Mexico City Guide

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Mexico City Travel Guide

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Mexico City, also known as Tenochtitlan and the Distrito Federal, has a long history and is home to over 21 million people. It is Mexico’s capital and considered one of the best cities in the world.

In CDMX, there are museums, cultural experiences, and amazing food that can be discovered everywhere. If you only have one day in town, make sure to include both traditional and modern activities. For example, visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes downtown to see the classic Mexican murals and try a street vendor’s elote while visiting the Zócalo, which is Mexico City’s main square.

Our top recommendations for travelers in Mexico City are visiting Museo Frida Kahlo, Castillo de Chapultepec, and Museo Soumaya. Afterward, grab tacos al pastor from a local taquería, which shouldn’t be hard to find. If you can’t see everything in one trip, don’t worry, as Mexico City will always welcome you back for more.

What is CDMX and DF?

Mexico City is commonly abbreviated as CDMX, which stands for Ciudad de Mexico in Spanish, meaning “Mexico City.” It is also referred to as “DF,” an abbreviation for distrito federal, or federal district.

Expert TipDF is actually pronounced day-effay, not dee-eff.

Mexico City DF is like the equivalent of Washington DC, but it’s important to note that in Mexico, Mexico City is both a state and a district, while Washington DC is just a district in the USA.

Where is Mexico City?

Mexico City is situated in the heart of Central Mexico and shares borders with seven other states. It serves as an ideal location to set up a base camp for exploring the various day trip destinations in and around Central Mexico.


🇲🇽 Mexico Travel Resources We Use:


What you need Know before you go

Palacio Bellas Artes is a famous building in Historic Downtown Mexico City (Centro Historico).

  • What Language: Spanish, though English is common, and you may even hear some indigenous languages
  • What Time Zone: Its Central Daylight Time (GMT-5)
  • Currency: The Mexican Peso
  • ✈️ Main International Airport: Benito Juarez International Airport – Mexico City International (MEX)
  • Mexico Visa for Mexico: You might not need a visa for Mexico if you’re a traveler from the US, Canada, Japan, or most European countries. Kindly visit the suggested website to confirm if you require a Mexico travel visa.
  • 🔌 Electricity Socket: YIn most cases, the plugs you will find are either Type A which have two prongs, or Type B which have three prongs, similar to those used in the United States. For visitors from all other countries, you will need this universal travel adaptor.
  • Mexico SIM Card and Internet: Yes, you will need a SIM card for Mexico. We recommend getting a SIM card before your trip.
  • Car Rentals: Renting a car in Mexico and driving in a foreign country can be intimidating for some people. We always use and highly recommend Rental Cars for the best prices and experience.

What state is Mexico City in?

Mexico City is now considered a separate state within Mexico, one of the 32 that exist. This change happened fairly recently, as before it was its own entity, it was actually a part of Mexico State.

Best Time to Visit

According to Rabinor, the period from the end of October to March is the sunniest and driest time in Mexico City, but regardless of the season, the city is always bustling.

During late October, you will witness the celebrations and decoration for Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), where orange and pink marigolds adorn the altars in remembrance of the city’s departed. If you visit before September 15, you can hear Mexico’s president shout in celebration at 11 p.m. from the National Palace to mark Mexico’s independence from Spain, followed by the locals’ festivities. If you prefer a quieter visit, plan for spring when the purple jacarandas bloom across the city.

Rabinor observed that locals tend to visit the beach during popular holidays and in the summer. While this may reduce the local atmosphere, it also provides visitors with the opportunity to enjoy a quieter time amid our renowned city which is usually congested with people and traffic.

How to Get There

To reach Mexico City, the best option is to fly into its international airport, Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez (MEX). Direct flights from U.S. cities such as Los Angeles (LAX), New York City (JFK), and Phoenix (PHX) are available. However, travelers may find better deals if they opt for layovers closer to the border, such as the Dallas/Forth Worth area (DFW) and Miami (MIA).

Best Things to Do

These are some of our absolute favorite things to do in Mexico City. For more options and detailed reviews, read Best Things to Do Mexico City.

El Centro Histórico

The Centro Histórico, also known as the Historic Center, in Mexico City is a unique blend of old and new. It has a mix of ancient historical buildings, modern American-style skyscrapers, street markets, and plenty of museums. The Zócalo, a large square in the area, has been a significant meeting place for many centuries, dating back to the Aztec era. You can see symbolic structures from different periods, including pre-Colombian, colonial, and contemporary Mexico, all within the Zócalo.

