Mexico City

Mexico

Overview

Mexico City (officially known as México, D. F., or simply D. F.) is the federal district (distrito federal), capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the union. It is located in the Valley of Mexico (Valle de México), a large valley in the high plateaus at the center of Mexico. Mexico’s capital is both the oldest capital city in the Americas and one of two founded by Amerindians (Native Americans). One of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, with 16 boroughs and more than 300 neighborhoods, it might seem a bit overwhelming to the first-time visitor, though it doesn’t have to be. A visit to Mexico City will not only let you experience one of the most vibrant and culturally rich cities in the world but also can serve as your starting point for exploring Latin America.

Events

Things to do in Mexico City!

Hotels

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Guide

Neighborhood


The city is officially divided into 16 delegaciones (boroughs) which are further subdivided into more than 1,700 colonias (neighborhoods). However, it is easier to think of the city in terms of districts to facilitate getting familiar with the city. Some of its neighbourhoods are:

Colonia Centro

  • Colonia Centro is the heart of Mexico City with El Zócalo, the capital's historic central square. This district is also the business and banking hub and includes the areas in and around La Alameda park.
  • Centro Histórico, the concentrated historical center within Colonia Centro - has historic landmarks, important public buildings, the partially unearthed Aztec ruins of the Great Temple, and numerous museums. Centro Histórico was where the Aztecs founded their capital Tenochtitlan in 1325.
  • At the center of Centro Histórico is the vast Plaza de la Constitución, otherwise known as El Zócalo.
  • Experience the grandiose Catedral Metropolitana before heading to the Templo Mayor, a large Aztec temple complex discovered in the 1970s.
  • The Torre Latino Americana at a height of 183m, west of the Zócalo, offers a bird’s eye view of the urban sprawl from its 44th floor.

 

Coyoacán

  • East of San Angel and north of the Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán (Koh-yoh-ah-kahn) is known for its cobblestone streets and Franciscan churches.
  • The southern neighborhood of Coyoacán is home to Frida Kahlo’s La Casa Azul (the Blue House). Visit La Casa Azul to see where the renowned artist lived her formative years.
  • Nearby is the Museo Casa de León Trotsky. This walled compound is where Leon Trotsky lived during his exile.
  • To experience old aristocratic homes, walk the main artery into Coyoacán from San Angel, Francisco Sosa, which is a beautiful cobblestone street surrounded by history.

 

San Ángel

  • San Angel is a beautiful neighborhood with cobblestone streets and Colonial-Era homes and several museums.
  • San Angel's Plaza de San Jacinto is known for the renowned Bazar del Sábado (Saturday Bazaar) which is held in a historic building.
  • Bazar del Sábado is one of the town's best craft markets, with artistic and antique treasures.

 

Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park)

  • The largest green area in Mexico City, Bosque de Chapultepec traces its roots to the 15th century when it was dedicated as a park by the Aztec ruler Nezahualcóyotl.  
  • Chapultepec Park has museums, amusement parks, monuments, a zoo, boating lake and more.
  • Head to the Chapultepec Castle, a history museum which was once the official residence for Mexican heads of state.

 

Polanco

  • Together with Chapultepec Park, this is Mexico City's most exclusive address.
  • Polanco's version of the Champs-Elysées, Campos Eliseos, has some of the city's best high-rise hotels.

 

Condesa & La Roma

  • Condesa & La Roma, the coolest neighbourhoods in the Federal District, are known for its Art Deco houses, award-winning restaurants and late-night mezcalerías. These side-by-side bohemian neighborhoods boast of some of the city's hippest cafes and bars, with restaurants having nouvelle cuisine to offbeat shops, art galleries, and nightclubs.

 

Santa Fe

  • This is Mexico City's newest and most modern neighborhood.
  • It houses the Iberro Americana University, high-tech and multinational companies, banks, and a large shopping complex.
  • Santa Fe is similar to a modern American neighborhood, more than any other neighbourhood in Mexico City.

 

Zona Rosa

  • West of the Centro, the "Pink Zone" or Zona Rosa was once the city's most exclusive residential neighborhood.
  • It now offers an array of moderate hotels, antiques and silver shops, casual restaurants, gay bars, and kitsch nightlife venues.

 

Xochilmilco

  • South of the town center, Xochimilco (Soh-chee-meel-coh) is noted for its famed canals and Floating Gardens, which have existed here since the time of the Aztec.
  • Originally a lake with an extensive canal system and causeway to Tenochtitlan, Xochimilco is today most famous for its trajineras, brightly painted gondola-like boats, and for artificial islands called chinampas. 

