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 Eur…opean-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.
What to know before you 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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