A lot of the time, people will tell you to just skip Central American capital cities. They have a bad reputation for being dangerous, with not that much to do.
This couldn’t be more wrong when it comes to Mexico City. There’s a massive preconception that surrounds Mexico’s capital. If you have a negative preconceived idea about Mexico City then scrap it and put it straight in the bin!
Mexico City is a stunning city filled with some of the best street food in the world, more than 150 museums to explore and lush green parks nestled within the busy city.
If you’re visiting Mexico soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants and how to get around this bustling city in Mexico.
Also, check out our list of the best activities in Mexico City!
Is Mexico City worth visiting?
Most people who visit the capital city are pleasantly surprised with just how magnificent it is. And they usually leave with a new addiction: to Mexican street food, particularly the tacos Al Pastor tacos which can be found on almost every street.
You can spend days on end wandering around and admiring the city’s incredible architecture. Being one of the biggest cities in the world, Mexico City has become an enthralling mishmash of different architectural styles and cultures. Some parts will have you convinced that you’ve got lost and ventured into Italy or even London.
We could paint the perfect picture of Mexico City, but like all capital cities around the world, it also has some rougher places to avoid. As long as you stick to the popular tourist areas of the city, you will have the best time in Mexico City. Areas like the Historic Centre, La Roma and La Condesa are totally safe to explore, just to name a few.
How long should you spend in Mexico City?
The cheap flights from Mexico City’s international airport mean that the city is a popular transiting hub. But it deserves much more of your time than just skimming through.
With so much on offer, you can easily spend a week in Mexico City and have still not explored everything you wanted to. The museums alone can keep you busy for weeks. We recommend a minimum of five days in Mexico City to really get to know the city and inevitably fall in love with it. The street tacos will also make you never want to leave!
To help you plan your stay, check out our list of Top Things to Do in Mexico City.
Where to stay in Mexico City
With 350 neighbourhoods to choose from in Mexico City, picking where to stay can be quite overwhelming. Within these neighbourhoods, there are ones that you’ll fall in love with and others that you definitely wouldn’t want to stay in!
To avoid staying in the wrong area, see our top 3 places to stay in Mexico City:
Location #1: Historic Centre — surround yourself with history, culture and architecture
If you want to be in the heart of the city, the Historic Centre is where you’ll want to base yourself. It’s where the Spanish colonial city first took shape and since then the city has rapidly expanded. This area is centred around the Zocalo, the central plaza of the town.
All around the plaza, you’ll find stunning historic buildings, such as Mexico City Cathedral and the National Palace. These buildings have a gorgeous golden shine to them, especially during sunset.
In contrast to the history and culture of this area, not too far away you’ll also find the shopping street. Here, you’ll find plenty of shops to satisfy your shopping spree cravings.
There’s an abundance of hotels, Airbnbs and hostels to choose from in this area, many of which are housed within beautifully-designed buildings overflowing with history.
Prices for a private room start at around $20.
Location #2: La Roma and Condesa — trendy tree-lined streets and hipster coffee shops
Both areas have a trendy and bohemian vibe: think sidewalk cafes, little boutiques, and international bistros that line the streets. La Roma especially will make you feel like you’ve accidentally been transported to Europe. The architecture is similar to that found in southern Europe, with well-maintained art nouveau buildings and intricate balconies overlooking the tree-lined streets.
There are plenty of shops, restaurants, art galleries and bars to explore in these areas. You’ll also find a mix of the older and younger generations, giving the areas an interesting character.
There are plenty of stylish hotels and Airbnbs to be found in these areas, starting from $15 per night.
Location #3: Polanco — the high-end and exclusive area of Mexico City
If you’re looking for a sleek and posh area, where high-end restaurants, bars and shops are situated, then Polanco is your place to stay.
This area allows you to see a side of Mexico that most people don’t expect: gated properties, luxury villas and chauffeurs driving their clients around in expensive cars.
Polanco is also where you’ll find a lot of the city’s museums, such as the Jumex Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Soumaya, to name a few. Staying here could save you travel time and money if museum hopping is what you’re after.
There are many luxury hotels, including big-name chains such as the W. This doesn’t mean you can’t stay here if you’re on a budget. You can still find prices similar to the other areas, starting at $15 per night.
Best places to eat in Mexico City
Mexico City has one of the best food scenes in the world! The city has perfected both cheap street food and fine dining, so whatever you’re craving, you’ll find it.
A taco tour is one of the best ways to kick off your visit. Just wander around the streets, stopping at any taco shop or stall that takes your fancy. An added bonus, you’re basically burning off the calories you’re eating!
