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Mexico City
Ciudad de México


Nickname(s): "La Ciudad de los Palacios" ("City of Palaces"),
"Chilangolandia" ("Land of Chilangos), modern colloquial term
Location of Mexico City
Coordinates: 19°26′N 99°8′W / 19.433°N 99.133°W / 19.433; -99.133
Country Mexico
Federal entity Federal District
Boroughs Álvaro Obregón
Benito Juárez
Gustavo A. Madero
Magdalena Contreras
Miguel Hidalgo
Milpa Alta
Venustiano Carranza
Founded c. March 18, 1325
(as Tenochtitlan)
Municipality of New Spain 1524
Federal District 1824
 - Head of Government Marcelo Ebrard (PRD)
Area 1
 - City 1,485 km2 (573.36 sq mi)
 - Metro 7,854 km2 (3,032.4 sq mi)
Elevation 2,240 m (7,349 ft)
Population (2009[1])
 - City 8,841,916
 Density 5,954/km2 (15,420.8/sq mi)
 Metro 21,163,226
 - Metro Density 2,694/km2 (6,977.4/sq mi)
 - Demonym capitalino (formal), defeño (informal), chilango (colloquial)
Time zone Central Standard Time (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST) Central Daylight Time (UTC-5)
HDI (2009) 0.9149
1 Area of the Federal District that includes non-urban areas at the south.

Mexico City (Spanish: Ciudad de México, México, D.F., D.F.) is the current capital and largest city in the country of Mexico. It is the current seat of the Powers of the Union but the Mexican federal Congress, which is controlled by the 31 free and sovereign Mexican States, can change the location of such seat if it desires to do so.[2]) Mexico City is also known as the Federal District (Distrito Federal), a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states in particular, as it belongs to the federation. It is the most important political, economic and cultural center in the country. It is also considered one of the two most important financial centers in Latin America, (the other being São Paulo, Brazil). It is also considered a global city.[3] Located in the Valley of Mexico, a large valley in the high plateaus at the center of Mexico, at an altitude of 2,240 metres (7,350 ft), the city consists of sixteen boroughs.

The 2009 estimated population for the city proper exceeds 8.84 million people,[1] and with a land area of 1,485 square kilometres (573 sq mi), Mexico City is the most densely populated city in the world.[4] According to the most recent definition agreed upon by the federal and state governments, the Mexico City metropolitan area population is 21.2 million people,[1] making it the largest metropolitan area in the Americas and the third largest agglomeration in the world.[5] The city had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $390 billion USD in 2005, making Mexico City the 25th largest economy in the world, richer than industrialized countries such as Taiwan and developing countries like Iran.[6] It is also ranked as the eighth richest city in the world.[7] According estimates, as of 2008, the city proper, as opposed to the metropolitan area, had a nominal income per capita of $25,258 USD, above the national average, and on par with the GDP per capita of Portugal, which has a comparable population, and significantly above nations such as South Korea, and Czech Republic.[8]

The city was originally built as Tenochtitlan by the Aztecs in 1325 on an island of Lake Texcoco, which was almost completely destroyed in the siege of 1521, and subsequently redesigned and rebuilt in accordance with the Spanish urban standards. In 1524, the municipality of Mexico City was established, known as México Tenustitlán,[9] and as of 1585 it was officially known as Mexico City.[9] Mexico City served as the political, administrative and financial centre of a major part of the Spanish colonial empire.[10] After independence from Spain was achieved, the Federal District was created in 1824.

After years of demanding greater political autonomy, residents were given the right to directly elect the Head of Government and the representatives of the unicameral Legislative Assembly by popular vote in 1997. Ever since, the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has controlled both of them.[11] In recent years, the local government has passed a wave of liberal reforms such as abortion on request to any woman up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy, a limited form of euthanasia, and LGBT rights. Mexico City was the first city in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage.[12]

Urbanization has had a serious negative effect on the city's environment. Pollution, dwindling water supply and poor air quality have been some of the city's largest problems improved in recent years by regulating the circulation and renovating the vehicle park.[10] Many factors such as industrial growth and a demographic boom (from 3 million in 1950 to some 20 million in the metropolitan area today) have contributed to this situation. More than 3.5 million vehicles are now in the city streets.[13] Although crime rates are still an issue of concern, by 2006 they had been reduced by almost 40% from 1994's historic highs.[14]



The city now known as Mexico City was founded by the Mexica, also called the Aztecs, in 1325. The old Mexica city is now referred to as Tenochtitlan. The Mexica were one of the last of the Nahuatl-speaking peoples who migrated to this part of the Valley of Mexico after the fall of the Toltec Empire. Their presence was resisted by the peoples who were already in the valley, but the Mexica were able to establish a city on a small island on the western side of Lake Texcoco. The Mexica themselves had a story about how their city was founded, after being led to the island by their principal god, Huitzilopochtli. According to the story, the god indicated their new home with a sign, an eagle perched on a nopal cactus with a snake in its beak. Between 1325 and 1521, Tenochtitlan grew in size and strength, eventually dominating the other city-states around Lake Texcoco, and in the Valley of Mexico. They took these people by force or conquer. When the Spaniards arrived, the Aztec Empire reached much of Mesoamerica, touching both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán

Mural depiction of Tenochtitlan
Aztec sunstone in the National Anthropology museum.

After landing in Veracruz, Hernán Cortés heard about the great city and the long-standing rivalries and grievances against it. Although Cortés came to Mexico with a very small army, he was able to persuade many of the other native peoples to help him destroy Tenochtitlán.[15] Cortés first saw Tenochtitlán on 8 November 1519.[16] Upon viewing it for the first time, Cortés and his men were stunned by its beauty and size. The Spaniards marched along the causeway leading into the city from Iztapalapa. Although Montezuma came out from the center of Tenochtitlán to greet them and exchange gifts, the camaraderie did not last long.[17] Cortés put Montezuma under house arrest, hoping to rule through him.[18] Tensions increased until, on the night of June 30, 1520 – during a struggle commonly known as "La Noche Triste" – the Aztec revolted against the Spanish intrusion and managed to capture or drive out the Europeans and their Tlaxcalan allies.[19] Cortés regrouped at Tlaxcala. The Aztecs thought the Spaniards were permanently gone. They elected a new king, Cuitláhuac but he died after a few months due to smallpox, the new king was Cuauhtémoc.[20] Cortés decided to lay siege to Tenochtitlán in May 1521. For three months, the city suffered from the lack of food and water as well as the spread of smallpox brought by the Europeans.[15] Cortés and his allies landed their forces in the south of the island and fought their way through the city, street by street, and house by house.[21] Finally, Cuauhtémoc had to surrender in August 1521.[15]

City's rebuilding as Mexico City

Mexico City in 1628

The Spaniards practically razed Tenochtitlán. Cortés first settled in Coyoacán, but decided to rebuild the Aztec site in order to erase all traces of the old order.[16] Cortés did not establish an independent, conquered territory under his own personal rule, but remained loyal to the Spanish crown. The first viceroy of the new domain arrived in Mexico City fourteen years later. By that time, the city had again become a city-state, having power that extended far beyond the city's established borders.[22] Although the Spanish preserved Tenochtitlán's basic layout, they built Catholic churches over the old Aztec temples and claimed the imperial palaces for themselves.[22] Tenochtitlán was renamed "Mexico", its alternative form name, as the Spanish found this easier to say.[16]

Growth of the colonial city

Torre Latinoamericana, Latin America's first skyscraper

The city grew as the population did, coming up against the lake's waters. The 16th century saw a proliferation of churches, many of which can still be seen today in the historic center.[22] Economically, Mexico City prospered as a result of trade. Unlike Brazil or Peru, Mexico had easy contact with both the Atlantic and Pacific worlds. Although the Spanish crown tried to completely regulate all commerce in the city, it had only partial success.[23] One way the Spanish tried to completely rule was religion, but even here success was not complete. Native practices survived incorporated in the indigenous’ practice of Roman Catholicism. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which originated with the vision at Tepeyac Hill to the north of the city's borders in 1531; some scholars suggest that this vision was particularly effective owing to the existence of a pre-Conquest Aztec cult of Tonantzin, a mother goddess.[23]

The Angel de la Independencia was built to celebrate the victory in gaining independence from Spain

The concept of nobility transferred to New Spain in a way not seen in other parts of the Americas. A noble title in Mexico did not mean one exercised great political power as one's power was limited even if the accumulation of wealth was not.[24] The concept of nobility in Mexico was not political but rather a very conservative Spanish social one, based on proving the worthiness of the family. Most of these families proved their worth by making fortunes in New Spain outside of the city itself, then spending the revenues in the capital, building churches, supporting charities and building extravagant palatial homes. The craze to build the most opulent home possible reached its height in the last half of the 18th century. Many of these homes can still be seen today, leading to Mexico City's nickname of "The city of palaces" given by Alexander Von Humboldt.[16][22][24]

Independence for Mexico was declared by Agustin de Iturbide in 1821 after he and his army marched into the city. While Iturbide's regime tried to keep as much of the old order as possible, he soon had to abdicate and Mexico was declared a republic in 1824, with Mexico City as its capital.[25] Unrest followed for the next several decades, as different factions fought for control of Mexico.[26] The Mexican Federal District was established by the new government and by the signing of their new constitution, where the concept of a federal district was adapted from the American constitution.[27] Before this designation, Mexico City had served as the seat of government for both the State of Mexico and the nation as a whole. Texcoco and then Toluca became the capital of the state of Mexico.[28] During the Mexican-American War, American forces marched toward Mexico City itself after capturing Veracruz.[29] The invasion culminated with the storming of Chapultepec Castle in the city itself.[30] The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in what is now the far north of the city.[31] Events such as the Reform War left the city relatively untouched and it continued to grow, especially during the rule of President Porfirio Díaz. During this time, the city developed modern infrastructure, such as roads, schools, transportation, and communication systems. However, the regime concentrated resources and wealth into the city while the rest languished in poverty. This eventually led to the Mexican Revolution.[26] The most significant episode of this period for the city was the La decena trágica ("The Ten Tragic Days"), a coup against President Francisco I. Madero and his vice president, José María Pino Suárez. Victoriano Huerta, chief general of the Federal Army saw a chance to take power, forcing Madero and Pino Suarez to sign resignations. The two were murdered later while on their way to prison.[32]

20th century to present

The tallest building in Latin America, the Torre Mayor was completed in Mexico City in 2003.
Common 1880s-1920s style Mexican architecture can be found throughout the City
Paseo de la Reforma and Polanco district

The history of the rest of the 20th century to the present focuses on the phenomenal growth of the city and its environmental and political consequences. In 1900, the population of Mexico City was about 500,000.[33] The city began to grow rapidly westward in the early part of the 20th century.[22] and then began to grow upwards in the 1950s, with the Torre Latinoamericana as the first skyscraper.[15] The 1968 Olympic Games brought about the construction of large sporting facilities.[22] In 1969, the Metro system was inaugurated.[15] Explosive growth in the population of the city started from the 1960s, with the population overflowing the boundaries of the Federal District into the neighboring state of Mexico, especially to the north, northwest and northeast. Between 1960 and 1980 the city's population more than doubled to 8,831,079.[22] In 1980, half of all the industrial jobs in Mexico were located in Mexico City. Under relentless growth, the Mexico City government could barely keep up with services. Villagers from the countryside who continued to pour into the city to escape poverty only compounded the city's problems. With no housing available, they took over lands surrounding the city, creating huge shantytowns that extended for many miles.[26] This caused serious air and water pollution problems, as well as a sinking city due to overextraction of groundwater.[34] Air and water pollution has been contained and improved in some several areas due to government programs, the renovation of vehicles and the modernization of the public transport.

The autocratic government that ruled Mexico City since the Revolution was tolerated, mostly because of the continued economic expansion since World War II. This was the case even though this government could not handle the population and pollution problems adequately. Nevertheless, discontent and protests began in the 1960s leading to the massacre of an unknown number of protesting students in Tlatelolco.[26]

However, the last straw may have been the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. On Thursday, 19 September 1985, at 7:19 am local time, Mexico City was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 8.1[35] on the Richter scale. While this earthquake was not as deadly or destructive as many similar events in Asia and other parts of Latin America[36] it proved to be a disaster politically for the one-party government. The government was paralyzed by its own bureaucracy and corruption, forcing ordinary citizens to not only create and direct their own rescue efforts but efforts to reconstruct much of the housing that was lost as well.[37] This discontent eventually led to Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, a member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, becoming the first elected mayor of Mexico City in 1997. Cárdenas promised a more democratic government, and his party claimed some victories against crime, pollution, and other major problems. He resigned in 1999 to run for the presidency.

360° Panoramic view of Mexico City taken from Torre Latinoamericana


Popocatépetl volcano seen from the city

Mexico City is located in the Valley of Mexico, sometimes called the Basin of Mexico. This valley is located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt located in the high plateaus of south-central Mexico.[38][39] It has a minimum altitude of 2,200 meters above sea level and surrounded by mountains and volcanoes that reach elevations of over 5,000 meters.[40] This valley has no natural drainage outlet for the waters that flow from the mountainsides, making the city vulnerable to flooding. It was artificially opened through the use of canals and tunnels starting in the 17th century.[38][40] The city primarily rests on what was Lake Texcoco.[38] Seismic activity is frequent here.[41] This lake was drained starting from the 17th century and while none of its waters remain, the city rests on its heavily saturated clay. This soft base is collapsing due to the over-extraction of groundwater and since the beginning of the 20th century, the city has sunk as much as nine meters in some areas. This sinking is causing problems with runoff and wastewater management, leading to flooding problems, especially during the rainy season.[40][41] The entire lakebed is now paved over and most of the city's remaining forested areas lie in the southern boroughs of Milpa Alta, Tlalpan and Xochimilco.[41]

Geophysical maps of the Federal District
MX-DF-Relieve.png MX-DF-hidro.png MX-DF-clima.png
Topography Hydrology Climate patterns


Mexico City has a subtropical highland climate (Koppen climate classification Cwb), due to its tropical location and high elevation. The lower region of the valley receives less rainfall than the upper regions of the south; the lower boroughs of Iztapalapa, Iztacalco, Venustiano Carranza and the west portion of Gustavo A. Madero are usually drier and warmer than the upper southern boroughs of Tlalpan and Milpa Alta, a mountainous region of pine and oak trees known as the range of Ajusco.

The average annual temperature varies from 12 to 16 °C (54 to 61 °F), depending on the altitude of the borough. Lowest temperatures, usually registered during January and February, may reach -2 to -5 °C (28 to 23 °F), usually accompanied by snow showers on the southern regions of Ajusco, and the maximum temperatures of late spring and summer may reach up to 32 °C (90 °F). Overall precipitation is heavily concentrated in the summer months, including dense hail. The central valley of Mexico rarely gets precipitation in the form of snow during winter; the two last recorded instances of such an event were on March 5, 1940 and January 12, 1967.

The region of the Valley of Mexico receives anti-cyclonic systems, whose weak winds do not allow for the dispersion, outside the basin, of the air pollutants which are produced by the 50,000 industries and 4 million vehicles operating in or around the metropolitan area.[42]

The area receives about 700 millimeters of annual rainfall, which is concentrated from June through September/October with little or no precipitation the remainder of the year.[40] The area has two main seasons. The rainy season runs from June to October when winds bring in tropical moisture from the sea. The dry season runs from November to May, when the air is relatively drier. This dry season subdivides into a cold period from November to February when polar air masses pushing down from the north keep the air fairly dry and a warm period from March to May when tropical winds again dominate but they do not yet carry enough moisture for rain.[43]

Climate data for Mexico City
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 30
Average high °C (°F) 19.4
Average low °C (°F) 3.9
Record low °C (°F) -6
Precipitation mm (inches) 10.2
Source: [44][45]


Situated in a valley, and relying heavily on automobiles, the city suffers from poor air quality
The City government has encouraged the preservasion of green areas of the City such as Tezozmoc park.

Originally, much of the valley lay beneath the waters of Lake Texcoco, a system of interconnected saline and freshwater lakes. The Aztecs built dikes to separate the fresh water used to raise crops in chinampas and to prevent recurrent floods. These dikes were destroyed during the siege of Tenochtitlan, and during colonial times the Spanish regularly drained the lake to prevent floods. Only a small section of the original lake remains, located outside the Federal District, in the municipality of Atenco, State of Mexico. In recent years, architects Teodoro González De León and Alberto Kalach, along with a group of Mexican urbanists, engineers and biologists, have developed the project plan for Recovering the City of Lakes. The project, if approved by the government, will contribute to the supply of water from natural sources to the Valley of Mexico, the creation of new natural spaces, a great improvement in air quality, and greater population establishment planning.

The federal and local governments have implemented numerous plans to alleviate the problem of air pollution, including the constant monitoring and reporting of environmental conditions, such as ozone and nitrogen oxides.[46] If the levels of these two pollutants reach critical levels, contingency actions are implemented which may include closing factories, changing school hours, and extending the A day without a car program to two days of the week.[46] To control air pollution, the government has instituted industrial technology improvements, a strict biannual vehicle emission inspection and the reformulation of gasoline and diesel fuels.[46] Data from the city's 36 air-quality monitoring stations show lead levels down 95 percent since 1990, while sulfur dioxide has fallen 86 percent, carbon monoxide 74 percent, and peak ozone levels 57 percent since 1991.[46] In 1990, Patricia Saad Sotomayor reported in the Mexico City daily Excélsior that "100,000 children die every year as a result of pollution in the Mexico City metropolitan area, 250,000 people suffer from eye diseases..and life expectancy has been reduced by up to ten years, according to the National Environmentalist Groups." in a report to President Salinas. At the time, according to the United Nations pollution scale "which set 100 as the maximum level before grave health problems begin", Mexico City's level was 97.5, compared to 4.5 for New York City, and 2.5 for Milan, Turin, and Los Angeles.[47]

In 1986, the non-urban forest areas of the southern boroughs were declared National Ecological Reserves by president Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado. Other areas of the Federal District became protected over the following years.


Federal District

Large urban middle class neighborhoods are common throughout the western area.
View of one of the city's skylines at night.
Polanco neighborhood
Santa Fe in the rainy season
Reforma Avenue is one of the city's most important streets
Chapultepec district
View from Chapultepec

The Acta Constitutiva de la Federación of 31 January 1824 and the Federal Constitution of 4 October 1824[48] fixed the political and administrative organization of the United Mexican States after the Mexican War of Independence. In addition, Section XXVIII of Article 50 gave the new Congress the right to choose where the federal government would be located. This location would then be appropriated as federal land, with the federal government acting as the local authority. The two main candidates to become the capital were Mexico City and Querétaro.[citation needed] However, due much to the persuasion of representative Servando Teresa de Mier, Mexico City was chosen because it was the center of the country's population and history, even though Querétaro was closer to the center geographically. The choice was official on 18 November 1824, and Congress delineated a surface area of two leagues square (8,800 ac) centered on the Zocalo. This area was then separated from the State of Mexico, forcing that state's government to move from the Palace of the Inquisition (now Museum of Mexican Medicine) in the city to Texcoco. This area did not include the population centers of the towns of Coyoacán, Xochimilco, Mexicaltzingo and Tlalpan, all of which remained as part of the State of Mexico.[49]

In 1824, when the United Mexican States were born as a federation, the Congress of the Union decided to create a Federal District containing the capital of the federation, Mexico City. Mexico City and the surrounding territories that became the Federal District originally belonged to the state of Mexico, and the city was also the capital of the state. Being now the capital of the federation, and not of a single state, the city had to be administered directly by all the states through the power vested upon the powers of the Union. The Federal District was thus created on November 18, 1824, as a perfect circle with its centre at the Central Square (Plaza de la Constitución, popularly known as "el Zócalo") and a radius of 8.38 km (5.21 mi). The Federal District was constituted by the municipality of Mexico City, and six additional municipalities: Tacuba, Tacubaya, Azcapotzalco, Mixcoac, Iztacalco, and Villa de Guadalupe.

