the TAPO intercity bus station. The Metrobus includes designated spaces for wheelchairs and luggage and features onboard surveillance cameras, making it a safe and comfortable public transportation option. The fare from the airport to the city centre is roughly 30 peso (1.75 USD).
Taxi. Lastly, taxis provide a straightforward and direct route to your destination. Though you’ll see plenty of taxi drivers hailing for customers at the airport, consider booking a ride via Uber or DiDi for a cheaper and safer option. A trip to the historic centre will cost you around 180 peso (10.47 USD), while a ride to the upscale Polanco district will run about 270 peso (15.71 USD). This way, you can skip the crowds and sit back as the vibrant cityscape unfolds before you.
Exploring Mexico by Bus
Mexico’s comprehensive bus system is a comfortable and efficient way to explore the country’s diverse cities and landscapes. Many buses offer amenities such as Wi-Fi, air conditioning, reclining or fully extendable seats, and individual screens for movie viewing, ensuring your journey is as relaxing as possible. At the bus stations, food options are readily available for travellers on the go.
Planning your bus routes between cities is made easy with the Check My Bus app. Unlike other forms of public transportation that operate on a fill-up-and-go basis, buses in Mexico run strictly according to schedule. They depart from four major bus stations:
Tickets can be purchased at the terminal’s ticket office or online via the company’s website, with your passport needed for the transaction. Autobuses de Oriente (ADO) and ETN are two of the largest bus companies in Mexico, providing extensive services across the country.
Entry Essentials: Mexico’s Immigration Documentation for European and American Travellers
European Travellers: Mexico maintains an open-door policy for many European nations, and a visa is not required for stays up to 180 days if you’re a citizen of any EU country, as well as Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.
You’ll need a valid passport, and it’s wise to ensure it’s valid for at least six months beyond your date of entry. When you arrive, you’ll fill out a Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) – a visitor’s permit, which you must retain during your stay and submit while leaving the country. The electronic permit can be arranged within five minutes on the website inm.gob.mx. When applying, you will need to provide details such as your place of residence, flight number, airline name, and passport information.
American Travellers: For U.S. citizens, the process is quite straightforward. You don’t need a visa for tourist stays under 180 days, but you’ll need to complete a Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) upon arrival. While a passport is the gold standard, American citizens can also use a passport card, SENTRI card, or a NEXUS card for entry by land or sea.
Regardless of your country of origin, you may be asked for proof of onward travel (a return or onward ticket), so have that information handy. As a good rule of thumb, always check the latest travel advice from your country’s foreign travel department or the Mexican Embassy before you fly.
Mobile Service in Mexico
Mexico, with its vast landscapes and bustling cities, is a sight to behold, and staying connected throughout your journey is essential. Whether it’s to share a striking sunset over the Pacific or to navigate the lively streets of Mexico City, your mobile device will undoubtedly be a key travel companion.
Mexico boasts four main mobile service operators — Telcel, Movistar, AT&T Unidos Mexico, and Unefon. Their SIM cards can be easily purchased at shopping centres, convenience stores such as Oxxo and 7-Eleven, and dedicated telecom outlets. These pay-as-you-go SIM cards can be topped up at your convenience either in stores, shopping centres, or through the service provider’s mobile app.
For a long-term stay, you might consider purchasing a plan. These start from a minimum duration of six months and require monthly payments. The cost of these monthly packages depends solely on the amount of mobile data included. A bonus? Your social media needs are typically taken care of, with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram usually included for free in these plans. If you’re only visiting for a few weeks or months, the pay-as-you-go rates might be more cost-effective.
Do note that the cost of mobile services in Mexico is higher than in many other countries. Every top-up of 100 pesos (5.82 USD) on your mobile number is valid for 60 days. For those seeking unlimited connectivity, Unefon offers the Unefon-ilimitado plan. This plan grants you a gigabyte of internet each day, with a daily charge of 15 pesos (0.87 USD).
