Explore Mexico city, Mexico
Explore Mexico city the capital of Mexico, and the largest city in North America by population.
The greater Mexico City metropolitan area is one of the world’s largest and the largest city by population in North America, with an estimated 26 million people living in the region. It is shaped roughly like an oval of about 60 by 40km.
The city is located 2,200m above mean sea level. Some people may have breathing difficulties at high altitudes and experience difficulty when breathing. This is far higher than any metropolitan area in the United States. If you live closer to sea level, you may experience difficulty breathing due to altitude and pollution. Air quality has, however, been improved in the last few years.
Mexico City’s night life is like all other aspects of the city; it is huge. There is an enormous selection of venues: clubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, and variations and combinations thereof to choose from. There is incredible variation, from ultramodern lounges in Santa Fe and Reforma, to centuries-old dance halls in Centro and Roma. There are also pubs in Tlalpan and Coyoacán and clubs of every stripe in Insurgentes, Polanco, Condesa and the Zona Rosa.
The origins of Mexico City date back to 1325, when the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan was founded and later destroyed in 1521 by Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes. The city served as the capital of the Vice-royalty of New Spain until the outbreak of the Independence War in 1810. The city became the capital of the Mexican Empire in 1821 and of the Mexican Republic in 1823.
Mexico City has a subtropical highland climate, typical for central Mexico, with a cool, dry season from November to April and a wet season from May to October when 95% of the city’s precipitation occurs.
With a population of more than 20 million in the greater metropolitan area, you can expect to find all kinds of people in Mexico City, in terms of racial, sexual, political, cultural and wealth diversity. Citizens are mostly Mestizo (people of mixed European and Amerindian racial background) and white. Amerindian people constitute less than one percent of the city’s population, but there are some who are still moving to the city in search of opportunities. As elsewhere in Latin America, socioeconomic status tends to be highly correlated with ethnicity in Mexico City: by and large, the upper and middle classes have more European ancestry than the poor and the lower classes.
The city, as the rest of the country, has a very unequal distribution of wealth that can be characterized geographically, generally speaking, as follows: the middle and upper classes tend to live in the west of the city (concentrated in the delegaciones of Benito Juarez, Miguel Hidalgo, Coyoacan, Tlalpan, Cuajimalpa and Alvaro Obregon). The east of the city, most notably Iztapalapa (the most populous delegacion) is much poorer. The same applies to municipalities of greater Mexico City (Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, Chalco, Chimalhuacán). Although there are pockets of poverty everywhere (and often side by side with the shiny-glitzy condos of the nouveau riche, like in Santa Fe in Cuajimalpa), it is easily noticeable that as one travels east the buildings begin to look more shabby and the people look increasingly browner–a testimony to Mexico’s heritage of racial and socioeconomic inequality.
Since it is a big city, it is the home of large foreign communities, like Cubans, Spaniards, Americans, Japanese, Chilean, Lebanese, and more recently Argentines and Koreans. Mexico City has a number of ethnic districts with restaurants and shops that cater to groups such as Chinese and Lebanese Mexicans.
It is the temporary home to many expats too, working here for the many multinational companies operating in Mexico. Foreigners of virtually any ethnic background may not get a second look if they dress conservatively and attempt to speak Spanish.
Mexico City is one of the most liberal cities in Latin America, and was the first jurisdiction in the region to legalize same-sex marriage (in December 2009). As such, this is generally a gay friendly city, particularly in the Zona Rosa District. Abortion on demand is also legal, as well as euthanasia and prostitution (the latter allowed only in designated districts).
Although Mexico City is considered an expensive city compared to other cities in Mexico it is very cheap compared to other metropolises around the world like Paris or Tokyo. Even so your trip budget will depend on your lifestyle and way of travelling, as you can find cheap and expensive prices for almost everything. Public transportation is among the cheapest in the world and wouldn’t constitute an issue for any budget range while there are many affordable places to eat. On the other hand you can find world-class hotels and fancy restaurants with higher prices. For those with more expendable cash, you can find plenty of outlets for your dollars, euros, pounds, yen…etc.
What to drink
The typical Mexican place to go to drink is the cantina, a bar where food is usually free, and you pay for drinks (exact policies and minimums vary). Cantinas serve a wide range of Mexican and foreign drinks, with prices usually reasonable compared to prices in the US, and you’ll be continually served various Mexican food, such as tacos (you should ask for ‘Botana’). If your tolerance for Mexican music (mariachi or otherwise), smoke-filled rooms, and lots of noise is low however, this may not be your kind of place. Cantinas are open moderately late, usually past midnight at the very least.
