I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Mexico City is truly a beast.
Chaotic, noisy, colourful. These are some words you could easily throw around when describing Mexico’s capital city.
But despite the chaos and the mess and the craziness, Mexico City holds an immeasurable charm and allure for me.
OK, I will admit it. There are some things I like less here. Trying to cross the road, for example. Often terrifying, always an adventure.
Mexico City (and the country in general) gets a lot of stick in the international press. I first came here four years ago, after a few weeks in the US. I remember with mild amusement the look on most people’s faces in the US when I told them I would soon be travelling (alone) to Mexico.
Really? Mexico? Are you sure? It’s crazy dangerous, right? Won’t you get kidnapped?
Sure, a lot of shit goes down here. But does that mean you should write off a whole country out of fear? Are you really in danger as a tourist here?
I’m not trying to downplay the very real (and scary) stuff that happens in the country, but I certainly don’t think that tourists and travellers should be put off. Why?
Because Mexico as a whole, and Mexico City in particular, are straight-up, goddamn awesome.
There are some obvious reasons for this. Like, the food.
Even as a vegetarian I can say that the food here is amazing. I’m more restricted in my food options, of course, but the quesadillas, esquites, tacos, flautas, fruit and fruit juices (and so on and so forth) are amazing, even with my more limited choices of fillings.
My more carnivorous friends here often tell me I’m missing out. I probably am, but hey. Veggie or not, it’s easy to love the food here.
What else? OK, the people. Seriously, the Mexican people. They’re amazing. I know you can’t or shouldn’t making sweeping generalisations about a whole country of people, but I’m going to do it anyway.
As I think back over my last few weeks here and the time I spent here back in 2012, there are only a handful of times I remember engaging with someone who wasn’t friendly/interested/kind. And I remember those times well, because they were so unusual.
Aside from the fact that the people you meet in bars, cafes, restaurants or shops are generally friendly and smiley, the locals I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with have only solidified my positive perception of the Mexican people.
I’ve met a bunch of amazing people through Couchsurfing; fun, kind-hearted and open people. It’s not at all uncommon to meet someone once and then get invited often to family or friend get-togethers.
When I was sick (and we’re talking minor stuff here, nothing major) I got regular texts from new Couchsurfing friends checking how I was doing, and if I needed help finding a doctor.
So these are some obvious points: the food and the people.
But what about the city itself? Like I said, Mexico City is a beast. It is truly huge, it is noisy and it is messy. There seems to be construction work everywhere at every time of the day, blocking roads or generally creating more noise. It’s polluted.
What it also has – apparently more so than any other city – is museums. AMAZING museums.
I’m thinking of the Anthropology Museum, for example, the largest in Mexico City, which houses the Sun Stone (or Aztec calendar stone). I’m thinking of the many, many art museums it has throughout the city, both big and small.
It will cater to almost any interest or age group. If you have an interest, Mexico City will have a museum for you: history, art, antiques, economics, mining, geology. The list goes on.
If museums aren’t your thing, you might want to visit some of the buildings without actually going into the museums themselves. Why? Because some of the architecture here is astonishing. Check out the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), for example, or wander over to the nearby Palacio de Correos de México (Post Office Palace).
Now, the pollution is not so nice. I will admit it. But the city at least tries to balance this with some stunning parks. Chapultepec is probably the most obvious example.
Also known as the Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest), it covers almost 1,700 acres, with forest, winding paths and lakes.
I’ve also spent many enjoyable hours wandering around La Roma and Condesa – trendy, hip areas of the city – checking out the many parks and plazas dotted around.
Viveros de Coyoacán is another huge public park. Home to a tree nursery, orchards, seed beds and greenhouses, it is a quieter option than Chapultepec in the stunning Coyoacán borough. It’s particularly popular for walkers and joggers, so it’s a great place if you’re looking for some exercise.
Now, we’re talking about a big city, so of course the nightlife is another important aspect. I’ve been to some pretty fun cities: Berlin knows how to party; New Orleans knows how to party; Santiago knows how to party. Hell, London knows how to party.
But Mexico City. It really knows how to party. And it does it a LOT. I arrived here for the Halloween/Day of the Dead weekend, so of course there were a shit-ton of parties and celebrations going on.
After that weekend, I thought things might chill out a bit. But no. Whatever your taste, you can find a party to suit you.
Now, I’m not really a big party person. A couple of cocktails at a couple of decent bars is more my sort of thing. And there are plenty of bars here, and wow the cocktails have been amazing. (You don’t have to love tequila to love the nightlife and party times here.)
But I’ve got a lot of respect for my more party-loving Mexican friends who seem to be out and partying most weekends.
Next, I must talk about the weather. Because I am British, so, you know. The downside is that there’s a lot of rain here (cue comparison to the rain in England, yes, yes, I know).
The upside is that even in November and December the days are often sunny. What’s more, the sun here is pretty fierce, so it feels a lot hotter than the weather forecast says it really is.
Overall, it’s pretty mild. It’s cold in the evenings for sure, but it’s not freezing. And it gets hot during the day for sure, but it’s still good, walkable weather.
The other added bonus of Mexico City is that it’s the perfect base to explore the rest of the country. Domestic flights are pretty cheap if you’re going further afield, and there are plenty of buses to places both near and far.
Closer to the city are the magic towns (pueblos mágicos), each with their own history, culture and sights. Tepoztlán, in the state of Morelos, is a great choice for a day or weekend trip; here you can walk up Tepozteco mountain to visit the ruins of a temple built there.
So, if you need a change of scenery or if you’re craving warmer climes, you’re in luck.
Really, I think I could gush about Mexico City – and Mexico as a whole – for a hell of a lot longer. But hopefully by now the picture is clear and the point is made.
I’ve only got 10 days left in this country, which means it’s about time for me to buy another ticket back.
As always, thanks for reading. Hugs and kisses from my home away from home, Mexico City x