Mexico City was our first stop on a trip around the world. In all honesty, we only came to Mexico City to see the pyramids of Teotihuacan.
But with all the stress from packing our life in Calgary, we didn’t feel like moving very fast.
We spent 5 days in Mexico City. These are our impressions, tips for the city and what we’ve been up to.
What to expect and what to do in Mexico City
Arrival & public transport
As with every big city, navigating public transport after arrival is overwhelming. Thankfully Mexico City Metro makes it easier. There is a clearly marked way from the airport to the subway station. One ticket costs only 5 pesos (0,27 USD) and a map of all the lines is posted on every corner.
Although everyone we asked for directions was trying to be helpful, they don’t always know the right answer. Sometimes it’s better to ask at least two different people which might save you going back and forth on the stairs with heavy backpacks.
No matter the hour or day of the week, the subway is usually packed. That wasn’t a surprise – Mexico City has a population of 21 million people.
I was expecting from the concrete jungle to be unbelievably hot, like in New York City. But Mexico City lies at an altitude of 2,240 metres. It has a comfortable temperature of 25C during summer. And it rarely goes under 10C in winter.
Most of the days, we didn’t see the blue sky. Smog is a serious problem in Mexico City. They do whatever they can to fight it – building rooftop gardens, wall from special types of tiles that “eats” smog on the hospital, or vertical gardens along the highway.
Coming from Calgary, where you usually have fast foods and you need to drive there, Mexico City was a real treat for us. Food stalls and restaurants are everywhere. I mean everywhere.
In downtown, it’s hard walking on the path, when half of it is taken by food stall and another part by people eating the food. They usually offer tortillas, quesadillas, sandwiches, hamburgers, grilled corn or crepes. One lunch cost us around 40 pesos (2,20 USD).
This was never an issue. The only reason I’m mentioning this is that people tend to ask how safe Mexico City is. From our experience, it’s very safe. We haven’t felt any type of danger or not so comfortable situation. Police officers are at every subway station. When walking in downtown, they were on every corner. I’m sure there are parts where is not advised to go, but those parts are in every city in the world.
The only funny, or a bit uncomfortable, the situation we experienced was staring. Doesn’t matter if we were in the subway or in downtown surrounded by other tourists. Maybe it was because we are way taller than Mexicans or have too bright/blonde hair. But it wasn’t something I worried about. I can’t even imagine how celebrities feel when random people are staring at them.
What to do in Mexico City
Biking/walking in Chapultepec forests
Also called Bosque de Chapultepec, it is the largest city park in Western Hemisphere.
Thanks to our couchsurfing host, we rented bikes for free with Bicigratis on El Angel de la Independencia. All you need is a passport and you’ll have a bike for 3 hours. After a short ride on a bike path, we were in the park. It was a nice change from the city hustle, to be in the park with only a few people.
Getting to the other part of the park isn’t easy. There is no straight pathway for bikes. The park is huge and there’s a lot to see – Chapultepec Castle, several lakes, zoo, Museum of Anthropology. All together we biked around 14km. It’s either a bike ride or a full day walking trip.
Free walking tour
Couchsurfing is not only a great place to find friends around the world but for events as well. That’s how I found out about a free walking tour. Students of history run daily tours at 11am and 3pm showing people the best of Mexico City and explaining the history of the city.
There are Aztec ruins right in downtown!
We were divided into Spanish and English group and walked around Cathedral at the main plaza – Zocalo, Palace de Bellas Artes, got a lot of recommendations for museums (with free options) and have a better understanding of history in Mexico City.
Did you know the city was built on an island of Lake Texcoco by Aztecs in the 14th century? It was later in the 16th century destroyed and rebuilt by Spaniards.
I highly recommend you check couchsurfing website for any tours in the city when you visit.
Biking on Paseo de la Reforma
Perfect trip for Sunday morning. It is the only day when the road from Chapultepec park to Palacio de Bellas Artes is closed for cars. It’s full of runners, cyclists and rollerbladers.
During the closure on Sunday, you can rent bikes at Bicigratis for 1,5 hours only. There are also paid options for renting bikes along the Paseo de la Reforma. One loop is 8km and takes around 35 minutes. At 2pm, traffic for cars opens again.
I was surprised how bike friendly Mexico City is. There are many bike lanes in downtown and drivers are respectful to cyclists.
Last but not least, our favourite just outside of Mexico City:
Pyramids in Teotihuacan
Definitely, the highlight of our stay in Mexico City was visiting pyramids in Teotihuacan. They are only 40 km out of the city. Don’t miss visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most beautiful pyramids we’ve seen so far.
And we’ve made it easier for you, read our tips in this post:
Would you like to visit Mexico City? Let us know if our tips helped you in any way.
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