Tenochtitlan, el Distrito Federal, la Ciudad de México — Mexico City has been known by many names in its centuries-long history. Home to more than 21 million residents, this sprawling metropolitan area is the capital of Mexico and one of the best cities in the world, as determined by Travel + Leisure’s reader-voted 2022 World’s Best Awards.
“You can’t understand Mexico without first understanding Mexico City,” Zachary Rabinor, a T+L A-List advisor and the CEO of Journey Mexico, said. “The vibrant capital encapsulates the country’s diversity culturally, historically, politically, artistically, musically, creatively, and more. If you want to know what is going on in Mexico, start with Mexico City.”
Museums, cultural experiences, and incredible food can be found around every corner in CDMX. Even if you’re in town for a single day, try to balance your itinerary with old and new. Head downtown to admire classic Mexican murals inside the Palacio de Bellas Artes and to grab an elote from a street vendor along the Zócalo, Mexico City’s main square. Museum hop through town, stopping at Museo Frida Kahlo, Castillo de Chapultepec, and Museo Soumaya. And once you’ve worked up an appetite, get tacos al pastor from a local taquería — it won’t be hard to find. And if you can’t see everything in one trip, Mexico City will happily welcome you back. Here are our top recommendations for travelers in this incredible capital city.
Best Hotels and Resorts
The St. Regis Mexico City
The St. Regis Mexico City sits on Reforma Avenue, one of capital’s busiest streets and a hub for business headquarters and embassies. It also puts you close to a number of key landmarks, including the iconic Ángel de la Independencia statue and Chapultepec Park. Check out on-site restaurant Diana — named after the fountain of the Greek goddess just outside — for classic Mexican dishes like tuna tostadas, or modern creations like avocado pizza and cauliflower ceviche. This hotel is consistently voted one of the best hotels in Mexico City by T+L readers.
Casa Decu Condesa
On the tree-lined streets of Condesa, you will find Casa Decu, an art deco dream filled with funky tile floors, private patios, and a rooftop restaurant and garden space. The 27-room boutique hotel is pet-friendly and offers continental breakfast each morning. Its location is great, too; it’s just a short walk from Parque México, a former horse-racing track turned into a park, plus lots of cozy cafés and the famous Esquina de Chilaquil, a street stand serving up only-in-Mexico City tortas de chilaquiles that locals line up for.
Ignacia Guest House
At Ignacia Guest House, guests choose from black, yellow, pink, blue, or green rooms, each one decked out from floor to ceiling in its named hue. This historic estate house is in La Roma, one of Mexico City’s trendiest neighborhoods, and just blocks from Metro and Metrobús stations and across the street from the cool community space and outdoor garden, Huerto Roma Verde.
Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Mexico City
Las Alcobas, a 35-room boutique hotel, is in the posh Polanco neighborhood, right near Chapultepec Park. It was voted the No. 2 city hotel in Mexico in T+L’s 2022 World’s Best Awards, and travel writer Sophie Dodd reported for T+L that her favorite part of the hotel is its bath service. “I ordered a ‘Jet Lag’ bath, which meant a staff member came to run the bath for me (a spectacular luxury) and infused it with a sachet of herbs designed to help me relax and reset after the nearly six-hour flight.”
El Patio 77
Each accommodation in the eight-room El Patio 77 is named and styled after states surrounding Mexico City. It’s an intimate space, occupying an 1890s mansion in the San Rafael neighborhood, and the hotel prides itself on its eco-friendliness, with a rainwater collection system and gray water recycling program. Even some of the furniture is upcycled, giving the hotel an eclectic (yet still luxurious) feel.
Best Things to Do
El Centro Histórico
Mexico City’s Centro Histórico, or Historic Center, is where centuries-old constructions clash with American-inspired skyscrapers, street markets, and more museums than you can count. “From ancient Aztec times to modern-day Mexico, the square has been an important gathering place through the centuries,” Rabinor said. “Within the Zócalo, you’ll see symbolic buildings from pre-Colombian, colonial, and contemporary Mexico.”
Highlights here include the Palacio de Bellas Artes, filled with Diego Rivera murals and fine arts exhibitions; the Zócalo and its Metropolitan Cathedral; and Mercado Ciudadela, home to aisles and aisles of craft stalls selling artisan goods. Rabinor also recommends visiting Avenida Francisco Madero, a pedestrian-only street where “you can best soak in all the energy of the busy capital.”
