Mexico City

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Guide reviewed and approved by Mexico City Tourism Board. Get more experiences and routes at cdmxtravel.com

Mexico City (Spanish: México, Ciudad de México, or D.F. (pronounced deh eh-feh)) is the capital city of Mexico, and the largest city in North America. Mexico is one of the most visited countries in the world and its capital is a popular destination for tourism and business alike. Mexico City has more than ten centuries of history and has a unique and plentiful variety of experiences. The inhabitants of the city are called defeños or chilangos and are friendly and hospitable to tourists.

The Greater Mexico City metropolitan area is one of the world's largest and the largest city in North America, with an estimated 20 million people living in the region. It is shaped roughly like an oval of about 60 km by 40 km, 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 Ixtaccihuatl. 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. For all practical purposes, Mexico City is the same as the Federal District, much in the same way the city of Washington is the same as the District of Columbia in the United States' capital city. The Federal District is where most tourists will spend the majority of their time when visiting the city.

In addition, 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). It is a gay friendly city and there are options from the local tourism secretariat for gay-tourism. Abortion on demand is also legal, as well as some forms of euthanasia and prostitution (the latter allowed only in designated districts). Legalized marijuana consumption, for example, is still under discussion in the local congress.

360° Panorama Mexico City seen from Torre Latinoamericana.jpg

Quick Facts

  • Area: 1,485 km2 (573 sq mi)
  • Elevation: 2,250 m (7,380 ft)
  • Population (city proper): 8.84 million
  • Population (Greater Mexico City): 21 million
  • Motto: “La ciudad de los Palacios” (City of Palaces)

Weather

Mexico City has a subtropical highland climate (Köppen climate classification Cwb) due to its tropical location and high elevation. It has a warm feeling, and the temperature is never too extreme. Wikimania will happen on July which is right at the beginning of the rain season, so we encourage our guests to be prepared for rainy afternoons.

  • Climate: Subtropical highland (Köppen climate classification)
  • Spring: March through May. Average range 10–26 °C (50–79 °F), beginning of the rain season
  • Summer: June through August. Average range 12–23 °C (54–73 °F). Rain season
  • Fall: September through November. Average range 10–20 °C (50–68 °F), the rain season ends
  • Winter: December through February. Average range 5–18 °C (41–64 °F).

Main attractions

Main tourist points of the city
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City is one of the oldest and largest Roman Catholic cathedrals in the Americas.
Central Library of the National Autonomous University of Mexico
"Trajineras", traditional boats in Xochimilco

Mexico City is a huge city and there are many areas to visit, enough to keep anyone busy for years. Mexico has the largest number of UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites in the Americas and is sixth in the world. Our city has three areas protected by UNESCO. 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 era since then. Mexico City is known as the City of Palaces because of the large number of stately buildings, especially in the Centro (downtown) area.

  • Plaza de la Constitución, commonly known as Zócalo in the Historic Downtown is one of the largest public squares in the world, surrounded by historic buildings, including the City Hall and the Cathedral.
  • La Catedral the biggest Catholic church in the Americas. Containing many naves, it's principal altar is made from solid gold.
  • Ángel de la Independencia or simply known as "El Ángel" is a monument celebrating Mexico's independence in 1810. It's located in in Reforma Avenue and Florencia Street, near Zona Rosa.
  • Basílica de Guadalupe Catholicism's holiest place in the Americas, and the second most visited destination of pilgrims from all over the world, especially during the yearly celebration on the 12th of December.
  • Ciudad Universitaria The main campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Located in on 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 Colonial Arts district which was home to Frida Kahlo, Leon Trotsky, and Diego Rivera, among others.
  • Plaza Garibaldi-Mariachi—The square is surrounded by cafes 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 traditional Charro attire and playing trumpets, violins, guitars and the guitarrón or bass guitar.
  • Ciudadela crafts market—The Ciudadela is a Mexican crafts market where cultural groups and artisans from all 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 (Observation Deck hours, 9AM – 10PM) for stunning views of the city. Its central location, height (183 m or 597 ft; 45 stories), and history makes it one of Mexico City's most important landmarks.
  • Torre Mayor—It's the highest tower in the City, and the second highest skyscraper in Latin America after Torre Santiago, and good for more impressive views of the city.

