City Highlight: Mexico City

Published on: Wednesday, March 8, 2017

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A city of marked extremes, Mexico’s capital is home to more than 20 million inhabitants and has its own unique Latin buzz.

Experience a heady mix of affluence and poverty through the bustle of Mexico City’s urban streets, which are adorned with a scattering of colonial palaces and grand cathedrals and down which you’re as likely to stumble upon a colourful bazaar as you are a forest-strewn city park.

The city’s origins date back to the empire of the Aztecs and today the relics of its glorious past are framed and mounted at the Museo Nacional de Antropología – one of the region’s finest museums. Its collection of ancient pre-Colombian antiquities is unrivalled in the Americas. For more city sights and attractions – from the Paleolithic Period and beyond – see our guide on what to see in Mexico City.

Today, Mexico City is experiencing a boom in tourism, fuelled in part by the weakness of the peso. It’s also building a claim for culinary supremacy with just a little support from UNESCO, who placed Mexican cuisine on their intangible cultural heritage list back in 2010. The place to chow down on the UN approved grub is San Ángel Inn, a restaurant offering a fine-dining experience in the leafy courtyard of a former Mexico City hacienda. On a budget? Our Mexico City restaurant guide will see you right too.

Forgo high culture and fine cuisine with an escape into more primitive, lycra-clad surrounds. Lucha libre dominates the sports calendar here and Arena Coliseo is the wrestling mecca where crowds gather weekly for a dose of high-flying acrobatics and soap opera-worthy dramatics. Wanting more things to do in Mexico City, short of becoming a luchador? Mountain bike tours and ‘hiking yoga’ are just two tips in our things to do guide.

Commonly dubbed the “ciudad de los palacios”, or city of palaces, Mexico City has an oft-overlooked charm and grandeur, arguably best seen on foot. Walkers beware though, the Mexican capital is at an elevation of 2,250m (7,382ft) and visitors are advised to avoid strenuous exercise for the first few days of a visit just to avoid unwanted bouts of altitude sickness. Calm any worries over unnecessary exertion by hopping on the Turibus, a sightseeing bus operated by the Ministry of Tourism that offers a number of day trips, including themed tours focused on everything from footballing glory at Estadio Azul to shamanic cleansing rituals at Mercado de Sonora, Mexico City’s premier witchcraft market. Turibus is just one of our recommendations featured in the tours and excursions page.

The altitude in Mexico City does have its advantages, however. It’s said that one drink here is the equivalent of two elsewhere, which might explain the mexiqueño love for a good fiesta. AM Local is one of a bloc of progressive nightclubs in Mexico City, billing international name DJs on a weekly basis. Alongside this, the city’s boho bar scene is buzzing with a recent arrival: the craft beer pub. One establishment, imaginatively titled The Beer Box, is a cozy spot for a night with bottles and barrels as company and is centred in the lively Zona Rosa neighbourhood. Plus, with our Mexico City nightlife guide you’ll never have to worry about last orders – the clubs here can keep you occupied right through to the AM.

As you might expect from a city of its size, Mexico City serves up a smorgasbord of accommodation options. Brutalist high-rise Presidente Mexico City doesn’t scream luxury from its concrete facade but the hotel’s six restaurants, cocktail lounge, ballroom and spa can claim to have entertained everyone from Michael Jackson to Bill Clinton. Elsewhere, travellers on a much tighter budget should enjoy the charms of Hotel Casa Gonzalez, a family-run hotel with a guesthouse feel, centred around a quiet courtyard that hasn’t changed much since the building was opened in 1930. For more recommendations, see our guide for more tips on where to stay in Mexico City.