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Aztec dancer, El Zocalo
Aztec dancer, El Zocalo

Mexico City Travel Guide

A frenzied, colourful, ancient city, still spiced up by Aztec and Spanish influences, Mexico City is a fascinating but challenging destination. 

Not only is it one of the world's biggest cities, but it is a hip, happening place to be, so it is not surprising that trendy travellers are increasingly choosing to holiday in Mexico City. It's a sprawling, untidy modern metropolis with ancient Aztec undertone. People are attracted to the city by its inexpensive restaurants, wild and varied nightlife, dozens of wonderful museums, and colourful craft markets. Anyone who enjoys a fast-paced urban playground will relish a holiday in this rambunctious capital, but some travellers may find the polluted metropolis a bit overwhelming.

Mexico City is a day-trippers paradise, and many use it as a base for excursions to the nearby ancient city of Teotihuacán and the numerous charming colonial towns within easy reach. While some travellers visit the city as a transit point on a resort holiday, it is so vast and has so many worthwhile attractions that it is impossible to cover everything in a single holiday, let alone a single weekend.

Best time to visit Mexico City

The climate of Mexico City is generally mild year round. The best time to travel to Mexico City is during spring, in the warmest months, April and May. Winter (December/January) can be rather cold and the city's smog is at its worst during this period. The rainy season runs from May to October, but if you choose to holiday in Mexico City during this period you should still have plenty of sunny days in between the downpours.

Read more on Mexico City's Climate and Weather.

What to see in Mexico City

- See the cathedrals, palaces and artisans at El Zocalo, Mexico City's historic centre.

- Visit the impressive Templo Mayor, once the principal temple of the Aztecs.

- See the impressive stained glass hallways and fascinating displays at the National History Museum in Chapultepec Castle.

- Marvel at the UNESCO-listed ancient city of Teotihuacan, one of Mexico's must-see attractions.

What to do in Mexico City

- Stroll, picnic and museum-hop in the enormous Bosque de Chapultepec park.

- Take a bus to the picturesque colonial town of Guanajuato.

- Explore the charming suburb of San Angel, an artsy district full of cafes, museums and markets.

- Enjoy the bars, restaurants and dance clubs of Mexico City's party district, the Zona Rosa.

Beyond Mexico City

Mexico City is the main travel hub of the country and a common starting point for all sorts of Mexican holidays. One of the advantages of using the city as a base is the plethora of great daytrips made possible by the proximity of many interesting towns and natural attractions. Nearby towns like Guanajuato, Tepotzotlan, Tlaxcala and Puebla are notable for their colonial features; a breathtakingly scenic road winds to Cuetzalan, 113 miles (182km) east of Mexico City; and Tepoztlan, an hour's drive south of the city, is wonderful for hiking and a taste of Aztec culture.

Getting there

Mexico City International Airport, officially called Benito Juarez International Airport, is situated six miles (10km) east of Mexico City, and is the busiest airport in the country. In fact, it is so busy that it can be a frustrating airport and visitors should anticipate long queues. There are direct flights to Mexico City from London and a number of European cities, and numerous cheap flights from all over the US.

Get more information on Airports in Mexico City.

Did you know?

- Perhaps jealous of the coastal resorts, Mexico City has several artificial beaches.

- The National University of Mexico is the oldest university in North America.

- Mexico City is one of the most populous cities in the world.


Overview


Mexico City is North America's highest city, and one of the world's most densely populated. It sprawls across a valley encircled by ice-capped volcanoes and mountains, atop an ancient Aztec civilisation. With a long and fascinating history that runs from ancient native civilisations through to the invasion of the Conquistadors and subsequent colonial rule, Mexico City has a vast number of fascinating sights and attractions.

In the city centre, constructed out of the stones of the ancient palaces and temples, is the vast open space of the Zocalo - the main city square - said to be the second largest in the world after Moscow's Red Square. At La Merced you'll discover the city's biggest and most vibrant market, with a vast array of bizarre and exciting stalls. The huge expanse of the Bosque de Chapultepec park houses the National Museum of Anthropology, with a fascinating collection of pre-Hispanic artefacts. At Teotihuac visitors will discover one of the most impressive and mysterious archaeological sites in Mexico, constructed by an ancient, and long forgotten culture.

The sprawling capital of Mexico has some world-class museums and galleries, and a remarkable architectural legacy with elegant buildings, palaces and cathedrals, colonial suburbs, historical ruins and modern skyscrapers. It also has poverty, overcrowding and slums, pollution, traffic congestion, crime, unemployment, and a constant cacophony of people and noise. It is exhilarating, frenetic and fascinating, overflowing with all that is good and bad about urban life.

Despite its problems and somewhat bewildering energy Mexico City is a magnet for Mexicans and tourists alike: a modern, cosmopolitan and ever growing city that is attractive in many ways. Despite its renown for the appalling, throat-rasping levels of pollution, Mexico City's skies often remain remarkably clear, and the smog does make for incredible sunsets.

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