The historic center of Mexico City, Centro Historico, or just “Centro,” is an area of Mexico City that must be seen to be believed. There is a reason it was the New York Times #1 place to visit in the entire world in 2016.
In some ways and in some parts, it has the feel of Europe’s famous capital cities and you could easily imagine that you are in the historic sections of Paris or London as you enjoy a coffee in front of 16th century buildings on a quaint, tucked-away street. But at the same time, there is no mistaking the vibrancy of Mexico’s modern culture and politics that draws people to the area for protests, celebrations, concerts and to showcase their piety. This is where the well-known “Mexico City scenes” were shot for the Bond film Spectre, and even those scenes can only hint at the scale and energy of Centro. This more than any other part of the city is where pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern Mexico intertwine, and there are few other places where you are so reminded of Mexico’s complex, diverse and fascinating past, as well as as present.
Centro is organized around the Zócalo, which is the main plaza in the city, and the largest in Latin America at about 14 acres – that is space enough for about 100,000 people! The history of the Zócalo is the history of Mexico; it began as an island on Lake Texcoco which was settled by the Aztecs in the 14th century. The palaces and temples built by the Aztecs were destroyed and rebuilt by the Spanish in the 16th century as their seat of government. Today, the large stone blocks from those very temples and buildings of the Aztec period were reused and layered among Catholic churches – including the Metropolitan Cathedral for which construction began in 1573 – as well as the National Palace where the President has official offices, and commercial office buildings and shops from the colonial period. Here is what Mexico City looked like before the Spanish arrived in the mid 1500s when it was known as Tenochtitlan.
The Zócalo is always busy with tourists, shoppers, and office workers during the week, and even more so on the weekend as locals come to walk around and enjoy an afternoon. The main pedestrian access to the Zócalo, Av. Francisco I. Madero, runs for several blocks and is lined with shops, restaurants, fruit markets, centuries old buildings with intricate tile facades (the Sanborns de los Azuelos stands out) crumbling churches, museums, street musicans, people hawking everything imaginable, dressed as super-heroes to pose with children – and of course, organ-grinders!
The streets surrounding the Zócalo are less crowded but are equally packed with notable sites and sights on every corner. Mixed in between restaurants and shops selling everything that you could imagine, museums and galleries abound. Many of these are just as stunning as the collections they house – the Central Post Office with its gold staircase, the Bellas Artes with its grandiose Art Nouveau exterior, Art Deco interiors, and iconic domed roof, the Hotel de Mexico with its tiffany glass ceiling (featured in the Bond film!)…the list goes on and on. On weekends especially, Alameda Park becomes a go-to place – established in the 16th century as an Aztec market place, and the site of witch burnings during the Spanish colonial period, the present day park is a busy market and home to the Benito Juárez Memorial. Truly, entire days can be spent in Centro exploring just a few blocks of this incredible neighborhood!
Here is what the historic center of Mexico Citylooks like:
Where is Centro?
The historic center of Mexico City is actually quite central both in terms of its geographical location in the city and in terms of its accessibility. The southern and western borders are fairly straight-forward, with José María Izazaga and Calle San Pablo marking the area in the south and Anillo de Circunvalación as the eastern boundary. To the southwest, Eje. Central Lázaro Cárdenas is the main street, but the boundary moves quite far east in the northern section from Av. Juárez, expanding as far as Calle Guerrero to include some of the area’s very important cultural and historical sites. The northern limits zig-zags up and down by several blocks, following Calle Mina, Calle República de Perú, Calle República de Paraguay, and Calle Apartado.
The walk to Centro from Polanco is pretty much a straight-line along Reforma to Av. Juárez, and can be done in about 50-60 minutes (it is also quite an interesting walk, going by major monuments and statues along the way), and from Juárez in about 30-40. From Condesa and Roma, the southern part of Centro can be easily reached on foot most directly via Av. Chapultepec in about the same time.
Table of Contents
- 1 Transportation in the Historic Center of Mexico City
- 2 The Best Restaurants inthe Historic Center of Mexico City
- 3 The Best Cafes in the Historic Center of Mexico City
- 4 The Best Tacos in the Historic Center of Mexico City
- 5 The Best Nightlife in The Historic Center of Mexico City
Transportation in the Historic Center of Mexico City
Public Transportation – More than any of the neighborhoods covered so far in this series of the best neighborhoods in Mexico City, Centro is extremely well-serviced by the Metro which reaches right into the heart of the of the area on Line 2 at Metro Zócalo. Other lines with service into the Centro or to the main streets bordering the area are Lines 1, 3 and 8. Some parts of the Centro are dedicated pedestrian areas, including the always-busy Av. Francisco I. Madero pedestrian access route from Juárez directly to the Zócalo.
Ecobici, Carrot Car and Econduce – There are a number of Ecobici stations across the Centro which make this a good option to get in and out of the area. At this time, neither Econduce, the popular scooter share program, nor Carrot Car, the car-sharing program, are available in Centro.
