Established nearly 700 years ago, Mexico City is one of the world’s great urban centers. It has been home to indigenous populations and Spanish colonial rule, and is today a modern, cosmopolitan and diverse city of 10 million residents. The greater Mexico City metropolitan area, which includes several surrounding municipalities, totals nearly 20 million residents. Mexico City is located near the southern end of the Anáhuac Plateau in central Mexico, at an altitude of 7,800 ft. The city is surrounded by mountains, featuring the magnificent peaks of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. Because of the city’s altitude, it enjoys a mild and dry climate year-round.
Mexico City is an open and inviting destination for business and leisure travelers. We receive more than 12 million visitors every year. There are many first-class business and boutique hotels, colorful and lively neighborhoods, and a variety of cultural attractions and activities. English is widely spoken in hotels, business centers and at tourism attractions.
From the arts to culture, to shopping, recreation and cuisine, Mexico City enjoys a diverse lifestyle, with much for visitors to discover in our many museums, parks, restaurants, shopping malls and art galleries. There is a busy, year-round calendar of performing arts, music, dance, film festivals, art exhibitions, and business fairs and expositions.
Mexico City is one of the world’s most important centers of archeology and architecture, with 31 different archeological or historic sites. Our city has 160 museums, more than any other city in the world. There are also more than 100 art galleries, nearly 500 movie theatres, and 30 performance theatres and concert venues. From ancient times, through the colonial and revolutionary periods to the 21st century, Mexico City has a rich history of artistic expression.
Mexico City is one of the world’s great destinations for cuisine, ranked the world’s 4th best culinary destination by Forbes Magazine. We have internationally-renowned restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, food markets and modestly-priced taquerías. We are a gastronomic melting pot, with both traditional and modern cuisines from around the world, reflecting the country’s bounty of natural ingredients and a fusion of many cultures. Throughout the city, visitors will discover creative, sophisticated dishes, which are exquisitely prepared and highly delectable.
In addition to tradition and modern Mexican cuisine, visitors will find excellent French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, Thai, Brazilian, Argentine, Cuban and Peruvian restaurants. Some restaurants are housed in restored haciendas that are beautiful remnants of the city’s history. We offer unique bars and cafes to sample Mexican wines and regional spirits, including tequilas and mezcales. Popular U.S. and international fast food brands can be found throughout the city.
Mexico City offers a variety of shopping adventures, from modern malls and fashion boutiques, to traditional arts and crafts found in street markets and at colorful neighborhood festivals. You will discover unique gifts and great values in apparel and clothing, home furnishings, jewelry, accessories, handicrafts and art. Global luxury fashion, jewelry and automobile brands have established shops catering to both the city’s professional class and visitors.
Mexico City is also an important sports center. We hosted the 1968 Summer Olympic Games and the finals of the FIFA World Cup in 1960 and 1986. We have twice hosted the Pan American Games. Popular sports include soccer, baseball, basketball, bullfighting and auto racing – Mexico City has hosted both NASCAR and Formula 1 races. In 2005, Mexico City was the first city outside the United States to host a National Football League (NFL) game, attended by 103,000 fans. It has also hosted NBA pre-season exhibition games.
Mexico City has more than 45,000 hotel rooms, ranging from luxury brands and business hotels to boutique properties characterized by their unique design and highly-personalized service. Hotel guests can expect fine restaurants, full-service spas and breathtaking views of the Valley of Mexico. Some hotels also offer their own English-speaking tours of the city’s art galleries and private archeological expeditions to ancient Aztec and pre-Aztec sites. Guests can arrange for a private car with an English-speaking guide and cultural expert to take them around.
The upscale Polanco section of Mexico City features the Hotel Nikko, Hotel Presidente Intercontinental, Hotel Camino Real, W Hotel Mexico City and the J.W. Marriott Mexico City, along with several boutique hotels. The Four Seasons Mexico City, St. Regis Mexico City, as well as Sheraton and Hilton properties, are located along the Paseo de la Reforma, the city’s most picturesque avenue. Many other U.S. and international hotel chains have properties in Mexico City, including Embassy Suites, Fiesta Americana, Melia Hotels, Ramada, Radisson, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, Best Western, Crowne Plaza and Wyndham Hotels. Westin Hotels have recently opened a new property in the Santa Fe section of town.
Mexico City is a vast urban region that can seem overwhelming to first-time visitors. But, as in many large cities, it comprises many neighborhoods that have their own unique identity and character. Visitors are likely to spend most of their visit in the following areas:
The Centro Histórico, or Historic Center, is a UNESCO-designated district with numerous archeological sites and historic colonial buildings. The heart of the historic center is the Plaza de la Constitución, known locally as the Zócalo, one of the world’s largest urban squares. The Zócalo has been the prime gathering point for residents for many decades. It is bordered by the National Palace, the Aztec ruins of the Templo Mayor, the Metropolitan Cathedral (Latin America’s largest Catholic Church) and Mexico City’s government offices. The Historic Center features many examples of authentic colonial art and architecture, as well as colorful streets and pedestrian malls with charming cafes and restaurants, shops, hotels, museums and plazas.