 

Teotihuacan

  • Located 50 Km northeast of Mexico City is the incredible Teotihuacan, meaning 'the place where the gods were created'.
  • It seems that construction began around 100 BC, more than 1000 years before the arrival of the Aztecs in central Mexico. Built by hand, the size of the monuments is mind-boggling. Particularly impressive are the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Moon and the Sun

Getting around


General info

  • The Mexico City International Airport , called the Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México (AICM) in Spanish and Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez officially is about 8.1 Km from the Centro Histórico.
  • You can use the following services to reach the city:
    • Metro: 
      • The subway station closest to the airport is Terminal Aérea Station, Line 5. It is a short walk from AICM Terminal 1.
      • Tickets cost MXN 3.00 each, and you can buy a reusable smart card at any of the network’s 195 stations. Cards cost MXN 10.00 and the minimum recharge is MXN 3.00. Seniors over 60 years and people with disabilities can ride for free.
    • Shuttle: 
      • A shuttle service provides transportation to and from hotels. The boarding are in Terminal 1 is located at entrance 4. 
      • If you arrived at Terminal 2, you can request a hotel shuttle at the service counters of the hotels on the ground floor.
    • Metrobus:
      • Take the Metrobus Line 4 heading towards the center of Mexico City. You can board Line 4 of the Metrobus at entrance 7 in Terminal 1 and entrance 2 in Terminal 2.
    • Taxi:
      • Authorized taxis offer comfortable and safe service from the Airport to your destination. These are the only taxis authorized by the Communications and Transport Authority. Any other service there is illegal.
      • Taxi services are located at the international and domestic entrances at Terminals 1 and 2.
      • In both cases, taxi tickets are sold at the modules located near the arrival gates and in the walkway area.  Rates are posted in a visible place and are authorized by the Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT).
      • Taxi agencies at the Mexico City International Airport include:
    • Car Rental:
      • The AICM has concessionaires that offer car rental services. Rental agencies are located at the national and international walkway of Terminal 1 and at the international arrivals area near the banks of Terminal 2.
      • Car rental agencies at the Mexico City International Airport include:
        • Avis: (52) 555-762-3262
        • Alamo: +5257868099
        • Europcar: 52 (55) 57868264 /+52 (55) 57868264
        • Hertz: 01-800-709-5000/ 52-553-020-0014
        • Sixt: +52-55-25991221
        • Budget: 52-55-57-843011
        • Thrifty: 52 55 57850506

Bus

  • The Metro de la Ciudad de México coordinates the operation of the Metrobus service.
  • The Federal District Card (TDF) provides access to  the 195 Metro stations also Metrobus and Light Rail. Cards cost MXN 10.00 and the minimum recharge is MXN 3.00. 
  • The MetroBus card for travel on Metro Bus costs MXN 16.00.
  • Refer here for the schedules.
  • Refer here for fare information. 

Metro

  • The Metro de la Ciudad de México coordinates the operation of the train service.
  • The Federal District Card (TDF) provides access to  the 195 Metro stations also Metrobus and Light Rail. Cards cost MXN 10.00 and the minimum recharge is MXN 3.00. 
  • Refer here for the schedules.
  • Refer here for fare information. 

Taxi

  • Taxis are available at bus stations, airport, city centre.
  • As of March 2015, the minimum taxi fare is MXN 10.00 and increases by MXN 5.20 per Km.
  • Taxi agencies with their contact numbers:
  • You can refer to the www.taxiautofare.com website for taxi fares in the city.

Tipping


Tipping is expected in Mexico and the etiquette is similar to the United States and Canada.

  • Restaurants: At restaurants, tipping between 10% and 15% is expected for good service. It’s best to tip in cash, in the country’s currency. If the service is good, tip around 15%, or around 20% if the service is exceptional. Tip less if the service isn't up to standard. Some restaurants add a service charge (propina), around 10%. You do not need to tip more if this is added to your bill.
  • Bars: At a bar in Mexico tip between MXN 10.00 and 20.00 per drink at the bar. If you run a tab, you can tip at the end, as a percentage of the total bill, in which case tip around 15%.
  • Taxis: In Mexico tipping your taxi driver is not necessary. However if the taxi driver provides extra service, such as helping you with luggage, tipping is appreciated. You can round up the bill.
  • Hotel Porters/Concierge: You are expected to tip your porter anywhere between MXN 10.00 and 20.00 per bag. You should also tip your housekeeper, the norm is between MXN 20.00 and 50.00 per night. Leave the money on the bed or side table, preferably in an envelope. If your concierge offers you good service, tip between MXN 50.00 and 150.00.

