Mexico City Destination Guide
Mexico City Holidays
Mexico City was founded in the early 1300s, but in terms of popularity, this megalopolis (that’s Greek for “large, great city”) is having something of a rebirth. The cultural capital of Latin America has long been synonymous with crime and pollution, and while there are definitely corners of this densely populated city that are best avoided, Mexico City is a place to see and be seen.
With a population in excess of 20 million, it’s one of the biggest cities in the world. The weather here is consistently pleasant, so the pressing question is not when to visit, but where to go once you land: there is so much to do here that nutting out an itinerary can be quite a challenge.
Take your pick from exploring historic cobblestoned streets, learning about Aztec culture at one of the many museums, admiring artwork after artwork by the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, sampling fragrant fare from one of the many street vendors, or enjoying a cocktail while toe-tapping along to a mariachi band.
As well as the countless cultural offerings via museums and galleries, tours of architecture and charming historic districts, and booming gastronomic scene, Mexico City boasts a selection of wonderful festivals throughout the year.
In January or February each year the documentary film festival Ambulante (founded by actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna), hits town. Vive Latino is a massive three-day music festival that draws crowds of 70,000 people each day to the Foro Sol, showcasing big-name artists alongside emerging talent.
If you appreciate a good mural, Mexico City will astound you with its dramatic, vibrant renditions of Mexico past and future. There are murals and lots more amazing art at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, as well as seasonal opera, symphony and ballet performances.
There are thousands of restaurants in this city, as well as countless street vendors, so finding something to eat is rarely a problem. Food has been a specialty here since the days of the Aztec emperors, who feasted on lavish banquets made up of hundreds of different dishes. The dominant cuisines in Mexico City are Spanish, Argentine and Italian, but there are also French, Korean and Japanese restaurants.
People tend to dine late, with lunch only getting started about 2pm and regularly lasting more than a couple of hours. The city’s fast food favourite is a huge stacked sandwich, the torta. Street food is popular, as are small affordable eateries known as fondas. You’ll find your fair share of ritzy restaurants in upmarket Polanco, including the minimalist Pujol, which books out weeks in advance.
Where to Stay
The atmospheric Centro Historico offers visitors reasonably priced accommodation such as guesthouses and boutique hotels, while most of the posh hotels are in the Polanco and Zona Rosa neighbourhoods.
Comfortable mid-range options can be found in abundance in Plaza de la Republica and Alameda, while you are more likely to find distinctively styled boutique hotels in areas such as Roma and Condesa.
Shopping spots abound in this city but favourites include Zona Rosa, Polanco and the Centro Historico. Markets are perfect for handicrafts and authentic mementos. Try the government initiative, Fonart, which is preserving folk art by showcasing the work of regional artisans, such as handmade pottery and blown glass, at several market outlets.
Department store heavyweights in Mexico City are Sanborn, Palacio de Hierro, and Liverpool. You will find branches at most shopping malls. In the western part of the city is Latin America’s largest shopping mall, Centro Santa Fe, with more than 300 stores.
Mexico City like a Local
Each year thousands of Mexicans make the pilgrimage to the Temple of Santa Maria Ahuacatlan in the hope of a miracle from the fire-blackened Black Christ sculpture. If you need more than religious faith to entice you to a destination, try the Bosque de Chapultepec. It’s Latin America’s largest park and features nine museums, a zoo, three restaurants, an amusement park and rolling lawns and trees.