Mexico City is a feast for the senses. This sprawling metropolis, one of the world's most populous cities, crackles and fizzes with life. It bustles day and night with workers, tourists and revellers drawn onto the streets in search of the traditional markets, food (dishes from all Mexico's 31 states can be savoured here), nightlife and culture.
The oldest part of the city runs out from the Zocalo, the plaza, for several blocks. This is where the Spanish started to build (on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire) modern Mexico City. There are Aztec ruins, grand Spanish colonial buildings, Baroque palaces and modern offices all within a few streets.
Mexico City's more than 150 museums, marks it out as one of the world's great cultural cities. There are four major museums in Chapultepec Park, including the world-famous anthropology museum and contemporary arts museum. Tourists taking cheap flights to Mexico City to follow the Frida Kahlo trail make a beeline for the museum in Coyoacan where the artist and her on-off husband, muralist Diego Rivera lived, but there are traces of the famous couple around the city.
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Mexico City climate
Mexico City's climate is temperate. Due to its altitude (2250 metres above sea level) and geography, annual average temperatures are a mild 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit). The warmest months are April and May, the coldest months December, January and February. Temperatures might be 20 degrees (68F) during the day, but zero at night.
When to fly to Mexico City
November to June, the dry season, is high season when most travellers arrive on their cheap flights to Mexico City.
The rainy season is generally low season, however, rainfall is torrential and usually short-lived.
Getting around Mexico City
Don’t worry about getting around in Mexico City, one of the biggest cities in the world. The public transportation system is efficient and cheap. The metro runs from 6am until midnight and is clean and easy to use. The bus system is also extensive, but you might find it easier to use if you speak Spanish. Minibuses can be a better option than buses, since they are smaller, faster and more comfortable. They can drop you off anywhere along their route. With so many people in the city, public transportation can be very crowded during rush hour. Be aware of your surroundings during rush hour and at night; crime levels are high on the subway and buses. Central Square’s cobble-stoned streets can be a lovely area to walk around. If you want to take a taxi, be safe and call ahead for one, instead of hailing a cab. Many hotels and restaurants can help you call a cab. If you’re planning on driving in the city, know that it can be a tricky place to manoeuvre and prices are high. Additionally, cars are prohibited from driving in the city one day a week. Find out which days you are restricted by checking the last number of your license plate against a list at the tourist office. When smog levels are high, as they are in December and January, numbers can come up more than once per week.
Mexico City insider information
- Mexican families flock to the village of Xochimilco, a town with canals and ancient chinampas (floating gardens) that go back to pre-Aztec times. A popular pastime is hiring a boat for a floating canal party. Food stalls, flower sellers and wandering mariachis make this a festive occasion.
- Chapultapec Park has a children's museum and zoo and there are pony rides, rowboats and bicycle rentals to amuse the little ones.
- One of the most colorful markets is Mercado Jamaica, just south of the Zócalo. Mercado Jamaica is Mexico City's wholesale flower market and the best place to buy produce. The Mercado de la Merced is one of Mexico's largest markets, also close to the Zócalo. Here you can buy almost anything - food as well as souvenirs of baskets, metalwork and traditional children's costumes. More spooky perhaps is the "witches' market", across from La Merced, which sells folk medicines, voodoo dolls, herbs, talismans and love potions. It may be worth taking an extra bag on your cheap flights to Mexico City to take advantage of all the wares.
- For shopping, visit Polanco. All the smart, high-end stores are there. Cheaper buys can be had from the city's markets. The Bazar Sabado (Saturday Market) at the Plaza San Jacinto, San Angel, sells arts and crafts and paintings.
- The Metropolitan Cathedral is the largest basilica in Latin America. It dominates the Zocalo. Built and rebuilt between the 16th and 19th centuries, it has baroque, neo-classical and Spanish features. It's a domed palace with five naves, 14 chapels and two neoclassical towers holding 18 bells. Inside, the cathedral all but groans under an amazing collection of paintings, statues and gilded altars.