The old and new stand handsomely side by side in Mexico’s bustling capital city that, with a population of over 20-million, is one of the world’s most inhabited metropolises. To many, the thought of such densely packed and claustrophobic neighborhoods is immediately off-putting, yet, situated in a mountain bowl at 2400m above sea level, Mexico City is an extremely rewarding destination. Yes, it is hectic and crime rates are known to be higher than other capital cities, however, with consistent spring-like weather and an unrivalled variation of sights it rarely fails in captivating visitors.
Home to the great Aztecs during the 14thC and established by the Spanish in 1524, with a culture spanning over 1000-years of ancient civilizations, Mexico City is often spoke of in the same breath as the grandest European cities. This is a city of boundless opportunities where visitors find themselves attempting to juggle time between exploring ancient Aztec ruins and splendid galleries, admiring colonial mansions and the enchanting floating gardens, choosing between a shot of tequila at a local tavern or cocktail on a rooftop terrace, and deciding whether to watch a bullfight or take in a theatre performance. What’s more, it is not all the chaotic and vibrant life epitomized around the Zocalo, and the outer barrios of Condensa, San Angel and Coyoacan paint a different picture. Here it is possible to stroll stress-free along affluent, boutique lined boulevards whilst spotting many of the city’s hidden treasures.
As said, Mexico City benefits from steady year-round temperature making it ideal to visit at anytime, with acclimatization only required for the cities altitude when arriving from the beach resorts. Getting around is also a joy and the city is blessed with an easily negotiable public transport network of buses, trams and metro. Moreover, as the capital city, it is accessible from almost anywhere across the country, with buses available day and night to the likes of Acapulco, Cuernavaca, Guadalajara, Oaxaca and San Cristobal. For international travelers a vast major of major airlines serve the international airport from destinations throughout Europe, Central American, South America and the USA and Canada.
Things to do in
Sightseeing in Mexico City - Mexico City offers myriad tourist attractions that range from ancient Aztec pyramids to stunning churches, fine museums and galleries to bustling shopping zones. At the heart of everything is the Zocalo, the historic centre also known as Plaza de la Constitucion, home to the Catedral Metropolitana of 1573, Aztec Templo Mayor and Palacio Nacional. Moving away from the Zocalo, the Basilica de Guadalupe and Piramide de Tenayuca are worth checking out. A visit to the city would not be complete without heading south to spend a day at Xochimilco, commonly known as the FloatingGardens for the network of canals lined by a series of pristine gardens.
Museums in Mexico City
Museo Nacional de Antropologia - The pick of the bunch, this museum has a fine collection of exhibits spanning all of Mexico’s major cultures and civilisations.
Museo Frida Kahlo - Museum dedicated to the art of the iconic Mexican figure Frida Kahlo, wife of Diego Rivera, sited in her former home.
Museo del Templo Mayor - After seeing the ruins of Templo Mayor, check out the museum housing a wonderful array of artefacts discovered during the excavations.
Shopping in Mexico City - From chic independent boutiques to street hawkers and upscale shopping centres to time-honoured markets, Mexico City is a haven for shoppers. The main shopping zone lies within the 12 blocks of the Zona Rosa, an area heavily peppered with stores offering antique jewellery, leather goods, clothing and more. Local markets are in abundance with the true experience to be found at Mercado de la Merced, a vast indoor market selling everything from fruit and vegetables, herbal medicines, trinkets, artwork and clothing. This is the spot to hone the bargaining skills.
Sports in Mexico City - Alike the rest of the country, Mexico City has a sports mad population with football taking top billing. Head along to the colossal Estadio Azteca, where up to 114,000 fans squeezed in to witness the World Cup Final of both 1970 and 1986 and where locals come to avidly support Club America, Las Aguilas. Second to football is the nation’s passion for wrestling and Lucha Libre bouts can be seen at over a dozen venues across the city. Check the listings for the Arena Coliseo and Arena Mexico. However, for the archetypal Mexican event, head to Plaza Mexico on a Sunday afternoon for bullfighting events featuring local and Spanish matadors.
Festivals in Mexico City
FICCO - The annual International Contemporary Film Festival takes place in May and attracts moviemakers from across the globe for its programme of fictional and documental films.
Festival Africano - In February comes the time to celebrate African culture through music, dance, drumming sessions and workshops.
Vive Latin Rock Festival - The best in Latin rock artists performing alongside internationally famed bands and musicians.
Mexico City Nightlife - Whether on the look out for high-tech nightclubs, swanky piano bars, atmospheric taverns or plazas filled with the sounds of Mariachi bands, Mexico City has it all and more. Traditionally Zona Rosa was always the place to be, however, the neighbourhoods of Polanco and Condesa are now at the forefront of nightly events. San Angel is another popular area for its laidback restaurants and cafés. Pick up a copy of Tiempo Libre for entertainment and nightclub listings.
Bars in Mexico City
Hotel Habita - For some celebrity spotting head to the rooftop bar of this Polanco hotel.
El Hijo del Cuervo - Cavernous bar in Coyoacan drawing a mix of local students and foreign bohemians.
La Opera - The most famed downtown boozer is a city institution resembling an upscale cantina.
Rioma Bar - Squeeze past the strict doorman and be welcomed by Mexico City’s swankiest lounge and DJ bar.
Clubs in Mexico City
DJ Club Continental - Huge house and techno dance-club pulling in big name DJs from Europe and the US.
Pervert Lounge - Avant-garde electronica club and a mecca for the city’s jet-setter and beautiful crowd.
Zinco Jazz Club - Cosy bar-restaurant that puts on nightly performances by local jazz bands.
Theatres in Mexico City
El Vicio - Alternative theatre venue putting on jazz nights and eccentric theatre productions.
Budget Hotels Mexico City
Hostal Amigo - A backpacker favourite, adjacent to Metro Isabel la Catolica, offering dorm rooms, bar and large hangout areas. Tel (52) 55 5512 3464.
Hostal Moneda - Sociable hostel famed for the free breakfast and dinner buffets and rooftop terrace. Book ahead as often full. Tel (52) 55 5522 5803.
Hostel Home - Laidback hostel with just 20 beds located in an old family home. Tel (52) 55 5511 1683.
Hostel Mundo Joven Catedral - Large and cheap hostel with bar, restaurant and outdoor terrace. Rates include breakfast. Tel (52) 55 5518 1726.
Midrange Hotels Mexico City
Hotel Brasilia - Good value business orientated hotel close to the bus station and Metro Autobuses del Norte. Tel (52) 55 5587 8577.
Hotel del Principado - Large modern rooms in the Zona Rosa shopping district. Rates include breakfast buffet. Tel (52) 55 5533 2944.
Hotel Gillow - Elegant and affordable hotel in the heart of the city’s historic centre. Tel (52) 55 5510 0791.
Luxury Hotels Mexico City
Casa Vieja - Wonderful boutique hotel in the upmarket suburb of Polanco. Tel (52) 55 5282 0067.
Hilton Mexico City - The hotel itself is a 5-star masterpiece, however the airport location is only desirable for high end business travellers. Tel (52) 55 5133 0505.