A visual tour of Mexico City (and why I was incredibly impressed)

Mexico city header
Mexico City was not somewhere I had ever wanted to go. It was actually one of those places most likely to be on my ‘avoid’ list. I had a banker friend (with Scotiabank – they are all over Mexico) who had told me that car jackings were a regular occurrence in the downtown core. Mexico City was a dangerous place. That was about 10 years ago. But my mom is now spending part of the year in Mexico and she invited me to visit her. That meant flying in through Mexico City.

We spent two days in Mexico City. Although that’s not enough to really know a city, I was incredibly impressed by what I saw.

We stayed right next to the Zocalo in the Centro Historico, two blocks from the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the Americas. The area is filled with historical buildings, restaurants and cafes, and some large boulevards. It actually reminded me of Paris.

Below: The Metropolitan Cathedral

Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City

views of the Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City (1)

Below: Next to the Cathedral is the Palacio Nacional

palacio nacional, mexico city


calle 5 de mayo, in front of hotel rioja, mexico

Above: Calle del 5 de Mayo, looking down from my hotel room. Doesn’t that look like Paris?

We took the double decker Turibus (there’s a stop next to the cathedral) which took us a from the historic center, down the Paseo de la Reforma which is MC’s largest boulevard. The boulevard is lined with palm trees, monuments, and skyscrapers. It then entered Chapultepec Park, home to the city zoo as well as museums including the Museo de Arte Moderno and Museo Nacional de Antropoligea. We got out here and had lunch at a small taco place before visiting the Museo de Arte Moderno. We then hopped back on the next turibus and saw a few more of the city’s better neighborhoods: Condesa (leafy streets full of trendy restaurants and cafes) and Polanco (very upscale and exclusive, home of MC’s very rich).

turisbus, mexico city

Below: Paseo de la Reforma and views on Latinoamericana tower

photos of mexico city, mexico

Below: towers and some incredibly modern architecture

Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico city

modern architecture, Mexico city (2)

modern architecture, Mexico city (1)

modern architecture, mexico city

Below: Palacio de Bellas Artes

palacio de bellas artes, mexico city

I know these neighborhoods don’t represent the majority of Mexico City’s districts and I’m sure there are many poor and dangerous areas; I saw some iffy-looking neighborhoods on my return trip to the airport, places where I wouldn’t have wanted to be walking around. Still, I’m impressed by much of what I saw in Mexico City; on top of some very unique modern architecture, the downtown core was very clean and organized. There was a bicycle path all the way down Paseo de la Reforma and the city has a bicycle rental program similar to Montreal’s Bixi program. They had green bicycle-taxis covering the Zocalo. I guess I had somehow pictured Mexico City to be like some of the decrepit Latin American cities I had seen. It wasn’t – you can see money in Mexico City and according to many people we spoke to the city has changed dramatically in the last few years. I was very impressed by what I saw.

historic building, mexico city

Close to the Centro Historico, and across from the Palacio de Bellas Artes, is the Latinoamericana tower which has the city’s best view from the 42nd floor. A few photos I took from there.

views from the Latinoamericano tower, mexico city (1)

views from the Latinoamericano tower, mexico city (2)

views from the Latinoamericano tower, mexico city (3)


Below: more images of Mexico City

museo nacional de arte, mexico city
historical building, mexico city

street next to zocalo, mexico city

church in centro historico, mexico city
Another thing that impressed me; transportation is modern in Mexico and is very well organized (better than in either the US or Canada!). Bus stations are structured like airport terminals; you buy your bus ticket using your name, you get a seat number, they tell you the gate where you’ll board. Your bags go through x-rays (just like at the airport) and are checked in (they give you a ticket for your baggage). An attendant checks your ticket and gives you a free lunch (I got a ham and cheese sandwich and an apple juice) and you get in your seat on the bus. Just prior to the bus leaving the station a guard comes on the bus and does a video tape of everyone in their seats for security purposes.