Top tip: Make sure to check out the taco tour included in our Top Things to Do in Mexico City
It was a struggle to narrow down the best places to eat in Mexico City, as there are just so many, but here are our favourite three:
El Huequito — delicious and juicy tacos Al Pastor
The tacos at El Huequito are undoubtedly a 9/10. We don’t think the perfect 10/10 taco actually exists, so this is probably as close as you can get to perfection.
The Al Pastor meat oozes with juice. There’s the perfect ratio of onions to coriander and the accompanying sauces are incredible. You can even get a pile of Al Pastor pork and build your own tacos. It’s a huge portion, but they’re so good you’ll refuse to not finish them.
The guacamole here is also not something to miss out on, it can take your taco to a whole new level!
Secret recommendation: A close second when it came to tacos was a small stall parked outside a sex store. Hear us out. It’s not actually part of the sex shop; it just happens to be poorly positioned. These tacos are super cheap and tasty!
Churrería El Moro — the best churros in the whole of Mexico City
El Moro has become famous for its delicious churros, which is proven by the fact that there are always queues streaming from the front store. Don’t worry about the wait, though, it goes fast and you can watch how the churros are made through the storefront window.
Just the process of making the churros on such a mass scale alone is impressive, but wait till you taste them. You can opt for traditional churros, vanilla, chocolate and even red velvet!
This is a perfect stop for a snack or dessert at the end of the evening.
Top tip: Churrería El Moro has several locations in Mexico City but the original shop is in the Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 42, Centro Historico.
Pujol — a tasting menu for a taste of Mexico
Pujol was named by the Wall Street Journal as the best restaurant in Mexico City. The 3000-plus reviews on Google seem to also agree.
Every element of the tasting menu has been thought through down to the very last detail. The food is complex with flavours and so beautifully presented that you almost don’t want to eat it. The taco-tasting menu is a favourite, allowing you to sample a variety of sophisticated tacos and other traditional dishes such as mole.
The tasting menus are at the higher end of the price scale, but completely worth it as the meal is more than just the food, it’s an experience.
El Pescadito — fish and shrimp tacos to die for
If all the al pastor and carnitas tacos have been a bit too much meat for you, head to El Pescadito (which translates to ‘little fish’). They serve only prawn and fish tacos (including tuna and marlin). Pick your fish and then load it up at the toppings bar with all kinds of salads and salsas. The restaurant itself is nothing fancy but it’s located on a lovely tree-lined street in Condesa. Come on the weekend and the place will be buzzing with locals.
Taquería Orinoco — hipster taqueria for late night munchies
With a few different locations, including in the city’s coolest neighbourhoods, Taqueria Orinoco is a hipster re-imagining of the classic taco eatery. Order a gringa and potatoes (roast potatoes in Mexico?! You’ll thank me later), and an obligatory agua fresca. This place is good at all times of day but it’s particularly popular as a post-night-out spot — it’s open until 6 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Hamburguesas a la Parrilla — Mexican hamburgers
You probably don’t associate Mexico with hamburgers (I know I didn’t) but Hamburguesas a la Parrilla in Roma will have you dreaming about their burgers long after the trip is over. It’s a humble street food stand but the meat is juicy and the flavours are on point. Get the crowd favourite: pineapple and cheeseburger.
How to get around Mexico City
Mexico City is the 12th largest city in the world. So it’s pretty big. You probably won’t want to explore all areas of the city, but the popular places to visit can still be some distance away from each other.
This isn’t a problem, though, because Mexico City has a relatively efficient metro system. Alternatively, an Uber ride to most places will also only cost you a few US dollars.
Once you arrive in the neighbourhood you want to explore, walking becomes your best form of transport. That way you can make any tour of an area into a food tour!
To help you to get around this bustling city, we’ve put together some detailed information on the best ways to get around Mexico City:
Getting around Mexico City by foot will only get you so far. It’s a huge city with over 350 neighbourhoods.
Once you get to a neighbourhood or area that you want to explore, it’s easy to walk around the city’s streets, but usually getting between these neighbourhoods is too far to walk.
By taxi (Uber)
One of the first pieces of advice that you’ll be given when you arrive in Mexico City is not to use the local taxi service, stick to Uber. There have been a number of incidents with both tourists and locals when it comes to using the local taxis so it’s not worth taking the risk.
Uber is also super cheap in Mexico City, safer and just all-around more efficient as you can hail a ride from your phone, from anywhere.
One place to definitely use an Uber is when you arrive at either the bus station or the airport. The local taxis charge extortionate fees whereas an Uber from the bus station or airport to the Historic Centre costs around 50 MXN ($2.90) and 150 MXN ($8.80) respectively.
Mexico City’s metro can be a fast and cheap way to get around the large city. The metro system has twelve lines connecting the huge city together.