Some of the top attractions to see in this area are the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which houses Diego Rivera murals and art exhibitions; the Zócalo with its Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Mercado Ciudadela, where there are many artisan stalls selling crafts. A pedestrian-only street that’s worth exploring is Avenida Francisco Madero, which is known for its vibrant energy. According to Rabinor, these are all great places to visit in the bustling capital.

La Casa Azul/Museo Frida Kahlo

We suggest buying your tickets well in advance for the Casa Azul tour, which was Frida Kahlo’s primary residence. You can view numerous artworks of hers at this location, and certain rooms have been preserved so well that it feels like the artist could return at any moment. With a ticket to this museum, you also have access to Diego Rivera’s Museo Anahuacalli, which is just a 15-minute drive away.

Bosque de Chapultepec

The Bosque de Chapultepec is a huge urban forest spanning about three square miles that surpasses even New York’s Central Park in greenery. It has many notable attractions, such as the Castillo de Chapultepec which is the only castle in the Americas to have been occupied by European royalty, the Museo Nacional de Antropología, and Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo.

Museo Soumaya

Museo Soumaya is a museum in Mexico City that has an impressive art collection and a unique exterior made up of over 16,000 reflective hexagons. You shouldn’t miss seeing Auguste Rodin’s “La Porte de l’Enfer” and “The Thinker” while you’re there.

Parque México

Par Mexico is known as “the lungs of the city” and is surrounded by trees, providing a perfect place for a brisk walk or relaxation. In the main plaza, you can witness various performances like breakdancing, live music or quinceañera celebrations. Don’t forget to try the delicious pre-made churros and authentic Mexican hot chocolate at Churrería El Moro when you’re peckish.

Best Hotels and Resorts

These are some of our absolute favorite hotels in Mexico City. For more options and detailed reviews, read our Best Hotels for Mexico City.

The St. Regis Mexico City

The St. Regis Mexico City is located on Reforma Avenue, which is a bustling street in the city and home to many corporate offices and embassies. You’ll be situated near several important landmarks, such as the famous Ángel de la Independencia sculpture and Chapultepec Park. Take a look at their in-house eatery called Diana, which is named after the statue of the Greek goddess located outside.

They serve traditional Mexican cuisine like tuna tostadas, as well as innovative dishes like avocado pizza and cauliflower ceviche. This hotel is consistently ranked as one of the top hotels in Mexico City.

Casa Decu Condesa

Casa Decu is a 27-room boutique hotel located in the beautiful and tree-lined Condesa area. The hotel has features of an art deco style, like funky tile floors, private patios, and a rooftop restaurant and garden space. The hotel is pet-friendly and serves continental breakfast every morning. It is conveniently located near Parque México, which used to be a horse-racing track and is now park. There are also plenty of cozy cafés nearby as well as the famous Esquina de Chilaquil, a street stand that serves tortas de chilaquiles that are unique to Mexico City and attract long lines of locals.

Ignacia Guest House

Ignacia Guest House offers five color-themed rooms in La Roma, a trendy neighborhood in Mexico City. Each room is decorated entirely in its corresponding color, including the floors and ceilings. The guest house is conveniently located near Metro and Metrobús stations, and across from the community garden, Huerto Roma Verde.


🇲🇽 Mexico Travel Resources We Use:


Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Mexico City

The boutique hotel Las Alcobas has 35 rooms, and it is located in the upscale Polanco neighborhood, which is very close to Chapultepec Park. It was voted as the second-best city hotel in Mexico for T+L’s 2022 World’s Best Awards. According to travel writer Sophie Dodd, her favorite feature of the hotel is the bath service. She ordered a “Jet Lag” bath, and a staff member came to prepare the bath for her, which was a fantastic luxury. They infused the bath with a sachet of herbs that helped to relax and reset her after a long flight of almost six hours.

El Patio 77

El Patio 77 is an intimate hotel that occupies an 1890s mansion in the San Rafael neighborhood. Each of its eight rooms is named and designed after states surrounding Mexico City. The hotel is eco-friendly, featuring a rainwater collection system and a gray water recycling program. Additionally, some of the furniture is upcycled, giving the hotel a unique and luxurious feel.


Best Shopping

Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela

Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela is the perfect place to find handmade goods such as ceramics, silver jewelry, wool blankets, and art from various regions in Mexico. Keep in mind that some vendors don’t accept credit cards, so bring cash along. You’ll find this market located in Colonia Centro.

Barrio Alameda

The Barrio Alameda was built in the late 1920s and is advertised as an “urban meeting point” where you can find a mix of food, drinks, fashion, and art. It has various storefronts where you can purchase vintage clothes, old-school vinyl records, and handmade patches all located in one place.