La Casa Azul/Museo Frida Kahlo
Get your tickets well advance to tour Casa Azul, which is where Frida Kahlo lived most of her life. Expect to see many pieces of her artwork here, plus rooms left so untouched that it feels like the artist could return at a moment’s notice. A ticket to this museum also gives you entry to Diego Rivera’s Museo Anahuacalli, a 15-minute drive away.
Bosque de Chapultepec
Not even New York’s Central Park can beat this green space, a massive urban forest spanning nearly three square miles. The Bosque de Chapultepec is packed with gems, including the Castillo de Chapultepec (the only castle in the Americas ever occupied by European royalty), Museo Nacional de Antropología, and Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo.
Arguably the most dazzling museum in Mexico City, with an exterior that twists to the sky and is made of more than 16,000 reflective hexagons, Museo Soumaya houses one of the most impressive art collections in town. Not-to-miss works include Auguste Rodin’s “La Porte de l’Enfer” and “The Thinker.”
Parque México is sometimes called “the lungs of the city” — the tree-lined green space can either be a place to pick up the pace for a good walk, or a place to catch your breath and slow way down. Head to the park’s main plaza to watch break dancers, musicians, and quinceñeras collide. When you’re ready for a snack, go to Churrería El Moro for delicious ready-made churros and a Mexican hot chocolate.
Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela
If you’re looking for handmade goods, Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela is the place to go. This market in Colonia Centro has ceramics, silver jewelry, wool blankets, and art made from all over Mexico. Be sure to bring some cash, as not all vendors accept credit cards.
The Barrio Alameda, constructed in the late 1920s, bills itself as an “urban meeting point,” where food, drink, fashion, and art mingle. Shop for vintage clothes, old-school vinyls, and handmade patches from various storefronts, all under one roof.
Galería Mexicana de Diseño
If you’re looking to take a piece of Mexico back home, hit up this gallery for its variety of modern Mexican wares. Whether you opt for an Acapulco chair, hand-felted print rugs, or a monstera-leaf gold lamp, every item can be shipped home for you.
Routinely picked as one of the best restaurants in Mexico City, Contramar serves the freshest seafood in town. Make a reservation beforehand, and be sure to order the tuna tostadas, and pescado a la talla — Contramar’s signature snapper, split in half and topped with red chili sauce on one side and parsley sauce on the other.
Make your brunch dreams come true at this French-inspired pasterlería near the leafy Parque México. Sip on a cappuccino and people watch from the wide-open windows, or head upstairs, where you can tear open a fresh-baked concha and dig into a steaming plate of enmoladas.
Café de Tacuba
Mexico City’s historic center has a number of well-known restaurants, but perhaps none as famous as Café de Tacuba. More than one hundred years old, this restaurant has been popular among presidents and artists alike, and is even where Diego Rivera had his (first) wedding reception. If you’re looking for a true, traditional Mexican meal, you’ll find it here.
Get a taste of northern Mexico at Taquería Orinoco, a chain from Monterrey with seven locations. Try tacos de chicharrón, bistec, or al pastor, all served up on flaky flour tortillas. Corn tortillas are an option, too, as is a costra, or a crust of cheese layered across the top. Since these taco shops are sometimes open until 4 or 5 a.m., they’re very popular with the city’s late-night partygoers.
Snag a patio spot at Los Danzantes in Coyoacán, one of the best places in the neighborhood’s central square to grab a bite and watch as street performers, vendors, and locals pass you by. Here you can try dishes like chapulines (fried grasshoppers) served with queso fresco and guacamole, duck tacos, and squash blossom–stuffed chicken breast.
Best Time to Visit
Mexico City is always bustling, no matter what time of the year you decide to go. According to Rabinor, the sunniest and driest months are the end of October through March.
In late October, you’ll see Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations and decor. Orange and pink marigolds pop up all over town, adorning altars to the city’s departed. If you check-in before Sept. 15, that’s the day that Mexico’s president yells out in celebration at 11 p.m. from the National Palace, marking the country’s independence from Spain and ushering in further cries (and parties) from locals. If you’re looking for a more low-key time to visit, wait until spring, when the purple jacarandas bloom all over town.