Below: Bus Station

bus station, mexico city


We stayed at the Hotel Rioja in the Centro Historico. Great value for the money; 250 to 300 pesos for a room (that’s $21 – $25). Fantastic location. Not the Ritz but if all you need is a clean room with private bathroom then it is perfect.


For more on Mexico, visit our Destination Guide page HERE.


Have you been to Mexico City? What did you think of it?



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  1. Lovely post! So many photos shared – I feel like I was there with you in your visit 🙂
    Lori recently posted…International Mosaicultures 2013 Special Exhibition at Montreal Botanical Garden in PhotosMy Profile

  2. I’m surprised at how clean it looks! Granted, my experience with Mexico is long weekends away in places like Rosarito and Tiajuana when I was in college, but Mexico has also been on my avoid and never want to return lists.
    Jennifer recently posted…Rome’s Borghese Gardens and Villa BorgheseMy Profile

  3. I loved DF, I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico and Central America by far. And sooo sooo huge and so much to do.

    My favorite part by far was the Zocolo.
    Marina K. Villatoro recently posted…Best Neighborhoods In Boston to VisitMy Profile

  4. Lewis Moreno says:

    Great photos. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I too was really impressed by Mexico City, and I totally agree, some parts very much reminded me of a European city. I particularly loved spending time in the National Museum of Anthropology and eating at many a street stalls…absolutely love Mexican food! I very much hope I return one day so I can discover more great things about this awesome place!
    Brigid recently posted…Sailing Panama to Colombia Aboard the African QueenMy Profile

  6. Great post. Before my visit, everyone told me I would return as one of the city’s biggest fans. It’s true!
    Helen Anne Travis recently posted…My Crazy Rich Neighbors: Halloween EditionMy Profile

  7. Great! At least you could see with your own eyes this time! I don’t know where the hell did you think you were going! You sounded like a friend of mine many years ago wondering that we had Walmart in Mexico! Damn! Don’t take me wrong, in that case sounded so ignorant from her, but at least she wasn’t a “traveler of the world”…

    • Serge, the truth is that many people will not travel independently to places like Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or Colombia because of the reputation or the way these countries have been portrayed in the media. So yes, even if you are a ‘traveler of the world’ I think it is important to visit and see places with your own eyes. I’m appreciative of all the support you always give on my FB page but am a little surprised by your comment – especially since I’ve said nothing but great things about my experience in Mexico.

  8. Juan Carlos says:

    Hi! Great to have you back in Mexico! If you happen to have a day off in Mexico City, I’ll be more tan happy to show you around some areas, such as Coyoacán, Condesa, Roma, etc. There is really so much to see here! Those things where among the several reasons my father had when he immigrated from the US to Mexico City in the mid 70’s. Drop me a line if interested!

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Juan Carlos,
      So nice of you! Unfortunately I am flying out tomorrow noon-ish.
      But I usually come to Mexico once a year to visit my mom. If ever back in Mexico City I’ll take you up on your offer.
      Thanks again,

  9. Hi, I am a professional photographer and my interest is growing about Mexico City. I have travelled to many places in Latin America but have yet to make it to Mexico. Your blog is helping with my decisions. What time of year where you there? It looks like you had some nice photo weather.
    And maybe you might recommend someone who could help me around the city.
    Best, Anthony John Coletti

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Anthony,
      I was in Mexico City in March when it was pretty dry. I was just there a month ago actually and it was rainy season. But really, anytime you go is good. Mexico so full of colors, one of the most photogenic places anywhere (except mid day).
      I’m sorry, don’t have anyone to recommend. A good start is taking the hop on, hop off, you’ll see most of the highlights and they even have tours out to Teotihuacán. If you go to the Metropolitan Cathedral you’ll see a stop and they’ll explain all the lines.
      If you have a chance try to make it to some of the smaller cities and towns. Guanajuato is incredible if you like photography. Puebla and Oaxaca as well…really, you can’t go wrong in Mexico.
      All the best

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