One of the liveliest and most populated cities in the world, Mexico City, is a must-visit for any solo traveler. Long, winding streets reveal endless opportunities for fun, cultural enrichment, and discovery. The city’s diverse neighborhoods make it a popular weekend getaway destination among art enthusiasts, foodies, urbanists, and families alike. With a city this large, I had to create a Mexico City Travel Guide!
Mexico City is the center of anthropological history and Latin American art as the oldest capital city in the Americas. From museums to stunning public architecture and murals, Mexico City’s renowned arts and culture scene are evident wherever you look.
If you’re looking for a solo travel experience that immerses you in the heart of urban innovation and history, Mexico City is the place to be, with its irresistible culinary scene, trendy neighborhoods, and sprawling, vibrant culture. It’s also incredibly safe and surprisingly affordable!
Mexico City Travel Guide
Mexico City’s origins stretch back to the early 1300s, in the time of the Aztecs. Since 1528, when the city was officially named, it has remained the political, financial, and cultural center of the Spanish empire and now Mexico. All of these aspects are visible in present-day Mexico City, from the thriving urban center to the ancient historical architecture. It’s currently the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world!
When you first arrive in Mexico City, you may find it breath-taking… literally! At around 7,000 feet above sea level, Mexico City is at a higher altitude than you might be used to. But this shouldn’t pose significant problems for your visit.
If this is your first time visiting Mexico, you may be wondering about the logistics of traveling in Mexico City. I’ll share more specifics about different customs later on in this Mexico City travel guide, but for now, here are a few things to note.
The currency in Mexico is the pesos, and while credit cards are largely accepted, you might also want to carry some cash to use in stores or at street food stands that might not accept card payments.
As far as language goes, Spanish is the primary language in the country, and you may find that English is spoken less than you were expecting. While visiting Mexico, make sure that you’re only drinking bottled water. The tap water isn’t safe to drink. So, to avoid getting sick, stick to bottles.
Best Time to Visit Mexico City
Mexico City has a mild climate nearly all year long, making any time of year a good time to visit! The rainy season in the summer, from May to October, with most days in June through September seeing at least a few sprinkles of rain.
If you’d prefer to avoid that, visiting in the winter and spring will keep you dry. High temperatures throughout the year average in the high 70s with occasional records in the 80s, and you can expect low temperatures to not drop below freezing.
The high season in Mexico City is between March and May, coordinating with some of the best weather in the city. While this means the streets will be crowded, you’ll be rewarded with lovely weather and sunshine. Fall is a wonderful time to visit and experience many cultural activities and festivals in Mexico City, like Mexican Independence Day in September and Día de Los Muertos in November.
No matter when you plan your visit to Mexico City, you’ll find no shortage of things to do!
How to Get Around Mexico City
There are many public transportation options for getting around Mexico City. The safest and most reliable way is by Sitio taxis or Uber. While other unmarked taxis are available in Mexico City, Sitio taxis are official, safe, and reliable. You can get your hotel to call one for you or look for stands marked with Sitio around the city.
Uber is also available in Mexico City and is another convenient and safe way to travel.
Mexico City’s metro system is well traveled, efficient, and cheap, at around $0.25 per ride. However, it’s also the main form of transportation that many local residents of Mexico City use, making it especially crowded during rush hours in the morning and evening. Pickpocketing is more likely during these times, so be vigilant. Especially if you’re traveling by yourself.
If you decide to travel by metro, you should know that the first two cars of each train are reserved for women and children only. Bags larger than a carry-on size are also not permitted, so don’t plan on traveling with your luggage. To avoid most of the crowds, travel during off-peak hours.
Mexico City’s Metrobus is another fast and inexpensive way to travel the city. Traveling in dedicated lanes along highly populated routes for commuters and tourists, using the Metrobus may often be faster than relying on a taxi. You can purchase a smartcard in a metro station to use on the bus, and rides cost 6 pesos (around $0.30).
Like the metro, the Metrobuses also get crowded during peak hours, so plan your travel accordingly. In 2008, Mexico City introduced women-only buses in response to reports of inappropriate behavior. You can identify these buses by the pink placards.
Also known as microbuses, colectivos are privately owned vans or small buses that travel along the main routes in Mexico City. Look for the destination in the window to ensure you’re going in the right direction. Many drivers will display the number of seats available by holding up several fingers as they approach the stop.
Colectivos are often more comfortable than the Metrobus and less expensive than a taxi, making them a good transportation alternative in Mexico City.
The Turibuses in Mexico City are designed to transport tourists to popular locations around the city. These double-decker red buses also provide audio commentary about popular sites along the route in multiple languages. The turibus runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and you can hop on and hop off an unlimited number of times throughout the day after purchasing a day pass.
