Paul has been a passionate traveler for over 35 years and has visited many places and countries in North America, Europe, and elsewhere.
I consider myself to be a seasoned traveler, but Mexico City somehow always manages to exceed my expectations every time I go there. The city's unique and fascinating blend of vibrancy, variety, creativity, color, and eccentricity surpasses almost every other place that I've ever visited.
As with every destination, there are some downsides. For example, the crime problems are something that you need to be aware of, but I certainly wouldn't let that put you off going. Whatever the negative stereotypes, If you've never been to Mexico before, you are likely to have your preconceptions dispelled and your perspective transformed.
This article lists and looks at some of the main reasons that I believe everyone should go to Mexico City.
10 Good Reasons to Go to Mexico City
Here are 10 reasons why I love Mexico City.
- Ancient Ruins
- The Food
- Xochimilco (Little Venice)
- Music and Mariachis
- Lucha Libre Wrestling
- Art Scene
I give more details for each reason, including my thoughts and experiences, below.
Currencies rise and fall, of course, but Mexico City has always proved itself to be a very affordable destination whenever I've visited. It's easy to eat well on a budget, and drinks are inexpensive. You can travel around by metro or Uber for a low price. There are lots of museums (see below) and cultural attractions, some of which are free. Places to stay, such as hotels and Airbnb are surprisingly affordable.
In essence, you can see and experience a lot in the city, as well as actively socialize, without denting your bank balance significantly. The affordability generally applies across all price points too.
Mexico City's vibrant mix of traditional and contemporary is reflected in the architecture. A stroll through the streets and neighborhoods can take you through historical eras as well as styles. You will find colonial styles alongside Aztec ruins, as well as a variety of 20th-century styles.
There are so many impressive buildings, it's difficult to highlight just a few, but I would include as must-sees: the Presidential Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Palacio Postal, and Castillo Chapultepec.
3. Ancient Ruins
You don't have to go far to find Aztec ruins in Mexico City. The Templo Mayor is located not far from the impressive and centrally located Catedral Metropolitana. These are the ruins of the former Aztec stronghold, Tenochtitlán, which was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors, and the materials used to build the cathedral.
If you're prepared to travel outside the city, there are many more historical sites to see, such as the incredible pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan. It's a truly magical and impressive site, and there are opportunities to climb to the top of pyramids, as well as learn about Mesoamerican history and culture.
4. The Food
Mexico City has many wonderful restaurants and a food culture that rivals the rest of the world. If you are North American, then you can pretty much forget whatever you think you know about Mexican food, because there is far more to the cuisine than what most people encounter at home. Fine dining is surprisingly affordable too; you can eat very well on a moderate budget.
Don't miss out on the delicious street food too. There's typically more than just tacos. There are soups, hamburgers, tortes, and tamales, as well as a tasty array of additions, such as guacamole, beans, red and green salsas, pickled onions, carrots, and peppers.
If you've never been before, the number and quality of museums and art galleries in Mexico City will blow your mind; the city is second only to London in this respect. There's really no reason to ever be bored.
There are museums of high culture, such as the University Museum of Contemporary Art, and the National Museum of Anthropology. There are also wacky and unusual ones, like the Chocolate Museum, the Museum of Light, and the Tattoo Museum. There's also the Museo de El Carmen, which houses mummies.
Another place that should not be missed is the National History Museum, which is housed in a castle in the center of Chapultepec Park.
6. Xochimilco (Little Venice)
In the southern part of the city you'll find an area known as Xochimilco, which has been nicknamed "Little Venice". Here, the ancient and extensive canals which characterized the location in the time of the Aztecs are still in use. It's completely unique and almost surreal to have such a tranquil and green watery place in the middle of a chaotic metropolis.
Popular with groups of locals as well as visitors, you can hire one of the colorfully decorated boats and be transported up and down the waterways. There are musicians to entertain and boats selling refreshments. Landmarks include the rather weird Isle of Dolls, with artwork made from dismembered hanging toys, but don't let that frighten you—the overall vibe is definitely relaxed.
7. Music and Mariachis
Music is such an integral part of Mexican life, you will almost certainly it on your visit to Mexico City, regardless of whether you go looking for it. It's seen as something to arouse the passions and be savored. You'll find mariachis entertaining the boaters at Xochimilco and playing for the locals and tourists in the city's eateries, bars, or out in the street. Garibaldi Square is a particularly great place to see some free music.
As well as the more traditional Mexican music, you will also find many other styles too, everything from modern jazz to electronic, and a Mexican style of pop music known as Grupera (a.k.a. onda grupera).
8. Markets and Shopping
Shopping opportunities are plentiful in Mexico City, and as far as capital cities go, it's a very affordable experience. Whether you're after souvenirs, handicrafts, or designer clothes and accessories, you won't be disappointed.
- San Juan market offers an impressive choice of foodstuffs.
- Ciudadela is great for clothes and handicrafts.
- Avenida Masaryk is in the Colonia Polanco district and the best place to go for a more upscale shopping experience.
- La Merced Market is also worthy of a mention. This barrio is a huge collection of avenues and stalls that will easily occupy you for an entire afternoon. There is something for everyone, and while there's plenty of tat, there are also bargains to be found.
- If you're feeling adventurous, I'd recommend a visit to Sonora Market, which has goods of a supernatural nature.
9. Lucha Libre Wrestling
It was my wife who first persuaded me to go to the Lucha Libre wrestling. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it makes for a fun evening and a welcome change from the usual tourist activity.
The exuberant theatricality of Lucha Libre takes place in the Arena México, and you can expect it to be packed full of very vocal locals. The wrestling is a long-standing Mexican tradition that is full of flamboyant personalities, colorful masks, and skin-tight spandex, and everybody in the audience has their favorite heroes and villains.
10. Art Scene
To say that Mexico City has a thriving art scene is an understatement. The entire city is a creative hub, and you'll find everything from the more traditional style of museum, such as the world-class Museo Nacional de Arte, to street art, as well as a vibrant graffiti scene.
Some of the best contemporary galleries near the center can be found in the Roma and Condesa districts, which are a great starting point if the city is new to you. There also many great galleries farther out, in places such as Coyoacán, where Frida Kahlo lived. San Rafael is also definitely worth a visit.
© 2021 Paul Goodman
Robert Clarke from UK on June 24, 2021:
You've got me sold!