Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, is one of the most exciting, vibrant, and cultural cities you will ever visit and no matter how long you allot yourself to explore, you’ll never be done with it. It’s just too enormous and offers such a huge array of activities for the visitor that you’ll always need to return.
Whether you’re looking for culture and history, shopping (from street markets to boutique stores) or chasing the foodie trail, Mexico City is somewhere you really can’t miss!
The city sits on a high plateau in the Valley of Mexico in the centre of Mexico. It is a major transport hub for the country and is a perfect destination for a quick-layover, a long weekend, a romantic break, a girls’ getaway or any other excuse you can find to visit what is undoubtedly one of the world’s most exciting cities.
Fascinating Facts About Mexico City
- It is one of only two capital cities in the Americas to have been founded by the indigenous population. Modern-day Mexico City can trace its origins to the Mexica (Aztec) city of Tenochtitlan, which was established in 1325.
- It is thought that there are 173 museums in the city. Few other cities in the world have more.
- The phenomenal Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City’s biggest park is the largest urban park in Latin America (some say second largest, but either way, it’s still enormous and gorgeous)
- Parque Alameda/ Alameda Central was established in 1592, making this is the oldest public park in the Americas
- Three of the world’s top 50 restaurants are in Mexico City but if you don’t have months for waiting lists, even the street tacos are second to none in this magnificent foodie city.
- Mexico City’s Pride march (Orgullo Gay) is a joyful celebration of the diversity of queer life in Mexico City. Every year it is joined by over one million people. It is one of the biggest pride marches in all of Latin America.
- You may hear locals refer to Mexico City as CDMX (the official acronym of Ciudad de México) or even DF (pronounced dé-effe, short for Distrito Federal, the old official term for the metropolitan area).
- Día de los Muertos – Mexico City wasn’t big into this oh-so Mexican celebration until the James Bond movie, Spectre, featured a Día de los Muertos parade in the city. Now, the celebrations in real life far overshadow anything portrayed in the movie.
Best Time of Year to Visit Mexico City
Mexico City, due to its high elevation, has a mild climate year-round and is a great place to visit whatever the weather.
Spring – Mexico City is a surprisingly green place and spring when the Jacaranda trees are in bloom is just magical. The weather is absolutely perfect for exploring – 23 – 26C.
Summer – this is the rainy season but since the rains tend to come in short sharp bursts it isn’t too difficult to avoid. Otherwise, the weather is sunny and warm and tourists are fewer than at other times of year.
Autumn – the lead up to Día de los Muertos makes October a magical time to visit CDMX and the temperatures, like in spring, are perfect for spending all day exploring a city.
Winter – Dec – Feb brings the coldest months (and often a drop in hotel prices) so if you don’t mind sunny but cool days, it’s still a great time to visit. The only drawback is that many buildings in this gorgeous city don’t have heating so bring warm PJs if you’re staying in an Airbnb!
What to do in Mexico City
In order to really get the most out of a trip to Mexico City, we recommend you break it down to more manageable chunks and really focus on a colonia (neighborhood) or two. Decide what you most want to see and base yourself nearby.
As noted above, Mexico City is enormous and there’s so much to do that it can be overwhelming if you don’t go in with a plan. Let’s break it down by area, therefore, and look at the highlights.
People visiting Mexico City tend to base themselves in Polanco, La Condesa, Roma Norte, the Centro Historico or Coyoacán.
Polanco, La Condesa and Roma Norte are all in the Reforma/Chapultepec area and are considered to be the most up-market areas of Mexico City. Here you’ll find world-class hotels and restaurants as well as more affordable options.
Polanco, located to the north of Chapultepec stretches as far north as the Museo Soumaya, Museo Jumex and the Aquarium. Polanco is home to some of the best restaurants in the world including Pujol, as well as many art galleries and boutique stores. Polanco has a very European vibe to it.