The Paseo de la Reforma is one of Mexico City’s major avenues. It bisects the city from east to west, and features traffic circles, fountains and important monuments, including the Independence Column, where El Ángel – the monument to Mexico’s independence – sits atop a 36-meter column. Cultural fairs and expositions are frequently organized along Reforma’s broad sidewalks and promenades. Hotels, office towers, government buildings, banks and shopping centers are situated along the boulevard.
The Bosque de Chapultepec is one of the world’s largest and most visited urban parks. Within the park’s vast boundaries are the National Museum of Archeology, National History Museum (Castillo de Chapultepec), Museum of Modern Art, National Auditorium, a variety of sports and recreation facilities, as well as miles of walking and biking paths, three lakes, picnic areas, and the offices and residence of Mexico’s President, known as Los Pinos (The Pines).
To the north of Chalpulepec Park is the dynamic neighborhood of Polanco, home to art galleries, boutiques and shopping centers, restaurants and cafes, foreign embassies, neighborhood parks and some of the city’s leading international hotels. The main avenue, Presidente Masaryk, is a busy commercial street, lined with boutiques, art galleries and fashionable restaurants and cafes. To the south of the park lies Condesa, which dates back to the turn of the 20th century. Condesa features magnificent homes, modern office and commercial buildings, bars, bookstores, cafes and quiet parks.
The Roma neighborhood is an eclectic blend of colonial, modern, bohemian and beaux art architecture. Parts of the neighborhood were damaged in the 1985 earthquake, and rebuilding has produced a diverse style of office buildings, apartments and public spaces. In recent years, the neighborhood has attracted artists and creative types who have opened galleries, shops and hip restaurants and bars.
Two colonial-era neighborhoods are also worth exploring. At the time of the Spanish conquest, Coyoacán was the place where Hernán Cortés set up shop after defeating the Aztecs in 1521. Today, it’s a picturesque neighborhood with a much slower pace than the main city to the north. Coyoacán is a bohemian enclave with restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors and a colorful weekend market that spills into the cobblestone streets surrounding the main square of the pleasant and leafy Plaza Hidalgo. About two miles west of Coyoacán is another colonial-era community, San Ángel. It is home to the Bazar Sábado, an art show and craft fair held every Saturday in the Plaza de San Jacinto, featuring leather goods, pottery, jewelry, art and clothing made by local artisans. The plaza’s church and walled garden date from the mid 1500s.
Mexico City is centrally located for an unlimited number of half and full-day excursions. Only an hour’s drive northeast of the capital is the Archeological Zone of Teotihuacan (500 B.C.- A.D 700), which predated the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. This is the most visited archeological site in the country.
Visitors can climb steps to the top of both the Pyramid to the Sun and the Pyramid to the Moon. Often included in this trip to the pyramids is a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most visited churches in the world.
South of Mexico City is the canal district of Xochimilco. The canals are the remains of the giant lake upon which the Aztec civilization founded Mexico City. Trajinera boat trips, complete with musicians and food, are popular with both Mexican families and tourists. The canals are lined with nature reserves, homes and small farms.
Two hours to the southeast is the city of Puebla, famed for its tile-embellished colonial-era buildings and its cuisine. Tlaxcala, another colonial city, and the nearby ruins of Cacaxtla (A.D. 650-900) and Xochitecatl (dating from 1000 B.C.) are located two hours east of the capital.
Mexico City’s modern international airport is one of Latin American’s busiest. However, it is easy to navigate. Visitors arriving from other countries will clear immigration and customs, and can then book pre-paid taxis at one of several kiosks located near the airport’s exit. There are change bureaus and ATM machines that accept credit and debit cards.
There are several options for getting around Mexico City. Hotels can arrange for private vehicles and taxis – a recommended option since many city drivers do not speak English. The city’s modern Metro subway system has 163 stations and runs late into the night. You can always get a moderately-priced, metered cab – the city has over 100,000 taxis – though at night it is recommended you have your hotel or restaurant call for one.
Spend the time to get to know the real Mexico City. It is the city of unique artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It’s a city of Spanish colonialism and Christian basilicas. It’s a city of the Aztecs and the cultures before them, but it is also a modern and sophisticated 21st century city. Experiencing Mexico City means enjoying fine art that rivals what you will find in Rome or Paris, and admiring pyramids that would impress Egyptians. In addition, it means learning that you don’t need to travel to Venice for a romantic ride along a canal, or visit Madrid to see a bullfight, or walk in Central Park in New York to enjoy a magnificent urban park.