Healthcare in Mexico
Like many countries, Mexico offers both private and public healthcare options. The quality of care is generally good, but hospitalisation and surgical procedures can be expensive. As such, it is strongly recommended for travellers to Mexico to secure a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers health emergencies. This precaution will ensure that you can seek professional medical care without worrying about exorbitant out-of-pocket costs.
In a unique twist to its healthcare system, Mexico offers medical consultations right within its pharmacies. These facilities often have licensed doctors on-site who can conduct examinations and prescribe medications as needed. This convenient service could be especially handy for minor ailments or routine health queries.
Consultation fees range from free to 55 pesos (3.20 USD), making it a budget-friendly option for travellers.
Banking, Taxes in Mexico
As of January 1, 2022, Mexican banks no longer open accounts for individuals without a Mexican residency permit. The primary requirement for opening an account is a CURP (Clave Única de Registro de Población), a unique identification number assigned to residents of Mexico.
The exception to this rule comes into play if you’re in Mexico as a tourist and buying property in a restricted coastal zone. In this case, the bank, while setting up a bank trust for your property purchase, will obtain a CURP for you. This same bank is most likely to open a separate account for you as well.
However, there have been instances where banks, especially regional branches, may open an account without a CURP, but this seems to be more the exception than the rule, and one may consider it a stroke of luck. Yet, beware – such an account could potentially be frozen, hence, caution is advised.
Apart from a CURP, you will also need an RFC (Registro Federal de Contribuyentes) – a tax identification number, and proof of your residence in Mexico. This can be a utility bill, a rental agreement, a property purchase contract, or a tax receipt for property ownership.
In summary, while Mexico’s banking regulations have tightened, there are still pathways available for foreigners to manage their financial needs. As always, understanding the local requirements and seeking expert advice is key to navigating the complexities of banking, taxes, and cryptocurrency transactions in a foreign country.
When opening a bank account in Mexico, you will typically need to deposit a minimum amount, usually around 1500 pesos (87.28 USD). For individuals who cannot verify a source of income in foreign currency, accounts can only be opened in Mexican pesos.
Transferring money from one account to another might not be as quick as you’re accustomed to. If the transfer is between accounts of the same bank, it will be instantaneous. However, if the accounts are held at different banks, it can take several hours to a couple of days for the transfer to process.
If you’re a frequent traveller, it’s a good idea to notify your bank ahead of your trips. Unexpected account blocks can occur when banks detect unusual activity, like transactions from different countries. In such cases, you may need to contact the bank to verify the transaction and unblock your account.
When it comes to changing your money, you’ll need to present a passport or a Mexican ID. In some places, proof of residence may also be requested.
When to Visit
Mexico’s moderate climate, with a comfortable average temperature around 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit), makes it a destination you can visit any time of the year. While the winter season may see a slight dip in temperature with occasional rainfall, it’s hardly a deterrent for those seeking to explore this vibrant country.
Springtime in Mexico can be quite warm, with temperatures around 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit), occasionally accompanied by evening showers. Summer stays pleasantly warm too, with temperatures rarely exceeding 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).
The consistency of Mexico’s climate means you don’t necessarily have to plan your visit around a “good weather” season. However, it’s worth considering visiting during periods when the tourist numbers aren’t too high, for a more relaxed and intimate experience of all that Mexico has to offer. Whether it’s the bustling streets of Mexico City or the serene beaches of the Yucatán Peninsula, there’s something to be enjoyed all year round.
About the Author:
Elizaveta Sedova relocated to Mexico City a year and a half ago, and though she lives the routine life of a “local,” she continues to perceive the city through the eyes of a “foreign tourist.” Here, she has founded Bajux, a brand dedicated to travel accessories, and curates personalised itineraries for countrywide trips. This provides an ideal synergy for Elizaveta as she lives the life of a local while maintaining a tourist’s perspective on the city and the country, further embellished by her profession in the travel industry.
Cover: Juliana Barquero