In 1854, president Antonio López de Santa Anna, enlarged the area of the Federal District almost eightfold from the original 220 km2 (80 sq mi) to 1,700 km2 (660 sq mi), annexing the rural and mountainous areas in order to secure the strategic mountain passes to the south and southwest to protect the city should a foreign invasion occur again. (The Mexican-American War had just been fought). The last changes to the limits of the Federal District were made between 1898 and 1902, reducing the area to the current 1,479 km2 (571 sq mi) by adjusting the southern border with the state of Morelos. By that time, the total number of municipalities within the Federal District was twenty-two.

While the Federal District was ruled by the federal government through an appointed governor, the municipalities within it were autonomous, and this duality of powers created constant tensions between the municipalities and the federal government for more than a century. In 1903 already, Porfirio Díaz largely reduced the powers of the municipalities within the Federal District. Eventually, in December 1928, the federal government decided to abolish all the municipalities of the Federal District. In place of the municipalities, the Federal District was divided into one "Central Department" and 13 delegaciones (boroughs) administered directly by the government of the Federal District. The Central Department was integrated by the former municipalities of Mexico City, Tacuba, Tacubaya and Mixcoac.

In 1941, the General Anaya borough was merged to the Central Department, which was then renamed "Mexico City" (thus reviving the name, but not the autonomous municipality). From 1941 to 1970, the Federal District was comprised by 12 delegaciones and Mexico City. In 1970 Mexico City was split into four different delegaciones: Cuauhtémoc, Miguel Hidalgo, Venustiano Carranza and Benito Juárez, thus increasing the number of delegaciones to sixteen. Since then, in a de facto manner, the whole Federal District, whose delegaciones had by then almost formed a single urban area, began to be considered a synonym of Mexico City. However, the lack of a de jure stipulation left a legal vacuum that led to a number of sterile discussions about whether one concept had engulfed the other or if the latter had ceased to exist altogether. In 1993 this situation was solved by an amendment to the 44th article of the Constitution whereby Mexico City and the Federal District were set to be the same entity. This amendment was later introduced into the second article of the Statute of Government of the Federal District.[50]

Political structure

Offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The National Palace of Mexico.
The "Palacio de Ayuntamiento", on the southwest corner of the Zocalo has been the city's seat of power since the Spanish conquest

Mexico City, being the seat of the powers of the Union, did not belong to any particular state but to all. Therefore, it was the president, representing the federation, who used to designate the head of government of the Federal District, a position which is sometimes presented outside Mexico as the "Mayor" of Mexico City.[citation needed] In the 1980s, given the dramatic increase in population of the previous decades, the inherent political inconsistencies of the system, as well as the dissatisfaction with the inadequate response of the federal government to assist the city after the 1985 earthquake, the residents began to request political and administrative autonomy in order to manage their own local affairs.[citation needed] Some political groups even proposed that the Federal District be converted into the 32nd state of the federation.

In response to the demands, in 1987 the Federal District received a greater degree of autonomy, with the elaboration the first Statute of Government (Estatuto de Gobierno), and the creation of an Assembly of Representatives.[citation needed] In the 1990s, this autonomy was further expanded and, starting from 1997, residents can directly elect the head of government of the Federal District and the representatives of a unicameral Legislative Assembly (which succeeded the previous Assembly) by popular vote. The first elected head of government was Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. Cárdenas resigned in 1999 in order to run in the 2000 presidential elections and designated Rosario Robles to succeed him, who became the first woman (elected or otherwise) to govern Mexico City. In 2000 Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected, and resigned in 2005 to run in the 2006 presidential elections, Alejandro Encinas Rodríguez being designated by the Legislative Assembly to finish the term. In 2006, Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon was elected for the 2006–2012 period.

The Federal District does not have a constitution, like the states of the Union, but rather a Statute of Government, and as part of its recent changes in autonomy, the budget is administered locally: it is proposed by the head of government and approved by the Legislative Assembly. Nonetheless, it is the Congress of the Union that sets the ceiling to internal and external public debt issued by the Federal District.[51]

According to the 44th article of the Mexican Constitution, in case the powers of the Union move to another city, the Federal District will be transformed into a new state, which will be called "State of the Valley of Anahuac", with the new limits set by the Congress of the Union.

Elections and government

In 2006, elections were held for the post of head of government and the representatives of the Legislative Assembly. The elected and incumbent head of government is now Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Heads of government are elected for a 6-year period without the possibility of reelection. Traditionally, this position has been considered as the second most important executive office in the country.[52]

The Legislative Assembly of the Federal District is formed, as it is the case in all legislatures in Mexico, by both single-seat and proportional seats, making it a system of parallel voting. The Federal District is divided into 40 electoral constituencies of similar population which elect one representative by first-past-the-post plurality (FPP), locally called "uninominal deputies". The Federal District as a whole constitutes a single constituency for the parallel election of 26 representatives by proportionality (PR) with open-party lists, locally called "plurinominal deputies." Even though proportionality is only confined to the proportional seats, to prevent a part from being overrepresented, several restrictions apply in the assignation of the seats; namely, that no party can have more than 63% of all seats, both uninominal and plurinominal. In the 2006 elections leftist PRD got the absolute majority in the direct uninominal elections, securing 34 of the 40 FPP seats. As such, PRD was not assigned any plurinominal seat to comply with the law that prevents overrepresentation. The overall composition of the Legislative Assembly is:

Political party FPP PR Total
PRD party.png Party of the Democratic Revolution 31 3 34
PAN party.png National Action Party 9 6 15
PRI party.png Institutional Revolutionary Party 8 8
PT party.png Labour Party 5 5
PVEM party.png Ecologist Green Party of Mexico 3 3
PNA party.png New Alliance Party 1 1
Total 40 26 66

The politics pursued by the administrations of heads of government in Mexico City since the second half of the 20th century have usually been more liberal than those of the rest of the country, whether with the support of the federal government —as was the case with the approval of several comprehensive environmental laws in the 1980s— or through laws recently approved by the Legislative Assembly. In 2007, the Federal District became the second federal entity in the country, after the state of Coahuila, to approve same-sex unions, and the first to allow conjugal visits for homosexual prisoners[53] In April of the same year, the Legislative Assembly expanded provisions on abortions, becoming the first federal entity to expand abortion in Mexico beyond cases of rape and economic reasons, to permit it regardless of the reason should the mother request it before the twelfth week of pregnancy.[54] In December 2009, the Federal District became the first city in Latin America, and one of very few in the world, to legalize same-sex marriage.


The 16 boroughs of Mexico City

For administrative purposes, the Federal District is divided into 16 "delegaciones" or boroughs. While not fully equivalent to a municipality, the 16 boroughs have gained significant autonomy, and since 2000 their heads of government are elected directly by plurality (they were previously appointed by the head of government of the Federal District). Given that Mexico City is organized entirely as a Federal District, most of the city services are provided or organized by the Government of the Federal District and not by the boroughs themselves, while in the constituent states these services would be provided by the municipalities. The 16 boroughs of the Federal District are:

1. Álvaro Obregón
2. Azcapotzalco
3. Benito Juárez
4. Coyoacán
5. Cuajimalpa
6. Cuauhtémoc
7. Gustavo A. Madero
8. Iztacalco

9. Iztapalapa
10. Magdalena Contreras
11. Miguel Hidalgo
12. Milpa Alta
13. Tláhuac
14. Tlalpan
15. Venustiano Carranza
16. Xochimilco

View of the west

The boroughs are composed by hundreds of colonias or neighborhoods, which have no jurisdictional autonomy or representation. It is plausible that the name, which literally means colony, arose in the late 19th, early 20th centuries, when one of the first urban developments outside the city's core was inhabited by a French colony in the city. Some colonias have identifiable attributes: Historic Center is the oldest quarter in the city, some of the buildings dating back to the 16th century[citation needed]; Condesa is known for its Art Deco architecture, and for being the newest artistic center of the city; Santa Fe is a growing business and financial district (built over old landfills); Roma is a beaux arts neighborhood and probably one of the oldest in the city; Polanco is an important commercial and economic center known for its large Jewish community, and Tepito and La Lagunilla are known for its large flea market.[citation needed]


Headquarters of the IMSS in Mexico City
Swine Flu epidemic in 2009.

Mexico City is home to some of the best private hospitals in the country; Hospital Angeles, Hospital ABC and Médica Sur to name a few. The national public healthcare institution for private-sector employees IMSS, has its largest facilities in Mexico City, including the National Medical Center and the La Raza Medical Center, and has an annual budget of over 6 billion pesos. The IMSS and other public health institutions, including the ISSSTE (Public Sector Employees' Social Security Institute) and the National Health Ministry (SSA) maintain large specialty facilities in the city. These include the National Institutes of Cardiology, Nutrition, Psychiatry, Oncology, Pediatrics, Rehabilitation, among others.

The World Bank has sponsored a project to curb air pollution through public transport improvements and the Mexican government has started shutting down polluting factories. They have phased out diesel buses and mandated new emission controls on new cars; since 1993 all new cars must be fitted with a catalytic converter, which reduce the emissions released. Trucks must use only liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Also construction of an underground rail system was begun in 1968 order to help curb air pollution problems and alleviate traffic congestion. Today it has over 201 km of track and carries over 5 million people every day. Fees are kept low to encourage use of the system and during rush hours the crush is so great, that authorities have reserved a special carriage specially for women. Due to these initiatives and others, the air quality in Mexico City has begun to improve, with the air becoming cleaner since 1991, when the air quality was declared to be a public health risk for 355 days of the year.


Aeroméxico Building
Mexicana de Aviación Tower, the worldwide headquarters of Mexicana de Aviación
Paseo de la Reforma and Polanco's Financial Districts

Mexico City is one of the most important economic hubs in Latin America. The city proper (Federal District) produces 21.8% of the country's gross domestic product.[55] According to a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mexico City had a GDP of $315 billion in 2005, ranking as the eighth richest city in the world after the greater areas of Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, London and Osaka/Kobe, and the richest in Latin America.[6][56][57] Making Mexico City alone the 30th largest economy in the world.[58] Mexico City is the greatest contributor to the country's industrial GDP (15.8%) and also the greatest contributor to the country's GDP in the service sector (25.3%) (credible reference needed.) Due to the limited non-urbanized space at the south—most of which is protected through environmental laws the contribution of the Federal District in agriculture is the smallest of all federal entities in the country.[55] Mexico City has one of the world's fastest-growing economies outside China and its GDP is set to double by 2020.[59]

As measured by the overall GDP of the entire metropolitan area, Mexico City is the richest city in the country and Latin America. In the 2009 UNDP-MHDI Human Development Report Mexico City had an index of 0.937 identical to that of Republic of Korea. Thie level of household expenditure in Mexico City is close to that of an average household in Germany or Japan. Households in the capital have fewer members, with 3.7 average members compared to the national average of 4.0.

The GDP per capita of the metropolitan area is $25,258 identical to countries such as South Korea.[60] The top twenty-five percent of GDP per capita holders in the city had a mean disposable income of US $98,517 in 2007. The extremely high spending power of Mexico City inhabitants, makes the city attractive for luxury goods companies. The growth of luxury stores established in Mexico City has been impressive since 2003, especially those dealing in luxury cars, high technology, designer clothes and expensive jewellery.[61]

The economic reforms of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari had a tremendous effect on the city, as a number of businesses, including banks, were privatized. He also signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This led to the decentralization[59] and a shift in Mexico City's economic base, from manufacturing to services, as many factories moved to the State of Mexico and to the northern border. The government also encouraged this with tax incentives and new environmental regulations for manufacturing within the Federal District.[62]


Skyscrapers under construction
Southern Santa Fe
Greater Mexico City, extending to the states of Mexico and Hidalgo

Historically, and since pre-Hispanic times, the valley of Anáhuac has been one of the most densely populated areas in Mexico. When the Federal District was created in 1824, the urban area of Mexico City extended approximately to the area of today's Cuauhtémoc borough.[citation needed] At the beginning of the twentieth century, the elites began migrating to the south and west and soon the small towns of Mixcoac and San Ángel were incorporated by the growing conurbation.[citation needed] According to the 1921 census, 54.78% of the city's population considered to be Mestizo (Indigenous mixed with white), 22.79% considered to be white, and 18.74% considered to be Indigenous.[63] It should be noticed that in 1921 the population of Mexico City was less than one million inhabitants.

The Torre Mayor seen from Reforma.
Torre Pemex at night.

Up to the 1980s, the Federal District was the most populated federal entity in Mexico, but since then its population has remained stable at around 8.7 million. The growth of the city has extended beyond the limits of the Federal District to 59 municipalities of the state of Mexico and 1 in the state of Hidalgo.[64] With a population of approximately 19.8 million inhabitants (2008),[65] it is one of the most populated conurbations in the world. Nonetheless, the annual rate of growth of the Metropolitan Area of Mexico City is much lower than that of other large urban agglomerations in Mexico,[66] a phenomenon most likely attributable to the environmental policy of decentralization. The net migration rate of the Federal District from 1995 to 2000 was negative.[67]

While they represent around 1.3% of the city's population, indigenous peoples from different regions of Mexico have immigrated to the capital in search of better economic opportunities. Náhuatl, Otomí, Mixteco, Zapoteco, and Mazahua are the indigenous languages with the greatest number of speakers in Mexico City.[68]

On the other hand, Mexico City is home to large communities of expatriates and immigrants, most notably from South America (mainly from Argentina, but also from Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela), from Europe (mainly from Spain and Germany, but also from France, Italy, Turkey, Poland and Romania),[69][70] the Middle East (mainly from Lebanon and Syria),[71] and recently from Asia (mainly from China and South Korea).[72] While no official figures have been reported, population estimates of each of these communities are quite significant. Mexico City is home to the largest population of U.S. Americans living outside the United States. Some estimates are as high as 600,000 U.S. Americans living in Mexico City, while in 1999 the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs estimates over 440,000 Americans lived in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area.[73][74]

The majority (90.5%) of the residents in Mexico City are Roman Catholic, higher than the national percentage, even though it has been decreasing over the last decades.[75] However, many other religions and philosophies are also practiced in the city: many different types of Protestant groups, different types of Jewish communities, Buddhist and Islam and other philosophical groups, as well as atheism.

  • 1950 - 3 million people lived in Mexico City.
  • 1975 - 12 million people lived in Mexico City.
  • 2000 - 22 million people lived in Mexico City.


Low income apartment blocks in the Azcapotzalco neighborhood of Mexico City
Lomas de Chapultepec residential area
Historic Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

National Museum of Art
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, iv, v
Reference 412
Region** Latin America and the Caribbean
Inscription history
Inscription 1987  (11th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Historic Centre (Centro Histórico) and the "floating gardens" of Xochimilco in the southern borough have been declared World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. Famous landmarks in the Historic Center include the Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo), the main central square with its time clashing Spanish-era Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace, and Delran, and ancient Aztec temple ruins Templo Mayor ("Major Temple") are all within a few steps of one another. (The Templo Mayor was discovered in 1978 while workers were digging to place underground electric cables.)

The most recognizable icon of Mexico City is the golden Angel of Independence, found on the wide, elegant avenue Paseo de la Reforma, modeled by the order of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. This avenue was designed over Americas' oldest passage in the XIX Century to connect the National Palace (seat of government) with the Castle of Chapultepec, the imperial residence. Today, this avenue is an important financial district in which the Mexican Stock Exchange as several corporate headquarters are located. Another important avenue is the Avenida de los Insurgentes, which extends 28.8 km (17.9 mi) and is one of the longest single avenues in the world.

The Chapultepec park houses the Castle of Chapultepec, now a museum on a hill that overlooks the park and its numerous museums, monuments and the national zoo and the National Museum of Anthropology (which houses the Aztec Calendar Stone). Another magnificent piece of architecture is the Fine Arts Palace, a stunning white marble theatre/museum whose weight is such that it has gradually been sinking into the soft ground below. Its construction began during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz and ended, after being interrupted by the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s. The Plaza of the Three Cultures in the Tlatelolco neighbourhood, and the shrine and Basilicas of Our Lady of Guadalupe are also important sites. There is a double-decker bus, known as the "Turibus", that circles most of these sites, and has timed audio describing the sites in multiple languages as they are passed.

In addition, the city has around 160 museums, over 100 art galleries, and some 30 concert halls, all of which maintain a constant cultural activity during the whole year.[citation needed] It has the fourth highest number of theatres in the world after New York, London and Toronto, and it is the city with the highest number of museums in the world.[citation needed] In many locales (Palacio Nacional and the Instituto Nacional de Cardiología, to name a few), there are murals painted by Diego Rivera. He and his wife Frida Kahlo lived in the southern suburb of Coyoacán, where several of their homes, studios, and art collections are open to the public. The house where Leon Trotsky was initially granted asylum and finally murdered in 1940 is also in Coyoacán.

In addition, there are several restored haciendas that are now restaurants, such as the San Ángel Inn, the Hacienda de Tlalpan and the Hacienda de los Morales, all of which are stunning remnants of Mexican history and house some of the best food in the world.


Metrobús at Insurgentes Avenue
Rapid transport train
Mexico City Metro, Camarones station
Inter-terminal shuttle train at Mexico City International Airport

Mexico City is served by the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo Metro, a 207 km metro system, which is the largest in Latin America. The first portions were opened in 1969 and it has expanded to 11 lines with 175 stations. A suburban rail system, known as the Tren Suburbano, similar to the French RER started operations in 2008 connecting the city downtown to the Northern suburbs. A twelfth (gold color) metro line is currently in construction, and will add an additional 25 km to the network. The metro is one of the busiest in the world transporting approximately 4.5 million people every day, surpassed only by subway lines in Moscow (7.5 million), Tokyo (5.9 million), and New York City (5.1 million).[76] It is heavily subsidized, and has the lowest fares in the world, each trip costing 3.00Mex$ and taking each passenger to almost any place in this enormous city from 05:00 am to midnight. Several stations display pre-Columbian artifacts and architecture that were discovered during the metro's construction.[citation needed] However, the Metro does not extend outside the limits of the Federal District and, therefore, an extensive network of bus routes has been implemented. These are mostly managed by private companies which are allowed to operate buses as long as they adhere to certain minimal service quality standards.

The city government also operates a network of large buses, in contrast with the privately operated microbuses, with fares barely exceeding that of the metro. Electric transport other than the metro also exists, in the form of trolleybuses and the Xochimilco Light Rail line. The city's first bus rapid transit line, the Metrobús, began operations on June 2005 in Avenida Insurgentes (a second line is under construction on Eje 4 Sur). As the microbuses were removed from its route, it was hoped that the Metrobús could reduce pollution and decrease transit time for passengers. Also, since late 2002, the white and green taxis have been joined by red and white ones as part of a program to replace older vehicles with new ones.

Terminal 2 of Mexico City International Airport

Mexico City is served by Mexico City International Airport (IATA Airport Code: MEX). This airport is Latin America's busiest and largest in traffic, with daily flights to North America, mainland Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Europe and Asia. Aeroméxico (Skyteam) and Mexicana (Oneworld) are based at this airport, and provide codeshare agreements with non-Mexican airlines that span the entire globe. It is used by over 26 million passengers per year.[77] This traffic exceeds the current capacity of the airport, which has historically centralized the majority of air traffic in the country. An alternate option is Lic. Adolfo López Mateos International Airport (IATA Airport Code: TLC) located in the nearby Toluca, State of Mexico with about 4.5 million passengers transported last year. In 2008, about 31 million people went through the city's airports. The government engaged in an extensive restructuring program that includes the new second adjacent terminal, which began operations in 2007, and the enlargement of four other airports (at the nearby cities of Toluca, Querétaro, Puebla and Cuernavaca) that, along with Mexico City's airport, comprise the Grupo Aeroportuario del Valle de México, distributing traffic to different regions in Mexico. The city of Pachuca will also provide additional expansion to central Mexico's airport network. Mexico City's airport is the main hub for 11 of the 21 national airline companies.

