Regular readers of Live Dream Discover (LDD) know how much we love Mexico and how many places we have travelled to in this massive country. The amazing capital of Mexico City is no exception. However, it’s always good to hear from other travellers, especially if their travel style is a little different to our own. So here are the top tips on Mexico City from a couple of guys who love to backpack around Latin America. (With a bit of personal input from us at LDD)
Mexico City Quick Summary
? Where is it: Central Mexico
? Difficulty Getting There: Very easy
⏱ Time Needed: 4+ days
☀️ Best Time to Visit: May
? Top Food/Drink: Tacos al Pastor, Pulque
? Our Favourite Gem: Centro Historico
Mexico City Travel Guide Intro
The giant capital is often the starting point for backpackers heading to Mexico. And with incredible food, a melting pot of culture and ancient ruins nearby, it can be quite hard to leave.
LDD input: We also love the many museums and greenspaces that were a bit of a surprise to us on our first visit.
In this guide, we’ll explore what you’ll need to know about Mexico City. We’ll look at how to get there, where to stay, how to stay safe, the best things to do, when to visit and much more.
About Mexico City
Where is Mexico City?
Mexico City is situated in the heart of Mexico, far from the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. The capital is located within the Valley of Mexico, which sits at an altitude of 2240 m.
Is Mexico City Safe for Tourists?
As with any large capital, there are always areas to avoid, which are mostly in the outskirts (where a tourist would have no reason to venture anyway). Some of the safest neighbourhoods in Mexico City are Roma, Condesa and Polanco. Our top tip is to only use registered taxis at the airport and in the city, which you can either book through an online site or an app such as Uber. If you are backpacking in Mexico and on a tight budget, you can walk to the station to get the Metro which will leave you in the Centro Historico.
Is Mexico City Worth Visiting?
As you’ll see later in this guide, Mexico City is full of gems. Aside from the well-known attractions like Teotihuacán and the Palacio de Bellas Artes, you’ll also discover hidden treasures while walking around.
The food in Mexico City is the most varied in the country too, with street food reigning king here. Try the famous Tacos del Pastor and stop by an authentic Tequila bar for some added culture and fun.
How to Get to Mexico City
Mexico City’s international airport is one of the best connected in Latin America and has direct flights arriving daily from all over the globe. Depending on where you’ll be flying from, it might make more sense to fly to the USA first and then on to Mexico City (this combination tends to be cheaper).
Within Mexico, most, if not all major cities and smaller towns that have airports fly directly to the capital. These domestic flights are pretty cheap too, meaning you can get back to Mexico City pretty easily without breaking the bank.
A bus is also a good option, and as Mexico City is located centrally, there are routes serving each corner of the country.
LDD input: Another surprise for us is the quality of the long-distance buses in Mexico. Many have reclining seats and even personal TVs. They are a great way to travel in comfort for a good price.
Mexico City Neighbourhoods
Best Neighbourhoods in Mexico City
With over 300 neighbourhoods in the capital, some are definitely better for tourists than others.
Roma and Condesa – For the Cosmopolitans
These two districts are the most popular, as they are some of the safest and also the most trendy. Here you’ll find many pretty avenues lined with trees, boutique shops, and a wide range of restaurant and nightlife options.
The Centro Histórico – For the Authenticity Seekers
This is another great area to stay in Mexico City. The real heart of the city, it’s close to all the best sites and is the best for those looking for more authenticity. It can feel overwhelming at times with bustle, however, if you don’t mind this, then you’ll enjoy the endless food options and experiences on offer here.
Polanco – For Safety Seekers and Upscale Lifestylers’
The safest neighbourhood in the city, Polanco is a great choice for those who want extra comfort. It’s also home to some of the best restaurants in the country, as well as extra lavish bars and nightlife. There are also some great things to do and see here, including the Museo Nacional de Antropología as well as Chapultepec Park.
Where to Stay in Mexico City
Roma and Condesa is our overall winner for a stay in Mexico City. We recommend staying at Parral 14 Boutique Hotel, or ULIV Colima.
Polanco is our second choice and is especially good for those looking for extra safety and amenities. Our top pick here is the Grand Fiesta Americana Chapultepec.
LDD input: Totally agree with the above neighbourhood suggestions and would also add Zona Rosa
What to do in Mexico City
Now let’s explore the very best things to do in Mexico City, the surrounding region, as well as the top places to eat and to party.
Best Things to do in Mexico City
* Zócalo – The beating heart of Mexico City, this giant, central plaza is a must-visit when in the capital. As well as seeing the large Mexican flag proudly hung above, you can also explore some really awesome buildings here that include the National Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral and Palacio de Bellas Artes.
* Xochimilco – These canals are a highlight of Mexico City. Located in the south of the city, you can board a colourful trajinera and explore these intertwining rivers, whilst being served delicious, authentic Mexican food. For a bonus, make a stop at Isla de las Muñecas, a small island with a pretty eerie past.