Uber – Always a good option for transportation in Mexico City, using Uber to get to and from Centro rather than taking your own vehicle is especially advised given the challenges of driving and parking in this always-busy neighborhood. Because of the heavy congestion and pedestrian-only zones in Centro, it is important to have a clear landmark that your driver can find easily, and you should also be willing to communicate with your driver to help them pick you out of a crowd. Using Uber in Mexico City is easy, safe, and affordable. In fact, if you have never tried Uber, go here and sign up and your first ride is on me!https://www.uber.com/invite/jeremya15, or just use the code “jeremya15” when signing up.
Taxis – Although this is a busy tourist area, it can sometimes be difficult to find official taxi stations in Centro. There are many hotels in the area, and if you are stuck you can take a hotel taxi from any of them – just be prepared to pay a heavy premium!
The Best Restaurants inthe Historic Center of Mexico City
Los Girasoles: Calle Xicotencatl 1 – Located across the from National Museum of Art, this is a great place to enjoy a late lunch after a day of museum hopping, with a nice shaded patio at street level. Tamarind margaritas (on the rocks!) and pistachio soup with rose petals are just two of the offerings from the menu of Mexican favorites.
La Opera:Originally opened in 1876, this beautiful old school bar/cantina/restaurant will take you back in time to old Mexico when waiters wore bow ties and served up tall tequilas alongside delicious traditional plates.There is even a hole in the ceiling where Pancho Villa fired off his pistol one night!
El Cardenal: Calle de Palma 23 – An institution with several locations across the city, this restaurant is located in the heart of Centro just west of the Zócalo in a beautiful porfiriano-style building. Classic table settings with crisp white linens are the perfect backdrop for their famous chiles en nogada, served from August to the beginning of October. Very busy, especially for breakfast.
Puro Corazón: Monte de Piedad 11 – There aren’t many places to get a better view of the Zócalo and the Cathedral than from the 6th floor terrace of this Mexican restaurant. A great place to enjoy the late afternoon breezes with one of their many interesting cocktails.
El Mesón del Cid: Humbolt 61 – A long-standing Centro restaurant serving traditional and contemporary Spanish fare in what feels like a medieval castle complete with stained glass and fireplaces. On the weekends, in keeping with this theme, there is a 4 course medieval dinner complete dancers, jugglers and live music.
El Danubio: República de Uruguay 3 – Another very popular Spanish restaurant specializing in fish and seafood, including crawfish, eel and of course lobster!
Azul Historico: Calle Isabel la Católica 30 – This beautiful restaurant brings the outside inside with tables among the trees in the courtyard of this historical building. Creative twists on traditional Mexican dishes are always on the menu, with season dishes coming and going – a good reason to go back!
The Best Cafes in the Historic Center of Mexico City
Café del Centro: Donceles 96 – This popular café is well-known for serving affordable and delicious items to nibble along with a great cup of coffee.
Café el Popular: Calle 5 de Mayo 52 – Small centrally-located café with a very popular vegentarian menu and reasonable prices.
Café Rio: Donceles 86 – Popular and cozy spot to enjoy a coffee and a snack or homemade desert.
Juan Valdez Café: Av. Juárez 97 – Casual coffeehouse setting with hot and iced coffees and free wifi.
The Best Tacos in the Historic Center of Mexico City
El Huequito: Calle Bolívar 58 – While there this busy spot offers more than just tacos, people do rave about the tacos al pastor!
Taquería Los Paisas: Jesús María, s/n, near to Zócalo – As a rule of thumb, the taco stand with the line-up of people waiting their turn is the taco stand you want to be at. The constant line-up at this one speaks for itself.
Los Cocuyos: Bolivar 56 – this small taquería serves from a widow facing the street and has a wide menu of offerings including tacos de cabeza.
The Best Nightlife in The Historic Center of Mexico City
Bar Pata Negra:Avenida 5 de Mayo 49 – Actually a small chain, Pata Negra is a great place to grab cocktails, eat as well as party well into the night. One night will be a live salsa band or the next a house DJ. Foreigners and locals love this place alike.
Miralto: Eje Central 2 – Located on the 41st floor of the Torre LatinoAmerica, this high-end bar offers a good range of cocktails and some of the best views in the city.
Zinco Jazz Bar: Motolina 20 – This jazz bar is locate in the basement of an old bank building, which adds to the already cool vibe created by local and international live jazz.
Marrakech Salón: República de Cuba 18 – A mix of cabaret, gay bar and kitsch hangout, the Salón regularly hosts live entertainment for a diverse and definitely LGBT friendly crowd.
Bósforo: Victoria 9 – Easy to miss, this unmarked bar keeps a low profile on the street and on social media, but its reputation as one of the best mezcalerías in the city can’t be kept a secret.
The historic center is definitely one of the best neighborhoods in Mexico City, if not the coolest. It’ s a place that you will want to come back to again and again as there is an endless array of things to do, see and eat!