Mexico City Travel Essentials
Best Things to Do in Mexico City
Teotihuacan is a must-see if you visit Mexico. Located northeast of Mexico City, the archaeological site is also known as the City of the Gods and is home to some of the largest ancient pyramids in the world. The three main structures are the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.
The entire area is an incredible example of pre-Aztec life in Mexico. You can head to the museum to get even more information and a look at some of the artifacts from the area. Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, you’ll want to spend at least half a day here. From climbing the pyramids for stunning views of the surrounding mountains to walking the Avenue of the Dead, most visitors spend about 3-4 hours here.
When you visit, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen! The best time to arrive is in the morning before it gets too hot and crowded. Traveling by taxi, I recommend you get dropped off by the gate closest to the Pyramid of the Sun and exit by the gate near the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.
See the pyramids from a hot air balloon.
If you want to see the majestic Teotihuacan Valley from the air, take a hot air balloon ride over the pyramids! This 30-50 minute tour gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire site, with spectacular views you can only get from above. Breakfast and refreshments are provided, as is transportation to the site.
Take a guided day trip to Xochimilco and Coyoacan.
Mexico City is officially divided into 16 different districts, each with its unique vibe and plenty of things to discover! This guided day trip takes you through 3 of the iconic neighborhoods in the city – Xochimilco, Coyoacan, and Centro Historico.
You’ll start first in University City, exploring the main campus and the plentiful murals. Then, you’ll head to Xochimilco to travel along the Aztec canals in a traditional punt. The tour will bring you next to Coyoacan, the colonial arts district of Mexico City that was once home to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
In addition to soaking in the rambling 16th-century architecture in this district, you can also stop in to explore the Frida Kahlo museum. Housed in her striking Casa Azul (blue house), the museum displays many Mexican and indigenous arts, jewelry, and artifacts.
The tour finishes in the Centro Historico, the historic center of Mexico City. Upon entering the Zocalo, or main square, you’ll also see many other iconic city sites. These include the Church of San Juan Bautista and Conquistador Hernando Cortes’s impressive mansion.
This day trip takes you through some of the most culturally important and charming areas of Mexico City. Led by knowledgeable guides, I’d highly recommend this tour to learn more about the city and connect with other travelers!
Tour the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most visited churches in the world, as over 20 million Catholics make a pilgrimage to the site every year. The shrine is incredibly important to the Catholic religion and Mexican culture. Even if you’re not particularly religious, the basilica’s architecture is gorgeous, and it’s worth a visit.
This tour also includes visiting the surrounding area and climbing Tepeyac Hill, where the first apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe were said to appear. For the best views and to avoid the crowd, book your tour during the week!
Visit the altars of the Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana).
The Metropolitan Cathedral is located in the historic district of Mexico City, near the Templo Mayor. The monumental building is stunning inside and out, with intricate architecture and impressive art. Entering the cathedral is free, so if you find yourself in Centro Historico, taking a walk inside is an absolute must!
Get a drink at the top of the Ritz Carlton.
Enjoy thoughtfully crafted cocktails and stunning views of Mexico City from the 38th floor of the Ritz Carlton. The Samos Bar, located inside the hotel, is chic with touches of art deco. The biggest appeal, however, is probably the outdoor seating. It offers gorgeous panoramic views of the city from behind glass panels.
Visit the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico
Even if you haven’t booked a night at this luxury hotel, stepping inside the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico’s lobby is necessary during your visit to Mexico! The massive Tiffany-style stained glass window covering the lobby’s ceiling will undoubtedly catch your attention. But don’t be so distracted that you don’t notice all the other intricate details in this turn-of-the-century building! The hotel also has a rooftop restaurant that’s worth a visit.
Located in the large Chapultepec park, this 18th-century castle is now home to a museum. Known for its impressive Roman gardens and spectacular views from atop Chapultepec Hill, there’s plenty to ooh and ahh over at Chapultepec Castle. You can either take a leisurely walk up the hill or take a tram that departs every 20 minutes to get straight to the castle.
Stroll through Parque Mexico.
One of the largest green spaces in Mexico City, Parque Mexico, is located in the Condesa neighborhood. As you wander through the numerous walkways of the park, keep an eye out for some of the many fountains and sculptures. They’re great examples of the art deco architecture style that was popular when the park was built in 1927.
Get a day pass for a rooftop pool.
After all the walking and exploring you’ve done in Mexico City, what’s a better way to cool off and relax than a dip in a pool? Many of the city’s hotels offer day passes for their rooftop pools, meaning you can swim with a view.
At Hotel Habita, alongside the 5th-floor terrace pool, you’ll also find a pool deck serving tapas, hors d’oeuvres, and cocktails. Sofitel Mexico City also has an incredible pool area, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a beautiful view of Mexico City’s skyline. Want a more relaxing soak? Dip your feet into their hot tub instead!