Rabinor also noted that locals go to the beach during major holidays and in the summer, so while this “diminishes the local color,” it also means visitors can enjoy a “quieter time, with less people and traffic in our famously congested city.”
How to Get There
Mexico City is best reached by flying into its international airport: Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez (MEX). While there are direct flights from U.S. hubs like Los Angeles (LAX), New York City (JFK), and Phoenix (PHX), travelers can get better fares with layovers closer to the border, like the Dallas/Forth Worth area (DFW) and Miami (MIA).
Cities and Neighborhoods to Visit
Mexico City is a little bit like New York in that it’s made up of alcaldías, which are similar to boroughs. There are 16 total, but during your stay, you’ll most likely only stop through three or four. Each alcaldía is made up of colonias, or neighborhoods. Below are five that are popular with guests.
El Centro Histórico: Mexico City’s downtown is always bustling, and it’s where many of the city’s residents go on weekends. You might see protesters in the main square, vendors hawking their wares through the streets, and visitors brunching among the surrounding terraces. According to Rabinor, “[Centro Histórico is] the beating heart of not just the city, but the entire country.”
La Roma: Filled with fin de siècle mansions, art deco dwellings, and art nouveau–style storefronts, any architecture lover needs to stroll through this colonia. Originally a middle-class residential neighborhood, it was left destroyed after a massive earthquake rocked Mexico City in 1985. Today, La Roma has found new life as a hot spot for artists, 20-somethings, and tourists from all over.
La Condesa: La Roma’s fancier cousin next door, La Condesa is a tree-lined paradise built for walking. Parque México and Parque España are popular places for residents to relax, and cafés, bookstores, and restaurants abound in this neighborhood. (Note: Rabinor’s expert advice to travelers is to remember that “Mexico City is much more than Roma, Condesa, and Polanco.”)
Coyoacán: This is the neighborhood that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera called home, and Coyoacán has built a reputation for itself as a bohemian haven. Don’t miss the performers around the main square’s kiosco and the Parroquia San Juan Bautista Coyoacán next door – which has a cafe in the back if you’re ready to take a break – along with the Mercado de Artesanias and the Mercado de Coyoacán, each selling snacks, artisan goods, and more.
Polanco: A trip to Mexico City isn’t complete for any shopping lover without a visit to Polanco’s Avenida Presidente Masaryk. If that’s not your style, a number of Michelin-worthy restaurants like Pujol and Quintonil are just down the road, and the neighborhood’s brick-lined streets are just a few blocks from the Bosque de Chapultepec. Rabinor recommends this neighborhood for first-time visitors, noting that it’s ideal for “those who prefer their travel scenery and vibe very manicured and posh.”
How to Get Around
Cars and bikes: You most likely won’t need a car to get around in Mexico City, though it can be more convenient if you’re making a day trip to a neighboring town. (Rabinor swears by Waze to manage the congestion and traffic.) You can also rent bikes from the city’s Ecobici program, or apps like Dezba.
Trains: Mexico City’s Metro system is one of the most expansive and affordable in the world. Buy a reloadable card to get around (for 15 pesos, or about 75 cents). This card will work across the city’s transit system, and you can load it up in Metro ticket booths or the machines outside Metrobús stations. Each ride costs five pesos, which is roughly 20 cents. Note that both the Metro and Metrobús have women-only cars, and that they usually have separate boarding zones.
Buses: In Mexico City’s central neighborhoods and wherever the Metro doesn’t go, the Metrobús does. They have their own lane of traffic, so they can be faster than taking a car or taxi, and a ride is just six pesos. The city’s trolebús functions similarly, while the RTP buses (for Red de Transporte de Pasajeros, or Passenger Transport Network) cost between two and seven pesos. At the same bus stops, you may see non-city buses or vans taking passengers. If you’re curious where these go, they’ll have their stops scrawled on the windshield.
Taxis: It won’t be hard to flag down a pink and white taxi in most parts of town. You can also order one by downloading the city’s official “App CDMX,” available on iPhone and Android. You can use the app to pay with a debit or credit card, but most drivers still prefer cash.
Ride service: Uber, Beat, and Cabify are just a few of the rideshare apps in town. (Pro-tip: Rabinor said the quickest and easiest way to get a taxi in Mexico City is Uber.) If Uber’s surge rate seems pricey during rush hour, check Beat or Cabify to see if you can find a deal.