Too often, Mexico City is overlooked for the country’s beach resorts or charming small towns, but the bustling capital deserves more than a stopover. It’s the oldest city in the Americas and the most populous city in North America, with more than 21 million residents. Its jumble of neighborhoods is home to more than 150 museums, acres upon acres of gorgeous parks, and more restaurants than you could try in a lifetime.
Romantic, exciting, sometimes a little gritty, it’s on the cutting edge of design and art but still in no hurry to ditch its roots in tradition. It’s the perfect snapshot of modern Mexico, and one that’ll have you coming back again and again.
Before you go, learn more about the history and culture of Mexico City.
City lovers that prefer excitement over serenity, foodies with insatiable appetites, unforgettable group trips, romantic weekends with your better half
For anyone accustomed to US or European price tags, Mexico City will delight with its relatively modest cost of living. (It comes as no surprise that it’s far more expensive than most of Mexico, however.) An average meal ranges from under $5 for an inexpensive lunch to $25 or $30 for a stylish dinner. Hotels are budget-friendly, too; you can find a room for as little as $20, and $150/night will add a healthy dose of luxury to your stay.
Statistically, Mexico City does not have the best track record when it comes to safety, but while it’s important to be mindful of your whereabouts, the majority of crime doesn’t befall tourists. Hip neighborhoods like Roma and Condesa are dynamic and welcoming, and there’s plenty to see and do within these districts. No matter where you are, it’s unlikely that you’ll face any major threats, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that same-sex couples and females, particularly those traveling alone, may receive unwanted attention. (Also, it’s a good idea no matter where you roam to not flash money on the street or appear boastful about wealth.)
The hottest time of year in Mexico City is actually the spring, from March to May, when temperatures average 79-81°F during the day. Summer temps are cooled slightly by the near-daily rain. By October, the rain is gone and temperatures begin to drop, though if you’re coming from the north of the US you might be pleasantly surprised. Even in December and January, the average daily high is 71-72° with nighttime lows dipping into the 40s.
March to May is the most popular time to go, but of course that tends to mean more crowds to deal with and slightly higher prices. Summer, despite the rainy weather, is also bust. For lovely weather without a lot of people, look at October and November outside of the dates of Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) when crowds swell and prices go up.
Eat street food. You’ll find an abundance of vendors selling food on almost every corner, from tamales to tacos to tlayudas and you can fill up for just a few bucks.
Travel on two wheels. Sign up for an EcoBici account and use the bikeshare service to ride your way around time. Mexico City is very bike-friendly and you’ll spend less time in traffic.
DIY your visit to Teotihuacan. You don’t have to pay for a guided tour to the famous pyramid site near the city. You can hop on a local bus for under $5 each way, or uber for about $20 each way.
Where to begin? The flavors of Mexico City are wholly intoxicating, a feast for the senses and a true joy to explore. There’s a thriving array of cuisine from all over—Mexico is quickly mastering the art of Japanese cooking, for instance—but of course, the city is full of incredible Mexican food. Go old school with some al pastor tacos from a food truck or try a taste of upscale fusion cuisine instead. You’ll be spoilt for choice (and we haven’t even mentioned the tequila yet).
A city as large as this one has a laundry list of neighborhoods, all with unique personalities, and there are some seriously charming enclaves at the far reaches of the city limits. But for ease of transit, enhanced safety, and approachability for first-time visitors, areas near the urban core of Mexico City are obvious choices.
Check out hotels and Airbnbs in Roma and La Condesa for a young and stylish ambience, Polanco for a slightly more well-heeled crowd, and Zona Rosa if you want to stay close to the art. A solid hotel can be found for around $100 or less, while Airbnbs are often under $60 per night.
Roma and Condesa
The city’s two coolest neighborhoods are located right next to one another and in parts blend into each other. Roma is slightly younger, hipper, and full of art deco buildings while La Condesa feels a little bit more low-key, with lots of tree-lined streets and big parks.
