Mexico City was thrust further into the international limelight last year, when it was named the top global destination to visit and saw a throng of eager travellers flocking to its sometimes bustling, sometimes quaint and always interesting streets. If you haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for? These are the 12 reasons you should visit Mexico City at least once in your lifetime.
The artsy side to Mexico City is well-documented, and the art scene has been steadily on the rise for years now. Currently, some of the city’s best contemporary galleries can be found tucked into the centrally located Roma and, to a lesser extent, Condesa districts, but if you go further afield you’ll be rewarded by some great finds. Take San Rafael or even the architecture lover’s hotspot of San Miguel de Chapultepec, and of course, Kahlo’s former haunt Coyoacán goes without saying. Don’t forget about the street art either!
Even though Asia is often considered to have the best street food scene in the world, the street side offerings in Mexico City are most certainly not to be sniffed at. With tacos, tlacoyos and tamales galore, you could spend an entire lifetime exploring the tastes of the capital. However, don’t forget about the gourmet restaurant scene either, as Mexico City has some of the world’s finest dining establishments, like Pujol and newcomer Padella.
If you’re from the US, or perhaps any Western country right now, your opinion on Mexico may have been and continue to be skewed by dangerous political rhetoric which often focuses on the border states in the north of the country and the ongoing drug war. However, a visit to Mexico City will change your perspective on how this misrepresented country is portrayed and give you a chance to see just how amazing it is for yourself. While there are still dangers, as there are in any capital, the good far outweighs the bad.
Mexico City has got nightlife for any age, taste and orientation, from the many gay bars that line the streets of the Zona Rosa, to the fancier, buy-a-bottle nightclubs of the swanky Polanco district and the various cheap and cheerful dive bars dotted around the capital. Whether you like reggae, reggaeton or even jazz, you can easily find a spot to wile the night away with a craft beer, cocktail or traditional mezcal.
Speaking of Mexico City’s drinking scene, the capital is the ideal location to taste test not just the classics like tequila and mezcal, but also some lesser known Mexican beverages. We’re of course talking about pulque, the Mesoamerican drink that’s oddly nutritional and sometimes off-puttingly gloopy. Given that it’s practically impossible to export and transport, you can only really find it in the central regions of Mexico, to which Mexico City belongs.
We’ve mentioned the art, but the museums are definitely worthy of a shout-out too – all 150+ of them! Mexico City is the capital city with the most museums in the world and they range from the super famous and well-known (think, the Museo Nacional de Antropología) to the far more obscure (like Museo de El Carmen, which houses real life mummies) and even the informational and underrated (the Interactive Economy Museum in the historic centre is not just for kids!) Basically, you’ll never be bored in Mexico City.
No guide to why you should visit Mexico City would be complete without mentioning just how affordable it is for the average tourist or traveller. In fact, it’s by far and away the cheapest capital city in North America, and you can really stretch your money in Mexico City. While flights from outside the US can be a bit pricier, this initial upfront cost is balanced quickly by the cheap food, affordable accommodation and budget drinking options.
While we’re on the subject of flying into Mexico City, if you’re lucky enough to be landing there at night (or at least once the sun’s gone down) you’ll get to truly appreciate the vastness of the capital. Twinkling lights stretch as far as the eye can see, crawling up the mountains that hem in the city on all sides. Really, there’s nothing as impressive as coming in to land in Mexico City after dark.
It’s this overwhelming size that lends Mexico City its surprising diversity. Most people know that the centre is largely dominated by the sprawl of Bosque de Chapultepec, but few people realise that there are actually tons of national parks within the limits of Mexico City that will allow you the chance to escape the rat race. You can hike in Ajusco, explore underrated attractions in Desierto de Los Leones or relax in Los Dinamos.
If you think you have to slum it in a hostel while in Mexico City, think again, as design hotels are growing in popularity in the Mexican capital. Sparked by a boom in tourism, areas like Polanco, Roma and Condesa are filled to the brim with luxury and boutique accommodation options, and there are also further afield options in Coyoacán, Santa Fe and even the good old historic centre too. That’s not to say that Mexico City hostels are bad though! In fact, some of them are incredibly cool.
If you like history and want to experience it in an atmosphere other than that of a museum, then Mexico City is the ideal place to visit. It’s surrounded by some of the country’s most important Aztec, Toltec and Mesoamerican ruins, including the fantastic Teotihuacán, the towering sculptures of Tula, Hidalgo and the city centre ruins of the Templo Mayor. All easily accessible from or within the capital, they’re world class and popular for a reason.
Teotihuacán, San Juan Teotihuacan de Arista, Estado de México, México, +52 594 958 2081
Finally, even if you’re not so interested in Mesoamerican pyramids, Mexico City is the perfect base for taking several day trips. You can go down to Taxco, Guerrero if former colonial silver mining towns are your thing, or you can go climb a mountain in the State of Mexico’s capital Toluca. Alternatively, escape to Veracruz or pop down into Puebla and Cholula, the town with a church on every corner.