I live in Acapulco and, as often as I can, I try to get up to North America’s largest, highest and oldest capital – Mexico City. The capital has two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the shaded waterways of Xochimilco, innumerable museums, pre-Colombian pyramids and Catholic cathedrals. It’s a fascinating mix of people, culture and history. Anyone who likes cities, should check it out.
The Turibus is the best way to get to know México City. The double-decker red buses operate on a circular route from Chapultepec Park to the Historic City Center. The tour runs from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and takes three hours to complete. The buses pass each stop every thirty-five minutes. You can board at any stop, get off and re-board any time on the same day, so long as you have your ticket and bracelet. For me, the two essential stops are the Anthropology Museum and Chapultepec Castle, but you might want to stroll around stylish Colonia Condesa, or visit the luxury shops along Presidente Masaryk. Turibus tickets cost 100 pesos for adults (115 pesos on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays), and are available only on board the bus. Here is the website for Turibus, which includes an interactive map.
The Metro system is the fastest and easiest way to get around; it can take you almost anywhere. The "Terminal Area" stop on Line 5, the "yellow" line, is the international airport, but getting to the city center requires a couple of changes. It’s much easier to get to Xochimilco by light rail from the "Tasqueña", southern end of Line 2.
I use street taxis a lot, but I check the driver’s tarjetón (city-issued ID card) to make sure the face matches the photo before I get in. Many tourists recommend radio taxis, however, I have found that most are not metered, and charge about double the average metered rate. I recommend radio taxis after 9:00 p,m, because most taxi robberies occur well after that hour.
What to see
Historic City Center: The Zócalo is a good place for strolling. A fountain commemorating the discovery of the city is at the southeast corner, where Pino Suárez Street enters, and a stone marking the exact spot where Montezuma met Cortez is a few blocks south on Pino Suárez.
The 16th century Metropolitan Cathedral is on the north side of the Zócalo, and the ruins of the Templo Mayor (main pyramid) and its associated museum are just east of the cathedral. The Turibus stop is at the west entrance to the cathedral. Look for a red banner (about 60 x 90 centimeters) hung on a light pole. The west side of the Zócalo includes, from north to south: Monte Pío (the national pawn shop, founded 1775), the Hotel Majestic, which has a great rooftop restaurant, and the Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de Mexico, with an impressive lobby and stained glass skylight. If you’re driving, they have an auto lobby.
Where to stay and eat
Hotel Catedral is located at Donceles 95, two blocks behind the Metropolitan Cathedral. This little place has sparkling rooms, personalized service, an excellent coffee shop and low prices.
Walking west on Madero Street, past the entrance to the Majestic, you'll come to the original Sanborn’s in the House of Tiles on your right, and the Torre Latinoamericana on the left. Sanborn’s is a good choice for lunch or dinner, especially if you can get a table in the patio; the cafeteria on the north side of the first floor is great for breakfast or a snack. The Torre Latinoamericana has an observation deck which usually requires a wait, but you can get a great view of the sprawling city.
Beyond Sanborn’s, Madero Street widens and continues as Juárez Street. On your right is the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts); its 20-ton Tiffany glass curtain is lighted and raised at the Sunday morning performance of the Ballet Folklórico. West of the Palacio is the Alameda Park and Juarez Monument. West of the Alameda is the Diego Rivera Museum which houses the enormous “Dream of Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park”.
A couple of blocks west of the Alameda, Juárez Street meets the elegant Paseo de la Reforma, which was designed in the style of Paris’s Champs Elysee. According to tradition, Empress Carlota had the street laid out along the route from Chapultepec Castle to what was then the edge of the City, so that she could watch Maximillian’s carriage as he drove to government buildings.