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Mexico City for the First Time ~ What to Do in Mexico’s Biggest City

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Mexico's biggest city may seem overwhelming to rookies. Those visiting Mexico City for the first time need not be intimidated by this bustling metropolis. This city makes an ideal spot for a quick cultured break. Visitors will find a culinary scene going off the rails, more museums than you could ever hope to wander through, and a revitalized downtown laced with stunning architecture. Mexico City is family-friendly, too, with a wide array of activities that tempt kids, from tots to teens. With direct flights from most major American cities, it’s also a cinch to get there. Here’s a look at what you need to know before touching down.

Mexico City for First Timers

Mexico City for First Timers (Photo credit: eddygaleotti, Depositphotos.com)

Safety First in Mexico City

Let’s address the elephant in the room first, shall we? At no time did I ever feel unsafe touring this mega metropolis. In fact, I even felt comfortable wandering around on my own, looking like a dorky tourist complete with camera bag strapped across my chest. Yes, Mexico has received a lot of bad press lately, but if you want to get down to facts, Mexico City has a murder rate lower than Detroit, Baltimore or New Orleans. It’s all about location, location, location — but wherever you are, you want to exercise the same degree of caution you would in any unfamiliar city.

The zocalo in Mexico City ~ Mexico City for First Timers

The zocalo in Mexico City (Photo credit: dubassy, Depositphotos.com)

Getting Around Mexico City

Rest assured, taxis hired from either the hotel or airport are considered safe. Once upon a time this wasn’t the case, but times have changed and hiring a private cab is the way to go. There’s also an extensive subway system you could give a go. While I never rode it, my friends did and claimed it was no biggie.

Mexico City tacos at El Fogoncito ~ Mexico City for First Timers

Mexico City tacos at El Fogoncito (Photo credit: Jody Robbins)

Mexico City Cuisine

Though there’s a lot more going on in Mexico City's burgeoning culinary scene than tacos, they’re so scrumptious that you’d be forgiven if you only sought them out. For serious fans, there’s no better place to sample authentic Mexican eats than at El Fogoncito. They’ve been serving up high quality dishes for more than 50 years at 12 locations across the city. Try the mildly spiced poblano cream soup and a platter of tacos al pastor. You can easily feed your family here for a few bucks a head.

Delirio in the trendy neighborhood of Roma, serves up seasonal Mediterranean deli food. You can pick up gourmet condiments made by famous the Mexican chef, Monica Patino.

Worth the splurge is Limosneros, a contemporary restaurant in the Centro Historico area. Here you can tuck into Mexican classics like mole or even roasted grasshopper.

For sweet snacks, nip into Dulceria de Celaya (also in the Centro Historico). This traditional candy store is flush with cookies, candied fruits, meringues as well as marzipan formed into delightful characters. Make sure you score some bunuelos, thin disks of deep fried dough topped with caramelized sugar.

Fresh, delicious food is in abundance in Mexico City ~ Mexico City for the First Time

Fresh, delicious food is in abundance in Mexico City (Photo credit: Bruno135, Depositphotos.com)

Where to Stay in Mexico City

I bedded down at the Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel & Towers. It’s central location can't be beat. Here, you overlook Mexico City's main drag, the famous Monumento a los Heroes de la Independencia on Paseo de la Reforma. It’s also right beside the U.S. Embassy and only 30 minutes from the airport. Paseo de la Reforma is a wide tree-lined boulevard ideal for strolling. From the hotel you can check out the many monuments, or even walk down to the zoo. On Sundays the road is closed to traffic and hundreds of cyclists take to the street to soak up a festive atmosphere.

The rooms are clean and spacious. If you’re staying over the weekend, however, and you're a light sleeper, you won’t want a room overlooking the Paseo de la Reforma. Noise from the street's numerous clubs go off until the wee hours. Additonally, there is a lovely rooftop pool. If traveling with children, keep in mind there is no shallow end therefore definitely for strong swimmers only.

Indoor pool at Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel & Towers ~ Mexico City for First Timers

Indoor pool at Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel & Towers (Photo credit: Starwood Hotels)

What to Do in Mexico City

The list is endless, but if you’ve never been, it's best to start in the center. Several major attractions are clustered within the Centro Historico. This 34-block area of historic buildings is brimming with shops, markets and museums. And when it comes to museums, Mexico City is second only to London, England in terms of numbers, so you’re certain to find a focus to fit your interest.

Tips for visiting Mexico City for the First Time

More on Mexico City

Read more about this exciting destination in Top 5 Activities for Kids in Mexico City. Planning to visit Mexico City for the first time? Save these tips to Pinterest using the graphic above.

Do you have any suggestions or questions about visiting Mexico City for the first time?  Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Saucy Travel Mama: This trip was sponsored by Mexico City. All opinions are my own, as always. This story was originally published in 2013 and was updated in 2018.

About Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

After a career in international marketing and a few years spent living the high life as an expat, Jody now resides with her family in Calgary, Canada. Figuring travel writing was a good way to combine her wanderlust and parental duties, she’s spent the past few years working with both print and online media, contributing to the Calgary Herald Travel and Real Life sections and blogging about her adventures at Travels with Baggage (JodyRobbins.com). When not circling the globe with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband, one dog), she can usually be found snowboarding or pretending to enjoy hiking. Find Jody on Twitter at @Jody_Robbins.

Comments

  1. Shannon (The Mommy-Files) says:

    This is a great post! I can’t wait to read your other posts on this site! I’m a subscriber now. 🙂

  2. Deb Grossfield says:

    I’ve never been to Mexico and I’m uncomfortable in really warm climates, say over 85 degrees. When would be the best time for me to visit Mexico City?

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      Hi Deb, I’m Canadian and can’t handle high heat, either. I think spring and fall would be ideal times to visit. I went at the end of May and it was warm, but overcast most days. I wouldn’t push it past mid-May, though.

  3. Chamisa says:

    I must admit Mexico City wasn’t on my “with kids” bucket list, but your post has made me reconsider if for no other reason than the delicious tacos!

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      Great to hear, Chamisa. The food scene was fantastic. Next week I’ll detail more about what to do with kids – you won’t be bored!

  4. Amber's The Mile High Mama says:

    I’ve got to say Mexico City has never been on my bucket list but after reading this with all the glorious tastes and destinations, I may have to reconsider!

  5. Kiera @easytravelmom says:

    I went to Mexico City years ago for work and brought my brother along. We were not there long but we loved what we got to see – and the food too as you noted! I would love to go back and take my family there as I agree, safety is no more of a concern than anywhere else.

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      Hi Keira, I’ve heard of a lot of former workers going back there for tourism. You’d have a let up on the rest of us newbies!

  6. Ellen Lanin says:

    This really opened my mind to Mexico City. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a renaissance for the city. The food looked delicious.

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      Renaissance is the perfect description for what I think they’re going through. I’d jump at any opportunity to get back! Thanks so much for commenting, Ellen!

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