Mexico City Travel Guide
Mexico's capital is one of the liveliest and largest cities in the world, with a renowned arts-and-culture scene (an entire district has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and some of the best cuisine in the Western Hemisphere. Even better, Mexico City is affordable -- and safer than you might expect. Sprawling across 59 municipalities, el Ciudad de México promises its visitors an unforgettable -- and exhausting -- stay, perfect for the frugal, culture-loving traveler ... continue»
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The best time to visit Mexico City is between March and May, even though the streets are pretty crowded this time of year. Your trade-off is beautiful weather, especially considering the city's winters can be really chilly and the summers can be really rainy. You should also prep yourself for the elevation — the thin air can make it tough to breathe at times.Best Times to Visit Mexico City»
Mexico City Neighborhoods
Mexico City is a sprawling metropolis that can take many days to absorb, but the transportation system is organized to facilitate inter-city travel. Mexico City consists of more than 350 different neighborhoods, or colonias.
Accessible via the metro's Pink Line (Pino Suárez, Isabel la Católica and Salto del Agua stations) and the metro's Blue Line (Zócalo, Allende, Bellas Artes, Hidalgo and Revolución stations).
Most recommend you start at Centro Histórico, the 34-block historic district directly in the city center with more than 1,500 historic and artistic buildings and monuments. The entire downtown is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it has received major renovations in the past decade, complete with new pavement, lighting, restaurants and clubs. The popular Plaza de la Constitución, or Zócalo, is the "heart of Mexico City," according to Lonely Planet; and it's been the main city square since the Aztec times, and today hosts many of the country's cultural celebrations.
East of the Zócalo is the Palacio Nacional (National Palace), Mexico's main government building that houses the offices of the Mexican president. Along the north and east walls of the palace are the famous Diego Rivera murals depicting various eras of Mexican history. The city's most iconic monument, the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral), lies on the Zócalo's north side. Also nearby is the Templo Mayor, an excavated Aztec temple once thought to be the literal center of the universe. The Museo del Templo Mayor (Templo Mayor Museum) also provides an overview of Aztec history.
Immediately northwest of Centro Histórico is Alameda Central, a popular downtown park and the home of the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). Also in Centro Histórico: the Paseo de la Reforma, one of the city's greatest sites and the backdrop for the Ángel de la Independencia column monument.
Rosa, Condesa & Polanco
Rosa and Condesa are a short walk from the Isurgentes station on the Pink Line; Polanco is accessible via the Polanco station on the Orange Line.
Near the Paseo de la Reforma are the Rosa and Condesa zones, two of the city's trendiest neighborhoods. The Zona Rosa, or pink zone, is home to U.S. expatriates and has a growing gay and lesbian community. La Condesa, as well as the nearby Polanco area, is also known for its tree-lined streets, trendy boutiques and restaurants. Just northeast, the Colonia Roma hosts scores of artists, writers and some impressive, French-inspired architecture.
Be sure to swing by the Bosque de Chapultepec, or the Chapultepec Forest, located just south of Polanco. On Sundays the "forest" (really a park) is crowded with picnicking families and large crowds heading to the area's many museums. You can also row boats on the park's large lake. East of the park, the Cuauhtémoc neighborhood offers many charming bed and breakfasts and small eateries.
Guidebooks say that other popular neighborhoods for tourists include the trendy and developed Santa Fe neighborhood (home to a thriving restaurant and nightlife scene), Xochimilco (renowned for its canals and iconic trajinera boats) and Coyoacán, home to many Mexican cultural museums and a popular market.
Accessible by bus from the Taxqueña bus station. The bus station is located off the metro's Taxqueña stop on the Blue Line.
It's almost impossible to exhaust all of Mexico City's sights and attractions, but if you want to leave the city for a day or two, consider taking a car or bus to nearby Puebla, a World Heritage site that features an assortment of architecture, including Baroque, Renaissance and Classical. Dining in Puebla is also well renowned, and a trip to Puebla might best suit those looking for a glimpse into a less regarded but still worthwhile Mexican city.
Accessible by bus from the Autobuses del Norte Terminal off the metro's Autobuses del Norte station on the Yellow Line.
Just about 30 miles north of Mexico City lies the ancient ruins of San Juan Teotihuacán, an ancient Mesoamerican city that was once a bustling city of culture and trade. The city was mysteriously abandoned around 700 AD, but the many buildings and pyramids have remained well preserved.
While some travelers fear that Mexico City is too dangerous, Lonely Planet says that many visitors are often "surprised at how safe and human it feels." Crime has risen in recent years, but writers say common sense and wise precautions should ensure a safe vacation. To avoid robberies in taxicabs, be sure to call for a "sitio" or "turismo" car from your hotel or hostel. These cars are registered with the government and remain very safe and affordable options for travel around the city. Some do suggest you steer clear of the yellow or green libre cabs; Frommer's reports a marked increase in violence against riders in those vehicles.
Avoid carrying large amounts of money or valuables while in the city, due to high incidences of pick-pocketing. You might also consider purchasing protected traveler's checks as an extra precaution. The U.S. State Department advises Americans to avoid public demonstrations, which are frequent in Mexico City -- and despite some hysteria in 2009 regarding the H1N1 influenza (also known as swine flu) outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lifted the recommendation that U.S. travelers avoid nonessential travel to Mexico.
The best way to get around Mexico City is the metro. Not only is it fairly clean and quick, but you can ride for approximately $.25 USD. And fortunately the popular sites and activities are easy to reach by train. Several different types of buses motor through the main square (el Zócalo) and its busiest streets -- they are also an affordable option. Taxis are slightly more expensive, but they are a hassle-free means of getting to the city center from the Benito Juárez International Airport (MEX). Driving yourself is a terrible idea -- either to and from the airport or around town.Getting Around Mexico City»