When I tell people that Mexico City is a great place to travel to, they usually give me a funny look – like they think it’s a joke, just waiting for me to start laughing.
“Isn’t that a big, ugly city, full of smog, litter, traffic, graffiti, poverty and crime?” is what runs through most people’s minds. “It’s not safe, is it?”
Mexicans as much as anyone else have a very negative image of the city (compare to how most Americans feel about New York, or Canadians about Toronto.) But contrary to what people think, it really is a good place to travel.
I love Mexico City. That’s where I’m from. But I think there’s more to it than that. At the same time, I want to be honest; some of the ugliest places I’ve seen in any city are in that city. Yet, blocks away there are some of the most beautiful and interesting places you’ll find anywhere – even compared to Europe. These are some of the reasons I recommend the city.
Colonial Charm – The old downtown of Mexico City (“Centro Historico”) with its splendid old churches and blocks upon blocks of beautiful Mexican architecture has been very well preserved and I would say it holds out well against any other colonial city, and even the charming European cities everyone goes on about.
Unique Culture – Walking around downtown Mexico City, you really feel something different. While the city is busy, it’s also relaxed and enjoys life. There are men playing guitar in the parks, and bands with young and old people dancing on the weekends. The huge city square has been home to some of the most massive outdoor concerts of all styles. And then there’s Garibaldi Square with its mariachis …
History, Museums, Art – If you love fine culture and learning about history, you will love Mexico City. It has an excellent Museum of Anthropology, and the Bellas Artes fine art museum, among many, many similar items. There are also many religious sites, like the famous Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Parks and Canals – Inside and just outside of the city there are parks of all sizes, ranging from fairly pure nature and authentic Mexican countryside to very elegantly landscaped urban “park-ettes” ideal for sitting down with an ice cream. One of the most famous parks (Chapultapec) has a castle in the middle of it. There are also the famous canals of Xolchimilco in the south of the city where long boats offer both quiet, relaxing rides, and “parties on the go.”
Food – In Mexico City, you can find food from any part of Mexico; but as all people from the city point out, it has its own unique style. There are also the city’s favorites, like tacos “al pastor” which offer meat similar to that found on doner kebabs.
Low Cost of Everything!! People who live in the city will tell you that part of its charm is that you can go out with only a dollar in your pocket (just enough for the subway and bus) and still fully enjoy an active day out in the city. Street music, art displays, shows and much more are open for the public. Museums and galleries are free on certain days. While you’ll want to enjoy the finer points of the city, you’ll find that your expenses in the city tend to be low – even compared to tourist locations in Mexico!
The Weather – I always tell people that weather in Mexico City is nearly perfect. Imagine something like late summer, but all year round. The days are sunny and warm (not hot!) and the nights cool off nicely. The rainy season can bring heavy downpours, but even these usually last for only an hour or so, and clear up quickly.
So, in conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend Mexico City as a place for expats to live (although it is in fact home to many who happily live there.) But I would most certainly recommend a visit. Plan your trip, investigate the main attractions (there are many – you’ll have to pick and choose!) and stick to the tourist areas. You’ll probably wonder why you never got to know this incredible city!