Mexico City

Don’t be intimidated by Mexico City’s size. It’s easy to find a corner of CDMX—formerly known as the Distrito Federal—for you, and one visit is rarely enough. Visitors quickly fall under the city’s spell: the music, the people, the street food and murals, and the thrilling juxtaposition of grand European-style boulevards, ultramodern architecture, and ancient Aztec sites. As journalist David Lida asserts: “Mexico City is the capital of the 21st century.” Give in to its siren song.

Palacio De Bellas Artes

Palacio De Bellas Artes

Photo by Ramiro Reyna Jr/Shutterstock


When’s the best time to go to Mexico City?

Weather-wise, it’s almost always a good time to visit Mexico City. Because of the altitude (7,382 feet), temperatures remain fairly stable throughout the year, averaging in the mid-50s to low 70s. (Bring a light jacket and scarf and you’ll be fine.) But our favorite time to visit is between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6), because while almost everything’s open, the pollution and traffic are mellower because of the business holidays. Another great time to come is in the days around September 6 for the Independence Day festivities.

How to get around Mexico City

Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport (MEX) is the primary point of arrival and departure for international flights. Taxis into the city center are affordable and take only about 20–30 minutes, depending on traffic.

Mexico City is massive, which can be overwhelming even to experienced visitors. AFAR’s partner, Context Travels offers visitors a private, historian- or architect-led introduction to downtown Mexico City from its roots as a center of government and ritual in the Aztec Empire to its commercial and cultural modern present.

Once in town, you can get around easily on the Metro, Metrobus, taxis, Uber, and the city’s bike-share program, Ecobici. The Metro and the Metrobus are extensive and very inexpensive. Taxis are a good option, to, but stick to the official pink cabs when hailing from the street. Uber is very affordable in CDMX and the app makes it easy for non-Spanish speakers to get around.

Can’t miss things to do in Mexico City

- Two pilgrimage sites for art- and design-minded tourists—architect Luis Barragán’s House and Studio and Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul—require tickets and often are sold out. Secure your tickets before you leave home.
- Cinco de Mayo is not a big deal in Mexico. If you’re looking for a party, come for Mexican Independence Day (September 16), Day of the Dead (November 1), or the Gay Pride parade in late June instead. (The annual December 12 feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is more somber, but still pretty epic in scope.)
- Try and catch a Luche Libre match at Arena Mexico. You’ll get ridiculously fun entertainment, as well as recognize many of the same motifs you’ve seen in the city’s churches and cultural sites—good and evil, vivid primary colors, capes, and masks.

Food and drink to try in Mexico City

  • Local lunchtime is around 3 p.m., and dinner after 8.
  • Tip bartenders and restaurant servers 20% of the bill. You can get away with 15%, but live large and do your part for the economy.
  • Reservations for most of the big-name restaurants are available on apps like OpenTable and Resy. Book ahead and don’t wait until you get to town to get a table.
  • As in seemingly every other modern city, there are craft beer and artisanal cocktail scenes in CDMX. Jardín Chapultepec, a chill beer garden hidden between industrial buildings at the edge of the Condesa neighborhood, offers impressive examples of Mexican craft beers, as well as food stalls and picnic tables. Licorería Limantour, in Roma Norte, is our favorite destination for cocktails. The elegant Art Deco-inspired space is slightly less packed on weeknights so you can give your meticulously crafted drink the attention it demands.

Culture in Mexico City

There’s no better place to witness Mexico City’s sometimes confusing clash of culture than at the Zócalo. Here, in the main square of the city, you can relish centuries of history, grandiose architecture, and exceptional people-watching. The whole tension of the city’s past, present, and future is here, with the cathedral revealing the Catholic and colonial history and the Templo Mayor, right next door, practically throbbing with the violent Aztec past. The square is a swirl of activity with noisy street performers, vendors, local teenagers, and traffic all fighting for your attention.

Local travel tips for Mexico City

  • Cantinas will always serve snacks (called botanas) with your drinks.
  • This is not a city where you wear shorts.
  • Protests happen from time to time and are annoying and occasionally paralyzing (at least when it comes to traffic), but as long as they’re peaceful, police are not allowed to intervene.
Read Before You Go
When the flow of travelers slowed to a trickle after an earthquake struck the city in 2017, 10 boutique hotels, similar in style and service, united for a cause: survival.
Relax, reset, and recharge at the following hotels—each is ideal for a (long) weekend escape.
There’s one for every travel need, whether you’re searching for the best beer in a new city or want to propose to your significant other far from home.
Resources to help plan your trip
International brands and big-box stores from the U.S. have popped up all over Mexico City, but local markets remain strong. Authentic Mexican arts, crafts, foodstuffs, clothing, and jewelry are still easy to find if you know where to look—and supporting these traditions helps ensure their survival.
Following a citywide ban on plastic bags that took effect last January, Mexico’s capital has broadened restrictions on other types of single-use plastic items including cutlery, straws, cups, and balloons.
You may know Corona, Tecate, and Modelo, but there’s much more to Mexico City’s bar scene than exported beers. Try domestic craft brews, wine from Baja California that’s rarely exported, and local spirits like tequila, mezcal, and pulque. For something less spirited, visit the many cafes where you can drink coffee or chocolate at any time of day.
From street food to white-tablecloth restaurants, Mexico City has a meal for every palate and budget. Plus, local, fresh, and heritage aren’t just buzzwords here—they’re a way of life. Come taste for yourself.
Whether you’re into lucha libre or fútbol (that’s soccer to Americans), there are several sports arenas and over venues in Mexico City where you can see your favorite hometown athletes and teams compete.

Mexico City is characterized by its diverse, ancient neighborhoods and brought to life by the many cultures that inhabit them. Follow your curiosity towards a market selling local produce or a museum showcasing the city’s history and you’ll never run out of places to explore in-between.
The old, the new, and the scarcely imagined sit side by side in Mexico City, and no one blinks an eye. The more you can be curious about that balance—and the more you can achieve it yourself—the better you’ll understand and enjoy this magical city.
Though big-box stores from the U.S. have popped up all over the city, local markets remain strong, and supporting them helps ensure their survival. From crafts and fresh produce to kitchen goods and spices, from furniture to magic spells, here are a few AFAR favorite markets.
Expect to find jazz, rock, metal, Latino pop, salsa, and even classical. The live music scene in Mexico City goes way beyond mariachi—though you can certainly find that, too.
From followers of Frida to devotees of Luis Barragán’s mid-century modern style, design lovers of all sorts have long flocked to CDMX. The city, which tells a unique and compelling visual story of history, tradition, urbanization, and innovation, was named the 2018 World Design Capital, making it the first city in the Americas to receive the title. When food and travel writer Allegra Ben-Amotz moved to Mexico City from New York, she naturally fell in love with the megacity’s distinct architecture and design. Here, she shares her favorite spots in this creative wonderland.
Learn from an expert guide as you go deeper into these must-see spots.
The Academy Award–nominated film shows a distinctly local side of Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood before it became a trendy spot for travelers. Here’s where you can still find the old-school essence that you see onscreen.
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