A Cosmopolitan CapitalPhototreat/iStockphoto.com
Mexico City's sheer size—this is one of the world's largest urban areas—can make it an overwhelming destination for the first-time traveler, and even those familiar with the city find it plenty daunting to navigate. But it would be a shame not to experience the country's vibrant capital, a place where tumultuous centuries of history have produced a collection of museums and things to do that are second to none.
The history of both Mexico City and the country unfolds in the city's museums. The exhibits at the renowned National Museum of Anthropology are one of the best ways to get a feel for Mexico's ancient civilizations. The Great Temple stands as a reminder of the once-mighty Aztecs, and the National Palace , which houses the offices of government officials, contains sweeping historical murals painted by esteemed Mexican artist Diego Rivera.
Art museums are just as rewarding; the Museum of Modern Art and the Diego Rivera Mural Museum are good places to start. There are lots of kid-friendly attractions at Chapultepec Park , and this huge green space is a refuge from the constant congestion of the metropolis. Make sure you visit the Zócalo , Mexico City's enormous central plaza, which has been a gathering place since pre-Hispanic times. The Metropolitan Cathedral seems equally enormous rising up from the expanse of concrete; inside are lovely chapels and a palpable sense of quiet awe.
Arturo Pena Romano Medina/iStockphoto.com
Shopping opportunities are endless in Mexico City, from pricey boutiques lining Avenida Presidente Masaryk to markets with mazes of stalls. The upscale Polanco and Condesa neighborhoods offer designer and trendy merchandise, while the streets in the vicinity of the Zócalo are packed with small shops. The Saturday Bazaar (Bazaar Sábado) in the neighborhood of San Angel overflows with high-quality art, ceramics, textiles and jewelry.
When the day is done, the evening is just beginning. The lobby bars in the big hotels offer music, dancing or both, plus a sophisticated atmosphere. Nightclubs feature music from merengue and salsa to the latest cutting-edge DJ sounds. The clubby La Opera Bar is an intimate place for dinner or a cocktail. And an organized nightclub tour is a good way to see a few of the city's hot spots while avoiding not only the hassle of reservations and transportation but the iffy nature of many streets after dark.
Mexico City, DF
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2,240 meters (7,347 feet)
Secretaría de Turismo (SECTUR) headquarters, Presidente Masaryk #172; phone (55) 3002-6300 (English spoken). Persons needing legal assistance should contact this department at the Ministry of Tourism.
Dial 060 and ask to be connected to an English-speaking operator if you need immediate assistance.
In general, the police in Mexico City should be contacted only as a last resort. If your car is stolen, however, you must report it to the police, as you will be liable for any subsequent crimes in which the vehicle is involved.
Paseo de la Reforma #305 (M: Sevilla or Insurgentes, line 1); phone (55) 5080-2000. The embassy is open for general business Mon.-Fri. 8:30-4:30; closed U.S. and Mexican holidays. There is a protection officer on 24-hour duty to advise you in the event of robbery, assault, major loss, accident, illness or death; Mexican law takes precedence in such instances. Information regarding attorneys and translators also can be obtained.
Calle Schiller #529, just north of the National Museum of Anthropology (M: Auditorio, line 7); phone (55) 5724-7900. Open Mon.-Fri. 8:30-5; closed Canadian and Mexican holidays.
Phone (55) 5658-1111. This government-operated agency can help coordinate a search for missing persons or lost, stolen or towed vehicles; the hotline is answered daily 24 hours. The LOCATEL office is in the southern suburb of Churubusco at Calle Heroes del 47 #113, 3 blocks south of the National Museum of Interventions; phone (55) 5484-0400.
Consumer Protection Offic
Contact the Consumer Protection Office (Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor, or PROFECO) if you feel that you've been cheated or ripped off regarding a service or purchase; phone (55) 5625-6700 or 01 (800) 468-8722 (toll-free long distance within Mexico).
The ABC Medical Center (Centro Médico ABC) is several blocks south of Chapultepec Park at Calle Sur #116, at Avenida Observatorio (M: Observatorio, line 1); phone (55) 5230-8000. All major credit cards are accepted. The Mexican Red Cross (Cruz Roja) is located at Calle Luis Vives #200, between Avenida Ejército Nacional and Avenida Homero (north of Chapultepec Park in the Polanco neighborhood). It is open 24 hours; phone (55) 1084-4505.
Local Phone Calls
All calls made from landlines are charged as local calls. Prior to Jan. 1, 2015, there was a separate price structure for long-distance calls (designated by the acronym LADA, or larga distancia). There also are no long-distance cellphone charges; dialing either a local cell number or a long-distance cell number from a landline is charged as a local call. Calls made to a cell number must include the prefix 044.
The News is an English-language newspaper published Monday through Friday in Mexico City. Major U.S. newspapers are available at many newsstands the day after they are printed.
Av. Presidente Masaryk #172 Mexico City, DF . Phone:(55)3002-6300
The rates charged by banks and casas de cambio (currency exchange houses) don't differ that much, so currency exchange is a matter of convenience. Most banks exchange currency Mon.-Fri. 9-noon, but you may have to wait in line; exchange houses often are open weekdays until 5 and may be open Saturdays as well. Exchange houses and ATMs are concentrated along Paseo de Reforma, in the Centro Histórico and in the Zona Rosa. The Sanborns chain of restaurants also provides ATMs.
Street crime—from relatively benign offenses like pickpocketing and purse snatching to dangerous armed robbery—is an ever-present risk. No part of the city is immune, even the upscale Polanco neighborhood and other areas frequented by tourists. One way to avoid being mugged or robbed is not to wear expensive jewelry or watches.