Areal view of the elevated freeway running from the northern area of the city to the southern area

The city has four major bus stations (North, South, Observatorio, TAPO), which comprise one of the world's largest transportation agglomerations, with bus service to many cities across the country and international connections. The city has one train station, used for commercial and industrial purposes (interstate passenger trains are now virtually non-existent in Mexico). A suburban rail system, the Tren Suburbano serves the metropolitan area, beyond the city limits of the metro, to municipalities such as Tlalnepantla and Cuautitlán Izcalli, with future extensions to Chalco and La Paz.

There are also several toll expressways which directly connect Mexico City with several other major cities throughout the country.

Highways connect all areas of the city

In the late 70's many arterial roads were redesigned as ejes viales; high-volume one-way roads that cross, in theory, Mexico City proper from side to side. The eje vial network is based on a quasi-Cartesian grid, with the ejes themselves being called Eje 1 Poniente, Eje Central, and Eje 1 Oriente, for example, for the north-south roads, and Eje 2 Sur and Eje 3 Norte, for example, for east-west roads. Two freeway ring-roads serve to connect points within the city and the metropolitan area: Circuito Interior (the inner ring) and Periférico, which connect to one straight freeway: the Viaducto (Viaduct) (connecting west with east, from Observatorio to the Airport). Traffic in this system is so dense that an elevated highway that runs on top and parallel to a part of the Periférico, had to be constructed and finished in 2007.[citation needed] This elevated highway is colloquially called segundo piso ("second level") of the Periférico.

There is an environmental program, called Hoy No Circula ("Not To Run Today", or "One Day without a Car"), whereby only vehicles with certain ending numbers on their license plates are allowed to circulate on certain days, in an attempt to cut down on pollution and traffic congestion.[citation needed]


Estadio Azteca, the fifth largest stadium in the world

Football (Soccer) is the Mexico's most popular and most televised sport. The important venues in Mexico City for this sport include the Aztec Stadium, home to the Mexico national football team and América, which has a capacity to seat 105,000 fans, the Olympic Stadium in Ciudad Universitaria, home to the U.N.A.M., with a seating capacity of over 63,000, and a few blocks from the WTC the Estadio Azul, located in the Colonia (Mexico) Nochebuena, home to the C.D.S.C. Cruz Azul, which seats 35,000 fans. The three teams are based in Mexico City and play in the Primera Division (First Division) and are part of the "Big Four" of Mexico. The country hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1970 and 1986 and the Aztec Stadium is the only stadium in World Cup history to host the final match twice. Mexico City was the first city in Latin America to host an Olympic Games, having organized the Summer Olympics in 1968, winning bids against Buenos Aires, Lyon and Detroit, and remains the only Latin American city to host such an event. Mexico City hosted the 1955 Pan American Games and then the 1975 Pan American Games after Santiago and São Paulo withdrew. The ICF Flatwater Racing World Championships have been hosted here twice, in 1974 and in 1994.

Lucha libre (wrestling) is one of the more popular sports in Mexico. The main venues are Arena Mexico and Arena Coliseo.

Baseball is another sport professionally played in the city, however, it has a dwindling fan base. Mexico City is home to the Mexico Red Devils and used to be home to the Quintana Roo Tigers of the MBL. The Devils still play their home games at the Foro Sol sports and concert venue. In Mexico City there are approximately 10 little leagues for young baseball players.

Adjacent to Foro Sol is Mexico City's Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. From 1962 to 1970 and again from 1986 to 1992, the track hosted the Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix. From 1980-1981 and again from 2002 to 2007, it hosted the Champ Car World Series Gran Premio de México. Beginning in 2005, the NASCAR Nationwide Series ran the Telcel-Motorola México 200. 2005 also marked the first running of the Mexico City 250 by the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Both races were removed from their series' schedules for 2009.

In 2005, Mexico City became the first city to host an NFL regular season game outside of the United States, at the Aztec Stadium. To date, the crowd of 103,467 people attending this game is the largest ever for a regular season game in NFL history. The city has also hosted several NBA pre-season exhibition games along with exhibition matches among MLB teams at the Foro Sol. The FIBA Americas Championship has also been hosted here.

Other sports facilities in Mexico City are the Palacio de los Deportes indoor arena, Francisco Márquez Olympic Swimming Pool, the Hipódromo de Las Américas, the Velodromo Agustín Melgar, and venues for equestrianism and horse racing, Ice Hockey, Rugby, American football, baseball, and basketball for which what is widely regarded as the best International Basketball Tournament has been held in the city.

Bullfighting takes place every Sunday during bullfighting season at the 50,000-seat Plaza México, the largest bullfight ring in the world.

Mexico City's golf courses have held both the Women's LPGA tour, as well as two Men's Golf World Cups. These, and other golf courses throughout the city are available as private, as well as public venues.


ITESM campus in Mexico City
National Polytechnic Institute
Anáhuac University
UACM Mexico City campus

The second oldest university in the Americas, established in 1551, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), is located in Mexico City. It is the largest university on the continent, with 305,969 students from all backgrounds enrolled. Three Nobel laureates, several Mexican entrepreneurs and most of Mexico's modern-day presidents are among its former students. UNAM conducts 50% of Mexico's scientific research and has presence all across the country with satellite campuses, observatories and research centers. The National Autonomous University of Mexico ranks 74th in the Top 200 World University Ranking published by The Times Higher Education Supplement in 2006,[78] making it the highest ranked Spanish-speaking university in the world. The sprawling main campus of the university, known as Ciudad Universitaria, was named a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2007.

The second largest higher-education institution is the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) (which includes, among many other relevant centers, the Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados (Cinvestav), where high-level research is performed about very different scientific and technological disciplines. Other major higher-education institutions in the city include the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM), the ITAM, the ITESM (3 campuses), the Universidad Panamericana (UP), the Universidad La Salle, the Universidad del Valle de Mexico (UVM), the Universidad Anáhuac, the Alliant International University, the Universidad Iberoamericana, El Colegio de México (Colmex), Escuela Libre de Derecho and the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económica, (CIDE). The most prestigious private universities in the country including Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and the Universidad Panamericana have their flagship campus located in Mexico City. In addition, the prestigious University of California maintains a campus known as "Casa de California" in the city. 1

Contrary to what occurs in the constituent states of the Mexican federation, the curriculum of Mexico City's public schools is managed by the federal level Secretary of Public Education. The whole funding is allocated by the government of Mexico City (in some specific cases, such as El Colegio de México, funding comes from both the city's government and other public and private national and international entities).[citation needed]

A very special case is that of El Colegio Nacional, created during the governmental period of Miguel Alemán Valdés to have, in Mexico, an institution very similar to the College of France. The very selected and privileged group of Mexican scientists and artists belonging to this institution (the membership is lifelong; some of the current members are Mario Lavista, Ruy Pérez Tamayo, José Emilio Pacheco, Marcos Moshinsky (d.2009), Guillermo Soberón Acevedo, and many others) have the obligation of disclosing their works among the general population, through conferences and public events such as concerts and recitals.

Amongst its many public and private schools (K-13), the city offers multi-cultural, multi-lingual and international schools which are attended by Mexican and foreign students. Best known are the Colegio Alemán (German school with 3 main campuses), the Liceo Mexicano Japonés (Japanese), the Escuela Coreana (Korean), the Lycée Français de Mexique (French), the American School, the Edron Academy and the Greengates School (British).


Mexico City is the leading center in Latin America for the television, music and film industries. It is also the most important center in Mexico for the printed media and book publishing industries. Dozens of daily newspapers are published in this city, including El Universal, Excélsior, Reforma and La Jornada. Other major papers include Milenio, Crónica, El Economista and El Financiero. Leading magazines include Expansión, Proceso, Poder, as well as dozens of entertainment publications, such as Vanidades, Quién, Chilango, TV y Novelas, and local editions of Vogue, GQ, and Architectural Digest.

The two largest media companies in the Spanish-speaking world, Televisa and TV Azteca, are headquartered in Mexico City. Other local television networks include Canal 11, Canal 22, Cadena Tres, Teveunam and 11 free-access channels.

It is also a leading center of the advertising industry. Most international ad firms have offices in the city, including Grey, JWT, Leo Burnett, Euro RSCG, BBDO, Ogilvy, Saatchi & Saatchi, and McCann Erickson. Many local firms also compete in the sector, including Alazraki, Olabuenaga/Chemistri, Terán, Augusto Elías, and Clemente Cámara, among others.

There are 60 radio stations operating in the city and a huge number of local community radio transmission networks.

Retail market

Fresh meat in Coyoacan.

Mexico City has a huge and varied retail market, with thousands of options for everything from the very basic foods to ultra high-end luxury goods.

Wholesale Produce

The city's main source of fresh produce is the Central de Abastos. This in itself is a self-contained mini-city in the southeastern neighborhood of Iztapalapa covering an area equivalent to several dozen city blocks. The wholesale market supplies most of the city's "mercados", supermarkets, and restaurants, as well as individuals who come to purchase the freshest variety for their household. Tons of fresh produce are trucked in from all over Mexico everyday.

The principal fish market is known as La Viga and is located in the southern part of the city, about 5 kilometers west of the Central de Abastos. Fresh fish from all around the country is available, mainly from the central Pacific coast and Veracruz.


Informal market in a narrow alley.
El-Parian Market

A staple for consumers in the city is the omnipresent "mercado." Every major neighborhood in the city has its own borough-regulated market, often more than one. These are large well-established facilities offering most basic products, such as fresh produce and meat/poultry, dry goods, tortillerías, and many other services, such as locksmiths, herbal medicine, hardware goods, sewing implements, and a multitude of stands offering freshly made, home-style cooking and drinks in the tradition of aguas frescas and atole.

In addition, "mercados sobre ruedas" or mobile markets, set up shop on city streets in many neighborhoods, depending on the day of the week. Sundays are the day in which the largest number of these markets are set-up. The stalls generally use awnings of a single color or shade (pink and red, for example), making them easily identifiable from several blocks away.

Small "mom-and-pop" corner stores (known as "abarroterías" or more colloquially as "changarros") abound in all neighborhoods, including many finer residential neighborhoods. These are small shops offering basics such as soft drinks, packaged snacks, canned goods, and dairy products. Thousands of C-stores or corner stores, such as Oxxo, 7-Eleven, and Extra are located throughout the city.


Shops in downtown Mexico City
El Puerto de Liverpool shopping center.

The downtown area of the city is widely known as an area for lower-cost, specialized retailers. Certain streets, for example, are known for having many lighting stores, or hardware shops, or yarn shops. The Mercado La Merced is one of city's oldest and is considered a smaller, older version of the Central de Abastos, where thousands of items are sold. The Mercado de Jamaica specializes in fresh flowers.

Calle Dolores, one block off Avenida Juárez, has one block known as Mexico City's Chinatown. The one block contains numerous stores selling imported Chinese knick-knacks, and restaurants selling lacquered Peking duck. Farther afield, the city's Zona Rosa neighborhood is home to several blocks that represent Mexico City's Little Korea. A number of Korean restaurants, shops and even video rental shops are located here.

Supermarkets & Malls

A El Palacio de Hierro department store
Centro Commercial Antara Polanco Shopping Mall

There are also hundreds of modern supermarkets throughout the city. Many are large, stand-alone stores from chains including Wal-mart, Soriana, Commercial Mexicana and Superama. Others are located within mini-malls, in which the supermarket anchors a number of other shops, including shoe shops, dry-cleaners, banks, and fast-food restaurants.

There are a number of large shopping centers and malls, including the Santa Fe mall in the Santa Fe district with several department stores and over 300 stores, restaurants and cinemas. Others include Plaza Universidad, Plaza Satélite, Galerías Insurgentes, Galerías Coapa, Parque Delta, Parque Lindavista, Pabellón Polanco, Pabellón Bosques, Mundo E, Perinorte and Plaza Lindavista, with anchor stores such as Liverpool, Suburbia, Sears and Fábricas de Francia. The Punta Norte Outlet Mall is located north of the city and includes many upscale outlet stores for brands such as Max Mara, Salvatore Ferragamo, Hugo Boss and Zegna. All malls have a variety of Mexican brands and shops, such as Scappino, Pineda Covalin, Soho, and many more.

Upper-scale malls such as Santa Fe, Perisur and Antara Polanco are the most modern and swank in Latin America. Top-end department stores include El Palacio de Hierro and Saks Fifth Avenue (whose store in the Santa Fe mall is the only one in Latin America and one of only three outside the U.S.). The Plaza Satélite mall is Latin America's highest profit shopping center.

Luxury Goods

Mexico City has an extremely large market for high end luxury cars

No other city in Latin America offers the breadth of high-end shopping available in Mexico City, only the city of São Paulo that comes in a close second place.

In addition to the large-scale Santa Fe mall with Saks and numerous luxury boutiques, Antara Polanco is a high-end mall in Polanco with restaurants, cinemas, and boutiques, including Burberry, Longchamp, Just Cavalli, Etro, Emporio Armani, Brooks Brothers, Thomas Pink, Hackett, and Coach.

Altavista 147 is a small shopping center in the southern neighborhood of San Ángel, with Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, Carolina Herrera, Max Mara, Hugo Boss, and luxury Mexican silversmith Tane. The mall is located on Avenida Altavista which houses many other high-end retailers, focusing on furniture shops and interior decorators, restaurants, and silversmiths such as Christofle.

Most of the city's luxury boutiques are located on Avenida Presidente Masaryk in Polanco. Here, stand-alone shops include Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Chanel, Tiffany & Co., Hermès, Frette, Ermenegildo Zegna, Etro, Marc Jacobs, Corneliani, Chopard, Bulgari, Gucci, and Roberto Cavalli. Other stores include furniture retailers Roche-Bobois, Bang & Olufsen, Natuzzi, and Kartell. On smaller side streets, one can find stores such as Assouline, a luxury French book publisher, Adolfo Dominguez, and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.



Palace of fine arts
La Pascua de Maria, 1698.
Diego Rivera's mural depicting Mexico's history at the National Palace in Mexico City
Statue of the head of K'inich Janaab Pakal I ( 603-683 AD ), king of Palenque.
Mural on the ceiling of the main stairway in the Museo Nacional de Arte.

Mexico City is one of the most important cultural centers in the world, boasting more museums than any other city.[79] It also comes third in the number of theaters in the world[79] just after London and NYC. Having been the capital of a vast pre-Hispanic empire and the Philippines, the richest viceroyalty within the Spanish Empire, and capital of the Mexican federation, Mexico City has a rich history of artistic expressions. Since the Mesoamerican pre-Classical period the inhabitants of the settlements around Lake Texcoco produced many works of art and complex craftsmanship, some of which are today displayed at the world-renown National Museum of Anthropology and the Templo Mayor Museum. While many pieces of pottery and stone-engraving have survived, the great majority of the Amerindian iconography was destroyed during the Conquest of Mexico.

During colonial times the first art produced was that of the codices generated to preserve or recuperate Amerindian iconography and history. From then, artistic expressions in Mexico were mostly religious in theme. The Metropolitan Cathedral still displays works by Juan de Rojas, Juan Correa and an oil painting whose authorship has been attributed to Murillo. Secular works of art of this period include the equestrian sculpture of Charles IV of Spain, locally known as El Caballito ("The little horse"). This piece, in bronze, was the work of Manuel Tolsá and it has been placed at the Plaza Tolsá, in front of the Palacio de Minería (Mining Palace). Directly in front of this building is the beautiful Museo Nacional de Arte (Munal) (the National Museum of Art).

During the 19th century, an important producer of art was the Academia de San Carlos (San Carlos Art Academy), founded during colonial times, and which later became the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas (the National School of Visual Arts), which is currently one of the art schools of UNAM. Many of the works produced by the students and faculty of that time are now displayed in the Museo Nacional de San Carlos (National Museum of San Carlos). One of the students, José María Velasco, is considered one of the greatest Mexican landscape painters of the 19th century. It was during Porfirio Diaz's regime that the government sponsored arts, especially those that followed the French school. In spite of that, popular arts in the form of cartoons and illustrations flourished like those of José Guadalupe Posada and Manuel Manilla. The permanent collection of the San Carlos Museum also includes paintings by European masters such as Rembrandt, Velázquez, Murillo, and Rubens.

After the Mexican Revolution, an avant-garde artistic movement originated in Mexico City: muralism. Many of the works of muralists José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera are displayed in numerous buildings in the city, most notably at the National Palace and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Frida Kahlo, wife of Rivera, with a strong nationalist expression, was also one of the most renowned of Mexican painters. Her house has become a museum that displays many of her works.

The former home of Rivera muse Dolores Olmedo house the namesake museum. The facility lies in the Xochimilco precinct in the southern part of the city and includes several buildings surrounded by sprawling manicured lawns. It houses a large collection of Rivera and Kahlo paintings and drawings, as well as living Xoloizcuintles (Mexican Hairless Dog). It also regularly hosts small but important temporary exhibits of classical and modern art (e.g. Venetian Masters and Contemporary New York artists).

During the 20th century, many artists immigrated to Mexico City from different regions of Mexico, like Leopoldo Méndez, an engraver from Veracruz, who supported the creation of the socialist Taller de la Gráfica Popular (Popular Graphics Workshop), designed to help blue-collar workers find a venue to express their art. Other painters came from abroad, like Catalan painter Remedios Varo and other Spanish and Jewish exiles. It was in the second half of the 20th century that the artistic movement began to drift apart from the Revolutionary theme. José Luis Cuevas opted for a modernist style in contrast to the muralist movement associated with social politics.

Mexico City has numerous museums dedicated to modern and contemporary art. The Museo Tamayo was opened in the mid-1980s to house the collection of international contemporary art donated by famed Mexican (born in the state of Oaxaca) painter Rufino Tamayo. The collection includes pieces by Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky, Warhol and many others, though most of the collection is stored while visiting exhibits are shown. The Museo de Arte Moderno (Museum of Modern Art) is a repository of Mexican artists from the 20th century, including Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros, Kahlo, Gerzso, Carrington, Tamayo, among others, and also regularly hosts temporary exhibits of international modern art. In southern Mexico City, the Museo Carrillo Gil (Carrillo Gil Museum) showcases avant-garde artists, as does the University Museum/Contemporary Art (Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo - or MUAC), designed by famed Mexican architect Teodoro González de León, inaugurated in late 2008. The Museo Soumaya (Soumaya Museum), named after the wife of Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, has the largest private collection of original Rodin sculptures outside Paris. It also has a large collection of Dalí sculptures, and recently began showing pieces in its masters collection including El Greco, Velázquez, Picasso and Canaletto. La Colección Jumex (The Jumex Collection) is a museum housed on the grounds of the Jumex juice company in the northern industrial suburb of Ecatepec (within the State of Mexico). It shows pieces from its permanent collection and hosts traveling exhibits by leading contemporary artists.

Jack Kerouac, the noted American author, spent extended periods of time in the city, and wrote his masterpiece volume of poetry Mexico City Blues here. Another American author, William S. Burroughs also lived in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of the city for some time. It was here that he accidentally shot his wife.[80]

Music, movies and entertainment

Palacio de los Deportes
Family park in the San Angel area
OFUNAM playing at Sala Nezahualcóyotl.
The Pirymids of Teotihuacan

Mexico City is a mecca of classical music, with a number of orchestras offering season programs. These include the Mexico City Philharmonic,[81] which performs at the Sala Ollin Yoliztli; the National Symphony Orchestra, whose home base is the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of the Fine Arts), a masterpiece of art nouveau and art decó styles; the Philharmonic Orchestra of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (OFUNAM),[82] and the Minería Symphony Orchestra,[83] both of which perform at the acoustically renown Sala Nezahualcóyotl, which was the first wrap-around concert hall in the Western Hemisphere when inaugurated in 1976. There are also many smaller ensembles that enrich the city's musical scene, including the Carlos Chávez Youth Symphony, the New World Orchestra (Orquesta del Nuevo Mundo), the National Polytechnical Symphony and the Bellas Artes Chamber Orchestra (Orquesta de Cámara de Bellas Artes).

