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Mexico City Travel Guide

About Mexico City

Sprawling, untamed and home to more than 20 million inhabitants, Mexico City is the very definition of a metropolis. The Mexican capital is one of Latin America's most important economic and cultural cities, mixing colonial architecture, mansion-filled neighbourhoods and gritty, sometimes grim, urbanisation.

The city started as the seat of the mighty Aztecs, before Spanish conquistadores deceived and destroyed them in the 16th century. Very little of the original town remains, as huge cathedrals and other buildings were hurriedly constructed over the main temples. But excavations have revealed some of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlán, and any time a construction company digs up the ground for a new building, the ancient Aztec city rises to the surface.

Today, the capital is an uproarious mix of affluence and poverty, hip and hard-working. Enthusiastic artists and boisterous musicians operate in and around the fashionable, tree-lined districts of La Condesa and Colonia. Here you'll find a lively café culture and trendy nightlife amidst beautiful colonial-era architecture.

In the south are several gated, super-rich neighbourhoods, but also the youthful University City and Frida Kahlo's former home. Many parts of the north and east are poorer and a bit less safe, but there are sites of cultural significance dotted all over the city.

Mexican cuisine is known across the world and with good reason. But nowhere does Mexican food quite like Mexico City, where culinary traditions from across the country are brought together. Excellent food can be found everywhere, from ubiquitous street stalls to the many hole-in-the-wall eateries and more up-market restaurants. International fare is also popular among the city's steadily growing middle class, particularly Western European and Japanese cuisine.

Despite its seemingly endless urban spread, Mexico City is also home to vast swathes of parkland. The expansive Bosque de Chapultepec is one of the largest city parks in the world, while Desierto de los Leones is a forested wilderness on the city's south-western fringe.

Brightly painted, open-topped trajineras (barges) trawl Mexico City's mysterious ancient canal system in Xochimilco; all that remains of the lake that the original Aztec city was built around for defence. It's an essential slice of the city's rich past that's all but lost forever after the conquest. The Spaniards quickly drained it and today the thirst of the city's 20 million inhabitants continues to reduce water levels by draining aquifers, which in turn means the city is slowly sinking.

Key facts

Population:
8.705,100 million (Distrito Federal); 21,503,700 million (Mexico City region)
Latitude:
19.419727
Longitude:
-99.144824

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Featured Hotels

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Hotel Escandón

Hotel Escandón offers quite remarkable value for money. It is situated in the Escandón neighbourhood, just 10 minutes away on foot from the hip Roma-Condesa regions of the city. But if you want to get there faster the free bicycle hire is bound to be an attractive feature; as are their spacious rooms, on-site fitness centre and room service. There is a restaurant in the hotel serving authentic Mexican food and plenty of restaurants and cafes on the same block as the hotel.

Camino Real Polanco México

Stylish, modernistic with bold yellow and pink walls, the Camino Real was designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta. Luxurious and original, this Mexico City hotel is renowned for a huge mural in the entrance lobby by artist Rufino Tamayo. Spacious guest rooms offer views over a delightful garden and large pool with terrace. Convention facilities include a business centre and meeting rooms, shops and a gym.

Hotel Majestic

Boasting an enviable location overlooking the fine historic monuments of the Zócalo the 85-room Hotel Majestic has five large suites. A mirrored lobby is adorned with fountains and Mexican tiles. Choose a room overlooking the square for bird's eye views of the daily ceremonial raising of the flag at 0600. Simple décor centres on comfort with a TV mini-bar coffee-making facilities and rustic wood furniture. Popular terrace restaurant Terraza overlooks the Zócalo and serves basic Mexican and international food at reasonable prices.

Gran Hotel Ciudad de México

A shrine to art nouveau styling, this is one of the most elegant and original hotels in Mexico City. The lobby has a cathedral-like quality, with a stunning coloured-glass window canopy overhead, ornate wrought iron balconies and lifts at either end. Located conveniently on the Zócalo in the Centro Histórico and a 15-minute drive from the airport, this Mexico City hotel also has convention facilities, making it popular with the business community and upmarket travellers. The 124 rooms all have art nouveau touches and TVs. There is a restaurant in the lobby and a terrace café over the square.

Hotel Casa Gonzalez

Finding a better choice in terms of a central location, low price and excellent quality all at once is likely to be tough. Yet somehow Casa Gonzalez combines a small, personal guesthouse feel with close proximity to Paseo de la Reforma making it excellent value for money. The property has its own little garden and each room has a private bathroom.

Hotel Gillow

Located in the heart of the Centro Histórico, this elegant mid-range hotel in Mexico City is perfectly placed just a stone's throw from the Zócalo and its fine architecture and museums. An attractive art deco-style facade opens up onto a cheerful, rose-coloured marble lobby hung with leafy plants. Rooms boast a simple pastel colour scheme together with TV and private bathroom with views overlooking the street or a quiet inner courtyard. A reasonably priced restaurant Capilla and bar offers a decent range of international beers and liquors together with Mexican dishes with a global twist.