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
Below: Next to the Cathedral is the Palacio Nacional
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).
Below: Paseo de la Reforma and views on Latinoamericana tower
Below: towers and some incredibly modern architecture
Below: Palacio de Bellas Artes
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.
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.
Below: more images of 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
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?