The city is also a leading center of popular culture and music. There are a multitude of venues hosting Spanish and foreign-language performers. These include the 10,000-seat National Auditorium that regularly schedules the top Spanish and English-language pop and rock artists, as well as many of the world's leading performing arts ensembles, the auditorium also broadcasts Grand Opera performances from New York's Metropolitan Opera on giant, high definition screens. The National Auditorium has been awarded Best Venue in the World.

Other popular sites for pop-artist performances include the Teatro Metropolitan, the 15,000-seat Palacio de los Deportes, and the larger Foro Sol Stadium, where top-name international artists perform on a regular basis. The Cirque du Soleil has held several seasons at the Carpa Santa Fe, in the Santa Fe district in the western part of the city. There are numerous venues for smaller musical ensembles and solo performers. These include the Hard Rock Live, Bataclán, Foro Scotiabank, Lunario, Circo Volador and Voilá Acoustique.

It is said that Mexico City has more theatres than any other city in the Spanish-speaking world.[citation needed] At any given time, dozens of plays are staged which run the gamut from Spanish versions of Broadway shows to mainstream and alternative Spanish-language originals.

The Centro Nacional de las Artes (National Center for the Arts), in southern Mexico City, has several venues for music, theatre, dance. UNAM's main campus, also in the southern part of the city, is home to the Centro Cultural Universitario (the University Culture Center) (CCU). The CCU also houses the National Library, the interactive Universum, Museo de las Ciencias,[84] the Sala Nezahualcóyotl concert hall, several theatres and cinemas, and the new University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC).[85] A branch of the National University's CCU cultural center was inaugurated in 2007 in the facilities of the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known as Tlatelolco, in north-central Mexico City.

The (José Vasconcelos Library), a national library, is located on the grounds of the former Buenavista railroad station in the northern part of the city.

The Papalote children's museum, which houses the world's largest dome screen, is located in the wooded park of Chapultepec, near the Museo Tecnológico, and La Feria amusement park. The theme park Six Flags México (the largest amusement park in Latin America) is located in the Ajusco borough, in southern Mexico City. During the winter, the main square of the Zócalo is transformed into a gigantic ice skating rink, which is said to be the largest in the world behind that of Moscow's Red Square.

The Cineteca Nacional (the Mexican Film Library), near the Coyoacán suburb, shows a wide variety of films, and stages many film festivals, including the annual International Showcase, and many smaller ones ranging from Scandinavian and Uruguayan cinema, to Jewish and GLBT-themed films. Cinépolis and Cinemex, the two biggest film business chains, also have several film festivals throughout the year, with both national and international movies. No other city in the world has the amount of IMAX theaters as are in Mexico City,[citation needed] this gives access to cinematographic documentaries as well as blockbusters on the world's largest screens.


Gringa is a local cuisine of Mexico City which is meat, cheese and sauce sandwiched between two flour tortillas and heated.
Casa de los azulejos restaurant.

Mexico City offers a vast array of culinary experiences. Restaurants specializing in the regional cuisines of Mexico's 31 states are available in the city. Also available are restaurants representing a very broad spectrum of international cuisines, including French, Italian, Croatian, German, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish (including Spanish regional variations such as Castilian, Asturian, Galician, and Basque), Turkish, Chinese (including regional variations such as Cantonese, Hunan, and Sichuan), Indian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Tibetan, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Moroccan, as well as Argentine, Brazilian, Cuban, Peruvian, and Uruguayan. Haute, fusion, kosher, vegetarian and vegan cuisines are also commonly available.

The city also has several branches of renowned international restaurants and chefs. These include Paris' Au Pied de Cochon and Brasserie Lipp, Philippe (by Philippe Chow, who has restaurants in New York and Las Vegas); Nobu; and Pámpano, owned by Mexican-raised opera legend Plácido Domingo. There are branches of the exclusive Japanese restaurant Suntory, Rome's famed Alfredo, as well as New York steakhouses Morton's and The Palm, and Madrid's L'Albúfera. Three of the most famous Lima-based haute Peruvian restaurants, La Mar, Segundo Muelle and Astrid y Gastón have Mexico City branches. Mexico City is one of the few cities in the world with a Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and restaurant.

Mexico's award-winning wines are offered at many restaurants, and the city offers unique experiences for tasting the regional spirits, with broad selections of tequila and mezcal.

At the other end of the scale are working class pulque bars known as pulquerías, a challenge for tourists to locate and experience.


The Mexican World Trade Center.
Interior of the city post office.

Mexico City was traditionally known as La Ciudad de los Palacios ("the City of the Palaces"), a nickname attributed to Baron Alexander von Humboldt when visiting the city in the 19th century who sending a letter back to Europe said Mexico city could rival any major city in Europe.

During López Obrador's administration a political slogan was introduced: la Ciudad de la Esperanza ("The City of Hope"). This slogan was quickly adopted as a nickname to the city under López Obrador's term, although it has lost popularity since the new slogan Capital en Movimiento ("Capital in Movement") was adopted by the recently elected administration headed by Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon; the latter is not treated as often as a nickname in media.

The city is colloquially known as Chilangolandia after the locals' nickname chilangos, which is used either as a pejorative term by people living outside Mexico City or as a proud adjective by Mexico City's dwellers.[86]

Residents of Mexico City are more formally called capitalinos (in reference to the city being the capital of the country) or, more recently defeños (a word which derives from the postal abbreviation of the Federal District in Spanish: D.F., which is read "De-Efe".)

Law enforcement

The Mexican Federal Police regularly fly patrols.

The Secretariat of Public Security of the Federal District (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública del Distrito Federal – SSP), unlike the previous two, does not have national reach, but it does manage a combined force of over 90,000 officers in the Federal District (DF). The SSP is charged with maintaining public order and safety in the center of Mexico City. The historic district of the city is also roamed by tourist police, which aims to serve and orient tourists. These enforcement agents dress in a more traditional outfit and ride on horses.

The investigative Judicial Police of the Federal District (Policía Judicial del Distrito Federal – PJDF) is organized under the Office of the Attorney General of the DF (the Procuraduría General de Justicia del Distrito Federal). The PGJDF maintains 16 precincts (delegaciones) with an estimated 3,500 judicial police, 1,100 investigating agents for prosecuting attorneys (agentes del ministerio público), and 941 experts or specialists (peritos).

The principal police force of Mexico City is the Protection and Transit Directorate, also known as the Traffic Police, which consists of some 32,000 officers organized into thirty-three precincts. It is the largest single law enforcement organization in Mexico.

Between 2000 and 2004 an average of 478 crimes were reported each day in Mexico City; however, the actual crime rate is thought to be much higher "since most people are reluctant to report crime."[87] On average in the Federal District in the first quarter of 1997 one police officer was killed and one injured weekly.[citation needed] A sense of insecurity prevails among many citizens because of the lack of confidence in the police and the fear of police misbehavior and crime.[citation needed]

Future Development

There are currently over thirty super-tall skyscraper projects set to constructed in Mexico City in the near future. With Mexico's economy and GDP per capita both growing at high rates even more upper and middle class homes, apartments, shopping centers and utilities are predicted to be constructed rapidly within the 2010-2020 decade in which Mexico city's GDP is set to at least double according to numerous economic reports. The same challenges which now affect Mexico City such as overpopulation, pollution, overcrowding, overstressing of resources and utilities, and high cost of living are expected to remain pressing issues that will perhaps intensify with a larger high-income consumer class.

Currently the government of Mexico City is attempting several projects not only to revitalize the Citys pre-population boom conditions but also to revitalize some elements remaining from the pre-Columbian days. Such projects include the full restoration of the pirymids of Teotihuacan, the limited reclaiming of Lake Texcoco, and the extensive revitalization of the Xochimilco district.

The Mexico City government is also attempting to decrease migration into the city from rural areas, increase investment, curb pollution, lower the crime rate, improve basic utilities,and relocate heavy industry away from populations centers.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Mexico City is twinned with:

See also



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External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Mexico City is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
Mexico City Cathedral in the Centro
Mexico City Cathedral in the Centro

Mexico City [1] (Spanish: México, Ciudad de México, or D.F. (pronounced deh eh-feh)) is the Capital of Mexico, and one of the world's largest and most populated cities.

Mexico City main districts and roads
Mexico City main districts and roads

The city is officially divided into 16 delegaciones (boroughs) which are in turn subdivided into colonias (neighborhoods), of which there are around 250; however, it is better to think of the city in terms of districts to facilitate the visitor getting around. Many older towns like Coyoacán, San Angel and Tlalpan got merged into the urban sprawl, and each of these still manages to preserve some of its original, unique character.

  • Centro Historico - Where it all began. Historic city center that is focused around the Zócalo or Plaza de la Constitución and extends in all directions for a number of blocks with its furthest extent being west to the Alameda Central. Many historic colonial landmarks, and the famous Aztec Templo Mayor, can be found here. The Zocalo is the largest square in Latin America and the third largest in the world after Moscow’s Red Square and Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
  • Chapultepec - Lomas - Chapultepec is one of the biggest urban parks in the world. Its name means grass hopper hill. The Park hosts the the main city zoo, a huge castle, lakes, many museums and an amusement park. Lomas de Chapultepec is the wealthiest district in the city nearby Chapultepec, and is filled with walled off mansions.
  • Polanco - One of the wealthiest residential areas with some of the most expensive designersboutique stores in the city. Filled with embassies, upscale restaurants, night clubs and hotels.
  • Zona Rosa - Also known to tourists as Reforma district because embraces Paseo de la Reforma avenue, it is an important business and entertainment district. It is widely known to be the gay center of town.
  • Coyoacán - A colonial town swallowed by the urban sprawl, it is now a center for counter-culture, art, students, and intellectuals. Many good museums can be found here also.
  • Condesa and Roma - Recently reborn after decades of oblivion, and brimming with the city's trendiest restaurants, bistros, clubs, pubs and shops. The neighborhoods are on opposite sides of Avenida Insurgentes, around Parque Mexico and España.
  • San Angel - Trendy, gentrified area lined with cobblestone streets, upscale boutiques and many restaurants. Its a wealthy residential area as well and known for its arts market.
  • Xochimilco - Is better known for its extended series of Aztec irrigation canals — all that remains of the ancient Xochimilco lake. Xochimilco has kept its ancient traditions, even though its proximity to Mexico City influence that area to urbanize.
  • Santa Fe - A modern, recently redeveloped business district at the city western tip that consists mainly of highrise buildings surrounding a large shopping mall.
  • Del Valle and Narvarte - Middle class residential, business and shopping area in south central city.
  • Tlalpan and Pedregal - Largest of the boroughs and Tlalpan is home of Ajusco, a volcanic mountain peak and National Park, one of the highest mountains in Mexico City.

The outer area of Mexico City includes:

  • Ciudad Satelite - Residential and shopping area north of the city.
  • Interlomas Residential and shopping area at the West of the City
Angel de la Independencia in Zona Rosa
Angel de la Independencia in Zona Rosa

The greater Mexico City metropolitan area is one of the world's largest and most populated, with an estimate of about 20 million people living in the region. It is shaped roughly like an oval of about 60 by 40 kilometers, built on the dry bed of Lake Texcoco, and surrounded on three sides by tall mountains and volcanoes such as the Ajusco, the Popocatepetl and the Ixtlacihuatl. Mexico City proper (with an estimated population of between 8 to 9 million) is in the Federal District (Spanish: Distrito Federal or D.F.), a federally-administered area (that is, not part of any Mexican state) which acts as the capital of Mexico. The rest of the metropolitan area extends beyond it into Mexico State, which surrounds D.F. on three sides. Legally and practically speaking, Mexico City is the same as the Federal District, and that is where most tourists will spend the majority of their time when visiting or staying in the city.

Downtown Mexico city is very decentralized with both high-rise and low-rise buildings, unlike American cities' skylines.
Downtown Mexico city is very decentralized with both high-rise and low-rise buildings, unlike American cities' skylines.

Mexico City is divided up into 16 delegaciones, similar to the boroughs of New York, which in turn are divided into "colonias" (neighborhoods), of which there are about 250. Knowing what colonia you're going to is essential to getting around, almost all locals will know where a given colonia is (however, beware that there are some colonias with duplicate or very similar names). As with many very large cities, the structure is relatively decentralized, with several parts of the city having their own miniature "downtown areas". However, the real downtown areas are Centro, the old city center, and Zona Rosa, the new business and entertainment district.

The city is located 2200 meters above the sea level. Some people not used to high places have experienced difficulty when breathing, however these symptoms fade a few minutes after arrival. Difficulty breathing due to pollution, however, can potentially last a bit longer.

Skyline of Reforma skyscrapers
Skyline of Reforma skyscrapers

Mexico City's night life is like all other aspects of the city; it's huge. There is an enormous selection of venues: clubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, and variations and combinations thereof to choose from. There is incredible variation, from ultramodern lounges in Santa Fe and Reforma, to centuries-old dance halls in Centro and Roma. There are also pubs in Tlalpan and Coyoacán and clubs of every stripe in Insurgentes, Polanco, Condesa and the Zona Rosa.

Also, when going out, check the date, since this is an important indicator of how full places will generally be, and how long you might have to wait to get in. Salaries are usually paid twice per month, the 30th/31st-1st, and the 14th-15th. On or right after these dates is when most Mexicans will go out, especially if pay day coincides with a weekend. In the more expensive places, people might leave for Acapulco or vacations farther afield during the summer and long weekends. Mexican weekends, in the sense of when it's common to go out drinking, are Thursday night to Sunday morning, and sometimes throughout Sunday.

Chapultepec Park overlooking Polanco's Skyline.
Chapultepec Park overlooking Polanco's Skyline.

The origins of Mexico City date back to 1325, when the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan was founded and later destroyed in 1521 by Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes. The city served as the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Spain until the outbreak of the Independence War in 1810. The city became the capital of the Mexican Empire in 1821 and of the Mexican Republic in 1823 after the abdication of Agustin de Iturbide. During the Mexico - U.S. war in 1847, the city was invaded by the American army. In 1864 the French invaded Mexico and the emperor Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg ruled the country from the Castillo de Chapultepec and ordered to build Avenue of the Empress (today's Paseo de la Reforma promenade). Porfirio Díaz assumed power in 1876 and left an outstanding mark in the city with many European styled buildings such as the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Palacio Postal. Diaz was overthrown in 1910 with the Mexican Revolution and this marked a radical change in the city's architecture. The 20th century saw the uncontrolled growth of the City beyond the Centro Historico with the influx of thousands of immigrants from the rest of the country. In 1968 the city was host to the Olympic Games which saw the construction of the Azteca stadium, the Palacio de los Deportes, the Olympic stadium and other sports facilities. In 1985 the city suffered an 8.1 Richter grade earthquake that tore down several buildings in the Centro Historico, Colonia Roma and other old neighborhoods.


Mexico City ranks 8th in terms of GDP size among 30 world cities. More than a third of total Mexican economy is concentrated here. The size of its economy is US $315 billion, compared to $1.1 trillion of that of New York. Mexico City is the wealthiest city in all of Latin America, with a GDP per capita of $25,258. Mexico City's poverty rate is also the lowest in Mexico, and its Human Development Index (2009-MHDI) is the highest in the nation at 0.9327. It is home to the Mexican Stock Exchange. Most of the large local and multinational corporations are headquartered here, mainly in the Polanco and Santa Fe districts.


Mexico City weather is divided in two seasons, the dry, from November to April, and the rainy from May to October. Spring months are warm, while the summer months can vary from light to heavy rains especially in the late afternoon. Fall and winter dawns get really cold but with an amazingly clear sky. Temperatures range from 0°C in late October, November, December and January mornings, to 32°C in March, April and May during mid-day highs.

Pollution over Mexico City.
Pollution over Mexico City.
Mexico City air pollution index scale
Mexico City air pollution index scale

The city sits in a valley, formed by mountains and volcanoes, making this the worst of the environments to locate one of the largest cities in the world. In 1987, pollution was at its worst when one day thousands of birds appeared dead on the sidewalks of the city. Environmentalists attributed this to air pollution. This situation obliged authorities to implement measures to improve air quality, resulting in the transfer of most of heavy industry (glass, car and steel factories) and oil refineries outside of the city and the introduction of unleaded vehicle fuels. Today, the air quality is in much better shape and ozone and carbon dioxide levels are on the fall. Although the smog layer is visible nearly every day, its effects in terms of breathing and eye irritation should be barely noticeable and it should not be a worry for the visitor. Pollution is in maximun effect in the hot, dry season of spring, from late February to early May and there is a greenhouse effect that appears during winter from late November to early February. You can check the current air quality on the Atmospheric Monitoring System website [2]. This government body established an index denominated IMECA (Metropolitan Index for Air Quality) in order to make population aware of the current air pollution situation. When the index exceeds 170 points, a "Environmental pre-contingency" is issued and people are asked to refrain from performing open-air activities such as sports. In the case of an "Environmental Contingency", only vehicles with a zero or double zero emissions sticker can circulate.


The catastrophic earthquake of 8.1 degrees richter that took place in the morning of September 19th 1985 and took the lives of between 9,000 and 30,000 people, remains fresh in the memory of the majority of Mexico City's inhabitants. Since the city was established in the dry bed of lake Texcoco and several geological faults that originate in the pacific coast reach the city, earthquakes are a common phenomena. Right after the 1985 earthquake many constructions were reinforced and new buildings are designed to meet structural criteria by law and no major building collapse has happened since, even after several strong earthquakes. You can check the latest earthquake activity at the National Earthquake Center [3] an institute of the National University (UNAM). Should you happen to be in the middle of an earthquake, remain calm and follow some simple rules: if you are indoors, stay under the doorways, move away of objects that can fall, and/or follow exit paths ("Ruta de Evacuación") out to the streets; if you are outdoors, move away from slopes or electrical wires towards open areas or marked "safe zones".

Upscale neighborhood west of the city.
Upscale neighborhood west of the city.

With a population of more than 20 million in the greater metropolitan area, you can expect to find all kinds of people in Mexico City, in terms of racial, sexual, political, cultural and wealth diversity. Citizens are mostly Mestizo (people of mixed Spanish and Amerindian racial background) and white. Amerindian people constitute less than one percent of the city's population, but there are some who are still moving to the city in search of opportunities. As elsewhere in Latin America, socioeconomic status tends to be highly correlated with ethnicity in Mexico City: by and large, the upper and middle classes are whiter and have more European ancestry than the poor and the lower middle classes.

The city, as the rest of the country, has a very unequal distribution of wealth that can be characterized geographically, generally speaking, as follows: the middle and upper classes tend to live in the west of the city (concentrated in the delegaciones of Benito Juarez, Miguel Hidalgo, Coyoacan, Tlalpan, Cuajimalpa and Alvaro Obregon). The east of the city, most notably Iztapalapa (the most populous delegacion) is much poorer. The same applies to municipalities of greater Mexico City (Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, Chalco, Chimalhuacán). Although there are pockets of poverty everywhere (and often side by side with the shiny-glitzy condos of the nouveau riche, like in Santa Fe in Cuajimalpa), it is easily noticeable that as one travels east the buildings begin to look more shabby and the people increasingly more brown -a testimony to Mexico's heritage of racial and socioeconomic inequality.

As a big city, it is also the home of large foreign communities, like Cubans, Spaniards, Americans, Jews, Japanese, Chilean, Lebanese, and more recently Argentines and Koreans. Mexico City has a number of ethnic districts with restaurants and shops that cater to groups such as Chinese and Lebanese Mexicans. It is the temporary home to many expats too, working here for the many multinational companies operating in Mexico. Foreigners of virtually any ethnic background may not get a second look little attention if they dress conservatively and attempt to speak Spanish.

