I have a thing for big cities; a thing for organised chaos and for places that might seem daunting at first. “Cairo? Loved it! Los Angeles? Much better than San Francisco!” So it’s no wonder that the huge metropolis of Mexico City and I hit it off! From the moment I surfaced from the metro station onto the Zócalo, I felt “yep, this is going to be my kind of place!”
But the city is big: you’ve got the historic centre, the skyscrapers, the village neighbourhoods, … So where should you go? These are, according to me, the best neighborhoods in Mexico City:
1. Centro Histórico
Probably the most photogenic part of CMDX and definitely THE place to visit for culture buffs and history enthusiasts! The historical district is built on the ruins of the old Aztec Empire, with the Templo Mayor being the best proof. The temple is situated on the Zócalo, Latin America’s biggest square. Touring over it is the majestic cathedral. From the Zócalo, the Centro Histórico spreads its wings in all directions, all the way to the Alameda Central. Admire some of the beautiful façades on the pedestrian Calle Madero or check out the scribes on the peaceful Plaza Santo Domingo. Looking for street art and a nice bar vibe? Then Calle Regina is your spot! And if you’re on the lookout for some quality souvenirs, head over to the Mercado La Ciudadela!
2. The green lung of Chapultepec
The pollution in Mexico City is not a myth. If you feel like some respite from the car fumes and the crowds, head over to Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico’s largest park that covers over 4 sq km. It feels miles away from the hustle and bustle! You might want to avoid Sundays, that’s when all Mexican families seem to gather to row on the big lake and vendors take over the main paths with food, souvenirs, fake tattoos, … Not a lot of peace and quiet then, but a great atmosphere though! On any other day, you can enjoy a picnic on the park’s grounds or walk up to the Castillo. History buffs should not miss the Museo Nacioal de Antropología.
3. My favourite part: Coyoacán
Ten kilometres south of downtown CMDX lies the village-like district of Coyoacán. Narrow streets, cute little plazas and a vibrant atmosphere make this one of the must see areas of the city. On a Sunday, you can see Aztec dancers on the Plaza Hidalgo, while the Parque Allende is taken over by salsa-dancing couples and an open-air arts and crafts market. Coyoacán is also home to Frida Kahlo’s Blue House. Make sure you book tickets in advance if you want to avoid huge queues!
4. Bohemian Roma and Condesa
Roma and Condesa are often named and visited together, since they are only a few blocks apart. They are considered to be the bohemian and hipster parts of CDMX. There aren’t any big monuments or museums here, instead you’ll find a lot of streetart, especially in Roma, while dog walkers and roller bladers take over the tree-lined streets of Condesa. The area is really small, just a few blocks, but taking time to linger in one of the many coffee shops or restaurants is what it’s all about here! The best time for a visit is late afternoon when people start taking over the café’s pavements. If you’re looking for nightlife at your doorstep, then these areas are probably a good base for your stay in CMDX.
5. The modern skyline
Take the elevator to the top of the Torre Latinoamericana and you’ll get a good idea of the modern sprawling skyline of Mexico City. From the Alameda Central, with the beautiful Palacio de Bellas Artes, all the way to the Bosque de Chapultepec, lies the main thoroughfare of Paseo de la Reforma, modelled after the big European boulevards. Wide footpaths make it easy enough to admire some of Mexico’s tallest buildings and ornamented roundabouts. If you can, go on a Sunday when the whole avenue is closed off for vehicles and given over to cyclists, roller bladers and dog walkers!
It’s safe to say that Mexico City really surprised me! I was expecting a huge, crowded, polluted city, but found it to be very manageable and diverse. There are still a few areas that I would’ve loved to explore like San Angel and Xochimilco, but that’ll have to wait for a next visit.
So tell me, have you been?
Which ones do you consider to be the best neighborhoods in Mexico City?