Isn’t Mexico City dangerous? That’s a pretty common question about Mexican destinations outside tourist meccas like Cancun and Cozumel. Despite the bad press, many areas of Mexico are generally safe and we didn’t encounter any issues during our two week trip around central Mexico in March. If you’re thinking to travel to Mexico, read the US State Department’s website on areas of Mexico to avoid. They have no travel advisory issued for Mexico City, which speaks volumes as the US State Department issues warnings pretty liberally. So here’s just some of the reasons why you should visit Mexico City, as you need a book to list everything worthwhile!
Why You Should Visit Mexico City
With over 20 million people, Mexico City is the largest city in North America. You could easily run around the city for a week, and still not visit everything worthwhile. There was a lot that seriously impressed us about Mexico City and we were fortunate to have some friends to visit and who assisted with our 2 week itinerary in central Mexico. But we also explored Mexico City and nearby towns like beautiful Puebla on our own, without issue.
From world class high end restaurants to an incredible variety of fantastic street food, the city overflows with great eats. Mexico City’s street food scene consistently ranks among the world’s very best. It’s historic too, as when the Spanish first arrived in 1516, they were amazed at the amount of ready to eat foods being sold on the streets. A general rule of thumb with street food is to only patronize busy establishments. If the locals aren’t eating there, then neither should you.
For creative higher end eats, we highly recommend Restaurant Raiz in the upscale Polanco neighborhood. La Soldedera is great for a date night, especially combined with a trip to the top of the Revolution Monument (pictured above), offering awesome views of Mexico City. If you’re looking for a fancier street food experience, check out the enclosed stalls of the Mercado del Carmen in San Angel.
Some of the most popular dishes to eat around town are tacos al pastor, tortas de pierna and pozole. Tortillas are like bread in Mexico, and it’s typical to have them served with delicious salsas complimentary with your main. Ordering fresh guacamole as a starter is addictive.
National Museum of Anthropology
The National Museum of Anthropology is truly world class. There’s been thousands of years of rich civilizations in Mexico beyond just the Aztecs and Mayans. This museum has a massive collection of artefacts that will leave you seriously impressed. Be sure to also check out the impressive collection of 20 Salvadore Dali sculptures outside the museum that are on display until May 2018.
Chapultepec Park is a massive park in the center of Mexico City, bigger than Central Park in New York. It houses the Chapultepec Castle (Castillo de Chapultepec), the National Anthropology Museum and the Casa Blanca (The Mexican White House). This is a wonderful place to escape from the hustle and bustle of a massive city.
Zocolo: One of the World’s Biggest Squares
The Zocolo is the main square in Mexico City’s historic quarter. Along with Tiananmen Square in Beijing and Red Square in Moscow, it’s among the biggest squares in the world. You can easily spend a couple days sight seeing, eating and shopping in the historic quarter, which makes up just a fraction of worthwhile areas in Mexico City.
The Iconic Art of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were two of the most influential artists of the 20th century. They lived in Mexico City and their art is displayed in several museums around town. Diego is most famous for his impressive murals, some of which were in the impressionist style, others cubist, giving his work great depth. Frida was most famous for her self portraits, some of which depict the pain she suffered as a result of a near death bus accident in her late teens. You can visit the house where Frida grew up, the studio they worked in and there are other sites like the Museo Mural Diego Rivera (Diego Rivera Mural Museum). His mural there, Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central, is one of the most impressive pieces of art we’ve ever seen.
The Ancient Aztec Pyramids of Teotihuacan
The Aztec pyramids of Teotihuacan are a 1-2 hour drive outside Mexico City, depending on traffic. But a visit there is easily doable via a tour organized either online or at your hotel. You can also travel there via Uber or a private car that your hotel can organize. We don’t recommend hiring a taxi, if you go that route, just use Uber, which is a prevalent and safe way to travel in Mexico.
Teotihuacan was created between the 1st and 7th centuries AD and is known as “the place where the Gods were created.” A must here is to climb the massive Pyramid of the Sun, which offers an amazing view of the complex of pyramids and ruins, and a horizon that extends for many miles. Visit during the week if possible because the steps to climb are narrow for the amount of people it attracts. Teotihuacan is Mexico’s most visited archaeological site. We’ve previously visited the Mayan pyramids of Chacchoben, just outside Costa Maya, and while also impressive, the Pyramid of the Sun dwarfs them.
We highly recommend eating lunch at La Gruta, which is just a few miles from the pyramids of Teotihuacan. The cave is massive and it’s a very unique dining experience. There’s several levels of tables and we chose to sit higher up with an elevated view over the main dining area.
Where to Stay in Mexico City?
Polanco, Condesa and Roma are the best places to stay in Mexico City. While the historic center is great during the day, it can be a little seedy and noisy at night so it’s best to avoid staying there. Polanco is the fanciest neighborhood in the city and perfect for the most discerning travelers. Condesa and Roma are trendy neighborhoods popular with hipster tourists. All three are filled with an abundance of great restaurants, cafes and shops.
You’ll usually find the best prices on hotels using booking.com. Apartments with consistently good reviews can offer awesome value on Airbnb. If you’ve never used the service sign up through that link and you’ll get credit off your first stay!
Local expats recommend that visitors use Uber over taxis as it’s the cheapest and safest way to get around. Uber’s GPS tracking system means drivers are far less likely to take you where they aren’t supposed to. So we recommend signing up for Uber if you do not already have an account.
Be aware of your surroundings and know where you’re going. Don’t venture into random neighborhoods (good advice for any big city though). Some areas that are safe during the day, like the historic center, are considered unsafe at night.
If you use the metro (we didn’t), be especially mindful of pickpocketers. And as a tourist, it’s best to avoid the metro all together at night.
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