Parks

View of Paseo de la Reforma from the top of Torre Latinoamericana.

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 km² in the middle of the city which hosts 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 the Habsburg.
  • 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, a 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 they sometimes host outdoor exhibitions or concerts, and are surrounded by cool contemporary cafes and bars.

A cultural city

Named Iberoamerican capital of culture in 2010,[1] Mexico City is the city with the largest number of museums in the world (without taking into account art galleries), with New York being 2nd, London 3rd and Toronto 4th. The city has a very active cultural life and vast architectural heritage ranging from Aztec to Baroque and Neoclassic examples, contemporary buildings designed by worldwide architects like the Luis Barragán House and Studio.

Museums

Stone of the Sun, big Aztec monolith at the National Museum of Anthropology
The Palace of Fine Arts, the most important cultural center in Mexico City as well as in the rest of the country
Museo Soumaya, one of the most visited in Mexico.

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

  • National Museum of Anthropology. One of the best museums worldwide. 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 days to see everything. They also have interesting international special exhibits.
  • Museo Soumaya. Is a private museum in Mexico City. It is a non-profit cultural institution with two museum buildings in Mexico City — Plaza Carso and Plaza Loreto. It has over 66,000 works from 30 centuries of art including sculptures from Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, 19th- and 20th-century Mexican art and an extensive repertoire of works by European old masters and masters of modern western art such as Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dalí, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and Tintoretto. It is considered to be one of the most complete collections of its kind
  • Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco has examples of modern, colonial, and pre-Columbian architecture, all around one square. Just fifteen minutes away from the Wikimania venue.
  • Museum of Modern Art. Here you will find paintings from Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, as well as a sculpture garden.
  • Dolores Olmedo Museum. An art philanthropist left her former home, 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). A concert hall and an arts center, it houses some of Mexico's finest murals and even the Art Deco interior alone is worth seeing.
  • Rufino Tamayo Museum. Contains the works of Mexican painter, Rufino Tamayo.
  • National History Museum in Chapultepec's Castle. 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. If you've got kids, they'll love it! Bright, colorful, and filled with educational experiences for children of all ages. Features several science hands-on demonstrations.
  • Universum (National University's Museum). A science museum maintained by UNAM, the largest university in Latin America. Take some time to wander around the Campus.
  • Casa Mural Diego Rivera. Contains murals of acclaimed artist Diego Rivera.
  • National Palace (Zocalo). You can see some impressive Diego Rivera frescoes. You'll need to carry some sort of ID in order to enter the building.

Se habla español

The language spoken at our city is Spanish, a language shared with many people in the world. The worldwide Spanish-speaking population is growing more and more due to recent fashion mostly in the United States. In most areas of the city many people can speak and understand English. Even if someone does not speak English the capital people usually have a good character and are kind, and surely will be ready to help if so requested.

A diverse city

Mexico City has had a marked spirit of openness for some decades now. It is a city where many foreigners live, and have more legal freedoms than many other cities in the world. Mexico City is home to many internationally renowned artists, which only broadens the already wide and colorful cultural scene. It is officially a LGBT-friendly destination (member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association) offering a space in which a lot of people from different backgrounds can live in harmony with each other.

Visas

see main article: Visas

Currency

The local currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN), issued in coins on 0.50, 1, 2, 5 and 10 pesos. Banknotes are issued in 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. The exchange rate varies day to day but it averages $15 MXN = $1 USD.

Money exchange businesses can easily be found on the airport, around Downtown and through Paseo de la Reforma, although the exchange can be done in many banks. By law, almost no establishment will accept payments in anything but Mexican Pesos.

Cost of living

You will really enjoy your stay because the cost of living is really low in Mexico. If you are a long time Wikimaniac we can tell you without a doubt: this Wikimania will be the cheapest for you. Even though it might seem so, the low cost of living doesn't translate to poor quality of life.