La Condesa is best known for being home to cool restaurants, art galleries and lovely parks including Parque México. Check out the House of Gaga if you’re into contemporary art.
Roma Norte (Roma splits into Roma, Roma Norte and Roma Sur) is where the hipsters hang, making this one of Mexico City’s most fun areas in which to stay or just visit for tacos and shopping on Calle Colima.
Explore the Length of Reforma
Reforma is the name of a road rather than a colonia yet it is an important focal point for anyone visiting Mexico City. Modeled after the Parisian Champs Elysee, Paseo de la Reforma is a wide avenue that runs from the gates of Chapultepec Park across the heart of the city. For visitors, it ends with the magnificent Monumento a la Revolucion, and the Museo Mural Diego Rivera. Although it does stretch even further than this, there’s little reason for tourists to continue past this point.
The avenida is lined with tourist attractions, high-end shops, restaurants, and hotels. It’s also traditionally where Mexicans go to protest and to celebrate. The famous Angel de Independencia is on a roundabout on the avenida, too.
From The Museo Mural Diego Rivera and across the Alameda towards the famous art deco Palacio de Bellas Artes we find the beginnings of the historic center of Mexico City. Most visitors will find themselves here at some point if only to gaze in wonder at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Turn around though and you’ll find Mexico City’s small but thriving Chinatown and the Torre Latinoamerica, from the top of which there are awesome views over the city.
From here the walk down the busy pedestrianised Ave 5 de Mayo towards the zocalo (city plaza) is quite beautiful. Don’t miss the Casa de los Azulejos on your way.
Around the enormous and pedestrianized awe-inspiring zocalo one finds the cathedral, the Palacio Nacional, the famous Museo del Templo Mayor, and the remains of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. None of these can be missed.
This magnificent park would fill up days of your time if only you’d let it.
There are nine museums within the park grounds including the world-famous Museo Nacional de Antropología and the Museo Nacional de Historia, which is housed in the fabulous Castillo de Chapultepec.
If you enjoy boating, there are two boating ponds where you can hire pedalos and sometimes these pedalos are even turned into seating for “outdoor cinema on the lake” events. There is an audiorama area where you’ll find locals and visitors sitting and relaxing listening to music and there is a small but magnificent botanical garden.
Throughout much of the park, there are market stalls selling snacks, drinks, toys, t-shirts and artesanias. It is busy but never too overwhelming.
For the Kids
The best kids museum in the world (according to my kids, who have been multiple times and still beg to return) is Papalote, Museo del Niño, also housed within this incredible park. There are also: an enormous and free zoo, numerous children’s playgrounds, a tree-top adventure area and more. Read our 10 Best Things to Do in Mexico City with Kids for more ideas.
Much further south than anywhere else mentioned in this article is the beautiful colonia of Coyoacán. Coyoacán’s most famous resident of all time must be Frida Kahlo, whose former home is now a museum affectionately known as “the Blue House”.
Coyoacán is a perfect spot for anyone who wants to spend a few days really immersed in Mexico City’s life and culture. Here, the visitor can explore museums, markets, shops and gorgeous colourful streets. There are numerous restaurants and bars for every taste here, too.
While the Frida Kahlo museum is so popular it really needs to be booked in advance, there are other extremely worthwhile and interesting museums that draw smaller crowds:
Museo Anahuacalli – Diego Rivera’s astounding pre-hispanic artefact collection
Leon Trotsky’s House
National Museum of Popular Culture
If you’re looking for souvenirs, don’t miss the Mercado de Coyoacán, the Bazar Artesanal Mexicano and the Casa Artesano. The centre point of Coyoacán is the lively double plaza of Parque Centenario / Jardin Plaza Hidalgo.
Day Trips from Mexico City
The two most popular day trips people love to take from Mexico City are to Aztec canals of Xochimilco, south of Mexico City, and to Teotithuacan and the enormous Aztec pyramids to the north of the city.
Guest Author: MexicoCassie.
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