A lot of the time, people will tell you to just skip Central American capital cities. They have a reputation of 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, 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.
Most people’s reactions after visiting the capital city is how surprised they were and just how magnificent it is. Their second reaction will be a new addiction to Mexican street food, particularly Al Pastor Tacos that can be found on almost every street.
How to spend your days in Mexico City
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 mish-mash of different architecture and culture. 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 of course like all capital cities around the world there are 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 to name a few.
How long should you spend in Mexico City?
The cheap flights from Mexico City’s international airport means that the city is a popular transiting hub. It deserves much more of your time 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’d recommend a minimum of 5 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!
With 350 neighbourhoods to choose from in Mexico City, picking where to stay can be quite overwhelming. Within these neighbourhoods there’s 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, most 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
Although technically two neighbourhoods, La Roma and Condesa are situated right next to each other and have a very similar vibe. This means that no matter which one you end up in, your experience won’t be that different.
Both areas boast a trendy and bohemian vibe that pours from the coffee shops and hipster cafés that line the streets. La Roma especially will make you feel like you’ve wandered into Europe.
The architecture is very similar to that found in southern Europe, emphasised by the intricate balconies overlooking the tree lined streets.
There’s plenty of boutiques, restaurants, art galleries and bars to explore in these areas. You’ll also find a mixture of the older and younger generation, giving the areas an interesting blend.
There are plenty of sleek and 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 the 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. There’s gated properties and luxury homes.
The hotels in Polanco are luxury and where a lot of the big name hotels such as the W are. 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.
Staying at Casa Emilia will make you feel like you’re staying in a cozy 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 definitely achieves. You can relax in either the terrace, access hall or in the hotel’s sun room.
The luxury doesn’t stop at just the interior, the service the staff provide is top-notch. They’re more than happy to help with anything.
Two of the most raved about experiences at the hotel are both the delicious breakfast and huge, comfy beds offering a great night's sleep. If you’re looking to treat yourself, this is the place to do it.
Located in the neighbourhood of Condesa, Casa Pancha mirrors the atmosphere of the area it sits in. The hotel's culture is certainly one of it’s 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 balcony area to relax in. Once you step inside the clean and fresh hotel, you’ll forget all about the hustle and bustle of Mexico City. The staff are super friendly here and their love for the hotel quickly spreads through the space.
If there’s any neighbourhood that you want to stay in Mexico City, La Roma is definitely 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.
Mexico City arguably has one of the best food scenes in the world! It’s 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 get to know the city! Just wander around the streets of Mexico City, stopping at any taco shop or stall that takes your fancy. An added bonus, you’re basically burning off the calories you’re eating!
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 3:
El Huequito – delicious and juicy Al Pastor tacos
The Al Pastor tacos at El Huequito are undoubtedly a 9 out of 10. We don’t think the perfect 10 out of 10 taco actually exists, so this is probably as close as you can get.
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 meat and build your own tacos. It’s a huge portion, but they’re so good you’ll refuse to not finish them.
Their guacamole is also not something to miss out on and can take your taco to a whole new level!
Secret recommendation: Another close second when it came to tacos was a small stall outside a sex store. Hear us out. It’s not actually part of the sex shop, it just happens to be poorly positioned outside. 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 queues though, it goes fast and you can watch how the churros are made through the storefront window.
Just the process alone of making the churros on such a mass scale 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.
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 mouthful of the tasting menus have 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.
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 as Mexico City has a relatively efficient Metro system, or an Uber ride to most places will only cost you a few 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 that 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 taxi from your phone, from anywhere.
One place to definitely use a taxi is when you arrive at either the bus station or airport. The local taxi’s charge extortionate fees whereas an Uber from the bus station or airport to the Historic Centre costs around 50 MXN ($2.45) and 150 MXN ($7) 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 ($0.20). All you have to do is go up to one of the ticket counters, purchase 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 rush hour, between 4 and 7pm on weekdays. During this time the Metro gets 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, making them slightly less crowded.
Monday to Friday the Metro runs from 5am to midnight, on Saturdays 6am to midnight and Sundays 7am 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 ($0.25), whilst the Metrobus costs 5 MXN ($0.20). However, to board the Metrobus you can’t use cash. Instead you have to purchase a smartcard from one of the metro stations for 15 MXN ($0.70), which you can then load money on to.