When I first flew into Mexico City, it was for an overnight layover. I initially just planned on sleeping at the airport. My layover was only about six hours long, surely not long enough to leave and adequately explore the city. However, the travel bug bit me a bit too hard. After two months in South America, I decided that I wasn’t quite ready to end my trip just yet. Part of it was also that I would have loved to just sleep in a bed that night.
I booked a hostel in the La Condesa district and intentionally missed my flight. It’d be only about $100 to book another flight home, and I decided that was more than worth it to squeeze the last few drops of adventure out of my journey. Three days later, I flew out of Mexico City amazed at how I had never even once considered visiting. It is a premier travel destination and an incredible city to live or work in.
1. You can live large on a budget
Mexico City is one of the cheapest big cities in the world. Food, accommodation, and transportation are extraordinarily affordable, just to name a few things. Considering those are probably the biggest things you spend your money on while traveling, going to Mexico City means one of two things. You can stretch your money out and travel longer-term OR you can ball out and live a life of luxury for a few days. Whether it’s poppin’ bottles at the club or treating yourself to spa days and shopping, Mexico City is a perfect city for the bad and boujee.
I’m a big hostel guy, but I can’t deny that I like to splurge every once in a while. Hostels are perfect for meeting people, but once you’ve assembled a good crew, why not ball out and take to the high rises of Mexico City? Airbnb’s can be crazy cheap, sometimes cheaper than hostels when split up between your group. Have a look through some of the incredible places you could stay for as little as $20 a night.
2. Mexico City is as modern and trendy as any city out there
I didn’t know much about Mexico City when I first arrived. I’ll be honest though, I was not expecting much. I had a lot of preconceived notions instilled into my brain thanks to American media. My preconceived notions were that it would be crowded, dirty, stinky, and potentially dangerous. Also, everything would be in sepia tone, right?
Instead, what I got was something comparable to New York City, Singapore, Seoul, you name it. I was amazed by how wrong I was about the city. It blew away all of my expectations. Sure, the city’s got a wide variety of districts, but as a traveler, you’ll likely be hanging around the main downtown areas. La Condesa, Roma, Narvarte, Zocalo, and others are modern, trendy, clean, and a whole lot of fun to explore. Don’t judge Mexico City based on the awful ways it may be portrayed by U.S. media. I’d personally choose to live in Mexico City over any of the U.S. cities that I’ve been to.
3. The nightlife in Mexico City is comparable to any party destination worldwide
This is where Mexico City really shines for me. I felt like a rockstar at some of the places I was partying at. From the trendy bars at La Condesa to the booming mega clubs, Mexico City is an incredibly fun city. The people of Mexico love to party. Luckily, there are plenty of nightlife districts for any type of nightlife-goer. Roma Norte and La Condesa are home to some of the trendiest bars, providing a killer combination of ambiance and delicious drinks.
From beer gardens to discreet cocktail bars, there are plenty of options for whatever type of night out you are trying to have. Make a fool of yourself at a salsa bar? Sure thing. Request your own playlist from the mariachi band at the local cantina? Of course. Welcome to Mexico. Don’t let your dreams be dreams.
4. Mexico City is an often overlooked travel destination
I mean, I’m just speaking for myself here but I never really had any desire to go to Mexico City until I actually went. The hostel I stayed at was the first hostel I had ever stayed at that did not have much of a young population. A lot of the backpackers I met were just passing through. A lot of the other guests were older people there for business or a change of scenery, never really there for an actual vacation. Large international capital cities often tend to be overlooked by travelers in favor of a country’s more photogenic vacation spots. I’ve noticed that to be true for places like Bangkok and Lima, and Mexico City is definitely not an exception.
That being said, Mexico City is surprisingly local for how big of a city it is. Not once did I run into a crowd of tourists big enough to ruin the immersion. Outside of Teotihuacan and the Zocalo, Mexico City doesn’t boast any real must-see destinations. People will often stop for a day or two, but not truly immerse themselves in the city. Do yourself a favor and give Mexico City a chance. You won’t regret it.
5. Many historic ruins can be found inside the city, and Teotihuacan is just outside of the city
Teotihuacan is my favorite archaeological site in all of Mexico. Personally, I think it should have gotten the world wonder nod over Chichen-Itza. It was one of the largest cities in the world at one point and you could still see some remnants of that today. The highlight is the massive Pyramid of the Sun and the slightly-less-massive-but-more-impressive Pyramid of the Moon. There is a lot to see here and if you feel like getting away from the tourists, there are plenty of more ruins that are just a short walk away.