Galería Mexicana de Diseño

If you want to bring a piece of Mexico back with you, check out this gallery that offers a wide range of contemporary Mexican items. You can choose from Acapulco chairs, hand-felted print rugs, or a gold lamp with a monstera leaf design, and have them shipped to your home.

Best Restaurants

You can find the detailed list with reviews of the best restaurants in Mexico City here.


Contramar is a highly regarded restaurant in Mexico City known for serving the freshest seafood. Prior reservation is recommended. It is a must to try their signature dishes: the tuna tostadas and the pescado a la talla – a snapper halved and garnished with red chili sauce on one side and parsley sauce on the other.

Pastelería Maque

Experience the ultimate brunch at a French-influenced bakery near the green Parque México. You can sit by the open windows, enjoy a cup of cappuccino, observe people passing by or go to the upper floor, where you can relish fresh-baked concha and scrumptious enmoladas.

Café de Tacuba

Café de Tacuba is a renowned restaurant located in the historic center of Mexico City that has been around for over a century. This restaurant has served famous personalities such as presidents and artists. It was even chosen by Diego Rivera as the venue for his first wedding reception. If you want to experience authentic Mexican cuisine, then you should definitely try this restaurant.

Taquería Orinoco

You can experience the flavors of northern Mexico at Taquería Orinoco, which is a chain of restaurants that originated in Monterrey and now has seven locations. They offer a variety of tacos, including chicharrón, bistec, or al pastor, served with either flaky flour or corn tortillas. You can also try their costra, which is a layer of cheese melted on top. These taco shops are a favorite among late-night partygoers as they stay open until early morning.

Los Danzantes

You can enjoy delicious food at Los Danzantes in Coyoacán while sitting on their patio and watching the street performers, vendors, and locals. They offer unique dishes such as fried grasshoppers with cheese and guacamole, duck tacos, and chicken breast stuffed with squash blossoms. It’s a great spot in the central square of the neighborhood.

Cities and Neighborhoods to Visit

Mexico City is divided into 16 alcaldías which are similar to boroughs and each alcaldía consists of several neighborhoods colonias. During your stay, you will most likely visit only three or four out of the 16 alcaldías. Here are five popular colonias among guests.

El Centro Histórico: Mexico City’s downtown, known as Centro Histórico, is always crowded and a popular spot for residents on weekends. Visitors are likely to see protesters in the main square, and street vendors selling their products. There are also many terraces around where people often go for brunch. As Rabinor says, Centro Histórico is always bustling with activity.

Best neighborhoods in Mexico City

If you’re unsure where to stay in Mexico City, the Roma and Condesa area, as well as the Polanco and Reforma area, are popular choices for visitors. These neighborhoods are both safe and convenient, as they are located near many attractions. While Coyoacan and Centro Historico (Downtown) are also good options, I suggest considering the four areas mentioned above.

Roma & Condesa

Roma and Condesa are two adjacent neighborhoods in Mexico City that offer beautiful architecture, picturesque parks, walkable streets, charming cafes, colorful street art, delicious street tacos, and a relaxed atmosphere. Colonia Roma is divided into Roma Norte and Roma Sur, and while both are pleasant, many people prefer Roma Norte. La Condesa, also known as The Countess, is the official name for Condesa.

Polanco & Reforma

Roma and Condesa have a trendy vibe, while Polanco and Reforma are associated with luxury. Polanco is considered the fanciest neighborhood in Mexico City, and its main thoroughfare, Avenida Presidente Masaryk, is compared to Rodeo Drive. Reforma refers to both a major street, Avenida Reforma, and its surrounding neighborhood. Living in Reforma puts you in close proximity to Chapultepec Park and amidst towering skyscrapers, high-end hotels, and interesting street art.

Is Mexico City safe for tourists?

Experts say that visiting Mexico, including Mexico City, is relatively safe statistically. However, it is important to note that incidents can still occur, as with any big city. It is recommended to stick to safer neighborhoods like those listed and avoid areas like Tepito and Doctores in order to stay safe while in Mexico City.

Mexico can be a safe place to travel for vacation despite the rising number of incidents, considering the millions of Americans who visit the country each year. You need, however, to make sure you stay in the safe tourist zones and always be aware of your surroundings.

To ensure your safety while traveling in Mexico, it is important to follow general travel safety measures like avoiding walking alone at night and being aware of your surroundings. It is also recommended that you purchase a Mexico SIM card for added safety.

What’s the best travel insurance for Mexico?