Mexico City is one of the most liberal cities in Latin America, and was the first jurisdiction in the region to legalize same-sex marriage (in December 2009). As such, this is generally a gay friendly city, particularly in the Zona Rosa District. Abortion on demand is also legal, as well as euthanasia and prostitution (the latter allowed only in designated districts).


Although Mexico City is considered an expensive city, your trip budget will depend on your lifestyle and way of traveling, as you can find cheap and expensive prices for almost everything. Public transportation is very cheap and there are many affordable places to eat. On the other hand you can find world-class hotels and fancy restaurants with higher prices. A daily backpacker budget for transportation and meals should range between 100 to 200 pesos a day (10 to 20 USD), using public transport and eating at street stands, while a more comfortable budget should range between 200 to 500 pesos a day (20 to 50 USD) using private taxis (taxi de sitio) and eating at decent sit-down restaurants. For those for whom money is not a problem, you can find plenty of outlets for your dollars, euros, pounds, yuan, etc.


The addressing system is fairly simple, starting by street name, house number, colonia (neighborhood), city, state and postal code. A typical address could be something like Colima 15, Colonia Roma Norte, Mexico, Distrito Federal, 06760. However, the numbering tends to not be in the right order!


For the avid photographer, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. The city is paranoid about tripods. You are not allowed to use a tripod in any ticketed place, such as museums, the metro stations, architectural ruins, etc. You will be politely asked to hold your camera in your hands. Apparently, it has something to do with being a professional. However, you can sneak a few pictures with the tripod (lots of HDR opportunities and panoramas) and feign confusion each time you are stopped by a different authority.

Compact Flash cards can be found at several different locations. Look for stores such as Radio Shack, Office Depot, Office Max or Wal-Mart. Prices tend to be on the high end, but they are affordable. You could also try some of the places that are dedicated to selling photographic equipment, they are easily identified because you will see the street signs for well known brand names.

You can print your photos at most of the major chains of pharmacies around town, look for Farmacias Benavides, Farmacias Guadalajara or Farmacias del Ahorro (with a white 'A' inside a red circle). Prices differ from store to store. Also, while near the Zocalo on the street Republica de Brasil, many people standing on the side of the sidewalk will verbally advertise "imprentas." They are offering stationery printing services, not photographic printing.

For people who love to do street photography, a good place to start is in front of the Bellas Artes square, during afternoons. There is a smorgasbord of faces cutting across the square and perching on one of the benches for an hour will easily give you access to photography fodder. Many urchins and ethnic street dwellers have learned to ask for money before allowing you to shoot them. Sympathize and accept. It is worth it.

Keep in mind some museums, like the Museum of National History in the Chapultepec, charge an extra fee for those with video cameras. Also in most museums, flash photography is not permitted.

For the safety of you and your camera, be aware of your environment and don't wander around crowded public spaces or public transport with your shiny new camera dangling from your neck or with obvious wrist straps hanging out of pockets or backpacks.


Like the majority of Mexico, Spanish is the dominant language in Mexico City. English may be spoken in the city's affluent neighborhoods and tourist areas such as Polanco, Chapultepec, Satelite, and Santa Fe, as well as by ex pats and Americans working and living in the city, but knowing some Spanish is a necessity to truly enjoy this city as much of the city's population is monolingual.

Get in

By plane

Benito Juarez International Airport (IATA: MEX) (ICAO: MMMX)

Most travelers arrive to Mexico City by air, to the Benito Juárez International Airport [4], located in the eastern part of the city. There are frequent flights to and from most larger cities in the world, as Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Santiago de Chile, London, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, Chicago, Toronto, and Tokyo. Some of the international airlines that operate regular flights to Mexico City include (as of April 2007): Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France, Alaska Airlines [5], American Airlines, Avianca, British Airways, Continental Airlines, Copa, Cubana de Aviacion, Delta [6], Iberia, Japan Airlines, KLM, LAN, Lloyd Aereo Boliviano (recently grounded), Lufthansa, Mexicana, Northwest, TACA, Varig, Ocean Air, United Airlines and US Airways. The airport has a plane spotting area. To reach it, take the subway and go to the Terminal Aerea station.

On January 16, 2008, a new terminal, Terminal 2, opened at Benito Juarez. If you are flying in or out of the city check with your airline as to what terminal you should use for ticketing and check-in. Give yourself extra time to make your flight to avoid confusion.


If you arrive on an international flight, after picking up your luggage you will go through Immigration, and then Customs. Make sure you fill in all forms prior to landing to make this an expedite process. Sometimes, the airline will hand them out on the flight. There is a 300-dollar duty allowance that include new clothing, tobacco and liquors. The Mexican customs law allows passengers to bring free of duties a laptop, an MP3 player, a digital camera, a tripod, a video camera, and used clothing.

You will also be required to fill out a Migratory Form for Foreign Tourist, Transmigrant, Business Visitor or Council Visitor which must be stamped by the customs officer, who will give you an obsolete number of days for your visa (up to three months). This form has a bar code on it and a blue stripe across the top saying "Estados Unidos Mexicanos." Be sure not to lose this form as without it, you might not be able to leave the country. If you lose or misplace it during the visit, you must visit the immigration office at the airport to fill out a new one. If you plead ignorance, they may let it go, but normally, there's a 440-peso fine.

After going through customs you will pick up your luggage, then pass through screening. You will press a button for a red or green light. The red means they will search you, the green means you can go.

The entire process, from when the plane arrives to when you are done with customs, usually takes about an hour. After completing customs, you will go through large doors to the waiting area for international arrivals. Be prepared to see a lot of people in this area. It is a custom for families to pick up their loved ones at the airport and the hall is rather small for a city of its size. There are carriers who will offer to carry your luggage. This is a service authorized by the airport and is safe--they will be uniformed with white shirts, navy blue tie and dark blue pants and will carry a wheelie (or keep it nearby) with the union logo on it. There is no fixed price for this service, but 15-25 pesos should be fine, unless you are traveling in a group or have a lot of bags.

Currency conversion

The airport offers the best rates for converting your currency. There are many currency changers, some offering better rates than others or not charging a commission. The converter near Gate E1, in the arrival wing, offers the best rate.

Ground transportation
  • Taxi— The airport offers a service of licensed and secure taxis known as Transportacion Terrestre [7]. These cabs are white and yellow with black airplane stickers on the doors. You should buy a ticket in the marked counters inside the airport. You can ask one of the wheelie guys for "Taxi Seguro" or "Boleto de Taxi", who will take you and your luggage to the Taxi counter. Be sure to get the detachable piece of the ticket back. Prices range from 5 to 25 dollars for the taxi service, depending on the size of the car and the zone of the city you are going to. A drawing of a car on the ticket will tell you what type of car the ticket is valid for. Some ticket vendors are known to sell more expensive tickets for huge vans to single persons with moderate amounts of luggage. Be aware the airport is not located in the best area of the city, so it is not recommended for tourists to walk outside the airport terminal in search for cheaper taxi service unless you have pre-arranged your service. Definitely do not attempt this if you are not comfortable speaking Spanish. Despite this, an alternative Taxi Sitio (site) can be reached by using the overpass located outside of Gate D. Taxis here are about half the price of the official airport taxis and are considered secure--this is the Sitio that is set up for the airline employees.
  • Metro— If you are looking for a more economical means of transportation and you're not carrying too much luggage, take the Metro (Subway). The Terminal Aerea station is next to the Domestic flights terminal 1, to the left when coming out from the international arrivals hall. It is a bit hard to find, so be prepared to do some detective work, and keep an eye out for the orange 1970s style M designating the entrance. The tickets cost 3 pesos each. Realize that the Metro has its own risks--pickpocketing is a moderate danger here so be aware of your surroundings, and keep an eye on your belongings. Especially, don't take the Metro during rush hour unless you are especially fond of the sensation a sardine has in a tin. When you arrive at terminal 2, there is no metro station so you will have to transfer to terminal 1 first.
During rush hours, the first two cars are reserved for only women and children, and there is always a policeman checking that no man hops into those wagons. It is not compulsory for women to travel separately if they are accompanied by men or if they don't wish to travel in those wagons.

Licenciado Adolfo López Mateos International Airport

This airport (IATA: TLC) (ICAO: MMTO) is in the City of Toluca 50 km southwest of Mexico City and recently transformed itself from a general aviation airport into the hub of several domestic low-cost carriers such as Interjet and Volaris which serve destinations as Monterrey, Cancún, Guadalajara, Tijuana, and many other Mexican cities. As of September 2009, Toluca is served internationally by Continental Airlines from Houston as well as by Volaris from Los Angeles and Oakland. Reaching the Toluca airport is not easy, You will need to drive your own car or hire a taxi, which can be expensive. The best transportation from and to Toluca's airport is Caminante. Ithas the biggest fleet of taxis at the best price and it also includes deluxe Mercedes Benz vans. Volaris offers free airport shuttle from its Santa Fe office in Vasco de Quiroga Avenue, while Interjet offers shuttles that are property of Caminante, from several hotels around the city, including the Santa Fe Sheraton Hotel.

Depending on your overall trip, it might also be worth considering flying to nearby cities as Cuernavaca (CVJ) and Puebla (PBC), but reaching Mexico City from these places could be quite tiresome and expensive.

By bus

Although most of foreign travelers will reach Mexico City by air, it is also possible to arrive by bus. Greyhound offers several connecting routes from the United States and it is possible to buy one single ticket from many major cities in the U.S. to Mexico. Traveling by bus in Mexico is comfortable compared to other countries, since many Mexicans used to travel by bus until the recent introduction of several low-cost airlines.

The city has 4 major bus stations:

  • Terminal Autobuses del Norte, Av. 100 Metros 4907, Colonia Magdalena de las Salinas, tel 5587 1552. Metro station stop "Autobuses del Norte" (Line 5, yellow). Most buses departing to and arriving from bordering towns with the U.S. operate from this terminal such as Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Reynosa, even Ciudad Juarez. Other destinations that depart from this terminal: Acapulco, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Puerto Vallarta, Monterrey, Leon, Queretaro, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Hermosillo, Tijuana. Overall, buses are bound to northern Mexico.
  • Terminal de Autobuses del Poniente, Av. Sur 122, Colonia Real del Monte. Metro station "Observatorio" (Line 1, pink). Also known as Terminal de Autobuses Observatorio. Usually used for destinations in the western part of Mexico such as Collima, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Toluca.
  • Terminal de Autobuses del Sur "Taxqueña", Av. Taxqueña 1320, Colonia Campestre Churubusco, Metro station "Taxqueña"(Line 2, blue). This station is used for destinations in southern Mexico such as: Acapulco, Ixtapa, Oaxaca, Tepoztlan, Puebla.
  • Terminal de Autobuses del Oriente "TAPO", Calzada Ignacio Zaragoza 200, Colonia 10 de Mayo. Metro Station "San Lazaro" (Line 1, pink). Serving also destinations in the south and the gulf of Mexico such as: Campeche, Cancun, Merida, Villahermosa, Veracruz, Jalapa.

Some of the most common bus lines in Mexico:

  • Caminante
  • ADO
  • Estrella Roja
  • Omnibus de Mexico
  • ETN Real first class buses
  • UNO

By train

Passenger train services unfortunately ceased operating in Mexico some ten years ago, and only freight trains ride to and around Mexico City. Nowadays only one train route is operating. This is the Chihuahua Pacífico route between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, crossing the Sierra.

Mexico City's Metro streches northeast into Ecatepec, State of Mexico.
Mexico City's Metro streches northeast into Ecatepec, State of Mexico.

Mexico City is a huge place, but driving is definitely not a way to see it even if tourist attractions are scattered throughout the city. A good way to plan your trip is to stop by Guia Roji [8] to identify the location of the "Colonias" (neighborhoods) you intend to visit. You may also try Google Maps and Map24 [9], to find addresses and even look for directions.

Mexico City has several public transport alternatives. Metro is reliable and runs underground, the city government operates the RTP bus system and Electric Trolley buses. There are also plenty of franchised private buses which are less reliable and safe because of their driving habits. And finally thousands of taxis, many of them old Volkswagen bugs in their famous green paint scheme and called verditos, or little green ones.

Mexico City Metro
Mexico City Metro

Officially named Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, but known simply as Metro [10][11], it is one of the largest and most used subway systems in the world, comprised by 11 different lines that measure more than 170 km and carry 4.4 million people every day. You'll quickly see how busy it is, particularly during the day: trains are often filled to significantly over capacity, and sometimes it will be hot and uncomfortable. Despite the close quarters, it's relatively quick and efficient, especially as an alternative to taxis during rush hours when the streets are essentially parking lots, and affordable (tickets for one trip with unlimited transfers within the system cost 3 pesos). Trains run every couple of minutes, so if you just miss it, you won't have long to wait until another arrives, and the Metro can be the quickest way to travel longer distances within the city. Stations usually have food stalls inside and outside the entrances, and many have city-sponsored exhibits and artwork on display, so it's good even for a look around. Operating hours are from 5AM to midnight on weekdays (starts at 6AM on Saturday and 7AM on Sunday), so if your plans will keep you out beyond midnight, be sure to have alternate means of transport.

Although the Metro lacks informational signs in English, the system was originally designed with illiteracy in mind, so finding your way around should not be a problem. Lines are defined by number but also by a color, and that color runs as a thematic band across the entire station and along the entire route, so you always know what line you are on. Stations are identified by name but also by a pictorial icon that represents that area in some way. However, even with this user-friendly approach, entire maps of the Metro system are not posted everywhere that you'd like. They're usually only near ticket booths; there are no maps on the trains and only or two are posted per platform, so work out your route before going through the turnstiles, and have a Metro map on you. Trains and platforms do have a line diagram with icons and transfer points for easy reference.

Some lines run through more tourist-related spots than others and will become very familiar to you after a while. Line 1 (pink) runs through many tourist spots, such as Centro Historico (Salto del Agua and Isabel la Catolica stations), the Chapultepec Forest (Chapultepec Station), Condesa and Roma neighborhoods (Insurgentes and Sevilla stations) and the Northwest Bus Station (Observatorio station). Line 2 (blue) runs through the Centro Historico (Allende, Zocalo and Bellas Artes stations) and reaches the South Bus Station (Tasqueña). Line 7 (orange) runs through many touristic spots such as the Chapultepec Forest (Auditorio Station) and the Polanco neighborhood (Polanco Station). Line 9 (brown) runs near the Condesa neighborhood (Chilpancingo). Line 3 (green) runs near Coyoacan (Coyoacan and Miguel Angel de Quevedo stations) and also near the City University (Copilco and Ciudad Universitaria stations). If traveling to and from the airport, you'll use Line 5 (yellow) to connect to the Mexico City International Airport (Terminal Aerea station, not Hangares nor Boulevard Puerto Areo of line 1).

Here are a few of the commonly-used Metro signs translated into English:

  • Taquilla - Ticket booth
  • Entrada - Entrance
  • Salida - Exit
  • No Pase - Do not enter
  • Andenes - Train platforms
  • Correspondencia - Line transfer
  • Direccion - Direction you are heading inside a line: one of the two terminal stations. Each platform has a large sign indicating which direction that train heads.

As you enter a Metro station, look for the ticket booth. There might be a short queue for tickets, and to avoid having to always stand in line, many people buy a small handful of tickets at a time. A sign is posted by the ticket window that shows how much it would cost for any number of tickets. Once you approach the agent, simply drop some money into the tray and announce (in Spanish) how many tickets you would like ("uno" for $2, "cinco" for $10, "diez" for $20, and so on). You do not need to say anything about where you are going, since fares are the same for everywhere in the system.

Once you have your ticket (boleto) it is time to go through the turnstiles (but make sure to confirm your route on a map first!). The stiles are clearly marked for exit or entry but if you are confused, simply follow the crowd. Insert the ticket into the slot (it does not matter which direction is up or forward) and a small display will flash, indicating you may proceed. You won't get the ticket back. A few frequent Metro users use keycards instead of tickets, so if you see any turnstiles marked with "solo tarjeta" that means the ticket reader is broken; just move to another turnstile.

Past the turnstiles, signs that tell you where to go depending on your direction within the Line are usually clearly marked, as are signs that tell you where to transfer to a different Line. There is no standard station layout, but they are all designed to facilitate vast amounts of human traffic, so following the crowd works well, as long you double check the signs to make sure the crowd is taking you in the same direction.

On the platform, try to stand near the edge. During rush hours when it can get pretty crowded, there is sometimes a mad rush on and off the train. Although for the most part people are respectful and usually let departing passengers off first, train doors are always threatening to close and that means you need to be moderately aggressive if you don't want to get left behind. If you're traveling in a group, this could mean having to travel separately. At the ends of the platform, the train is usually less crowded, so you could wait there, but during rush hours some busier stations reserve those sections of platform exclusively for women and children for their safety.

While on the train, you will see a steady stream of people walking through the carriages announcing their wares for sale. Act as if you are used to them (that is, ignore them, unless they need to pass you). Most often you'll see the city's blind population make their living by selling pirate music CD's, blaring their songs through amplifiers carried in a backpack. There are people who "perform" (such as singing, or repeatedly somersaulting shirtless onto a pile of broken glass) and expect a donation. There are also people who hand out candy or snacks between stops, and if you eat it or keep it you are expected to pay for it; if you don't want it, they'll take it back before the next stop. It can be quite amusing, or sad at times, but don't laugh or be disrespectful... this is how they make a living. The best thing to do is observing how others around you behave, but you can usually just avoid eye contact with these merchants and they will leave you alone.

If the merchants weren't enough, the trains are usually just crowded places to be. You will usually not get seats if you are traveling through the city center during the day, and even if you do, it's considered good manners to offer your seat to the aged, pregnant or disabled, as all cars have clearly marked handicap seats. In keeping with the mad rush on and off the train, people will move toward the exits before the train stops, so let them through and feel free to do the same when you need to (a "con permiso" helps, but body language speaks the loudest here).

A few words of warning: there have been incidences of pickpocketing. Keep your belongings close to you; if you have bags, close them and keep them in sight. As long as you are alert and careful you won't have any problems. Women have complained of being groped on extremely crowded trains; this is not a problem on designated women's wagons, or any other time than rush hour. If theft or any other sort of harassment do occur, you can stop the train and attract the attention of the authorities by pulling on alarms near the doors, which are labeled "señal de alarma."

When exiting, follow the crowd through signs marked Salida. Many stations have multiple exits to different streets (or different sides of streets, marked with a cardinal direction) and should have posted road maps that show the immediate area with icons for banks, restaurants, parks and so forth. Use these to orient yourself and figure out where you need to go. A good tip is to remember what side of the tracks you are on, these are marked in such maps with a straight line the color of the metro line you are traveling.

Mexico City RTP Bus
Mexico City RTP Bus

There are two kinds of buses. The first, are full-sized buses operated by the City Government known as RTP [12] and cost $2 anywhere you go. Make sure to pay with exact change as they don't give change back. The second kind of buses are known as "Microbuses" or "Peseros". These buses are private-run and come in small and bigger sizes, all rather ominous looking. Peseros cost 3.00 pesos for shorter trips, 3.50 for 6-12 km trips and 4 pesos for 12+ km trips. Full-sized private buses are 3.50 pesos for shorter trips, and 4.50 for longer trips.

Mexico City Microbus
Mexico City Microbus

Both type of buses usually stop at the same places, which are totally random and unmarked stops just before intersections. Routes are also very complex and flexible, so be sure to ask someone, perhaps the driver, if the bus even goes to your destination, before getting on. Also, though the locals hang off the sides and out the doors, it is generally not recommended for novices. Riding RTP buses is probably a safer and more comfortable way than the private franchised and smaller microbuses who are known to have terrible driving habits. All buses display signs on their windshields which tell major stops they make, so if you want to take a bus to a metro station, you can just wait for a bus that has a sign with an M followed by the station name.