In addition, there are bars that play a combination of Spanish and English-language rock, electronic music, and some Latin/Caribbean music. These bars tend to close around 3-4AM.
Club music mainly falls into three main categories, pop, rock and electronic music. The pop places generally play what’s on the music charts, Latin pop, and sometimes traditional Mexican music, and are frequented by a younger (sometimes very young) audience, and are often more upper class. The rock places play rock in the wide sense, in English and Spanish. Most people are at least over 18 in these places. The electronica clubs, which attract everyone from Mexico City’s large subculture of ravers and electronica fans, of all ages. Most clubs close late, 3-4AM at the earliest, and some are open until 7AM or 8AM.
The best bet used to be the Zona Rosa, which has a large number of street bars with rock bands playing and a large selection of clubs, especially strip clubs and gay bars. South of Zona Rosa you can find the Condesa area, with many options of bars and restaurants. Another good area is Polanco, particularly a street called Mazaryk, where you’ll find plenty of good clubs but it is best to make a reservation. Posh and upper scale night clubs can be found in the Lomas area and be warned some of these could be extremely expensive.
The other common Mexican-style thing to do when going out is to go dancing, usually to salsa, meringue, rumba, mambo, son, or other Caribbean/Latin music. This is considerably more fun if you’re a somewhat competent dancer, but even complete beginners who don’t mind making fools of themselves will likely enjoy it. Most dance places close late; 3-4AM is common.
The legal drinking age is 18. It is illegal to consume alcohol in public (“open container”). This is strictly enforced and the penalty is at least 24 hours in jail.
Take an identification card such as a copy of your passport.
Smoking inside public and private buildings is strictly prohibited by law. Restaurants used to have smoking and non-smoking sections, but recent laws have banned smoking in any public enclosed space. Fines can be steep, so if you want to smoke in a restaurant it is best to ask the waiter before lighting up. Of course, going outside is always an option. Smoking light drugs, such as marijuana, is prohibited and offenders could be imprisoned if found in possession of more than one personal dose.
Places nearby to visit
Queretaro is the capital city of the state of Queretaro. A World Heritage site, Queretaro has one of the best preserved old towns in Mexico. Many old churches and other examples of colonial architecture can be found here, a mere 2 hour drive from Mexico City or 3 hours from Terminal del Norte bus station.
Oaxtepec is a short distance away from Mexico City and is a great place to get out of the hectic city and do some swimming. The climate is constantly warm and sunny and there is a very affordable and very fun waterpark (only half is open on weekdays…on the weekends the rest of the park is open). There are plenty of lodging options and most include access to a club house with a sauna and an Olympic pool and diving pool.
Cuernavaca is the capital city of the state of Morelos. It’s only 45 minutes away from Mexico City and is known world-wide known as “The City of Eternal Spring” due to its excellent temperate climate with an annual average of 20ºC.
Pueblo is a UNESCO world heritage place for its colonial architecture and site of the battle with the French army in the mid 1800’s. The city is known throughout Mexico for its cuisine; it’s worthwhile to take a one day trip from Mexico City to do some sight-seeing and sample some of the food. Many good restaurants are conveniently located near the main square.
Valle de Bravo a beautiful town next to a lake and in the middle of the forest, great place for all kinds of sports (e.g. mountain biking, sailing, water skiing and paragliding). Consider driving up Nevado de Toluca and into the crater that holds a lake. Nevado de Toluca is a dormant volcano on your way to Valle de Bravo. Also, late winter/early spring is the best time to see the monarch butterflies on your way to VdB.
Desert of the Lions National Park— 20 minutes away from the city you can find yourself surrounded by trees in the middle of the forest. Take a hike from “La Venta” to “El Convento” or up to “Cruz Blanca” and eat some great quesadillas for lunch, you can’t miss them since it the only structure on “Cruz Blanca”. If you can find a mountain bike, it’s one of the best places to ride.
Tepoztlan— A cool new age city south of Mexico City which has an interesting pyramid on top of a mountain. The journey up to see the pyramid takes approximately an hour and is well worth it once you see the view on top. Tepoztlan is also known for its frequent UFO activity. Believe it or not if you want, but a large percentage of the town residents claim to have seen the “ovni.”
Bernal is about a 2.5 hour drive outside of Mexico City (north towards Queretaro), has the famous La Peña de Bernal. Popular on summer soltice. Very small town but lively.
Official tourism websites of Mexico City
For more information please visit the official government website: