Insider Tips: Planning a trip to Mexico City
Soumya is a history and culture-enthusiast with a passion for traveling the world. She has lived on 4 continents and traveled to 30+ countries, while immersing herself in local culture in each one of them. She loves writing about her experiences on her travel blog, Stories by Soumya, and also contributes to leading publications such as BBC Travel and Architectural Digest.
What should I do on my first trip to Mexico City?
When in Mexico City, do not miss the Zocalo and the historic landmarks that surround it. Zocalo, a bustling square and UNESCO heritage site, is Mexico City's most important public space and has remained so since the ancient times. The Aztecs built their capital "Tenochtitlan" here and later, the Spaniards converted it into their ruling base. Important historic buildings such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace, and the ruins of Templo Mayor dot the edges of Zocalo. It is also the venue for concerts, parades, and festivals including the famous Dia de la Muertos that happens in Oct-Nov every year.
Another unmissable place in Mexico City is the Frida Kahlo Museum. Located in the Coyoacan neighborhood, Casa Azul or the Blue House, now a museum, is the house where Frida Kahlo spent most of her life from birth till death. The museum has an interesting display of Kahlo's creations and her life memorabilia which make this place an absolute mecca for art and history enthusiasts."
What are some hidden gems to see in Mexico City?
One of the best hidden gems of Mexico City is the Secretariat of Public Education that's home to over 200 panels of mural art created by Diego Rivera in the 1920s. These are vibrant panels depicting local life, festivals, food, agriculture, and immerse you deeply in Mexican culture. The Secretariat is located in the Historic Center and is free to visit, yet this place remains the city's little secret. Another non-touristy thing to do in Mexico City is to see the mummies at Museo de El Carmen. Housed in a 17th-century building in the San Angel neighborhood, Museo de El Carmen has a crypt that is home to 12 mummies from the 1600s. Even though the bodies have not been identified, it is known that they belonged to supporters of the Carmelite order.
How much time should I spend in Mexico City?
4 days is ideal to see the highlights of Mexico City.
On Day 1, take it easy (you might suffer from altitude sickness) and explore the attractions of Centro Historico. That includes Templo Mayor, Metropolitan Cathedral, National Palace, Postal Palace, Palacio de Bellas Artes, and many more.
On Day 2, head to Bosque de Chapultepec and enjoy the many attractions that the park offers including Chapultepec Castle, National Anthropology Museum, and the Ninos Heroes Monument.
On Day 3, visit Frida Kahlo's Museum in Coyoacan and take a ride through the canals of Xochimilco. In the evening, experience the hip neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa.
On Day 4, take a hot air balloon flight over the pyramids of Teotihuacan and follow it up with a guided tour of the archeological site.
What food is Mexico City known for?
Mexico City is well-known for its large spread of street food including tacos al pastor, tamales, tlacoyos, and quesadillas. The most popular Mexico City street food is tacos al pastor, a dish that is an unique combination of Mexican and Lebanese culinary techniques. When the Lebanese migrated to Mexico in the early 1900s, they brought with them the technique of grilling meat on vertical spits. The Mexicans soon adopted this technique and started using shaved meat in their tacos and garnished them with onions, cilantro, and salsa, giving birth to tacos al pastor. Today, tacos al pastor are Mexico City's favorite street food with many vendors selling these delightful tacos into wee hours of the morning.
What is the best way to get around Mexico City?
Mexico City has great public transport. It is a cheap and fast way of getting around this huge city. For traveling between neighborhoods, use the Metro and the Metrobus (buses that run on fixed routes). Local buses also service inner parts of the city. Mexico City also has a bike sharing system called Ecobici that's a fun way to explore shorter distances. If you're staying in the Historic Center, you can just walk to all the attractions around Zocalo. If you'd prefer a taxi instead, use a ride-sharing app like DiDi or Uber. Both are reasonably priced and totally safe to use.
What are the best months to visit Mexico City?
The best time to visit Mexico City is during the spring months of March - May. Temperatures hover in the late 50s - early 70s and the days are sunny making it just the perfect time to explore Mexico City's historical landmarks and natural wonders. Jacarandas are also in full bloom during the spring months (especially April) making it a beautiful time to visit Mexico City. March also sees the celebration of Festival del Centro Historico that includes dances, music, art, and all kinds of cultural performances. The fall months of October - November are also good (though not the best because the weather starts getting chilly then) because Mexico City plays host to one of its most coveted events, Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead.
What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Mexico City?
