Why You Need to Travel to Mexico City
Nearly 9 million people live in Mexico City, and it feels like there are just as many things to do, see, eat, and drink in Mexico’s capital city.
You could spend weeks exploring Mexico City, the largest city North America, and never get tired of it. But with plenty of direct flights – including the new nonstop from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)! – it’s also a great spot for a long weekend.
Here are all the reasons why you should hop on that next flight deal and travel to Mexico City.
Like any big city, Mexico City has crime. And like any big city, there are ways to stay and feel safe there.
The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 2 warning for Mexico City and advises increased caution due to crime. But if you use common sense, you’ll feel safe.
Don’t carry a ton of cash with you or put your phone or wallet in your back pocket. Don’t stay out super late and walk around. Use Uber late at night. Be mindful when drinking and don’t get overly intoxicated. Spend your nights in tourist areas or popular neighborhoods near your highly rated Airbnb or hotel.
Like with any vacation, use caution and be prepared. But please don’t let sensationalism and fear stop you from traveling to amazing places – especially Mexico City.
Neighborhoods to Explore
Mexico City is massive!
With dozens of neighborhoods spread across it all, it can make it difficult to figure out where you want to stay. The good news is that the city is very walkable (though it will take you a while to get places) and Uber is widely available and very cheap.
Here’s a rundown on a few of the fun neighborhoods to visit:
No matter where you stay, you will end up in the Centro Historico (spot #1 on the map above). Visit the famous Palacios Belles Artes, the central square called the Zócalo, and the Museo Nacional de las Culturas that houses a famous mural by Diego Rivera.
La Condesa (2) is a trendy neighboorhood full of art-deco apartments, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. At night, head to one of the many bars or clubs for a fun night out. This is one of the most well-known neighborhoods and the perfect location if you’re looking to rent an Airbnb.
Colonia Cuauhtemoc (3), Juarez (4), and Roma (5) are great neighborhoods for food, shopping, and people watching. Go to El Moro on Calle Genova or churros and hot chocolate. There are several locations around town, the first in Centro Historico was founded in 1935. A fire destroyed this location in 2010, leading to a rebuild with beautiful blue and white tiles. Take a seat outside or head upstairs and to watch people walk by below on the pedestrian street.
Polanco (6) is the swankiest of neighborhoods in the city, with high-end shops and fancy hotels on every corner. And it’s home to some of the best restaurants in the city, including one of our favorites: Guzina Oaxaca. They make salsa tableside, mezcal cocktails, ceviche, duck with mole and more delicious dishes. It never seems to be super busy and the service is impeccable.
The famous Freida Khalo Museum is in the Del Carmen (7) neighborhood. Buy a skip-the-line ticket for the museum and plan to spend most of the day in this area. After exploring the museum, head to the main squares, Jardin Centenario and Hidalgo Coyoacan. These popular hang-out spots are always bustling with people eating ice cream, watching performances, selling trinkets and more.
Grab an ice cream cone at one of the many neighborhood creameries and enjoy people watching in the park. Los Danzantes is a great stop for lunch or dinner and has a great mezcal and cocktail list.
The Beautiful Buildings
The architecture in Mexico City is stunning. You can spend hours every day wandering around the streets and marveling at the wide array of architecture. From colonial to art-deco to buildings modeled after famous Paris metro stops, you will find it all.
Thrifty Tip: For the above view of the Palacio de Bellas Artes head up to the eighth floor of the Sears building across the street. Yes, the Sears building. Go to the cafe for a cup of coffee, dessert, and this view. You may have to wait in line to get a seat, but it’s worth it.
The Gran Hotel is one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever been to. Head there after visiting the Museo Nacional. Right on the Zócalo, the Gran Hotel was built in the late 1800s. You may have seen it in the opening scenes of the latest Bond movie, Spectre.
The art deco elevators are from 1895 and the amazing Tiffany glass ceiling was brought over from France in 1908. It was turned into a hotel in 1968 and was just recently refurbished in 2003. Only hotel guests can take the elevators and stairs modeled after the Bon Marché in Paris. They do welcome tourists and allow you to walk around the hotel and marvel at its beauty.
Thrifty Tip: Head up to the fourth floor in the regular elevators and go to La Terraza. There is a buffet restaurant overlooking the Zócalo. You’ll also find bar service on a small deck where you can grab a drink and some guacamole. Time your day so you’re having a drink here around 6 p.m. to watch the elaborate flag lowering ceremony.
Soak Up the History and Culture
Boasting 150 museums, about one every few blocks, Mexico City is full of history and art.
Visit the Chapultepec Castle, which housed Spanish royalty in the late 1700s, and is set in the large city park. Take some time to wander the park and rent a paddle boat, visit the Chapultepec Zoo, the Modern Art Museum or the Archaeological Museum.
Take a day trip to visit Teotihuacan, the site of an ancient Mesoamerican city with three large pyramids just an hour outside of the city center. Book an Airbnb experience to avoid the crowds and get the most out of your visit.
Check out the schedule of events at the Palacios de Bellas Artes and get tickets for the opera, ballet, or orchestral performance. Or catch a Lucha Libre wrestling match at the Arena Mexico. Buy a luchador mask ahead of time and you’ll fit right in.
Food, Food, and More Food
This is why you’re here. Not Tex-Mex, not Taco Bell, not the American-friendly resort food. But the food steeped in history, spice, and flavor.
Eat chilaquiles (tortilla chips smothered in salsa verde or salsa Rojo) for breakfast, chocolate and chile-based Mole sauce on poultry, al pastor tacos with habanero salsa, ceviche with lime and jalapenos, and even snack on some bugs if you’re feeling adventurous.
Grab some fresh fruit from a street stand and make sure to stop for dessert. Do as the locals do and get churros and chocolate sauce or an ice cream bar or two while you’re walking around town.
Follow our advice to find the can’t-miss spots to eat in Mexico City.
For a nice night out, Azul Historico is perfect. Set in an open-air and tree-covered courtyard, this spot is where locals come to celebrate special occasions. Put your name on the list (it’s always busy) and head up to the rooftop bar for a pre-dinner cocktail while you wait.
And the Drinks, Too
You won’t go thirsty in Mexico City.
From fresh fruit juices to hot chocolate to fancy cocktails and local craft beers (not just Corona or Modelo), there are so many tasty drinks in Mexico City. Oh, and of course there’s tequila and mezcal. Never had Mezcal? Sidle up to any restaurant making their own mezcal and get a flight to see what this spirit is all about.
Already love Mezcal? Check out Bosforo where the menu is just a chalkboard list of Mezcal and a few beers. El Palenquito serves mezcal stored in glass jugs straight from rural distilleries.
For a fancy night out and a cocktail or two priced to match ($10 USD), stop by Fifty Mils at the Four Seasons hotel. At least one night during your stay in Mexico City, enjoy a drink on a rooftop bar or terrace.
It’s Seriously Cheap
Big cities and cheap don’t often mix, but Mexico City is an exception.
You’ll find Mexico City is far cheaper than the beach and resort towns throughout Mexico. Get your taco on for less than $1 and a beer for less than $2. A fancy night out with a multi-course meal and drinks will typically run $25 per person.
Regular tickets to sites and museums will cost you less than $15 – and many are free. If you really want to budget, you could easily spend less than $30 a day in Mexico City.
Mexico City is worth a trip – or two, or three!
There is so much to see and do. You can stay a week and won’t get bored. You won’t break the bank, and you definitely won’t go hungry, either.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.