Staying connected


  • Mexico uses GSM 850/1900 frequency bands. The phone must be “unlocked” to accept the Mexico SIM card. Many American cell phones will work in Mexico, depending on your location.
  • You can buy the SIM card at airport, online, super markets, etc.
  • Recharging (adding money to your prepaid account) is simple. Find a shop with a big “Recarga” sign out front. All supermarkets and Oxxo’s will be able to recharge.
  • The following are service providers in Mexico for Prepaid SIM cards and Other Pay As You Go Options:

Eat / Drink


Local

  • Mexican cuisine is a fusion of indigenous Mesoamerican cooking along with European, mostly Spanish, elements added.
  • For thousands of years, corn has been the basis of the Mexican diet. Corn is part of almost every meal, usually in the form of the tortilla (flatbread). Corn can also be boiled to produce pozole, a hearty corn stew.
  • Popular fruits and vegetables are tomatoes, tomatillos (green tomatoes), squash, sweet potato, avocado, mango, pineapple, papaya, and nopales (from the prickly pear cactus).
  • Chicken and pork are more common than beef.
  • Chilies give Mexican cooking a distinctive flavor, which is often enhanced with herbs, such as cilantro and thyme, and spices, including cumin, cinnamon, and cloves. The variety of chilies includes jalapeño, poblano, serrano and chipotle.
  • Popular Mexican dishes include:
    • Chilaquiles - Chilaquiles are lightly fried corn tortillas cut into quarters and topped with green or red salsa. Scrambled or fried eggs and pulled chicken are usually added on top, as well as cheese and cream.
    • Frijoles (Beans) or Frijoles Refritos (Refried Beans).
    • Pozole - Pozole is a stew made from hominy corn with plenty of herbs and spices, the dish is cooked for hours, often overnight. Once ready to serve, lettuce, radish, onion, lime and chilli are sprinkled on top.
    • Tacos al pastor - One of the most popular varieties of tacos, with origins dating back to the 1920s and 30s, tacos al pastor (meaning ‘in the style of the shepherd’), are corn tortillas with thin strips of pork, served with onions, coriander leaves and pineapple.
    • Tostadas - Literally meaning toasted, tostadas are corn tortillas fried in boiling oil until they become crunchy and golden. These are then served alone or piled high with any number of garnishes. Popular toppings include frijoles (refried beans), cheese, cooked meat, seafood and ceviche.
    • Chiles en nogada - Chiles en nogada is one of Mexico’s most patriotic dishes with its three colours of the Mexican flag. Poblano chillies filled with picadillo (a mixture of chopped meat, fruits and spices) represent the green on the flag, the walnut-based cream sauce is the white and pomegranate seeds the red.
    • Elote - Elote, the Mexican name for corn on the cob, is traditionally boiled and served either on a stick or in cups. Salt, chilli powder, lime, butter, cheese mayonnaise and sour cream are then added in abundance.
    • Enchiladas - Enchiladas are tortillas stuffed with meat, cheese, seafood, beans, vegetables or all of the above. The stuffed tortillas are then covered in a chilli sauce making for a perfect Mexican breakfast.
    • Mole - There are myriad types of mole (pronounced ‘mol-eh’), a rich sauce popular in Mexican cooking, but all contain one or more varieties of chilli peppers, and all require constant stirring over a long period of time. Perhaps the best-known mole is mole poblano, a rusty red sauce typically served over turkey or chicken.
    • Guacamole - Guacamole is undoubtedly one of Mexico’s most popular dishes. Guacamole is made from mashed up avocadoes, onions, tomatoes, lemon juice and chilli peppers (and sometimes a clove or two of garlic), and is often eaten with tortilla chips or used as a side dish.
    • Tamales - Pockets of corn dough are stuffed with either a sweet or savoury filling which vary from meats and cheeses to fruits, vegetables, chillies and mole, wrapped in banana leaves or cornhusks and steamed.
  • Some notable restaurants serving the local specialties include:

Gourmet

  • Biko
    • Cuisine: Mexican Nouvelle Cuisine
    • Awards: San Pellegrino World’s Best list, World's 50 Best List 2011, Gayot’s Top 10 Mexico City Best Restaurants.

 

  • Pujol
    • Cuisine: Mexican Nouvelle Cuisine
    • Awards: Wall Street Journal - Best in Mexico City, San Pellegrino World’s Best list.

 

  • Jaso
    • Cuisine: American Cuisine
    • Awards: Best Dessert in Mexico award at Travel + Leisure’s Gourmet Awards.

 

  • Bakea
    • Cuisine: Basque-French Cuisine
    • Awards: Best restaurant in Mexico by Travel + Leisure Magazine.

 

  • Quintonil
    • Cuisine: Mexican Cuisine
    • Awards : San Pellegrino Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Vegetarian

 

 

  • Gente Sana
    • Cuisine: Vegan-friendly, Lacto, Ovo, Indian, Mexican, Juice bar
    • Review: HappyCow

Drink

  • There are four principal spirits made in Mexico that are distilled from agave — tequila, mezcal, sotol and bacanora.
  • Popular Mexican cocktails include Margarita, Paloma, Piña Colada, Chimayo Cocktail, Sangrita, and Michelada (a Mexican beer cocktail including lime juice and hot chile sauce). Tequila Fuego Shooters are super spicy-hot shooters made with the Mexican staple, tequila.
  • Popular breweries in Mexico City include:
  • Mexico City has a thriving night life. Some of the popular bars, clubs and dives in the city include:

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Banner image credits: Lucy Nieto