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The Ultimate Guide to Mexico City

Updated: Mar 10

Since recently discovering how wonderfully spectacular Mexico City is, I shared with you my favorite things about the city and why you should visit. Now, as promised, I’ve compiled my tips on how to get around and what to see.


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Centro Historico


In my opinion, the city is best explored by area, so let's start in the Zocalo. The Zocalo, literally meaning “foundation,” is a huge plaza signifying the historical center of the city. On its sides are government offices, including the National Palace, where government proceedings take place, and the gorgeous Catedral Metropolitana. Both are open to the public, for free. There is also a free (tip-based) walking tour that takes place every day starting in front of the cathedral led by Estacion Mexico. Yes, you can see all the places on your own, but I highly recommend the tour – it is incredibly informative and takes you to all the main spots in the Centro Historico, including the Palacio de Correo (Postal Palace), excavations of ruins under the city, and the Art Museum. I would spend a few days exploring this area. There are a number of hotels, as well as a budget-friendly hostel with the absolute best rooftop view of the cathedral and city skyline. But be warned: there are often protests (peaceful) and even large concerts in the Zocalo, and there WILL be noise.



Bonus: Bonus: Chino Barrio, or Chinatown, is next to the SEARS building. It's a small

little neighborhood, but worth a stroll. The Latin-American Tower is also nearby,

and offers a 360 degree view of the city.



Bosque de Chapultepec


A quick bus or taxi will get you to the Bosque de Chapultepec. The park is MASSIVE and includes a theme park, lakes, a castle, vendors galore, food stalls, monuments, multiple museums, and tons of green space. The park itself is free, but to get into the castle you'll need to buy a ticket for the Natural History Museum, which is located inside. You can easily spend a day exploring the castle grounds, museums, and strolling through the park.




Bonus: From the balcony of the castle, which sits on a hill, you can see the Angel of Independence down Avenida Reforma, which is actually only a short walk away if you want to see it up close.


 

Coyoacan


Coyoacan is a section of Mexico City that feels like its own little town. Meaning “coyote,” Coyoacan has its own central plaza, surrounded by restaurants, shops, and a beautiful cathedral. Come on a weekend and you'll find yourself surrounded by street performers, musicians, and food carts. I happened to go on a Sunday, with a friend who is a local. When I asked what was going on, he just said, “It's Sunday!”


Adjacent to the plaza is a huge market where you can buy handmade items from local artisans, like colorful woven fabrics and beautifully painted clay bowls or mugs. Walk a few more blocks and you're at Frida Kahlo's “Blue House.” She lived here for several years with her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, and her work and life story are displayed throughout the house and courtyard.



Must-dos


Some things are not organized into neighborhoods, but are just experienced. Art, for example. Mexico City's street art is unlike any I've seen around the world. The entire city is covered in huge vibrant murals, and I don't mean graffiti. I mean extremely talented artists who are commissioned to make these gorgeous masterpieces. The city is the art. And the best way to see it is to just happen upon it.


While you're strolling the streets on your art hunt, you'll no doubt come across countless food carts. TRY. ALL. THE. FOOD. Food is culture! It always amazes me that travelers often skip these gems. Street food is going to be the most authentic - not to mention economical - food you will find, and I couldn't dream of exploring a new place without it! Most commonly you'll find tacos and tortas (sandwiches), but you can also find burritos, churros, quesadillas, crepes, tlayudas, chile rellenos, and boiled corn prepared with mayo, hot sauce, and parmesan cheese.


Markets are another good place to experience new food. You will likely see fruits and vegetables you've never seen before, and you'll often be offered a taste if you're interested. There's also a section of the market for restaurants, which can range from authentic Mexican to international cuisine to exotic meats (Mercado de Carnes Exoticas). The exotic meat market is very interesting, but I'd also recommend Mercado Merced for variety (and size!) or the market in Coyoacan for artisanal goods. However, there are several markets big and small sprinkled all over the city.


Bonus: If you're interested in seeing an authentic and entertaining sporting event, go see a Lucha Libre show! It wasn't something I wanted to do alone, so I went with the same group that did the free walking tour. They took us to a pulqueria before the match, where we tasted different kinds of pulque (a kind of bootleg liquor), listened to a live band, and did a little salsa dancing. Afterwards, we went to the arena, where we were given wrestling masks, and learned some not-so-nice Spanish phrases to yell at the “baddies” who we were rooting against. It was definitely a fun way to spend the evening if you happen to have a free night during your stay.



Getting Around


Getting around Mexico City is really simple. You can download an app to help you with the subway and Metrobus, both of which are safe, convenient, and cheap. You can also call an Uber, or a similar local service called Didi. I used Uber a few times, but I have to say my experience was not always amazing. Traffic can be rough in the city and on two separate occasions my Uber never showed up. The easier option is to just flag down one of the many official CDMX taxis, colored brightly in pink and white. They will have a meter, and there's no need to negotiate a fare. Another option to get around town is a bike (or scooter!). Find an “ecobici” station, put in your credit card, and off you go. When you're done, you just leave the bicycle where it is. Lastly, your final option for transport is the Turibus. This is a hop-on/hop-off style tour bus with Wi-Fi and an open top deck. This is not economical for everyday use, but I'd definitely recommend buying a day pass on a sunny day and just ride around the city. The cost (around 8 dollars) includes three separate circuits that you can switch to, and stops at pretty much any point you need to go to in the city.



Day Trips From Mexico City


If you can manage time for a day trip, there are a few places close by that are definitely worth a visit. Many groups arrange tours to Puebla, or the ancient city of Teotihuacan, both about an hour away.


You can check out tours for these two spots here:





I also highly recommend going away for the weekend to Taxco, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende, or Guanajuato.


Bonus: Tolantongo is more of a 2-day trip – and much more difficult to get to – but completely worth it. Hidden in the mountains is a massive grotto, waterfalls, and a thermal river with baby blue water. It's absolutely breathtaking and not many people know about it yet. I went on my own, and it's quite complicated so I'd definitely recommend taking a tour: Tolantongo Day Trip from Mexico City.




It took about a month to see all of these amazing sights, so you'll have to pick and choose what fits into your trip, but hopefully this guide will help you organize your days a little.


Have you been to Mexico City? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments!



Want more Mexico content? Find that and more on my YouTube channel: Janette Allen Travel



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