Gone are the days when travellers skipped over Mexico City and headed straight for the beaches, as the capital increasingly makes a name for itself as one of the world’s great cultural centres. It has the second-highest number of museums of any city in the world (Paris takes the top spot), over 40,000 restaurants and its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world, Mexico City can be a dizzying experience for a first-time visitor. We’re making it easier for you to tackle this exciting challenge by answering the critical sightseeing, dining and accommodation questions.
What to Do
First-time visitors should start at the city’s Zócalo. The central plaza is an important historical remnant from Mexico’s colonial period. Prior to that, it was the main ceremonial centre for the Aztec empire in the 15th century. Today, the Zócalo is home to cultural events and street food vendors. For a fantastic bird’s-eye view of the square without the crowds, head to the nearby Holiday Inn Zócalo and grab a seat on the terrace.
The Bosque de Chapultepec, a sweeping city park that spans over 680 hectares, is one of the largest green spaces in the Western Hemisphere. Often referred to as the city’s “lungs,” the park’s phalanx of trees replenish much-needed oxygen for the Valley of Mexico. More than just a hike, the park is home to the city zoo, the museum of anthropology and the Rufino Tamayo museum, which is known for its impressive and varied collection of modern and contemporary art.
What to Eat and Drink
Mexico City’s food culture is not only recognized all over the world, but it has played a critical role in how we see street food in the Americas. Foodies visit the city just for the opportunity to eat in its diverse neighbourhoods. Exploring on your own can be challenging, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. Eat Mexico offers the right balance of introductory and advanced tours for those with adventurous palates. Bonus, Eat Mexico keeps each group to an intimate six people.
Food trucks, stands and carts can be found on almost every street in Mexico City, allowing you to get your fill of cheap, authentic eats at virtually any hour. We probably don’t need to tell you to try some tacos, but other must-try foods include tamales, the city’s quick go-to breakfast, which sees fillings like chicken, cheese or mushrooms wrapped in cornmeal dough and steamed or baked in a corn husk; and tortas, which are sandwiches jam-packed with a range of fillings and served on bolillo or telera bun.
Where to Stay
Camino Real Mexico, an expansive hotel in Anzures, has elements like bright pink and orange walls that were inspired by Aztec era art and architecture. While it feels like a resort at 700+ rooms, Camino Real Polanco Mexico manages to have something for every type of traveller. Whether you want a daily dip in the outdoor pool or a different meal every night (there are nearly a dozen bars and restaurants including one by Iron Chef Morimoto), the hotel has you covered.
Set in the city’s famed public square, Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico is another excellent choice. The meticulously maintained hotel offers the historic charm of old-fashioned elevators, along with a vast sunroof. Its prestigious terrace restaurant features a spectacular view of the square and city.