Mexico City is a sprawling metropolis with over 20 million residents and one heck of a traffic pattern. It is dynamic, fun, fascinating, and a growing tourist destination, as well as top vacation rental spot. Centuries of history can be felt and seen by walking through the crowded streets. You’ll also find friendly locals, five-star restaurants, and an agreeable climate. This city is a feast for all five senses – as wonderful, vibrant colors and smells come bursting out of every restaurant, building, and park. You’ll gape at murals, tour museums, and be awed by the ancient statues and monuments, giving honor and remembrance to times gone by. It is the cultural, government and financial center of the county, too.
Many attractions are located within certain areas of the city, and there are some particular day trips you may be interested in taking during your vacation here. The traffic in Mexico City is legendary for its complexity, so consider using the modern subway system or walking. You’ll be able to tour colonial architecture, see massive skyscrapers—not to mention spend the day lounging in the 13 acre Zocalo (town square) that now stands where Montezuma’s palace once was. You’ll find the best shopping and walking tours on Paseo de la Reforma, the city’s main thoroughfare.
With clearly so much to do and see on your trip, what are the best areas to stay in Mexico City? There are many neighborhoods and suburbs, as well as the bustling downtown district that could make a suitable place to bunk up for your next vacation. Choosing a vacation rental in Mexico City is easy on FlipKey too, so be sure to browse our inventory after reading about the possible places to stay.
The heart of the city that is the heart of the country, Centro Historico is the business, banking, and history hub of the area. The aforementioned zocalo along with popular La Alameda Park form the border of the Centro Historico. In 2013 the neighborhood received a major facelift with renovations for the zocalo and restoration and conservation of more than 18 buildings. You’ll see police on horseback wearing traditional garb who are also quite knowledgeable of the area. It is built directly on top of the destroyed capital of the Aztecs and the ancient history is showcased and felt throughout. There are public buildings, the partially unearthed ruins of the Great Temple of the Aztec’s, and numerous museums. There are shops and restaurants here (Avenida Madero has some great ones) as well as a buzzing nightlife scene set against the backdrop of the same historic buildings and cobblestone streets. You’ll find easy public transit connections from Centro Historico to some of the other neighborhoods on our list.
The largest green area in Mexico City and a popular residential area, Chapultepec Park can be found west of Zona Rosa (see below). It was dedicated as a park back in the 15th century by an Aztec ruler, and some of the finest vacation rentals are in this area on the aptly named Campos Eliseos. The main drag is Avenida Presidente Masaryk with shopping, nightlife, museums, and more. It is an extremely exclusive area for living and playing – and you’ll have an incredible proximity to Mexican culture here. Head over to the National Anthropological Museum for the ancient forests and archaeological treasures housed within. Some people visit Mexico City solely to see this museum.
Neighboring the park and at the end of Paseo de Reforma, you’ll find upscale, posh, and exclusive Polanco. It is the diplomatic area of Mexico City and with that comes a very international, educated, and successful population. Authentic Mexican dishes and desserts are served from a number of great little cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants. The area is clean and safe, with friendly, affluent locals who are engaging and helpful. You’ll absolutely want to book a reservation and casual dress is oftentimes discouraged. The architecture is wonderful, and be sure to visit the Museum of Modern Art if you stay here.
The bohemian vibe of certain neighborhoods in Mexico City continues while staying in Condesa. Hip cafes, bars, offbeat shops, and eclectic art galleries line the streets here. You’ll love an afternoon stroll along the spacious sidewalks of Avenida Insurgentes (one of the city’s main arteries) where you’ll find plenty of palm-fringed esplanades, peaceful parks, and art deco inspired vacation rentals. A progressive, stylistic, and health conscious area, Condesa would be a fantastic choice for your stay in Mexico City.
If you are looking for a fun, outgoing time here in Mexico City you’ll love to stay in Roma, the nearest neighborhood to Condesa. Here you can also engage with the local population in a clean, friendly environment without the issue of people coming up to you selling trinkets or the smog from endless traffic. You’ll find old, beautiful architecture here and a laid back vibe. The carefree attitude probably stems from the area being a favorite of young professionals and students. You can chill on a patio with a drink in hand or dance the night away at a club.
Five miles from the city center, this Colonial-era suburb has a gorgeous town square and cobblestone streets, ready for you to explore. Lined with old mansions, and several of the city’s best museums, Coyoacan was the home of famed artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (and visitors can tour their famous homes “Casa Azul” or “Museo Casa Estudio”.) A bohemian feel lends itself well to this area, complete with a shabby chic public market on Sundays. It is easily accessible via bus or metro from downtown Mexico City. In the northwest corner of Coyoacan is Colonial del Carmen, the artistic and intellectual center of the city since the 1920s. Untouched by modern progress, this area of activism feels as authentic as the day it was settled. It was only recently brought into the city officially, as it was independent for a long time, and that passion and lust for higher learning and understanding is still felt.
Neighbor to Coyocan, San Angel also has narrow streets, colorful plazas, and Colonial mansions to view. It was once a getaway for Spanish nobles, but has long since become a part of the city’s fabric. It is incredibly beautiful to behold, full of color and action, especially the Bazar del Sabado (Saturday Bazaar) at Plaza San Jacinto where antique treasures and arts and crafts are sold. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby to enjoy a lazy day out on a patio sipping tequila. For two famous baroque pieces visit the Iglesia San Jacinto, a 16th century church with a baroque altar, or the baroque fountain made of broken porcelain at the Casa del Risco.
New, modern, and beautiful, this neighborhood five miles west of downtown includes high-tech and international companies as well as banks, a University, and a large shopping mall. It is fraught with young professionals and you can feel the energy of the area in its booming restaurant and nightlife scene.
Although it is a bit far from downtown (15 miles south) it is noted for its famed canals and gorgeous Floating Gardens, both a must-see in Mexico City. With a population of 300,000 the brick streets can become heavy with traffic during rush hour, but the large number of locals leaves Xochimilco feeling extremely authentic. The historically significant churches are a marvel to tour, and there are restaurants and shopping at the edge of the canal. Plus, you’ll love visiting the town market specializing in rugs, ethnic clothing, and brightly decorated pottery. If there’s a festival happening in the city, chances are it will be hosted in Xochomilco, which hosts over 400 annually! The largest festival is a celebration of Niñopa, a figure of the Christ Child that is believed to possess miraculous powers. The week before Easter is the Feria de la Flor Más Bella del Ejido, a flower fair when the most beautiful girl with Indian features and costume is selected.
West of Centro, hugging the Paseo de Reforma, Zona Rosa (the “pink zone”) used to be the city’s most exclusive neighborhood. The modern charms overlaid on the traditional Mexican architecture makes for an interesting pairing. There are businesses, street vendors, and all kinds of people milling about in this area – as well as Torre Mayor, one of Latin America’s tallest buildings. There are jewelry stores, silver shops, casual restaurants, bars, clubs, and more. Many of the streets here are pedestrian-only so you’ll enjoy walking around, tasting ice cream, sitting at a cafe, or shopping. It is vibrant and full of energy, and the most gay-friendly area. A few blocks away you’ll find Mexico City’s unofficial symbol, the golden angel state of Monumento a la Independencia.