Best Restaurants in Mexico City
Lardo – $$
Lardo serves a fusion of Italian and Mexican-inspired dishes all day in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City. I would especially recommend you visit for brunch, though! A variety of sweet and savory breakfast options make this busy restaurant a must-visit, as does its welcoming atmosphere with an open kitchen and large bar! Be sure to make a reservation if you want to sit at a table; otherwise, you can try to grab a spot at the bar.
Panaderia Rosetta – $$
Panaderia Rosetta is a romantic bakery attached to an Italian restaurant that will satisfy your sweet tooth! An entrance nearly shrouded by greenery opens up to a rustic bakery with a display case to drool over. Be sure to get there early to snag the best pastries and sit at one of the outdoor tables.
Frëims – $$
You’ll want to visit this delicious brunch spot just for the ambiance alone, if not for the yummy menu full of classic brunch dishes like eggs benedict, chicken and waffles, and french toast. The back garden has ample seating, a central water feature, and a rotating exhibit of mural art. Frëims is also known for its coffee, and the cafe vibe attracts many remote workers like me.
Amaya – $$$
Looking for a glass of wine and some authentic Mexican cuisine? Amaya is the place for you. The lengthy wine list highlights local wine, and the menu takes a similar hyper-local focus. Farm-to-table plates make a perfect leisurely lunch or early dinner in a rustic yet fun atmosphere. Concrete pillars and wood seating let your attention focus on the colorful murals on the walls!
Cicatriz – $$
The open, high-ceilinged space of Cicatriz also attracts a professional crowd, well suited for grabbing a drink and a meal while you power through some work. Led by a brother-and-sister duo from the States, Cicatriz’s menu features plenty of veggie-packed dishes, including big salads and a fried chicken sandwich. After 5, the cafe starts serving drinks, and the restaurant becomes more of a bar atmosphere as the night continues.
Filigrana – $$-$$$
A meal at Filigrana is as much of a treat for your eyes as it is for your tastebuds! The upscale Mexican fusion restaurant features a variety of wonderful dishes beautifully presented. As you dine, take in the wall of windows, plush purple velvet seating, and the tree growing right in the middle of the dining space.
Contramar – $$$
Contramar is world-renowned for its spectacular fresh seafood dishes. Enjoy a meal with locals and tourists alike who flock to the elegant restaurant for innovative takes on fresh fish and refreshing cocktails. Try the raw tuna tostadas and a Paloma!
ZuZu Rooftop Condesa – $$$
ZuZu Rooftop Condesa is open-air dining at its best! A busy cocktail bar serves up creative cocktails while the kitchen puts out a variety of dishes inspired by the country’s cuisine. Hanging plants and woven pendant lights contribute to the modern boho feel of this rooftop restaurant. You need reservations if you are planning on dining here.
Molino “El Pujol” – $$-$$$
This wouldn’t be a Mexico City travel guide without including at least one taco restaurant! Molina “El Pujol” is an unassuming tortilleria that serves up traditional Mexican tortillas, tacos, and more. All from a tiny white building in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.
A Solo Travel Traveling Tip: At the end of each day, I would take activated charcoal pills to avoid any issues with digestion. And luckily, it worked. – Disclaimer: I am not a physician, and this is not medical advice. Seek advice from a professional before taking any supplements.
Best Hotels in Mexico City
The Condesa neighborhood is home to the trendiest locations in Mexico City. The culinary scene truly comes alive here, with the best restaurants, cafes, bars, and more all found within the Condesa area. Wide, tree-lined avenues give the neighborhood an almost European vibe, and with something new to discover around every corner, it’s an ideal neighborhood to stay in while visiting Mexico City.
Hotel Condesa DF – Get Directions
Situated on the outskirts of the Parque Espana, Hotel Condesa DF remains a trendsetter among boutique hotels in Mexico City. Colorful interior design and custom-designed furniture makes the hotel feel modern yet warm.
While the rooms themselves are a little on the small side, the rest of the amenities are fabulous. For a solo traveler, the standard room is perfect! You can order room service from one of the two restaurants on the property and rinse off the day’s activities under the rain showerhead equipped in every room.
Condesa Haus B&B – Get Directions
All the rooms in Condesa Haus B&B are different. The little touches throughout the house hotel represent different parts of Mexican culture and make for an eclectic stay! Free WiFi, complimentary breakfast, and excellent service all make this a great place to stay in Mexico City.
Casa 9 – Get Directions
If you’re looking for a super luxury stay in Mexico City, Casa 9 is the place to go! With only four rooms available, you’ll truly feel at home at Casa 9. The luxury bed and breakfast were remodeled from a 1910 Mexican Casona and now boasts a mix of modern and Mexican interior design that’s both chic and cozy.