Within Mexico City itself, you can also find the ruins of Templo Mayor and some more ruins in the Plaza de las tres Culturas. Mexico City used to be the capital of the Aztec empire and even though the city today is nothing like Teotihuacan, it is still an epic feeling to walk where such a legendary people once dominated.
6. The history of the city is one of the richest in the world
I didn’t know much about the history of Mexico City aside from that it was once the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, where the final stand of the Aztecs under Emperor Moctezuma tried to fend off the Spanish armies of Hernan Cortes. It used to be an island city in the middle of a lake, connected by bridges which made for an epic showdown between the vastly superior Spanish Navy and Armies against the outmatched but tenacious Aztecs. Okay, I actually do know a lot about the history of Mexico City but there is nothing like being there for yourself to feel it firsthand.
Walking down a street near the Zocalo, I was told that the street used to be one of the bridges connecting the mainland to the island of Tenochtitlan. That was dope. I went to Mexico City’s Anthropology Museum which might have been one of the best I have ever visited. It is almost overwhelming trying to piece together the puzzle of Mexico City’s past. There are no better museums than the ruins and buildings themselves. From the extravagant cathedrals that still stand today to the crumbling ruins of once magnificent structures like the Templo Mayor, you are living in history while you walk through Mexico City.
7. The tacos are hands-down the best in the world
There is just no comparison to a 20 cent taco al pastor fresh off the rotating meat slab. Except maybe all of the other tacos you can get. I’m not even trying to sound like one of those quirky college girls that think they are special because they eat pizza. The tacos here are legitimately heaven at any time of day. Breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, lunch, dinner, drunk food, blacked out food, whatever. I will eat these tacos.
8. This one is also dedicated to tacos and food in general because tacos deserve two reasons
We all knew tacos was going to be on the list but I bet you didn’t see it coming again. That’s right. Tacos are at least two of the reasons why you should go to Mexico City. Honorable mention goes to chilaquiles. Look at me I’m a quirky college girl that eats food. Netflix and pizza, am I right!!
9. Each suburb or barrio of the city is unique and has their own character and personality
Every city has those suburbs with weird quirks that everyone in the city almost universally accepts. However, in Mexico City, many barrios feel like entirely different cities altogether. From this historic neighborhoods to the trendy and the modern, you will inevitably find an area of Mexico City that you like. Being the largest city in North America, it is impossible to find somewhere you like. Some of my favorite regions in the city include Coyoacan, Condesa, Roma, the Zocalo, and Xochimilco. However, I have yet to explore the dozens of other diverse districts within Mexico City’s outstretched arms.
10. Due to the altitude, the weather is not as hot as elsewhere in Mexico, making it feel like an eternal spring.
This may not matter much to a lot of people but for someone like me who will break a sweat when I’m half-naked in Antarctica, this was a pleasant surprise. Everyone expects Mexico to be insanely hot but Mexico City is that perfect temperature all the time. It never gets too hot and never really gets cold enough to be bothersome. It is permanently shorts and a light jacket weather.
11. The Mexican people are among the friendliest, most fun-loving, and hospitable people in the world
This goes without saying but the Mexicans are pretty much the best people in the world. They welcome you with open arms and treat you like part of their own family. If you make an effort to be kind and respectful of the culture, they will return that kindness and respect tenfold. Like I said in an earlier post of why Mexico makes a great place for your first backpacking trip, Mexico is pretty much your grandma’s house. You get spoiled with all of the food, warmth, and affection that you could ever desire. Just like your grandma’s house.
12. In case you didn’t get the message, it is one of the best cities in the world.
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My Complete Mexico Itinerary
Be sure to check out my complete Mexico backpacking itinerary, a jam-packed 60-page guide covering 25 of my favorite destinations in magical Mexico.
My Complete Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
By popular demand… Here is the complete itinerary for one of my favorite countries in the world, Mexico. In this 68-page guidebook, I cover 30 of my favorite Mexican destinations, including how to get to each city, where to stay, and the best things to do in each city. I also include tidbits of useful information like things to know before going to Mexico, as well as my favorite party destina…