I Love Mexico City. Let Me Tell You Why.

Plaza Garibaldi Mariachi

On our recent visit to Mexico City, I fell in love with the metropolis. Mexico City has a reputation for crime, pollution and chaos and isn’t thought of as a premier travel destination. This is a shame. Let me tell you why.

1. Mexico City is Very Safe

Mexico CIty Safety

I realize this goes against almost everything you may think about Mexico City, but it is true. With the exception of Jerusalem, I have never seen such a strong police presence in a city. In the city center – the part of Mexico City you will want to visit – police officers are as ubiquitous as tortillas. It seems that every intersection has a cluster of heavily armed cops and patrol cars can be seen all around. Everywhere you go, even late into the night, there are families, children and people out and about in the streets.

I realize that outside the city center and tourist zones, things are rougher, but who is visiting the barrios in Mexico City anyway? Everywhere a traveler will want to go is very secure and safe. In fact, the murder rate in Mexico City, which is 8 per 100,000, is about 1/4 that of Washington D.C. and nearly the same as that of Orlando, Florida.

2. People and People Watching

Mexico City People Watching

The streets, parks and plazas of Mexico City are filled with interesting people. Mexico City is in many ways the New York of Latin America, and all the latest fashions and styles are on display. Mexico City has a diverse population – men in suits sit next to punks with green hair on the subway, women in indigenous dress pass tourists in tiny shorts, and ladies with impossibly high heels pass young Chilangos on roller blades.

In addition, the people are surprising nice and friendly for such a huge city. We met lots of friendly locals and anytime we needed anything, they were always helpful and courteous.

3. Colonial Buildings

Mexico City Cathedral

I love colonial architecture, and Mexico City doesn’t disappoint. The city center is littered with imposing cathedrals, many of which are all cattywampus. Mexico City is built on a lake bed, as you remember from history class, and the heavy stone buildings are sinking into the ground, making bell towers go all askew and walls look like something from a Picasso painting. Many are abandoned and have trees growing out of steeples or balconies.

4. Mexico City is Great Value

Plaza Garibaldi Mariachi

We stayed in a clean, safe and comfortable hotel two blocks from Alameda Park for 25 USD. Museum entrance fees are about $4 and food and drinks cost about what they cost anywhere else in Mexico – which is about 1/3 the price of those in the USA. A taxi from the TAPO bus station to downtown was 100 pesos, or 6 USD. A song from a mariachi in Plaza Garibaldi only costs about 8 USD!

Last year when we stayed in Hong Kong, for example, the cheapest hotel we could find was $100 a night and that was in the red light district!

5. Cultural Museums

An Aztec carving at the Templo Mayor Museum

An Aztec carving at the Templo Mayor Museum

Mexico City features two world class museums, both dealing with the rich history of the country.

The Templo Mayor Museum, next to the Zocalo and Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, sits on the ruins from a towering pyramid that was dismantled by the Spanish after the sack of the city 500 years ago, and the surviving artifacts are truly stunning. The art rivals anything from Egypt or Rome, and visiting, I felt a profound sadness for all that was lost.

The Museum of Anthropology gives an overview of Mexico’s diverse native cultures. Many of these cultures still remain, as Spanish is a non-native language for millions of residents and the brightly colored clothes and pre-Columbian traditions remain in many places. It is a great introduction to the country, and an eye-opening look at the cultures of the Americas.

6. It is an easy city to navigate

Mex City Bikes

The city is easy to navigate, but evidently this person had some issues with the bike lanes.

The metro is clean, safe, very efficient and goes almost anywhere you will want to visit. One-way rides on the subway cost 5 pesos (about 30 cents US!). The entire city center is walkable and although there are throngs of people on the street during rush hour, that is part of the fun. Traffic is pretty horrible when you leave or arrive by bus, but while you are exploring, it is surprisingly easy to visit.

7. Teotihuacan 

Because this:

Teotihuacan in the rain

8. Only in Mexico

Mexico City Zombie Walk

Just a normal day in Mexico City

I saw several things in Mexico City that really blew my mind. Sex shops in Zona Rosa have their wares – everything from dildoes to sex swings – in full display in the window and porno mags share space with kids books at kiosks. We saw anti-government protests and huge platoons of police and riot squads, we saw zombie apocalypses and Catrinas, and people carrying statues of Jesus as they passed under statues of revolutionaries. In the market you can buy pork skins the size of a small car, eat tangy cactus salads, and wash it down with pulque.

In Summary, I’d rank Mexico City right up there with my other favorite metropolises, like Rome, Jerusalem, Mumbai and Amsterdam. You should visit, and thank me later.


Have you been to Mexico City? What were your thoughts on it?

33 Comments on “I Love Mexico City. Let Me Tell You Why.

  1. Yes yes yes! We loved Mexico City, and we never felt unsafe there. It’s a really vibrant city. You should have gone to the folk art museum!
    Alison

  2. It’s fun to know of a great foreign destination so close to home. I am looking forward to visiting Mexico City in the future!

    • Tikal is probably cooler because it is in the jungle and has more art and interesting temples. However, the Pyramid of the Sun is massive and imposing. If given the option to visit one, I’d say Tikal.

  3. What a great post for a lovely city! It made me happy. But yes, the food!! It’s so good and so quintessential to the culture. Also, you mentioned 2 mayor museums, but did you know Mexico City is the city with the most museums in the world? There are SO many amazing ones 🙂

    • I did not know that about Mexico City museums. We did check out a few minor ones, but there are many we didn’t see too that will have to wait until next time. There is too much to see here!

  4. Well as I had mentioned previously I had thought Mexico City was a do not go to destination. Your posts have given me pause to reconsider. Thank you.

  5. I love that you love Mexico City. And make it sound so positively positive. For me, however, it’s like New York…a place you let other people love. But I’m not a city person, I don’t visit cities as destinations, I’m weird evidently. Last time in London, I rented a car at the airport and drove straight out of the city without so much as a gander at Big Ben. Have you been or are you going to Guadalajara? I liked it much better (cleaner, smaller, friendlier).

    • I used to not be a city person, but I have grown to enjoy them. Being from a small town and living in rural AK for 11 years, it is exciting to visit them.

      We didn’t make it up to Guadalajara, but we did do Morelia and Puebla which we loved too. Guadalajara will have to wait until next time. This country is too big!

      • It is a huge country, and was even huger before we lopped off California! Those early Mexicans knew what they were doing. And they invented tequila!

        I just realized, I live in a city. But it’s not huge. And it’s VERY safe. And it’s clean. And there’s a big body of water. And no bugs. And people speak English.

      • Think how fun Utah and Arizona would be if they still belonged to Mexico? The grand canyon would be a blast with no guard rails or safety measures in place.

      • they have guard rails now at the Grand Canyon? when did that happen? but yeah, we’d probably find banditos halfway down the Bright Angel Trail leaping out to steal our trail mix and tank tops!

  6. My deepest memory of Mexico City was as a 17 year old, walking down an alley one block away from the main street and getting lost in a world that seemed so different. Amazing memory of mine…

    • Nice. We had that few times too when we went into markets or out of the tourist zone and saw a totally different side of life. That is one of the simple pleasures of travel. Thanks for commenting.

    • I think you’d like Mexico City, but you might even like the colonial cities in the interior better, like Puebla, Guanajuato, Morelia and Oaxaca. I have been surprised at how great they are. It has been better than expected.

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