Product MXN USD
One ride on subway/metro 5.00 0.32
A Big Mac 48.00 3.07
A Big Mac combo 71.00 4.54
One Coca-Cola can (355 ml.) 9.00 0.57
Mineral water bottle 12.00 0.8
Corona beer 15.00 1.1
Starbucks Frapuccino Venti 45.00 2.8
Average restaurant meal 200.00 13.69
Affordable three course meal with soup, rice, beans, meat, salad and water (Comida corrida in Spanish). 40.00–50.00 2.73–3.4
Music CD 180.00 12.32
Gasoline, 1 liter 13.39 0.91

All prices are quoted on USD based on an exchange rate obtained in Oanda.com, June 10, 2015

About Security

Policewoman and patrol of Mexico City Police

Several news outlets have reported on drug-related violence throughout Mexico since years ago. In the name of transparency, we must acknowledge the fact that Transnational Criminal Organizations exist and drug-related violence is real. However, it is important to put forward hard data and then get some perspective on it.

Media outlets are more often than not focused on sales and it's no secret that shock stories and hype are major components in deciding which stories are sold and which are not. So we urge our visitors to consider news about violence and crime in Mexico (and Mexico City) with a grain of salt. The United States Department of State maintains a page about travel warnings to different countries. The Mexico Travel Warning page (last update December 24, 2014) has a listing of state-by-state warnings. The December 24 assessment update on Estado de Mexico and Mexico City is as follows:

Mexico City (also known as the Federal District): No advisory is in effect. See also the discussion in the section on Estado de Mexico for areas within the greater Mexico City metropolitan area. Estado de Mexico: Toluca and Teotihuacan are major travel destinations in Estado de Mexico - Exercise caution in the State of Mexico. Many areas of the state have seen high levels of crime and insecurity as organized criminal groups have expanded their activities from the states of Guerrero and Michoacán, and have also experienced high levels of street crime. The September 2014 INEGI crime victimization survey indicated that the State of Mexico had the highest incidence of crime in Mexico, with 47,778 victims per 100,000. Due to high rates of crime and insecurity, defer non-essential travel to the municipalities of Coacalco, Ecatepec, Nezahualcoyotl, La Paz, Valle del Chalco, Solidaridad, Chalco, and Ixtapaluca, which are eastern portions of the Greater Mexico City metropolitan area, located just to the east of the Federal District of Mexico and Benito Juarez Airport, unless traveling directly through the areas on major thoroughfares. Defer non-essential travel to the municipality of Tlatlaya in the southwest portion of the state and non-essential travel on any roads between Santa Marta in the southeast portion of the state and Huitzilac in the state of Morelos, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas, due to high rates of crime and insecurity.

The UK Government also has travel advice for visitors to Mexico, updated continually. The December 19, 2014 report states:

(…)Most victims of crime and violence in Mexico are Mexicans involved in criminal activity, but the security situation also poses risks for foreigners. Be alert to the existence of street crime as well as more serious violent crime like robbery, assault and vehicle hijacking. In certain parts of Mexico you should take particular care to avoid being caught up in drug related violence between criminal groups.

The report also covers specific advice for safety and security, terrorism, local laws and customs, entry requirements for UK citizens, health, natural disasters and money.

Mexico City is indeed one of the safest cities in the country. Homicide rates, for instance, are lower in Mexico City than in Boston, Pittsburgh, Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland and St. Louis.

In order to further increase safety for our guests, we have spoken to Local and Federal Law Enforcement agencies and we have reached agreements to keep Wikimania attendants safe during their stay so they can enjoy our City and make it home away from home.

Although questionings by the police are infrequent, we recommended taking your passport with you. Downtown attracts many tourists and the police usually questions them if there's suspicion of alcohol consumption in public spaces (it's forbidden by law). These questionings are preventive and non-violent (except those rare cases when someone infringes the law and uses force to resist arrest). We trust our guests will respect the law and exercise common sense to enjoy their stay to its maximum.

News outlets

Below you can find some major news outlets which have dedicated Mexico News pages. This list is by no means comprehensive and the Wikimania 2015 staff encourages everyone to keep updated on matters of safety, economy and general travel advice.

The Wikimania 2015 Staff does not endorse any particular point of view of the following media outlets, these are presented

Other major outlets with no specific Mexico News page:

See also

References