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Mexico City tours and excursions

Mexico City tours

Bus tours

Innumerable half and full-day Mexico City tours pick-up and drop-off at major hotels. Most centre on the Centro Histórico and the Museo Nacional de Antropología and are accompanied by an English-speaking guide. TURIBUS, operated by the Ministry of Tourism, covers 130 places of interest along the Reforma-Centro Historico corridor and includes museums, monuments, galleries and parks. At 15-30 minute intervals, TURIBUS buses connect 25 access points where passengers can hop on and off. An electronic translator service is available and it operates from 0900-2100 every day except Christmas and New Years' day. Tickets are available for one, two or three days.

Tel: +52 55 5141 1360.
Website: http://www.turibus.com.mx

Walking tours

Many of Mexico City's prime places of interest are concentrated in small easily walkable pockets, so sightseeing on foot is a breeze. Due to the dizzying effects of altitude, it is important to acclimatise for a few days after arrival in the capital. Even a gentle stroll can cause breathless fatigue, so care should be taken to ease into walking over short distances. The government-run cultural agency INAH (National Institute for History and Archaeology) runs walking tours in Mexico City and beyond. INAH's tours are cheaper than most and led by English-speaking guides. Other walking tours can be booked via tour operators and travel agencies.

Tel: +52 55 4040 4300.
Website: http://www.inah.gob.mx

Mexico City excursions

Xochimilco

About 20km (12 miles) south of Mexico City's Zócalo is a network of canals lined by gardens and agricultural plots known as the 'floating gardens' of Xochimilco (the name means 'Place where the Flowers Grow' in the Aztec language of Nahuatl). Within the network of canals, the Pre-Hispanic inhabitants constructed little islands known aschinampason which fruits, vegetables and flowers could be grown. These formed one of the economic bases of the Aztec Empire.

Some 180km (112 miles) of canals remain today and the area has become a favourite destination for Mexico City's inhabitants to come for a bit of fun and relaxation. Hundreds of colourfultrajineras(small, flat-bottomed barges similar to gondolas) are punted along the canals with parties of revellers on board. As well as the passenger boats, there are waterborne bands ofmariachisormarimbasready to play requests (for a price), vendors selling tacos, soft drinks and flowers, photographers and souvenir sellers adding to the general cacophony. Xochimilco only springs to life on Sundays and public holidays so the rest of the week can be a disappointment, as it appears a quiet, drab place with only the odd boatload of bemused tourists taking to the water.

Transport to Xochimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage site, from Mexico City is by buses marked Metro 'Tasqueña', or by taking the metro to Tasqueña and then thetren ligero(overground train) to Embarcadero.

For more information, visit Xochimilco Tourist Office, Embarcadero Nativitas.

Tel: +52 55 5676 0810.
Website: http://www.xochimilco.df.gob.mx

Teotihuacán

Situated 50km (30 miles) north of Mexico City is the archaeological zone of Teotihuacán, a UNESCO World Heritage spot. This site is thought to date from around 300-600 BC but the identity of those who built the 'place of the gods' still remains a mystery. Teotihuacán was once a functioning city and one of the largest in the pre-industrial world. It was also one of the more politically dominant cities, owing to its strategic location in the Valley of Mexico, which provided easy access to trade routes and communication. In the seventh century AD, a fire and subsequent looting caused a great exodus of its inhabitants and Teotihuacán was left abandoned.

There are three main site areas: the Ciudadela (Citadel), Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun), Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon) - all connected by the Calzada de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead). To see the site properly takes between five and eight hours and it is open daily 0800-1700.

Buses marked 'Los Pirámides' depart from Gate 8 of the Terminal del Norte and take about an hour.

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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.