One of the best neighborhoods to visit in Mexico City is Roma Norte. Chock full of art galleries, boutique hotels, amazing restaurants, swanky bars, and fragrant panaderias, Roma Norte is one of Mexico City's trendiest neighborhoods. Head to Roma Norte's lively central avenue, Avenida Alvaro Obregon for the best food, drinks, and music.
What are the best neighborhoods for food?
Polanco is one of the best areas to eat in Mexico City. Home to some of the highest-rated restaurants in the world and the best taquerias, Polanco is undoubtedly the best foodie destination in Mexico City. The neighborhood offers countless opportunities to taste modern Mexican cuisine and traditional country flavors, side by side. Some of the best places to eat in Polanco are the world famous, high-end restaurants Pujol and Quintonil as well as the hole-in-the-wall El Turix Taqueria.
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
The best places to shop for authentic Mexican handicrafts and artisan products are its local markets. One of the top places to shop is the La Ciudadela Artisan Market. Located within walking distance from downtown Mexico City, La Ciudadela is the best place to buy traditional Mexican textiles, paper mache toys, sombreros, colorful ceramics, and beaded jewelry.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Mexico City?
If you're visiting Mexico City for the first time, stay in the Historic Center so that you'll be within walking distance from all the major attractions in the downtown area such as Templo Mayor, Metropolitan Cathedral, Palacio de Bellas Artes, and National Palace. The center is also serviced by many metro stations including Zocalo and Bellas Artes stations which makes it easy to commute to other parts of the city.
What's are 4 best tips for a person traveling to Mexico City?
1) Most Mexico City attractions including museums and parks are closed on Mondays are closed on Mondays. Take that into consideration when planning your trip, As an alternative you could plan a day trip to Teotihuacan or the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco on a Monday.
2) Many Mexico City museums and archeological sites have free entry for Mexican citizens and residents (with paperwork) on Sundays, which turn out to be the busiest days. You may want to avoid Sundays, in that case.
3) Traffic in Mexico City is crazy especially on week days and during rush hours. Even the metro gets really busy (imagine being squished in a packed metro car between hundreds of strangers!) during rush hours. So, avoid traveling during the rush hours of 8-10am and 5-8pm, if possible.
4) Buy a Mexico City Metro Card or the Integrated Mobility Card that covers travel on all public transport within the city.
5) Mexico City is located at an altitude of 7,350ft (2,240m). You may suffer from altitude sickness (dehydration and difficulty in breathing) on the day of your arrival. The best way to deal with it is to rest, drink lots of water, and take it easy on Day 1.
What should people avoid doing in Mexico City?
Avoid using the metro during rush hours (8-10am and 5-8pm) if you value your personal space. The metro cars can get extremely crowded.
What are your top 4 favourite GetYourGuide experiences in Mexico City?
1) Mexico City: Historic Downtown Walking Tour
2) From Mexico City: Teotihuacan Air Balloon Flight & Breakfast
3) Mexico City: Xochimilco, Coyoacan, Frida Kahlo & UNAM
4) Mexico City: Anthropology Museum Guided Visit
What is one thing that surprised you about Mexico City?
Something about Mexico City that totally surprised me was the fact that manmade island farms made by the Aztecs in the 14th century were still providing food to the people of Mexico City. In the absence of arable land, the Aztecs built these island farms, known as chinampas, on shallow lakes. They can be still seen at the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco, a UNESCO heritage site. I was fascinated by the chinampas of Mexico City and wrote a piece about them for BBC Travel here. Also, I had the perception that it would be impossible to find vegetarian/vegan food in Mexico City but that was not the case. There are several vegetarian/vegan restaurants in town with the Roma Norte neighborhood leading the rise of veganism in Mexico City.
What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Mexico City?
Bosque de Chapultepec or Chapultepec Park is one of Mexico City's best family-friendly places. Full of green spaces, walking and jogging trails, fountains, lakes, museums, as well as a huge zoo, Chapultepec Park is an attractive family destination. Whether you choose to go boating in the lake, spend some time at the zoo, explore the displays at Papalote Children's Museum, or hike up to Chapultepec Castle for stunning views of the city, Bosque de Chapultepec is sure to keep you and your family engaged.
What is the best thing to do in Mexico City for couples?
One of the most romantic things to do in Mexico City is to take a hot air balloon ride over the pyramids of Teotihuacan. As you float silently through the Mexican skies along with several other balloons while catching glimpses of an ancient city from 2000 years ago, you're sure to fall in love with your partner again. A hot air balloon ride is an incredible date idea. You can also book private balloons for a special date with your loved one.