Roma Norte Neighborhood
Like the Condesa neighborhood, Roma Norte is home to the hustle and bustle of culinary and cultural innovation. Stay in this area and fall in love with the international food stalls and street art everywhere you turn.
Nima Local House Hotel – Get Directions
Bright and airy rooms – just 4 – characterize the experience of staying in this boutique hotel. Big windows let plenty of sunlight in and emphasize the French architecture of the Roma Norte neighborhood where Nima Local House Hotel is located. You’ll love the special touches of a complimentary cocktail at check-in and fresh cookies every night!
Casa Goliana La Roma – Get Directions
This boutique bed and breakfast is set on one of the many tree-lined streets in Roma Norte. Inside, the rooms are sophisticated and roomy, with high ceilings that emphasize the sense of luxury. Casa Goliana La Roma is just a 2-minute walk from a bus stop and is within walking distance to many Mexico City landmarks. These include Chapultepec Castle and the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Xoma Boutique Apartments by Viadora – Get Directions
If you want more modern accommodations in Mexico City, look no further than Xoma Boutique Apartments by Viadora. These ultra-sleek rooms offer the ultimate in comfort and location, situated in the Roma Norte neighborhood right next to the Mercado Medellin Public Market. Marble bathrooms with deep tubs, balconies, and a pool make this an ideal place to stay for a true getaway!
Polanco is home to Mexico City’s shopping district, with more modern buildings and luxury shops. It’s widely considered one of the safest neighborhoods in Mexico City. Keep an eye out for old Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture between the sleek, modern buildings! While in the area, take advantage of your proximity to all the shops, trendy restaurants, and many of Mexico City’s museums.
The Alest Hotel – Get Directions
Catering to an international crowd, The Alest Hotel has a distinctly British style. This boutique hotel is located in the posh Polanco neighborhood of Mexico City, within walking distance of Lincoln Park. In addition to luxurious marble bathrooms and a craft cocktail bar, the hotel also has a shop on the ground floor featuring traditional Mexican goods.
Pug Seal Allan Poe – Get Directions
Located in a three-story mansion, Hotel Pug Seal Allan Poe offers delightful amenities everywhere you look. From the garden and sweat lodge to the deep soaker tub and complimentary bicycle rentals, you’ll love staying in this artsy hotel. The design is simultaneously eclectic and modern, with bright colors and intricate wallpaper imitating the natural landscape of nearby Chapultepec Park.
The Wild Oscar – Get Directions
Large bathrooms, loft-inspired design, and free WiFi make The Wild Oscar the perfect place to stay in Mexico City for anyone taking a working vacation. The design is full of wood, leather, and ambient Edison lightbulbs, which is reflected in the generally younger population of this hotel. The Wild Oscar also has an on-site restaurant, wine bar, and fitness lounge!
Customs & Etiquette in Mexico City
As in many situations, the tipping customs in Mexico City depend on the situation. In restaurants, the tipping culture is much the same as in the States. 10% tip is standard, with 15% to 20% tip for excellent service.
Tipping isn’t required if you’re buying food from a street food stall, but it is appreciated. It can also be customary to tip your tour guide after a particularly good tour (10-20%). Tipping taxi drivers isn’t customary unless they help with your bags, but it is typical to tip housekeepers in hotels and baggers in grocery stores.
Informal greetings are considered polite everywhere you go, from a simple “Hello” (hola) to “Good day” (Buenos Dias). Don’t fret if it’s been a while since you’ve broken out your Spanish. Making an attempt is appreciated!
When shopping, it’s not common to negotiate prices. The exception to this is in the artisan markets. You may ask the vendor for the price, and they might tell you something lower, but don’t expect significant slashes in cost. Don’t attempt to negotiate at food markets either, as the prices are often exceptionally low already.
Smoking isn’t allowed in restaurants or bars in Mexico City, but it is allowed outdoors.
As in most urban locations, there isn’t one strict dress code for the city, but you often won’t see locals wearing shorts. For respect, remove hats upon entering a church.
Things move at a slower pace in Mexico City. Instead of trying to rush through your days, lean into the slower lifestyle, and don’t be surprised if you linger over a meal instead of having your check brought to you immediately. If you’re visiting someone’s home, remember that it’s actually considered more polite to arrive around 30 minutes late than to show up on time!
Ready to explore Mexico City?
Mexico City is a world-class travel destination that’s not to be missed. Whether you’re planning a longer visit to other cities in Mexico or focusing on Mexico City, don’t underestimate how incredible the entire country is! From innovation in food and modern art to the rich history and culture, Mexico City should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
As a single female traveler, I was delighted to find Mexico City safe and easy to travel by myself. The bustling arts scene makes connecting with other travelers easy, but spending your time in solo-discovery mode is just as easy. I hope this Mexico City travel guide has given you plenty of inspiration for your trip to Mexico!