Don’t travel to Mexico City for peace and serenity; you won’t find it. A trip to the nation’s capital will, instead, captivate you with fast-paced urban life. The city is the Mexico’s center for art, commerce and culture. World-class museums, expansive markets and renowned restaurants are all at your doorstep.
Mexico City has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. It’s home to the Mexican Stock Exchange and the headquarters of the country’s largest banks, as well as the Latin American headquarters of international financial services companies. Main industries include iron, steel, textiles and furniture.
Getting to and from the airport
Benito Juárez International Airport is located 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) east of downtown Mexico City. Taxi stands can be found at the international and domestic entrances at Terminals 1 and 2. For your safety, only take taxis authorized by the airport. A list can be found on the airport’s website. The metro station closest to the airport is Terminal Aérea Station; it’s a short walk from Terminal 1 on Boulevard Puerto Aéreo. There’s also a shuttle service that provides transportation to and from hotels. The boarding area is in Terminal 1 at Entrance 4.
Getting around Mexico City
For such a sprawling metropolis, Mexico City is surprisingly easy to navigate. The Mexico City metro system, called Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, or STC, is made up of 12 lines that cover a large part of the city from downtown, bus terminals, tourist areas and the suburbs. You can buy a single ticket for M$3 (US$0.23 using the exchange rate US$1 to M$12.85) or a reusable smart card with a minimum credit of M$10 (US$0.78). It operates Monday to Friday 5 a.m. to midnight, Saturday 6 a.m. to midnight and Sunday 7 a.m. to midnight. Taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced. You can hail one on the street, but it’s more secure to head to one of the many taxi seguro (safe taxi) stands throughout the city or call a radio dispatcher service. Hotels and restaurants can also call reliable cabs for you.
Where to stay
For luxury and upscale accommodation, try Hyatt Regency Mexico (Campos Eliseos 204, Mexico City 11560; Ph: +52-55-50831234), JW Marriott Mexico City (Andres Bello 29, Mexico City 11560; Ph: +52-55-59990000), NH Aeropuerto T2 Mexico (Capitan Carlos Leon S/N, Mexico City 15620; Ph: +52-55-57865750) and Intercontinental Presidente Santa Fe (Avenida Juan Salvador Agraz 97, Mexico City 05300; Ph: +52-55-11050170).
Midscale options include Comfort Inn CD de Mexico Santa Fe (Prol Paseo de la Reforma 557, Mexico City 01330; Ph: +52-55-47482100), Wyndham Garden Polanco Mexico City (Leon Tolstoi 22, Mexico City 11590; Ph: + 52-55-52545254) and and Radisson Hotel Flamingos Mexico (Avenida Revolucion 333, Mexico City 11870; Ph: +52-55-56270220).
Things to see and do
Mexico City offers a fine selection of art and entertainment, from world-class museums to wrestling matches. Please note, many of the official websites for attractions are only available in Spanish.
The beautifully designed National Museum of Anthropology showcases an extensive archaeological collection from pre-Hispanic Mayan civilizations to the Spanish conquest. Both precious and pedestrian items are on display, including jewelry, weapons, statues and pottery. Audio guides are available in English at the entrance. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour a week in advance. It’s open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Admission is M$59 (US$4.60).
The Frida Kahlo Museum celebrates the famed Mexican artist. The museum is known as the Casa Azul (Blue House) and is the house that Frida lived and died in. You can see her early sketches and diary entries along with some of her original paintings. It’s open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday to Sunday; it opens at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Admission is M$80 (US$6.23).
Both the Bellas Artes Palace Museum and the National Architecture Museum are housed in the grandiose white-marbled Bellas Artes Palace. It’s worth the visit just to take in the beauty of the building. Both are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission to the palace is M$39 (US$3.04), free on Sundays. Both museums are closed on Mondays.
The National Palace is home to the Mexican federal government. It’s an ornate building on Mexico City’s main public square, El Zocalo. Impressive gardens, fountains and architecture make it a must on your itinerary. The murals by Diego Rivera are the highlight for most visitors. These massive panoramas painted along the palace walls depict Mexico’s history. It took the artist 20 years to complete them. The palace is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, and admission is free.
To experience another side of Mexican culture, attend a lively lucha libre wrestling match—one of the country’s most popular spectator sports. You’ll be entertained by a mix of sport and theater. Masked wrestlers put on a wild show, and the crowds cheer on their favorite fighters. Matches take place at Arena Mexico on Tuesday and Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. You can purchase a tour package for US$35.99.
A perfect way to spend a Saturday is perusing El Bazar Sábado (Saturday Market) at Plaza Jacinto in the historic San Angel neighborhood. The market showcases handmade jewelry, woodwork, ceramics and textiles. Shop the stalls on the two indoor levels or try the cheaper open-air market in the square across the street. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where to eat
From markets to high-end restaurants, Mexico City’s dining scene is diverse. But no matter where you go, you’ll find the freshest of ingredients—freshly picked chilies in your salsa, local maize in your tortillas and pork raised right in the city.
Azul Condesa specializes in Mexican food with a modern twist. The award-winning resident chef garners respect as a trendsetter with a commitment to quality. The tortilla soup is a classic dish done right—it’s creamy and oh so flavorful. Then there’s the not-so-classic guacamole with special ingredient, grasshopper, for added crunch. A visit here also gives you an opportunity to explore the trendy Condesa neighborhood. Find it at Nuevo León 68, Cuauhtémoc, Hipódromo, Mexico City 06100; Ph: +52-55-52866380.
Current hot spot Maximo Bistrot Local is off the beaten path, but worth the effort. It offers fine cuisine with an emphasis on local, organic ingredients. The chef personally visits the city’s markets, choosing what looks best, and improvises a new menu inspired by the ingredients he’s picked up each day. Find it at Tonalá 133, Cuauhtémoc, Roma, Mexico City 06700; Ph: +52-55-52644291.
Although Mexico City is not a coastal city, seafood is trucked in daily from both coasts, as well as the country’s many lakes and rivers. One of the best places to try the daily catch is Contramar. The tuna tostada is the signature dish, but you can’t go wrong ordering the oysters or calamari either. It’s only open for lunch. Find it at Durango 200, Cuauhtémoc, Roma, Mexico City 06700; Ph: +52-55-55149217. Quality street food is easy to come by in Mexico City—there are thousands of stalls and food carts within the city limits. In the upscale neighborhood of Polanco you can wander the Saturday open-air market and take your pick from street vendors selling tacos, tamales and corn-on-the-cob. Nearby Lincoln Park is the perfect spot to enjoy your meal. Find the market at Calle Aristotles between Emilio Castelar and Luis G. Urbina.