* Museo Nacional de Antropología – This museum has one of the most complete collections of its kind in the world, and in our opinion is the best in the country (let alone just Mexico City). With over 600,000 artefacts and rare findings, here you can learn about Mexico’s vivid and diverse past. The best things to see here include The Sun Stone, as well as the Statue of Xochipilli.
LDD input: Be sure to take time to explore the beautiful and massive Chapultepec Park where the museum is located.
Best Day Trips from Mexico City
Here we’ll take a look at our favorite day trips from Mexico City.
* Teotihuacán – The absolute must-visit when in Mexico City. These giant ruins are perhaps some of the most recognised throughout the world, appearing in many films and documentaries. Teotihuacán is home to many imposing pyramids and ancient buildings. The bus from Mexico City takes around 2 hours.
* Puebla City – Although a completely different city, Puebla lies just two hours to the east of Mexico City and is full of culture and gems. It sits at the foot of the towering Popocatépetl Volcano, with the best views in the close-by town of Cholula (along with its awesome pyramid which sits atop a hill). Other great things to see here include the Templo de Santo Domingo and the Museo Amparo.
Where to Eat in Mexico City
There’s an absolute tonne of different foods to try and places to eat in the capital. Botánico is one of the best for trying a range of authentic Mexican dishes; however, it can get busy here, so be sure to book well in advance. For those who love seafood, then Campobaja is where you’ll need to head.
If you’re feeling adventurous, we recommend walking around the downtown streets and being spontaneous. Here you’ll find many awesome street food stalls and restaurants, serving some of the tastiest dishes in the country.
LDD input: OMG, the food in Mexico City! Just eat everything!
Mexico City Nightlife
When it turns to dusk, Mexico City really comes alive. And with the city being as chaotic and hectic as it already is during the day, you can only imagine the raucous scenes at night.
The Centro Histórico is the best place to start the night, with many small bars and mezcalerías to choose from here, with our favourite being Bósforo. From here you can then head to Roma/Condesa, which has the most nightlife options, varying from Salsa Bars and European-style venues to bouncing clubs such as Mama Rumba.
Polanco is the most upscale district for partying, so expect higher prices here. Some of the best venues here include Janis and Republica.
What You Need to Know About Mexico City
The Best Time to Visit Mexico City
Mexico City has its own dry and wet seasons. Due to the altitude and its central location, temperatures here are a lot cooler when compared with destinations on the coast.
The dry season runs from November until April, with average temperatures ranging from 57-66°F. Highs can reach up to 79°F, with lows of down to 44°F. Rainfall is sparse during this period, with just 0-0.5 inches falling throughout each month. December is overall the driest month for a visit.
The wet season runs from May until October. Average daily temperatures here range from 62-67°F, with highs of up to 80°F and lows of down to 52°F. Rainfall jumps up somewhat from the dry season, with between 1.5-5 inches falling within each month (July is the wettest month of the year for a visit).
LDD input: We’ve been to the city in every season and really enjoyed October. The rainy season was at the end and the dust and pollution that comes later in the dry season were not yet set in.
Is Mexico City Expensive?
In general, Mexico City is pretty affordable. There are many different neighbourhoods and areas to choose from, so there really are options for all here. You can see our guide on neighbourhoods within this article for an idea of where is more expensive.
There are some times of the year that are more expensive than others, however. The Christmas period as well as Easter tend to be the busiest, so prices will rise during these times.
Best Mexico City Events and Festivals
Mexico City is the epicenter for authentic festivals and events within the country.
Independence Day, which is celebrated annually on the 16th of September, is arguably the biggest of all. All over the city, you’ll find parades and festivities, with local mariachi bands, street food vendors and parties all spilling out into the streets. The Mexicans take this event seriously, so you’ll see the majority dressed up in patriotic clothing, as well as even the President, shouting from atop his palace.
Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe is another massive festival, which has its roots in religion this time. Held every 12th December, you’ll see many parades, parties and fireworks in and around the Basilica of Guadalupe. As well as a great opportunity to try out a range of tasty Mexican foods, they also hold bullfighting contests here for those wanting something different.
Our Top Recommendations
- The overall best month to head to Mexico City is May. The hottest month of the year, it’s also right at the start of the rainy season, so there won’t be too many showers. It’s also off-peak, meaning prices will be cheaper than at other times of the year.
- While it can be daunting, we really do recommend trying out street food. If in doubt, go with a local food tour company that knows the safest spots, and can show you the very best, authentic dishes to try.
- If you have more time in Mexico City, you can head out to Grutas Tolantongo which is located in the rural state of Hidalgo. A place where you have stunning green pools that you can bathe in that are surrounded by giant desert mountains.
The sprawling capital of Mexico is full of authentic sites and experiences. While its size may deter some visitors, once you arrive, you’ll be scrambling to fit everything in before you have to leave.
In this guide, we’ve explored Mexico City, including the best areas to visit. We’ve covered important information such as how to get there, where to stay, what to do and how to stay safe. We’ve also included our top recommendations based on our own time spent here.
We hope you enjoy your time in Mexico City!
Author Bio: Dan and George are two seasoned travelers with extensive knowledge of Latin America who write no nonsense backpacking guides. You can read all about their Latin adventures on BLATAM.