Mexico City is a city of neighbourhoods. There are two major roads that intersect, including the 29 km Avenida Insurgentes. There are 16 districts and almost 2,000 neighbourhoods. Most are named after rivers, philosophers, or war heroes. Although it doesn’t have the powdery white beaches that most people desire in Mexico, Mexico City is filled with museums, ethnic restaurants, stunning graffiti, and old style cantinas. It’s not a city that’s in the habit of disappointing its visitors.
Places to Visit in Mexico City
- Plaza de la Constitucion or Zocalo
- National Palace
- Metropolitan Cathedral
- Palace of Fine Arts
- Alameda Park
- San Juan Market
- Museo Frida Kahlo
- Chapultepec Castle
Unique Things to See and Do in Mexico City
- Listen to live mariachi music at Plaza Garibaldi
- Explore some of the many neighbourhoods, like Roma or Condesa
- Go clubbing in Polanco
- Try some pre-Hispanic Mexican food at one of the open-air markets
- Visit the ancient canals and flower markets of Xochimilco
- Spend time at an exclusive spa
- Hike the pyramids of Teotihuacan just beyond Mexico City
Mexico City History
Mexico City has a fascinating history. Although central Mexico has been inhabited for thousands of years, Mexico City only really started taking root around 1325 AD. A group of people known as Mexica were living as outcasts from a place called Aztlan. They were waiting for a sign – an eagle sitting on a cactus – before establishing their city. This happened on June 8, 1425, on Lake Texcoco, and thus Tenochtitlan was born.
Tenochtitlan became a major centre for trade and military operations. When the Spanish arrived in 1519, it took two years for Hernan Cortes to capture the city. Despite the city being razed to the ground, much of the empire preserved. Even the Mexico City we know today is part of the ancient Tenochtitlan city.
Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. The French intervened, and so did the US. The Mexican Revolution occurred in 1910, causing a huge influx of visitors moving to Mexico City. This is when Mexico City became one of the largest cities in the world. Gradually Mexico City rebuilt itself – it hosted the Olympics in 1968, and the FIFA World Cup in 1986.
Today Mexico City remains a cultural and political centre, and is known as the City of Palaces. It’s taken a long time for the city to move past its history of violence and poverty, but finally, Mexico City has arrived.
Getting Around Mexico City
How does a city of 22 million move so many people around? You are definitely not without options. The city’s transportation system is cheap and efficient and includes a subway system and first and second-class buses (colectivos). Taxis are also relatively cheap. Look out for the metered taxis – they tend to be red VW Beetle cabs. Sitio taxis (radio taxis) are also safe, and either have meters or set rates.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Mexico City
Between March and May is the best time to visit Mexico City. Things can get quite crowded with tourism during this time of year, but it’s worth it for the consistently beautiful weather. The summer months are often very rainy, and the winter months can be quite chilly (yes, it gets cold in Mexico). Since Mexico City is at a high elevation, you should also prepare yourself for the altitude change.
Ready to plan your visit to Mexico City? Check out these popular guides and trips.