Buses can be packed during rush hours, and you have to pay attention to your stops (buses make very short stops if there's just one person getting off, so be ready), but they are very practical when your route aligns with a large avenue. There's usually a button above or close to the rear door to signal that you're getting off; if there isn't one, it's not working, or you can't get to it, shouting Bajan! (pronounced "BAH-han") in a loud and desperate voice usually works.

Mexico City Metrobus
Mexico City Metrobus

Established in June 2005, the Metrobús operates in a confined lane along Insurgentes and Eje 4 Avenuees. Plans exist for additional routes. It costs 5 pesos to ride, but a card must be bought in advance (15 pesos) at vending machines. After 11:30 or so, busses stop using the dedicated lane are replaced by buses using the regular right-most lane. There are stops approximately every 500m. Expect it to be crowded around the clock, but its a great way to get up and down this two major thoroughfares. While Metrobus operates only in this two avenues, you must check the buse's bilboard before boarding to see which is the last stop they will visit, for some don't go from end to end of the line.

By trolley bus

"Trolebuses" [13] are operated by the Electric Transport Services. There are 15 Trolley bus lines that spread around for more than 400 km. They usually do not get as crowded as regular buses, and they are quite comfortable and reliable. They can be a little slower than regular buses, since they are unable to change lanes as quickly. There is a flat fare of 2 pesos, and bus drivers do not give out change.

By light rail

The Tren Ligero [14] is operated by Electric Transport Services and consists of one single line that runs south of the city, connecting with Metro station Tasqueña (Line 2, blue; alternatively you may see it spelled as Taxqueña). For tourists, it is useful if you plan to visit Xochimilco or the Azteca stadium. The rate for a single ride is 2 pesos, and while the ticketing system works very similarly to the Metro, the tickets are not the same. You must purchase light rail tickets separately; they are sold at most stations along the line.

Mexico City taxi
Mexico City taxi

There are more than 250,000 registered cabs in the city and they are one of the most efficient ways to get around. The prices are low, a fixed fee of about 6 pesos to get into the cab, and about 0.7 pesos per quarter kilometer or 45 seconds thereafter, for the normal taxis (taxi libre). The night rates, supposedly between 11PM at night and 6AM in the morning are about 20% higher. Some taxis "adjust" their meters to run more quickly, but in general, cab fare is cheap, and it's usually easy to find a taxi. At night, and in areas where there are few taxis, cab drivers will often not use the meter, but rather quote you a price before you get in. This price will often be high, however, you can haggle. They will tell you that their price is good because they are "safe". If you don't agree on the price, don't worry, another cab will come along.

Catching cabs in the street can be dangerous, since free-range cabs are not accountable to anyone. Taxi robberies, so-called "express kidnappings", where the victim is robbed and then taken on a trip to various ATMs to max out their credit cards, do occur, but there are some general precautions that will minimize the risk:

  • Taxis have special license plates. The registration number starts with "A" for free-roaming taxis, and with "B" for base taxis (registered taxis based on a certain spot, called "sitios"). Base taxis are safer. This plates are white and have a small green and red squares at the bottom corners.
  • The taxi license should be displayed inside the taxi; usually it is mounted somewhere above the windshield. Check that the photo of the driver on the license is of the actual driver. Make a point of looking at it.
  • Look for the meter. Without it they will be more likely to rip you off.
  • If you are nervous, take sitio taxis only. These may be a bit more expensive, but are well worth the expense.
  • If you are safety-conscious or require additional comfort, consider radio taxis, which can be called by phone, and are extremely reliable and safe, although a bit pricier than other taxis. Most restaurants, hotels, etc. have the number for radio taxis. Radio taxis will usually give you the price for the trip on the phone when you order them. Radio taxis charge more than regular taxis, but are available all night. Hotel taxis will be significantly more expensive than site or radio taxis.
  • As with absolutely everything else, risks are greater at night. At night radio taxis are recommended.

Mexico City is so large, and many street names so common, that cab drivers are highly unlikely to know where to go when you give only a name or address of your destination. Always include either the name of the colonia or the district (i.e. "Zona Rosa"), as well as any nearby landmarks or cross streets. You will probably be asked to give directions throughout or at least near the tail end of the journey; if either your Spanish or your sense of direction is poor, carry a map and be prepared to point.

By Turibus

The Turibus [15] is a sightseeing double-decker hop-in hop-off bus that is a good alternative to see the city if you don't have too much time. The one-day ticket costs $125 pesos (around USD $10) and its route includes the Zona Rosa, Chapultepec Park, Polanco, Condesa, Roma and the Historic Center. There is a secondary route which just started in late May 2007, and runs from Fuente de la Cibeles in Condesa to Coyoacan and Xochimilco. Your ticket should be valid for both routes.

A safe and reliable transportation service is the taxis that do have a picture ID displayed, as well as taxis that are " de sitio " which means, that is a group of taxi drivers that provide a safer service, but the best transportation service is the taxis at the airport since they require to have a federal license to provide the service, whereas, other cabs only require a local license. Taxis Nueva Imagen the white ones are a safe option when arriving or departing from Mexico city.

If you get lost

If you get absolutely lost and you are far away from your hotel, hop into a pesero (mini bus) or bus that takes you to a Metro station [16]; most of them do. Look for the sign with the stylized metro "M" in the front window. From there and using the wall maps you can get back to a more familiar place.

Freeway traffic before rush hour around El Predregal zone in the southwest region.
Freeway traffic before rush hour around El Predregal zone in the southwest region.

Driving around by car is the least advised way to visit the city due to the complicated road structure and the 3.5 million vehicles moving around the city. Traffic jams are almost omnipresent on weekdays, and driving from one end of the city to the other could take you between 2 to 4 hours at peak times. The condition of pavement in freeways such as Viaducto and Periferico is good, however in avenues, streets and roads varies from fair to poor since most streets have fissures, bumps and holes. Most are paved with asphalt and only until recently some have been paved using concrete. Since the city grew without planned control, the street structure resembles a labyrinth in many areas. Also, traffic 'laws' are complex and rarely followed, so driving should be left to only the most adventurous and/or foolhardy. Driving can turn into a really challenging experience if you don't know precisely well where are you going. There is only one company that has been able to map the entire city, Guia Roji [17]. Shortcuts are complicated and often involve about six to eight turns.

Street parking (Estacionamiento in Spanish) is scarce around the City and practically nonexistent in crowded areas. Where available expect to pay between $12 to $18 pesos an hour while most of hotels charge between $25 to $50 pesos an hour. Some areas of the city such as Zona Rosa, Chapultepec, Colonia Roma and Colonia Condesa have parking meters on the sidewalks which are about $10 pesos an hour and are free on weekends. It is possible to park in other streets without meters but is likely there will be a "parking vendor" (Franelero in Spanish) which are not authorized by the city, but will "take care of your car". Expect to pay between $10 to $20 pesos to these fellows, some of them will "charge" at your arrival, the best advice is to pay if you want to see your car in good shape when you come back.

With some seven million cars, evening rush hour in Mexico City is no different than any other major city.
With some seven million cars, evening rush hour in Mexico City is no different than any other major city.

Hoy No Circula (Today You Do Not Circulate) is an extremely important anti-traffic and anti-pollution program that all visitors including foreigners must take into consideration when wishing to drive through Mexico City and nearby Mexico State with their foreign-plated vehicles, as they are not immune to these restrictions. It limits vehicle circulation to certain restricted hours during the day depending on the last digit of your plate number (plates with all letters are automatically assigned a digit). Currently, Mexico City, but not the State of Mexico, offers a special pass good for 2 weeks, that allows someone with a foreign-plated vehicle to be exempt from these restrictions. [18] Excellent details of how the program works for locals and foreigners is found at the following link: [19].

The visitor should take into consideration the following tips when driving: avenues have preference over streets and streets over closed streets. Continuous right turn even when traffic light red is allowed. Seat belts are mandatory for both front seats. If you're stopped by a police car, it is likely they will try to get money out from you. It is up to you if you accept to do so, the latest government sponsored trend is to refuse giving them anything.

Santa Fe
Santa Fe

Downtown Mexico City has been an urban area since the pre-Columbian 12th century, and the city is filled with historical buildings and landmarks from every epoch since then. It is also known as the City of Palaces, because of the large number of stately buildings, especially in the Centro. In addition, Mexico is the city with the largest number of museums in the world (without taking into account art galleries), with New York #2, London #3 and Toronto #4.

  • Plaza de la Constitucion, commonly known as Zócalo in the Centro Historico (Historic Downtown) is one of the largest squares in the world, surrounded by historic buildings, including the City Hall and the Cathedral.
  • La Catedral the biggest in the Americas, fullfilled of gold.
  • Angel de la Independencia or simply known as "El Angel" is a monument in Reforma Avenue and Florencia Street, near Zona Rosa.
  • Basilica de Guadalupe, Catholicism's holiest place in the Americas, and the destination of pilgrims from all over the world, especially during the yearly celebration on the 12th of December. It is the shrine that guards the shroud of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and is in the northermost part of the city.
  • Ciudad Universitaria— The main campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, [20] the National University of Mexico. Located in Insurgentes Sur Avenue, it is one of the world's largest universities, with more than 270,000 students every semester. In 2007 it was declared a UNESCO world heritage place.
  • Coyoacán— historic counterculture district which was home to Frida Kahlo, Leon Trotsky, and Diego Rivera, amongst others.
  • Plaza Garibaldi-Mariachi— The square is surrounded by cafés and restaurants much favored by tourists, and in these and in the square itself groups of musicians play folk music. Most of these groups are "mariachis" from Jalisco, dressed in Charro costume and playing trumpets, violins, guitars and the guitarrón or bass guitar. Payment is expected for each song, but it is also possible to arrange for a longer performances. People set up lemonade stand style bars in the evening to sell you cheap cocktails while you listen. A visit to Mexico is not complete until you experience the fantastic Mariachi Bands, but the neighborhood is a bit sketchy.
  • Ciudadela crafts market— The Ciudadela is a Mexican crafts market where cultural groups from around Mexico distribute their crafts to other parts of the country and the world.
  • Alameda and Paseo de la Reforma— Paseo de la Reforma ("Reform Avenue") is a 12 km long grand avenue and park in Mexico City. The name commemorates the liberal reforms of Mexican President Benito Juarez.
  • Cineteca Nacional (National Film Archive)— It was the first to screen art films, and is known for its forums, retrospectives and homages. It has four screening rooms, a video and a film library, as well as a cafeteria.
  • Torre Latinoamericana for stunning views of the city. Its central location, height (183 m or 597 ft; 45 stories), and history make it one of Mexico City's most important landmarks.
  • Torre Mayor— It's the new and highest tower in town, and highest skyscraper in Latin America, and good for more impressive views of the city.
  • Mexico City National Cemetery[21] - 31 Virginia Fabregas, Colonia San Rafael. Open daily except for December 25 and January 1; 9AM to 5PM. The cemetery is the final resting place for 750 unknown American soldiers lost during the Mexican-American War between 1846 and 1848. Another 813 Americans are also interred here. Free.


Mexico City is full of various plazas and parks scattered through every neighborhood, but the following are some of the biggest, prettiest, most interesting, or best-known.

  • Chapultepec Park and Zoo Paseo de la Reforma. Is a large park of 6 square Km. in the middle of the City host to many attractions, including the city Zoo and several museums such as the Modern Art Museum, the Museum of Anthropology, the Children's Museum (Museo del Papalote), the Technology Museum, the Natural History Museum and the National Museum also known as Castillo de Chapultepec, the former residence of the Austrian Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg. Nearby Metro station: "Auditorio" (Line 7, Orange).
  • Xochimilco, a vast system of waterways and flower gardens dating back to Aztec times in the south of the city where tourists can enjoy a trip in the "trajineras" (vividly-colored boats). Trajineras pass each other carrying Mariachi or marimba bands, and floating bars and taquerias. Xochimilco is the last remnant of how Mexico City looked when the Spanish arrived to Mexico City in 1521 and it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1987.
  • Plaza Garibaldi-Mariachi, in Mexico City is surrounded by bars and restaurants that cater to Mariachi Band enthusiasts. It is where bands come to do public auditions outside, on weekend evenings, simply play for pleasure, or for whoever may pay them. A visit to Mexico is not complete until you experience the fantastic Mariachi Bands. You can also find a great "pulqueria" here (a bar that sells pulque, an interesting fermented maguey cactus drink).
  • Parque Mexico and Parque España are two adjacent parks in the Colonia Condesa, which used to be part of a race track. Now they are popular for an evening stroll, and sometimes house outdoor exhibitions or concerts, and are surrounded by cool cafes and bars.
  • Viveros de Coyoacán are a large expanse of greenery and trails that used to be divided into privately owned gardens and farm plots, but is now a public park popular with people joggers and amblers alike.


Mexico is the city with the largest number of museums in the world, to name some of the most popular:

  • National Museum of Anthropology Chapultepec. One of the best museums worldwide over, it was built in late 1960’s and designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. Notice the huge, impressive fountain in the courtyard. It gathers the best collection of sculptures, jewels and handcrafts from ancient Mexican cultures, and could take many hours to see everything. They also have interesting international special exhibits.
  • Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco has examples of modern, colonial, and pre-Columbian architecture, all around one square.
  • Museum of Modern Art Chapultepec. Here you will find paintings from Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, as well as a sculpture garden.
  • Dolores Olmedo Museum Xochimilco. An art philanthropist left her former home, the grand Hacienda La Noria, as a museum featuring the works of her friend Diego Rivera. At least 137 of his works are displayed here, as well as 25 paintings of Frida Kahlo. The premises also feature beautiful gardens full of peacocks and a weird species of Aztec dog.
  • Fine Arts Palace Museum (Palacio de Bellas Artes) Centro. A concert hall and an arts center, it houses some of Mexico's finest murals and the Art Deco interior is worth seeing alone.
  • Rufino Tamayo Museum Chapultepec. Contains the works of Mexican painter, Rufino Tamayo.
  • José Luis Cuevas Museum Centro. Opened in 1992 and is filled with about 1,000 paintings, drawings, and sculptures from notorious artist, Jose Cuevas.
  • National History Museum in Chapultepec's Castle Chapultepec. The Museum's nineteen rooms contain, in addition to a collection of pre-Columbian material and reproductions of old manuscripts, a vast range of exhibits illustrating the history of Mexico since the Spanish conquest.
  • Papalote, children's Museum Chapultepec. If you've got kids, they'll love it! Bright, colorful, and filled with educational experiences for children of all ages.
  • Universum (National University's Museum) Coyoacán. A science museum maintained by UNAM, the largest university in Latin America. Take some time to wander around the Campus.
  • Casa Mural Diego Rivera Centro. Contains murals of acclaimed artist, Diego Rivera.
  • National Palace (Zocalo) Centro. You can see some impressive Diego Rivera frescoes. You'll need to carry some sort of ID in order to enter the building.
  • San Idelfonso Museum Centro. There are some of Orozco's best frescoes. The temporary exhibitions are usually very good.
  • Franz Meyer Museum Centro. Display the collections of Franz Mayer, it holds Mexico's largest decorative art collection and also hosts temporary exhibits in the fields of design and photography.
  • Mexico City's Museum Centro. Great place to learn about Mexico City's eclectic history.
  • Templo Mayor Museum (Zocalo) Centro. Contains the ruins and last remnants of the Aztec empire. attached to the huge archeological site where the foundations of the temple were accidentally found in the 1970s.
  • San Carlos Museum Centro. The San Carlos Musuem holds some of Mexico's best paintings and exhibit 15th and 16th century paintings.
  • National Art Museum Centro. The National Art Museum, houses a rich collection of Mexican art ranging from the 16th to the first half of the 20th centuries.
  • National History Museum Chapultepec. Displays a vast range of exhibits illustrating the history of Mexico since the Spanish conquest.
  • Frida Kahlo Museum, Coyoacán Also called Casa Azul, it is the former house of the painter since she was born to her death, and full of some of her works, and many of her personal artifacts.
  • Anahuacalli Museum, Coyoacán An impressive modern representation of Aztec architecture, it houses Diego Rivera’s collection of Aztec and Mayan sculptures.
  • Leon Trotsky Museum Coyoacán This was the house where Trotsky lived in exile during the last 1.5 years of his life, and was murdered by one of Stalin's agents. Guided tours are provided by members of the Workers/ Revolutionary Party.
NASCAR race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
NASCAR race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

As the world's second largest city, Mexico City offers something for everyone and for every budget. Attractions in Mexico City focus less on lazing on the beach (there are no beaches in Mexico City!) and more on exploring the culture and urban culture of Mexico. The typical "must-see" sites for the foreign visitor are the sites of interest in and around Centro Historico and Chapultepec Park, a visit to the ruins of Teotihuacan in the outskirts of the City and probably a visit to Xochimilco, though there are many other things to see if you have time to really explore.

  • Independence Day "Yell"— In the evening of September 15th, the President of the Country (or the City Mayor) salutes the crowds from the presidential balcony in the National Palace located in the Constitution Square (Zocalo)and shouts the famous "Viva Mexico". The Zocalo, (as well as the rest of the city) is decorated with ornaments and lights. This is an incredible expression of Mexican patriotism combined with a party mood. Expect big crowds with a big revelery.
  • Independence Parade— In the morning of September 16th, there is a military parade that runs across Paseo de la Reforma, turns right at Juarez Avenue which later becomes Madero Street and ends at the Zocalo. Some 15,000 to 30,000 soldiers of the Mexican Army, Navy and Air Force march through the streets displaying its equipment and weapons.
  • Day of the Dead November 1-2. Mexicans are one of the few countries in the world that celebrate this day (Dia de los Muertos), in which people go to the cemeteries to offer tribute to their departed ones, and decorate their graves with marigolds and bright colors. But this is not a sad celebration, on the contrary, people give family and friends candy treats in the shape of skulls and bones made of sugar and chocolate, as well as delicious bread called "Pan de Muerto". Don't miss a visit to a public market to find these delicacies, and watch out for the parades to and from the local cemetaries.
  • Wise Men's day January 6. Most Mexican kids receive toys from the Three Wise Men (Reyes Magos). This is a celebration that pays homage to the aforementioned Bible story. To celebrate it the family gather to eat the "Rosca de Reyes", a sort of bundt cake filled with prizes.
  • Six Flags Mexico[22] Carretera Picacho al Ajusco #1500 Col. Héroes de Padierna. Southwest of Mexico City, it is the largest amusement park in Latin America and the only Six Flags park outside the U.S. and Canada. The park is fitted with several million-dollar attractions, including Batman the Ride and not for the faint-hearted Medusa Roller Coaster. Entrance Fees: Adults $285 pesos, Children $170 pesos.
  • La Feria de Chapultepec, Circuito Bosque de Chapultepec Segunda Seccion. Features the first roller-coaster in the country, a must-ride for roller coaster fans, and many other attractions nearby, including a train, paddle boats, and a zoo. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10AM-6PM. Entrance $79.90 pesos (access to all attractions).
  • Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez [23] Cd. Deportiva de la Magdalena Mixiuhca. Río Piedad avenue and Río Churubusco, tel 55983316. The race track is next to the "Palacio de los Deportes" (Sports Palace). Metro Station "Ciudad Deportiva" (Line 9 Brown). Built in 1962, it was Mexico City's F1 racing track until 1992 when the Mexico Grand Prix was cancelled. Ayrton Sena and Alain Prost won the prix in this track in the late 80's and early 90's. This 4.4km long race track still holds the NASCAR race every year and in 2007 it was one of the stops for the A1 - Grand Prix racing

Sport events

If you're into sports, then Mexico City has plenty to offer. Soccer is the national sport and Mexicans go crazy about it. The city was host to two FIFA world cups, one in 1970 and the other in 1986. Another important sport in Mexico City is baseball, with many Mexicans playing professionally in the US. The city has been the only Latin American host to an Olympiade in 1968, when the majority of the city's sport facilities were built.