One of the safest and most upscale neighborhoods, Polanco is the Beverly Hills of Mexico City. It’s home to some great restaurants, big green spaces, high end shops, fancy cocktail bars, and many of the international embassies (whose security presence helps make it feel even safer).
Set five miles south of the city center, Coyoacan is a residential suburb with beautiful old Colonial-era architecture, a lively square filled with families on weekends, and several great markets and street food stands. It’s also the home of the Frida Kahlo Museum.
Transit in Mexico City is both simple and complicated. It’s advanced and it’s in need of repair. Here’s what we mean: The city’s subway system—12 lines and 120 miles of track—is more or less dependable and one of the most-used metros in the world, but it lacks accessibility for folks with impaired mobility and can also be uncomfortable and/or unsafe; you shouldn’t opt for the metro come nightfall. The bus system is in better shape and safer, but traffic here is of a colossal magnitude and should be avoided at all costs during rush hour.
If the roads are clear and you want a more reliable ride, opt for an Uber instead of hailing a cab. Women using public transit can take advantage of female-only cars, and everybody who’s wary of the whole process can hop on a readily available Ecobici, the public bike-share program in CDMX.
Mexico City is served by Benito Juárez International Airport (MEX), most commonly called Mexico City International Airport, which is not only the busiest airport in the country, it's the busiest in all of Latin America. It’s the primary hub for Aeroméxico and a hub for Volaris and Aeromar. It’s just over three miles from the city center.
Only have a short time in the city between flights? Check out our layover guide to Mexico City.
Mexico City International Airport connects to downtown Mexico City via the city’s subway and a Metrobús line. The closest Metro station to the airport is Terminal Aérea on the number 5 subway line, and a ticket costs 5 MX. Metrobús line 4 runs between the airport and the Buenavista train station. A ticket costs 30 MX and the trip takes about 30 minutes. Official taxis have fixed rates, but they depend on what zone of Mexico City you’re going to (for instance, the flat fee for the historic center starts at around 250 MX). Rideshare options are Cabify, Uber, and Bolt, and fares to downtown start around 90 MX.
Take a bus from the Terminal de Autobuses del Sur to Tepoztlan, a destination just over an hour away from CDMX; it’s where you’ll find El Tepozteco, the pyramid, and have the chance to partake in New Age-y pastimes like yoga, sweat lodges, and a hike on a mountain that’s said to have mystical properties.
Venture out to Cholula (a two-hour bus ride from Terminal Oriente, plus another 20-minute express bus), home to the Great Pyramid, the largest pyramid in the world with a dramatic background of mountainous terrain.
Take a 2-hour bus ride from the Terminal Oriente to Tlaxcala, a vibrant city with good food and Colonial architecture, also a great starting point for exploring the ancient pyramids of Xochitecatl and the ruins of Cacaxtla.
Enjoy a beautiful drive (3 hours by bus from the Terminal de Autobuses del Sur) to Taxco, a beautiful mining town famous for its pozole, resplendent cathedral (Santa Prisca), and array of silver trinkets available for purchase.
Escape the heat with a quick bus ride via the Terminal de Autobuses del Sur to Cuernavaca, known as “the city of eternal spring” because of its mild climate and lush landscape. Be sure to catch the Palace of Cortes, where you’ll find a collection of Diego Rivera murals.
Hop on a 1.5-hour flight to Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco for a beach getaway with great food and the nearby surf town of Sayulita.
Take a 2-hour flight to the gorgeous waters of Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula, a Mayan port city full of well-preserved ruins and picture-perfect cenotes for diving and snorkeling.
Take a quick (~1-hour) flight to the cultural oasis of Oaxaca, full of fantastic interior Mexican cuisine (don’t knock the fried grasshoppers until you’ve tried them), colorful city streets, and cool outdoors attractions like the nearby Hierve El Agua.
Fly 2.25 hours to La Paz on Baja California Sur. It’s often unfairly overlooked for the sake of Los Cabos, but La Paz is a vibrant destination with crystal-clear waters, a beautiful city center, and the chance to swim with enormous, majestic whale sharks.
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