As a Mexico travel writer and expat, people frequently ask me about the best Mexico travel insurance. When choosing an insurance policy, it’s important to evaluate factors such as the total cost, deductible, necessary coverage, and medical benefits.

In general, I only ever recommend three companies to purchase Mexico travel insurance from:

  • SafetyWing — This message is intended for people who are traveling in Mexico either for general tourism or as digital nomads.
  • Travel Insurance Master — This is a search tool for Mexico travel insurance that allows users to compare policies.

Mexico City Travel: Frequently Asked Questions

Can you drink tap water in Mexico City?

It’s important to remember that drinking unfiltered tap water in Mexico is not safe for humans. However, staying hydrated is vital because Mexico is located near the Equator, and dehydration is a common cause of illness in this region.

Can you get altitude sickness in Mexico City?

Alt sickness can occur randomly and affect anyone at high elevations. It is important to note that Mexico City is 1.5 miles above sea level, which is half-mile higher than Denver, Colorado, also known as “The Mile High City.” Therefore, it is recommended for everyone visiting Mexico City to be prepared for altitude sickness.

What is the weather like in Mexico City ?

Mexico City has an “Eternal Spring” climate, which means it’s never too hot or too cold, making it a year-round destination. However, during the rainy season from April to September, it can rain quite a bit.

Do you need a Visa to Travel to Mexico?

Most Americans, Canadians, and Europeans do not require a visa to travel to Mexico. To confirm if you need a visa for Mexico, please visit the relevant website.

Upon entering the country, you will receive a Forma Migratoria Multiple, also known as FMM Tourist Card or FMT. This applies to everyone who goes through Customs & Immigration, and is free for those arriving by plane or cruise ship. However, if you’re driving across the border, the FMM costs around $30USD. It’s important to note that most visitors are granted a 180-day (six month) visa, which allows you to stay in the country legally for up to six months.

Please note that an FMM card is simply a small piece of paper, despite its name. As it serves as proof of your legal status in Mexico, it’s essential to carry your FMM with you at all times in your wallet. Although it’s uncommon, in case an officer stops you, they have the authority to request to see your FMM.

Best time to visit Mexico City?

For travel to Mexico City, it is recommended to go during the dry season. This season typically runs from October to April. Although summers are also pleasant, there is a greater likelihood of rainfall.

  • CDMX looks the prettiest from around February to early April due to the blooming of the bright purple jacaranda trees.
  • During the months of November to March, millions, possibly billions, of monarchs migrate from Canada to Mexico, and this happens at the Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary which is located in the nearby town Valle de Bravo.
  • During the final week of October, the city holds various celebrations including the Parade of Alebrijes as well as the Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) parade.

Is Mexico City good to visit?

Make sure not to miss the celebrations of the Day of the Dead and the annual Parade of the Alebrijes in Mexico City. It’s a unique and attractive destination for various types of travelers. If you enjoy big cities, Mexico City is a must-visit as it ranks as the 5th largest city on Earth. Additionally, the city boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and approximately 150 museums dedicated to Mexican culture, making it an ideal destination for travelers who love culture.

Mexico City is a great destination for foodies because it offers a wide variety of options ranging from classic street food tacos to Michelin Star restaurants.

Is it Safe to Drive in Mexico?

Driving Mexico is generally safe, and it is safe to rent a car and drive. Road trips are popular, especially in the Yucatan and Baja California Peninsula. However, keep in mind that driving in a foreign country comes with some additional caution.n country, unfamiliar with their laws.

If you’re planning to rent a car in Mexico, check out this guide with everything you need to know and 10 helpful tips. Discover Cars works with both local and international companies to find you the best rates, and I personally recommend them as I use their services too!

Is it safe to rent a car in Mexico?

Yes — If you want to see Mexico, renting a car is a great option. To get the best rates, I recommend using Discover Cars. They compare both international and local Mexican companies.

How many days should I stay in Mexico City?

Mexico City is a large city, in fact, it is the largest in Mexico and North America. There are many amazing things to do and see that could keep you occupied for an entire year! However, for a first-time visit, four full days should be enough time to enjoy the city.

To fully enjoy your trip to Mexico City, it’s important to plan a great itinerary. This itinerary is designed for 4 days and takes you through each neighborhood, ensuring that you don’t miss any of the city’s top sights.

Traveling to 🇲🇽 Mexico soon?

I recommend these travel resources for Mexico that I personally use:

🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Mexico. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!

✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Mexico, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.

🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.

🚙 Cancun Airport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.

🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Mexico, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.

🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Mexico. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.

📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.

☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.