  • Estadio Azteca [24] Calzada de Tlalpan 3465, Colonia Ursula Coapa. The biggest soccer stadium in the world, built in 1966 for the 1968 Olympic Games with a full capacity of 129,300 seats. It's the home of one of the best soccer clubs in Mexico: Club America. It also serves as venue for concerts and for the first NFL regular-season game outside the United States. To reach the Estadio Azteca, you can use the light rail train line that runs to Xochimilco and hop off at the "Estadio Azteca" station. Prices for soccer usually start from 20 pesos up to 600 for field level seats. Beware of resellers, as they will often sell fake tickets.
  • Estadio Olimpico de Ciudad Universitaria Insurgentes Sur Avenue, Ciudad Universitaria. Simply known as "Estadio de C.U." Located south of the city, this was where the opening ceremony of the 1968 Olympic Games took place with a full capacity of 72,000 seats. It is home for the "Pumas" soccer team of the National University (UNAM). Today it is host to several sport games, mainly soccer and American football. To reach the stadium by public transport you can use the Metro and hop off at the Universidad station (Line 3, green), and hop in one of the free shuttle buses that run around the University circuit (only in weekdays).
  • Foro Sol— Intended to serve as baseball stadium, it is also a venue for many concerts.
  • Palacio de los Deportes Viaducto Piedad and Rio Churubusco. Metro station: Ciudad Deportiva (Line 9). Built for the 1968 Olympic Games, with a full capacity of 22,000, it hosts several indoor sports, including NBA games once a year. Venue for several concerts, circus, expos.
  • Estadio Azul— Host to the Cruz Azul soccer team.
  • Arena Mexico [25], is home to Mexican free wrestling, which is a favorite pastime of Mexicans due to its affordable and entertaining nature. It is mostly a show rather than a sport, but it has been very popular among foreigners lately. Doctor Lavista 189, Colonia de los Doctores. You can enter through Avenida Chapultepec. It's very close to Zona Rosa and Avenida Insurgentes.

Nowadays there is a new option that offers the best available tickets for the show due to the high demand for tickets, safe transportation and an English speaking guide who will stay with you during the show. It is an easy, though less cheap, way to check out Lucha Libre [26]

  • Hipodromo de las Americas [27] Industria Militar Avenue Colonia Lomas de Sotelo. Its a thoroughbred and quarter-horse race track. There are races nearly every day, the complex has different zones for different budgets including the original club-house and grandstand, with seating for 20,000 persons and several restaurants. Betting starts as low as $10 pesos.
  • Journeys Beyond the Surface [28] is an alternative-travel agency offering customized day trips to help you get to know any aspect of Mexico City that interests you. They accompany you so you have a safe yet challenging day. Their specialty is to take you to places that tourists generally do not get to see, to enable you to get a glimpse of what it is like to live in this city.
Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo, UNAM.
Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo, UNAM.

Like many other things in the country, Mexico City has the largest concentration of universities and colleges, starting with the UNAM, one of the finest in Latin America and the oldest university in the American continent, founded in 1551.

Some of the most renowned universities in the city include:

  • Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico [29] Commonly known as UNAM, located in the south of the City mainly in Ciudad Universitaria, is a public university with a student population of more than 300,000.
  • Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey [30] simply known as "Tec" is a branch of the famous private institute in Monterrey.
  • Instituto Politecnico Nacional [31] Public university dedicated mainly to engineering and research.
  • Universidad Panamericana [32]Private catholic university that holds one of the best business schools in the world: IPADE located in the seventeenth century Hacienda de San Antonio Clavería.
  • Universidad Iberoamericana [33] Private university of Jesuit origin.
  • Instituto Tecnológico Autonomo de Mexico [34] Private university.
  • Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana [35] Commonly known as UAM, a public university with four campuses citywide.
  • Universidad Tecnológica de Mexico [36] Private university.
  • Universidad del Valle de Mexico [37] Private, a branch of Laureate International Universities.
  • Universidad de Las Américas [] The first private university in México
  • Universidad Anahuac Private university.
  • Universidad La Salle Private catholic university.

You can learn Spanish in Mexico City as there are various schools offering courses for foreigners, for example:

  • Centro de Enseñanza de Lenguas Extranjeras Known as CELE, is a faculty of the National University (UNAM) and is probably the most renowned, located south of the city in Ciudad Universitaria. [38]
  • Center for International Education, La Salle (CIEL)
  • Academia Hispano México, S.A. de C.V.
  • CIB Centro de Idiomas Bravo


Mexico has very strict immigration laws. In order to work you should obtain a permit known as FM2 or FM3 which is very hard to get unless you're marrying a Mexican citizen or you are an expat working for a multinational company. Most foreigners working without a permit perform jobs such as language teachers, waiters or salesmen. Others own a restaurant or shop. If you're working without a permit and an immigration officer finds out, it could mean a fine, deportation or spending some time in a detention facility of the National Immigration Institute.


Mexico City is famous among Mexicans for its huge malls, streets like Presidente Mazaryk offer haute couture stores.

  • Polanco— Upscale shopping and dining district centered around Presidente Masaryk and Campos Eliseos streets. It also has several shopping malls.
  • Altavista— San Angel upscale shopping street.
  • Condesa— Trendy district full with alternative stores and boutiques.
  • Centro Historico— The city's oldest shopping district, you can find almost anything here. The old department stores are clustered around 20 de Noviembre street.
  • Pino Suarez— There is a lot of youth-minded fashion going on here. Most of it is a knock-off of something else but at such low prices who can complain? There is a very large indoor market near the metro stop (Pino Saurez, on the pink line) that has a ton of clothing, shoes, and food vendors.

Mexico City is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

Shopping Centers

American-style shopping malls appeared in Mexico City by the late 1960’s and are now are spread all over the metropolitan area surpassing even the largest malls of the United States. Here you will find most of the fashion malls sorted by area.


  • Reforma 222, Paseo de la Reforma 222, Juárez
  • Plaza Insurgentes, San Luis Potosí 214, Roma
  • Plaza Galerías
  • Parque Delta, Cuauhtemoc 462, Narvarte
  • Metrópoli Patriotismo, Patriotismo 229, San pedro de los Pinos


  • Parque Lindavista, Riobamba 289, Lindavista
  • Plaza Lindavista, Montevideo 363, Lindavista
  • Plaza Satélite, Circuito Centro Comercial 2251, Ciudad satélite
  • Mundo E, periférico Norte 1007, Santa Mónica
  • La Cúspide


  • Antara Polanco; Ejército Nacional 843, Polanco
  • Moliere dos22; Moliere 222, Polanco
  • Pabellón Polanco; ejército Nacional 980, Polanco
  • Magnocentro 26 Fun & Fashion, Magnocentro 26, Interlomas
  • Parque Duraznos, Bosque de Duraznos 39, Bosques de las Lomas
  • Paseo Arcos Bosques, paseo de los Tamarindos 100, Bosques de las Lomas
  • Centro Santa Fe, Vasco de Quiroga 3800, Santa Fe


  • Centro Coyoacan, Avenida Coyoacan 2000, Del Valle
  • Plaza Universidad, Avenida Universidad 1000, Del Valle
  • Galerías Insurgentes, Insurgentes Sur 1329, Del Valle
  • Perisur, insurgentes Sur 4690, Jardines del Pedregal
  • Galerías Coapa, Calzada del Hueso 519, Coapa
  • Plaza Cuicuilco
  • Plaza Loreto, Altamirano 46, San Angel
  • Pabellón Altavista, Camino al Desierto de los Leones 52, San Angel
  • Gran Sur, Periférico Sur 5550, Pedregal de Carrasco
  • Premium Outlets at Punta Norte, Northwest of Mexico City (State of Mexico) in the intersection of Periferico (Mexico Hwy #57) and the Chamapa La Venta highway, near Ciudad Satelite You will need a taxi or a car to get there.
  • Las Plazas Outlet Lerma Mexico - Toluca highway Km. 50 in the intersection with Calzada Cholula in the City of Lerma, near Toluca. You will need a car to get there.
  • Mercado de Curiosidades In Centro Historico.
  • Mercado Insurgentes In Zona Rosa.

The National Fund for the Development of Arts and Crafts (Fonart), Avenida Patriotismo 691, in Mixcoac, Avenida Paseo de la Reforma No. 116 in Colonia Juárez and Avenida Juarez 89 in Centro.

Flea and Antique Markets

Although street vendors can be found almost anywhere in Mexico City, the following are more "formal" flea markets selling handcrafts, furniture and antiques.

  • Bazar del Sábado in San Angel. Every Saturday, artists show and sell their paintings in a beautiful, cobblestoned zone of the city. There are also stores where they sell handcrafts.
  • Mercado de Artesanias in Coyoacan on Saturdays, featuring handicrafts from all over the country, and classes for kids.
  • Plaza del Angel in Zona Rosa
  • Mercado de Alvaro Obregon in Colonia Roma
  • Sunday art market in the Monumento a la Madre
  • Mercado de Antiguedades de Cuauhtemoc, near Centro Historico
  • La Lagunilla and Tepito near Centro Historico La Lagunilla has some of the best antiques, and is a maze of interesting thing. Tepito is more for pirated CDs, stolen things, and knock-offs.
Travel Warning

WARNING: Be careful. Tepito is a very dangerous place. If your curiosity gets the better of you, at least dress down, go with someone else, and arrive early in the day when it's less crowded. If you don't speak Spanish it's probably better to stay away. The area is known to be home of drug lords and black market dealers.


If you're staying longer you may want to buy groceries and food at any of the hundreds of Supermarkets. These are some of the most common:

  • Chedraui
  • Comercial Mexicana
  • Gigante Recently bought, now "Soriana"
  • Superama High end supermarket
  • Wal-Mart

Ethnic Grocery Stores

For generally hard-to-find ingredients, such as vegetables and spices that are unusual in Mexico, try the Mercado de San Juan [39] (Ernesto Pugibet street, Salto del Agua metro station). You can even find exotic meats here, such as iguana, alligator, ostrich, and foie gras. Go to the cheese stand at the center of the market, and ask for a sample— the friendly owner will give you bread, wine, and samples of dozens of different kinds of cheese.


  • Al Mayak Cuauhtemoc Avenue and Guanajuato, Colonia Roma. Owned by Lebanese businessmen, they sell ingredients and foodstuff. They also sell sweets and dry fruit.


  • Supermercado Seul Florencia Avenue and Hamburgo Street, Zona Rosa.
  • Seoul Market Hamburgo 206, Zona Rosa.
  • Uri Market Londres 234, Zona Rosa.


  • Mikasa San Luis Potosi 170, get from Insurgentes Sur Avenue, between Medellin and Monterrey. Lots of Japanese food ingredients, candy and drinks
  • Kokeshi Amores 1529, Colonia del Valle (between Parroquia street and Felix Cuevas Avenue (Eje 7). Mostly Japanese food stuff but they also sell other Asian foods. They also sell Japanese dinnerware. Tel. 55347131


Chinatown strip south of Palacio de Bellas Artes and Alameda Central.
Chinatown strip south of Palacio de Bellas Artes and Alameda Central.
  • Super Kise Division del Norte 2515, Del Carmen, Coyoacan. South of the city, they sell Korean, Chinese and Japanese groceries.


Many food products in Mexico including milk are kosher compliant. If you're looking for specific products, try some stores in the Polanco neighborhood. At some Superama branches you would find kosher departments, especially the ones in Polanco, Tecamachalco and Santa Fe neighborhoods.


Although it is easy to assume that Mexico City is the world capital of tacos, you can find almost any kind of food in this city. There are regional specialties from all over Mexico as well as international cuisine, including Japanese, Chinese, French, Polish, Italian, Argentinean, Belgian, Irish, you name it. The main restaurant areas are located in Polanco, Condesa, Centro, Zona Rosa, along Avenida Insurgentes from Viaducto to Copilco and more recently Santa Fe.

For superb Mexican cuisine you can try El Cardenal (Sheraton Centro Histórico), Los Girasoles (Tacuba 8), Aguila y Sol (Emilio Castelar 229), Izote (Masaryk 513) and, for something more affordable, Café Tacuba (Tacuba 28). Another great experience is to dine in an old converted hacienda: try Hacienda de los Morales (Vázquez de Mella 525), San Angel Inn (Diego Rivera 50) or Antigua Hacienda de Tlalpan (Calzada de Tlalpan 4619).

There are Mexican chain restaurants that can be assumed to be safe and similar no matter where you are, including Vips, Toks, and the more traditional Sanborns, all reminiscent of Denny's in the United States. You can expect to pay between $100 to $150 per person. If you're on a budget, you can also try one of the myriad comida corrida (set menu) restaurants, frequented by many office workers. Most of these offer very good food, are usually safe, and should range between $35 to $60.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous type of food almost anywhere in Mexico city are fast food outlets, located on the ground floor of a street-facing building, or puestas, street stands located on a sidewalk or almost anywhere there is room. These serve the usual tacos, burritos or tortas (filled bread rolls similar to a sub or sandwich), and they can be very cheap ($10 to $50).

If you want to stuff your face with lots of real Mexican food at cheap prices then head over to La Merced (the central market, located on the pink line of the subway at the stop "Merced"). There are several restaurants as well as stands serving up some delicious food. Huaraches, which are something like giant tortillas with different toppings/fillings, are popular here, as are alambres. Another superb market is located a stone's throw from the Salto del Agua metro stop; Mercado San Juan Arcos de Belem. It is full of food stalls offering all the Mexican favourites, but find the one opposite the small bakers, which is located by one of the rear entrances on Calle Delicias , which serves the Torta Cubana. The people running it are amazingly welcoming and the food, especially the Cubana, is excellent.

If you want something safe and boring, most American fast food chains have franchises here. You'll see McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, TGI Friday's, Chili's, Dairy Queen, Subway, and yes, even Starbucks. These are all fairly affordable to Europeans/Americans and people from other richer countries but generally cost more than they do in the US, and aren't delicious.

El Globo, a French-style bakery, has locations throughout the city selling both French and traditional Mexican pastries, like orejas (little ears), eclairs, empanadas, and rosca during New Year's. It can't be beat for a quick snack or bagful of pastries to eat later.

Do not miss the chance to go to Panaderia Madrid (calle 5 de Febrero, one block off the main plaza in downtown Mexico). This is a very old and typical bakery, they will usually have fresh bread twice a day, but if there are a lot of customers they will bake as many as four times a day.

Asian food restaurants are abundant, and the quality is good, and caters from cheap Chinese cafeterias to expensive and very good Japanese food. Note that Korean, Japanese and Chinese are most common cuisines in Mexico City, while Indian, Thai and Indonesian can be harder to find. Most sushi places, however, put far too much rice on their sushi rolls and not enough fish.

Vegetarian alternatives are commonly available at larger restaurants. The magic phrases, for vegetarians, are "sin pollo" (no chicken), "sin carne" (no meat), "sin huevo" (no eggs) and "sin queso" (no cheese). If you can communicate this and then gesticulate to the menu, the waiter normally will give you suggestions. In regular restaurants, they will even try to edit an existing dish for you. Just make sure you are clear. Chile Rellenos are a definite standard in any restaurant for the vegetarian.

Restaurant basics

Tips— Tipping is expected, with 10% the standard for all restaurants. You can tip less or not tip at all for poor service.

In Mexico, there is no difference in prices if you sit inside or outside, it is the same if you eat at the bar or sit at a table.

"El Jarocho" (Centro Coyoacan) is an amazing place to go for coffee. They also sell pastries and other food. This place is incomparable to Starbucks. There are several locations in Coyoacan due to it's evergrowing popularity.

  • Tacos al pastor
  • Enchiladas Suizas
  • Pozole
  • Quesadillas
  • Chilaquiles
  • Huevos Rancheros
  • Arrachera
  • Micheladas
  • Huaraches
  • Alambres

For a quick snack you can always try a tamal (steamed corn dough with chicken or pork) bought on the street or specialized shops, accompanied by a cup of atole (hot chocolate corn starch drink), which is the breakfast of the humble on their way to work.


The typical Mexican place to go to drink is the cantina, a bar where food is usually free, and you pay for drinks (exact policies and minimums vary). Cantinas serve a wide range of Mexican and foreign drinks, with prices usually reasonable compared to prices in the US, and you'll be continually served various Mexican food, such as tacos (you should ask for 'Botana'). If your tolerance for Mexican music (mariachi or otherwise), smoke-filled rooms, and lots of noise is low however, this may not be your kind of place. Cantinas are open moderately late, usually past midnight at the very least. However some cantinas, like La Victoria, near the Plaza Garibaldi, are also open at midday for lunch.

In Mexico City you have an almost endless choice of options to party, so the best way to check it out safely is The Mexican Night Club Tour [40]which takes you to 4 clubs in one night with all entrance fees included and safe transportation from Zocalo to Condesa, Polanco and back to Zocalo. The idea of this tour is to meet travelers like you and to party all night long feeling safe. This tour takes place from Thursday to Saturday nights at 10:00PM at the entrance of Mexico City Hostel (Rep. de Brasil 8 Centro Historico).

In addition, there are bars that play a combination of Spanish and English-language rock, electronic music, and some Latin/Caribbean music. These bars tend to close around 3-4AM.

Club music mainly falls into three main categories, pop, rock and electronic music. The pop places generally play what's on the music charts, Latin pop, and sometimes traditional Mexican music, and are frequented by a younger (sometimes very young) audience, and are often more upper class. The rock places play rock in the wide sense, in English and Spanish. Most people are at least over 18 in these places. The electronica clubs, which attract everyone from Mexico City's large subculture of ravers and electronica fans, of all ages. Most clubs close late, 3-4AM at the earliest, and some are open until 7AM or 8AM.

The best bet used to be the Zona Rosa, which has a large number of street bars with rock bands playing and a large selection of clubs but most of them are strip club and gay bars. Another good area is Polanco, particularly a street called Mazaryk, where you'll find plenty of good clubs but it is best to make a reservation, Bollé club is one posh club on that street . Be forewarned - entrance is judged on appearance and to get a table a minimum 2 bottle service is required, unless its a slow night [min. US$80 per bottle]. Posh and upper scale night clubs can be found in the Lomas area, particularly the Hyde, Shine, Sense and Disco Lomas Clubs, but be warned some of these could be extremely expensive, where the cover charge could range from 250 pesos upwards and bottles start at 130 USD. In addition, getting in could very difficult, as these are the most exclusive in town. There are also exclusive gay friendly clubs in that area with the same caracteristics Envy night club on palmas 500 and Made nightclub on chapultepec next the lake and the restaurant El Lago chapultepec.

The other common Mexican-style thing to do when going out is to go dancing, usually to salsa, meringue, rumba, mambo, son, or other Caribbean/Latin music. This is considerably more fun if you're a somewhat competent dancer, but even complete beginners who don't mind making fools of themselves will likely enjoy it. Most dance places close late, 3-4AM is common.

The legal drinking age is 18. It is illegal to consume alcohol in public ("open container"). This is strictly enforced and the penalty is at least 24 hours in jail.

Take an identification card such as a copy of your passport.

Embassy Suites hotel facing Cristobal Colon statue in Reforma.
Embassy Suites hotel facing Cristobal Colon statue in Reforma.

The city has literally hundreds of hotels in all price ranges, though the district you want to stay in will be a good indicator of price and quality. Zona Rosa is a tourist haven with a strong mid-range selection; the Polanco district is where high-end hotels thrive, and the Centro Histórico is home to plenty of budget hotels and backpacker hostels. A wide variety of hotels can also be found along Paseo de la Reforma.