No matter where you’re going within the city, tickets cost just 5 MXN ($0.30). All you have to do is go up to one of the ticket counters, buy your ticket and then pop it into one of the turnstiles.
To make it even simpler, the maps within the stations are really easy to use and Google Maps can plan out your whole route for you.
Metros can get busy
The only downside is that each of the trains usually has nine cars. This is nowhere near enough during the rush hour, between 16:00 and 19:00 on weekdays. During this time, the metro gets really busy. We’re talking sardine kind of conditions, and cooked sardines during the summer as it can get pretty hot down there.
We’d recommend taking the bus or a taxi during these times, or if you do choose to still use the metro, make sure to keep an eye on your bags and pockets.
If you’re a woman or a child, you’re slightly more fortunate as they have separate cars for you, which are slightly less crowded.
From Monday to Friday, the metro runs from 05:00 to midnight. On Saturdays, it’s from 06:00 to midnight and on Sundays, from 07:00 to midnight.
Mexico City has two types of buses: the normal local bus and a newer Metrobus. The Metrobus is the most efficient option as it has its own lane across the city, meaning that it can avoid frequent traffic jams.
There are a number of bus stops scattered around the city, so you’ll never be too far away from one. The bus stops themselves offer information on the routes available, or alternatively, you can just use Google Maps to plan your route for you.
A ticket for the local bus will cost you 6 MXN ($0.40), whilst the Metrobus costs 5 MXN ($0.30). However, to board the Metrobus you can’t use cash. Instead, you have to buy a smartcard from one of the metro stations for 15 MXN ($0.90), which you can then load money onto.
How to get to Mexico City
|from 655 MXN ($38)
|Acapulco to Mexico City
|from 810 MXN ($47)
|Cancun to Mexico City
|from 785 MXN ($46)
|Guadalajara to Mexico City
|from 5 MXN ($0.30)
|Mexico City Airport
|2hrs 10m-7.5 hours
|from 560 MXN ($33)
|Oaxaca to Mexico City
|from 330 MXN ($19.30)
|Puebla to Mexico City
|2hrs – 20hrs 45m
|from 775 MXN ($45)
|Puerto Escondido to Mexico City
|San Miguel de Allende
|from 455 MXN ($27)
|San Miguel de Allende to Mexico City
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you’re almost ready for your adventure in Mexico City. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Mexico City. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories in Mexico City.
Casa Emilia - Treating Yourself
Staying at Casa Emilia will make you feel like you’re staying in a cosy jungle retreat, rather than in a massive metropolitan city. All of the spaces around the hotel are designed for ultimate comfort and luxury, which it certainly achieves. You can relax on the terrace, in access hall or in the hotel’s sunroom.
Two of our favourite experiences at the hotel are the delicious breakfast and the huge, comfy beds offering a great night’s sleep. If you’re looking to treat yourself, this is the place to do it.
- Incredible breakfast
- Cosy jungle design
- Bike rental available
- Excellent location
Double rooms start from $80 per night
Casa Pancha - Treating Yourself
Located in the neighbourhood of Condesa, Casa Pancha mirrors the atmosphere of the area. The hotel’s culture is certainly one of its selling points, offering simplicity, originality, community and connection.
With a mixture of dorms and private rooms, it’s an easy place to meet people whilst maintaining privacy. The hotel is bright and natural throughout, with both a backyard and a balcony area to relax in. The staff are super friendly here and their love for the hotel quickly spreads through the space.
- Dorms and private rooms available
- Private garden and balcony
- Amazing staff
- Perfect location
Double rooms start from $80 per night
Stanza Hotel - Mid Range
If there’s any neighbourhood that you want to stay in Mexico City, La Roma should definitely be up there. And that’s where Stanza Hotel is located. It puts you close to the tree-lined streets that are brimming with hip cafes and bars.
The hotel rooms are clean and modern, offering everything that you could ask for. The beds are also huge and super comfy. If you don’t fancy leaving the hotel one night for dinner, the onsite restaurant serves delicious Mediterranean-Mexican fusion food.
- Great location
- Clean and modern rooms
- Onsite Mediterranean-Mexican fusion restaurant
- Helpful, English-speaking staff
Double rooms between $40-$80 per night
Casa Indigo - Budget Friendly
This place gets booked out fast (we’re talking months in advance)! The location is perfect and it’s super affordable. Casa Indigo is close to the historic centre, plus the rooms are clean and beautifully decorated.
The host, Salvador, will make your stay unforgettable with his friendliness and warm welcome. On top of all of that, you can enjoy a large roof terrace offering stunning views over Mexico City.
- Great location
- Huge roof terrace
- Friendly host
- Fully equipped kitchen
Double rooms between $15-$40 per night
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