  • Hostel Mexico City, Republica de Brasil No. 8. Mexico City Hostel [41] offers economic, comfortable accommodation for the backpacker or budget traveler during a backpacking trip to Mexico, both private rooms and dormitory style accommodation are available, located close to the Zócalo in the Historic Center of Mexico City. For 120 pesos you get breakfast, free internet and one bed in dorms.  edit
  • Hostal Virreyes, Calle Jose Maria Izazaga No. 8. Hostal Virreyes [42] offers excellent private rooms and adequate doorms and is located right next to the Salto Del Agua metro stop. Is also a stone's throw from a good market, Mercado San Juan Arcos de Belem. It has decent, well-priced internet access, free Wi-Fi, breakfast and a cinema club. The staff are really helpful and a security guard is present 24 hours.  edit
  • Hotel Habana, Rep De Cuba No. 77, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, CP. 06010, 5555181591. The Hotel Habana in the Calle República de Cuba has well-appointed rooms for a good price.  edit
  • Hotel Rio de Janeiro, Rep De Brasil, near Zocalo, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, CP. 06010, 5555181591. Decent rooms with TVs with local channels. You can get a room for 70 pesos(!!!) if you are by yourself and don't mind sharing a bathroom. The price for two people is only 90 pesos (less than $9 USD) with a shared bathroom.  edit

If you are on a low-budget, you can find hotels as low as $7 USD if you take a room with a shared bathroom. Most are centred in the Centro Historico and are very decent.

Hostels are more expensive than getting your own private room with full facilities like a TV and restroom, but the cheap hotels are not listed on the internet and many foreigners jump into the hostels for a much worse value. The hostels are a good place to meet people but you should only stay there if you don't mind noise and sharing a restroom. There are plenty of other places to meet people besides hostels so be sure to look around before deciding to stay at one just because it has a sign in English.

  • Holiday Inn Zocalo, Av Cinco De Mayo 61 Col Centro Colonia Centro Mexico City 06000. Three star hotel that has an amazing rooftop balcony restaurant overlooking Zocalo Square. The rooms are small but comfortable, well furnished although the internet access in the lobby can be inconsistent. $102.  edit
  • Hotel Majestic, Av Madero 73, Centro Histórico, Mexico City 06000. While boasting an impressive tezontle stone facade, this two star hotel is let down by small rooms and staff that seem ambivalent. However, it is an unbeatable location and the terrace restaurant gives stunning panoramic views of the Zócalo.  edit
  • NH Centro Historico, Palma, 42 Centro, +52.55.51301850 [43]. The NH Centro Histórico is in the heart of the city of Mexico, only a few steps away from the historic 'Plaza de la Constitución' better known as “Zócalo”, and the magnificent historical 'Metropolitan Cathedral', the 'National Library' and 'Mexico City Museum'. The NH Centro Histórico offers the ideal starting point to visit the most important symbolic buildings and monuments. There are 2 other NH Hotels in Mexico City [44].
  • Melia Mexico Reforma, Paseo de la Reforma, 1, (52) 555 1285000 (), [45]. Melia Mexico Reforma is on the recently renovated Paseo de la Reforma Avenue, near the financial, cultural and historic districts of Mexico City.  edit
  • Four Seasons Mexico City, Paseo de la Reforma 500 Colonia Juárez Mexico City 06600, [46]. Historic setting, built in a square around a large open-air courtyard containing restful tropical gardens with a fountain, sculptures, a cafe, and a restaurant. All rooms are fitted and finished to a high standard and great service from the staff, especially the concierge.  edit
  • JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City, Andres Bello 29 Mexico City 11560 Mexico, [47]. Situated in the trendy Polanco district, with great shopping and restaurants within walking distance, the JW Marriott delivers all expectations. The rooms are luxurious and comfortable, with exceptional detailing, and the staff goes out of their way to ensure that every request is catered to.  edit
  • Nikko Hotel, Campos Eliseos 204 Col. Polanco Mexico City 11560. Hosts some of the best Japanese restaurants in town and some art galleries worth visiting. Perfect location for restaurants and major museums. $183.  edit
  • Presidente Intercontinental Mexico City, Campos Eliseos 218 Mexico City, Distrito Federal 11560 Mexico. It's hard to miss this hotel which towers 42 stories high in a sleek, ultra modern design. All rooms featuring a view of the city or Chapultepec Park and feature a daily maid service, air conditioning, kitchenettes and cable television. The hotel itself has a car rental desk, health club and business center. $104.  edit
  • W Hotel Mexico City, Campos Eliseos 252 Mexico City 11560. The W Hotel displays its signature sexiness in Mexico city, with sleek designs, cherry red walls in the rooms and the traditional all white beds. Great for young professionals, families and mature customers may not appreciate the thumping techno music that accompanies them throughout the hotel. 353.  edit


To stay in contact while traveling in México City.


If someone is calling you the country code is +52 then the area code is 55 then the 8 digit phone number. If you want to make a long distance call out of Mexico , you should dial the prefix 01 for national calls followed by the area code. If you are making an international long distance call, you must dial 00 followed by the country code, for example, if you're calling the U.S. you should dial 00+1 and the area code, if you're calling the U.K, dial 00+44 and the area code, and so on.

If you want to use your cellular phone you can get your phone unlocked before you go. When you arrive in Mexico City, you can purchase a Télcel or Movistar Sim (GSM) card, called a "chip". Then you will get a Mexican Cell phone number. Remember this is a prepaid cellular option. You get free incoming calls from inside the city, but the roaming charges can easily build up if you travel to other cities. People calling you from long distance will need to dial in this format: +52 (55) plus 8 or 7 digit phone number. Mexico city, Guadalajara and Monterrey have 8 digit numbers, and 2 digit area codes. The rest of the country has 7 digit numbers and 3 digit area codes.

Calling from a Mexican phone (either land or mobile) to a Mexican cell phone is called ¨El Que Llama Paga¨ meaning only the person making the call pays for the air time, and thus requires the 044 prefix before the 10 digit number composed of the area code and the mobile number to be dialed: land or mobile to Mexico City registered mobile would be 044 55 12345678. If you are calling to a mobile with a different area code, i.e. Acapulco area code 744 then you use the prefix 045, then the three digit area code, the seven digit mobile i.e. 045 744 1234567. This might seem confusing at first but you get easily accustomed to it.

Another option is to buy a prepaid Mexican phone kit, they frequently include more air time worth than the kit actually costs, air time is called ¨Tiempo Aire¨. For Telcel these kits are called ¨Amigo Kit¨ for Movistar they are called ¨Movistar Prepago¨ and for Iusacell ¨Viva Kit¨ the you can just keep the phone as a spare for whenever you are in Mexico, there are no costs in between uses. These kits start at around 30 USD and can be purchased at the thowsands of mobile phone dealerships, or at OXXO convinence stores, and even supermarkets.

Mobile Telephones

There are four main cell phone operators in Mexico.

  • Telcel The largest coverage in Mexico, now using both 3G and GSM.
  • Movistar A GSM network with decent coverage in most cities.
  • Iusacell (includes former Unefon network) A CDMA-based 3G network with coverage in most cities and large towns.
  • Nextel


Mexico City has amazing access to the internet considering the availability in the rest of Latin America. There are several internet cafes throughout the city, many of them in Zona Rosa. Price varies from 10 to 20 pesos an hour.

Look for the word 'Cyber' or 'CiberCafe' in order to find a place with internet access.

Hot spots for wi fi connection to the internet are available in several places around the city, particularly in malls, coffee stores and restaurants. Most (if not all) of them are operated by the Mexican phone company Telmex through their Internet division Prodigy Movil. In order to be able to connect in those places, the user must be subscribed to the service, or buy a prepaid card known as "Tarjeta Multifon"; visitors coming from the US can access the service using their AT&T or T-Mobile Internet accounts. Cards can be bought at the Sanborns restaurant chain, Telmex stores and many stores that offer telephony related products.


Unfortunately there are no full-time English spoken radio stations in Mexico, however these are a few options to listen:

  • Imagen 90.5 FM Features a twice-a-day English news program at 5:30 A.M. and 11:00 P.M. with a summary of the most important news around the globe.
  • Ibero 90.9 FM University radio station that plays mainly indie-rock but also has cultural programs.
  • Alfa 91.3 FM Broadcasts English language hit pop music.
  • Beat 100.9 FM Electronic music station.
  • Mix 106.5 FM Hits in English from the 80s, 90s, and nowadays pop/rock music.
  • Universal 92.1 FM Old hits in English (70s, 80s).


With the exception of "The News", you won't find newspapers in English or other foreign languages in regular newsstands, however, you can find many at any Sanborns store. Many U.S. newspapers have subscriptions available in Mexico, including the Wall Street Journal , Today, the New York Times and the Miami Herald.

Some of the most read local newspapers include:

  • The News [48] English-language daily published in Mexico City.
  • El Universal[49] The online version includes a good English section.
  • Diario Monitor [51]
  • La Jornada [52] Renowned as politically left oriented.

Stay safe

Travel in Mexico City is generally safe. Areas around the historic center are generally well-lit and patrolled in the early evening. Much of your travel within the city will be done via public transportation or walking. Mexico City is an immensely crowded place, and with any major metropolitan area, it is advised to be aware of your surroundings.

Plan ahead - know where you are going and how you will arrive. Mexico City is quite hospitable, and people who work for hotels and other hospitality-oriented businesses will help. This will help in avoiding confusion, becoming lost or stranded. Also, you can ask a local for advice to get somewhere, though you should speak good Spanish to do this. In the Polanco, Sante Fe and Lomas districts, some police officers and many business people and younger children speak English, as it is very common to learn in school. However police officers in Mexico get paid a third of what New York City police officers get and some rely on bribes and corruption to make more money (however, never offer a bribe first since usually an officer will at least go through the formality of assessing a fine). The historic center and other major sites often have specially trained tourist police that are more helpful than ordinary transit cops.

Catching cabs in the street can be dangerous, since free-range cabs are not accountable to anyone. Taxi robberies, so-called "express kidnappings", where the victim is robbed and then taken on a trip to various ATMs to max out their credit cards, do occur. However, be aware that 95% of total kidnapping victims are nationals, so your odds of being taken are very slim, but you should always use your common sense.

Protect your personal information. There are many pickpockets in Mexico City. Purses and bulky, full pockets are quite attractive. Do not keep your passports, money, identification, and other important items hanging out for someone to steal. Use a money belt or place these items in a hotel safe, or tuck them away inside your clothes.The Metro or Subway system can get extremely crowded, which creates opportunities for pickpockets on cars that are often standing room only.

Do not show money in front of others, this generally attracts pickpockets.

Do not leave anything of value inside your car, always use the trunk, even things that could be considered to hold something of value (for example, an empty gift box) will attract unwanted attention to your car and might prompt a broken window.

The Mexico City Government recently opened a specialized prosecution office (Ministerio Público in Spanish) for foreigners that find themselves affected by robberies or other crime situations. It is in Victoria Street 76, Centro Historico. Multilingual staff are available.

In case of emergency

Dial 066, the number for all emergencies, (fire, police and medical).


Some people may consider Mexico City to have a bad reputation, in terms of crime statistics, air pollution, and on more contrived issues, such as earthquakes. However, crime and pollution levels are down over the last decade and you shouldn't face any trouble within the tourist areas. As in any large city, there are areas that are better to be avoided, especially at night, and precautions to take, but Mexico City is not particularly dangerous.

When walking in the city you could be approached by people. Usually they are just trying to sell something or begging for a few coins, but if you aren't interested, it is not considered insulting to just ignore them. Also, if someone of importance (such as a police officer) approaches you, they will definitely let you know.

If you do get approached by a police officer, understand that there are three different types: the Policia (Police), who are usually driving around the city with their lights flashing; the Policia Auxiliar (Blue uniform)(Auxiliary Police), who are like security guards; and the Policia de Transito (Brown Uniform) (Traffic Police) who simply direct traffic.

Remember most Mexicans are very curious in regards of foreigners and are willing to help. If in need for directions, try to ask young people, who may speak a little English.


Many locals (not all of them, of course) have terrible driving habits as a result of the frequent traffic jams in the city. Traffic signals are more an ornament than what they were made for. When traffic is not present, particularly at night, locals tend to speed up so be careful when changing lanes. Street names and road signs may not be present everywhere so it is strongly advisable to ask for directions before driving your car. Potholes, fissures, and very large-yet-unanticipated speed-bumps ("topes") are common on the roads, so exercise some caution. Even at a small crawl, these can severely damage your car, especially in the backroads between towns in the Southern area. It should be avised that when driving, a fast succesion of white lines cutting the road perpendicular means a 'tope' is approaching and you should slow down immediately. When off the main roads, especially in the colonias, maneuvering in the narrow streets and alleys can be tricky. Often a paved road turns to cobblestone (in high-end neighborhoods) or dirt (if this happens, you've gone way off the tourist areas). Also, some colonia streets are blocked off behind gates.

If you are driving through a housing development, you should be ware of children, in Mexico, you are expected to know that there might be kids playing and they tend to run on the pavement as if they were in their backyard.

You should also be mindful of people on bicycles and motorcycles alike, because they tend to drive in the narrow spaces between cars. The best thing to do is to yield to them.

Trolleys have the right of way on their assigned lane, since they cannot switch lanes as easily.

Those who are used to having a burm or paved area to the side of the road to pull off onto or drift onto while driving will quickly notice that the berm is missing on many roads and freeways such as Viaducto and Periferico, if you go off the side of the road, there will be a four to six inch drop off of the pavement which will be difficult to recover from. Driving in Mexico City should be avoided if at all possible. It should also be noted that in high density areas such as Centro Historico, Mexico City, there is no street parking available between business hours.

Even the best of plans can go wrong when you find that the path that you have chosen and planned out for months is closed when you arrive at your proposed exit at 65 mph and there is a detour onto some other path with no markings or road signs with everyone going as fast as they can go. At that point you may want to exit immediately and regroup before you end up miles from where you planned to exit. Maps and road signs likely will be lacking any usable information in a situation like this and your best bet may be to navigate by the seat of your pants a parallel route to the one you found closed.


Mexico City's alcohol laws are harsh; although in many nightclubs, bars and restaurants it is common for minors to drink without proving their age as long as they appear to be over 18. It is also permitted for minors to drink alcohol if they are in the company of an adult who is willing to take responsibility. Drinking alcoholic beverages in the street is prohibited--doing so can get you in trouble with the police. Drunk driving is also strictly prohibited and strongly punished, though it seems highly common in any case. The police have incorporated random alcohol tests on streets near bars and clubs, and if you test positive, you could be arrested and spend 36 hours in jail. The system is very efficient, and you will sometimes see a stopped car or truck with a policeman interrogating the occupants.


Smoking inside public and private buildings is strictly prohibited by law. Restaurants used to have smoking and non-smoking sections, but recent laws have banned smoking in any public enclosed space. Fines can be steep, so if you want to smoke in a restaurant it is best to ask the waiter before lighting up. Of course, going outside is always an option. Smoking light drugs, such as Marihuana, is prohibited and offenders could be imprisoned if found in possesion of more than one personal dose.


Mexico City is home to a large number of embassies.

  • Embassy of Canada, Embassy of Canada Schiller 529, Col. Bosque de Chapultepec (Polanco)Del. Miguel Hidalgo 11580 Mexico City, D.F. Mexico, (55) 5724.7900 (, fax: (55) 5724.7980), [54].  edit
  • Embassy of China, Av. Río de la Magdalena 172, Colonia Tizapán – San Ángel, Delegación Álvaro Obregón, C.P. 01090, +52 55 56164324, +52 55 56164309, +52 55 56164239 (). Mon-Fri: 9-13, phone service 16-19.  edit
  • Embassy of the United States, Embajada de Estados Unidos Paseo de la Reforma 305 Col. Cuauhtemoc 06500 Mexico, D.F, (01-55) 5080-2000 (fax: (01-55) 5080-2005), [55].  edit
  • Oaxtepec— Oaxtepec is a short distance away from Mexico City and is a great place to get out of the hectic city and do some swimming. The climate is constantly warm and sunny and there is a very affordable and very fun waterpark (only half is open on weekdays...on the weekends the rest of the park is open). There are plenty of lodging options and most include access to a club house with a sauna and an olympic pool and diving pool. A bus leaves every 10 minutes from the Taxqueña bus station and costs 81 pesos through OCC.
  • Cuernavaca— Cuernavaca is the capital city of the state of Morelos. Its only 45 minutes away from Mexico City and is known world-wide known as "The City of Eternal Spring" due to its excellent template climate with an annual average of 20ºC.
  • Taxco— Famous for its beautiful colonial architecture and narrow cobbled streets.
  • Teotihuacan— The ancient city of giant pre-Colombian pyramids.
  • Puebla— UNESCO world heritage place for its colonial architecture and site of the battle with the French army in the mid 1800's. The city is known throughout Mexico for it’s cuisine, it’s worthwhile to take a one day trip from Mexico City to do some sight-seen and sample some of the food. Many good restaurants are conveniently located near the main square.
  • Valle de Bravo— A beautiful town next to a lake and in the middle of the forest, great place for all kinds of sports (e.g. mountain biking, sailing, water skiing and paragliding). Consider driving up Nevado de Toluca and into the crater that holds a lake. Nevado de Toluca is a dormant volcano on your way to Valle de Bravo. Also, late winter/early spring is the best time to see the monarch butterflies on your way to VdB.
  • Pachuca "The Beautiful Windy"— A cozy little miners city.
  • Desert of the Lions National Park— 20 minutes away from the city you can find yourself surrounded by trees in the middle of the forest. Take a hike from "La Venta" to "El Convento" or up to "Cruz Blanca" and eat some great quesadillas for lunch, you can't miss them since it the only structure on "Cruz Blanca". If you can find a mountain bike, it's one of the best places to ride.
  • Tepoztlan— A cool new age city south of Mexico City which has an interesting pyramid on top of a mountain. The journey up to see the pyramid takes approximately an hour and is well worth it once you see the view on top. Tepoztlan is also known for its frequent UFO activity. Believe it or not if you want, but a large percentage of the town residents claim to have seen the "ovni."
  • Bernal— About a 2.5 hour drive outside of Mexico City (north towards Queretaro), has the famous La Peña de Bernal. Popular on summer soltice. Very small town but lively.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Proper noun

Mexico City

  1. The capital of Mexico.



See also


Proper noun

Mexico City

  1. Mexico City


Proper noun

Mexico City

  1. Mexico City

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Mexico City is the capital and largest city in Mexico. It is also one of the most populous and polluted cities in the world. The Aztec people were here before the Spanish came and made Mexico City. It was founded in 1521 by Hernán Cortés. Today, about 8.5 million people live in the city, and about 18 million live in the Greater Mexico City urban area. The city of Mexico City ceased to exist in 1928. Since then, there is only the Federal District.

Mexico City's population is 18.1 million people. It is the second most populated city in the world after Tokyo in Japan and just slightly more populated than Mumbai in India.

Mexico City its divided by 16 boroughs: Álvaro Obregón, Azcapotzalco, Benito Juarez, Coyoacán, Cuajimalpa, Cuauhtémoc, Gustavo A. Madero, Iztacalco, Iztapalapa, Magdalena Contreras, Miguel Hidalgo, Milpa Alta, Tláhuac, Tlalpan, Venustiano Carranza and Xochimilco.


Mexico City was originally built on a lake, Lake Texcoco, which is now mostly drained. The ecology of the area has been much changed by the draining. Many of its native species, such as the Axolotl, are extinct, or in danger.


  1. "Largest Cities of the World - by population". Retrieved 2008-10-22.  Including population within the recognized metro area of the city and also people living in the immediate surrounding area outside of the established border of the city the most populated cities in the world are: 1. Tokyo, Japan - 28,025,000, 2. Mexico City - 18,131,000, 3. Mumbai, India - 18,042,000, 4. São Paulo, Brazil - 17, 711,000, 5. New York City, USA - 16,626,000.

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