Centro Historico, Mexico City
The neighborhoods of Centro and Bella Artes are welcoming of visitors and are considered safe—but be cautious here after dark. Tourist attractions like Plaza de Las Tres Culturas and the canals of Xochimilco are safe during the day but should not be explored at night.What is the safest neighborhood in Mexico City? ›
The safest neighborhoods to stay in Mexico City are the Centro, Roma, and Condesa districts. On the other hand, avoid the more dangerous areas of Tepito, La Lagunilla, Doctores, and Mercado Merced.Where do most expats live in Mexico City? ›
Condesa is one of Mexico City's most sought-after neighborhoods for travelers, expats, digital nomads and visitors, for great reasons.Is it safe to stay in Centro Historico Mexico City? ›
Some of the neighborhoods in Mexico City that are generally safe to explore are Roma Norte/Sur, Condesa, Centro Historico, and Zona Rosa. These are the more touristy spots of the city that travelers tend to feel the most comfortable in. However, be careful in these areas as there's still a potential for scams.What is the richest part of Mexico? ›
Monterrey is one of Mexico's wealthiest cities, with a variety of light and heavy industry, international business offices and agriculture contributing to the university town's high average personal income.Is it safe to walk in Mexico City at night? ›
Is it safe to walk at night in Mexico City? No, walking around at night is not safe in Mexico City. If possible, only travel by taxi after dark. If you go out, make sure to stick with a group of friends instead of walking around alone.Is Uber safe in Mexico City? ›
If you're wondering 'is Uber safe,' the short answer is yes. It's the safest form of car transportation in Mexico City. Taking a taxi in Mexico City is not the safest idea unless you're familiar with the cab companies and know how to verify that the cab you're getting into can be trusted.Are taxis in Mexico City Safe? ›
Are taxis in Mexico City Safe? On the most part yes. Taxis from the Sitios, Authorised taxis from the airport and bus stations and radio taxis are the safest options as they are all recorded and regulated. Taking a taxi libre from the street is the least safe option as they are more often self-regulated.Can you drink the tap water in Mexico City? ›
The Mexico City tap water, like the tap water in the rest of Mexico, isn't considered safe for human consumption. Whether you're in a huge city like Mexico City, big city like Guadalajara or Monterrey, or even a small pueblo magico (magic town) like Valladolid or Valle de Bravo — just don't drink the water in Mexico!.Is Zona Rosa safe at night? ›
The area is bustling with activity, day or night, and is very safe. However, if you're looking to stay in an area that's nice and quiet, Zona Rosa isn't it. You'll be better off staying somewhere like Polanco, Roma, or Condesa.
While these are isolated incidents I believe for the most part Mexico is safe but you must also use common sense when traveling not only to Mexico but to any foreign country. Mexico is statistically much safer than the United States.Can you live in Mexico on $1000 a month? ›
One can live in Mexico on $1,000 a month or even less quite easily. In fact, locals live on much tighter budgets. As a foreigner, you will see that pretty much everything costs less than in your home country. Rent, food, transportation and healthcare in Mexico are much cheaper than in the US, Canada or Western Europe.Where is the cheapest and safest place to live in Mexico? ›
Puebla is one of the cheapest places to live in Mexico. The monthly cost of living in Puebla starts from around $1,150 USD depending on your lifestyle choices. This includes rent, groceries, eating out, activities, coffee, and more. If you're a couple, it's more like $1,900 USD.What is the safest city in Mexico for expats? ›
1. Mérida (and Nearby Progreso) Mérida is quickly becoming one of the best cities in Mexico for digital nomads, and it's at the top of our list for the safest cities in Mexico because it's far-flung from any border towns –both Mérida and nearby Progreso are generally nice and quiet, even during high season.Can I wear shorts in Mexico City? ›
In Mexico City, people wear jeans year-round. It's never really so hot that you'd be uncomfortable in long pants. I personally wear jeans almost every single day of the year. With that being said, you can totally wear shorts, dresses, or skirts.Is Mexico City safe for female travelers? ›
Mexico City is safe, even for women traveling alone. But there are definitely some things solo female travelers should know. Here's some advice from our Mexico City trip planners: Be conservative with clothes: It's a good idea to err on the conservative side when it comes to clothes in CDMX—skirts, long pants, etc.Can you flush toilet paper in Mexico City? ›
The sewage system here isn't so hot; therefore, most bathrooms have signs requesting that you do not flush toilet paper in the toilet. Instead, most toilet stalls have garbage cans for you to throw away your used TP. I do not envy the cleaning person who empties those garbage cans. No one does tequila shots here.Where do millionaires live in Mexico? ›
Polanco, Mexico City.
Chiapas is the state with the highest poverty rate in Mexico, at 76.4%. In addition, nearly a third of poor people in Chiapas are living in extreme poverty. Another reason Chiapas remains so poor is the marginalization of its population.What is the average house price in Mexico? ›
Average housing price in Mexico in 1st quarter 2022, by state (in 1,000 Mexican pesos)
|Characteristic||Price in thousand Mexican pesos|
|Baja California Sur||1,497.55|
Our advice is to leave your jewlery you dont need at home.. A wedding ring etc. is not a problem, but i wouldn't wear a big necklace or bracelet in public. In the most (tourist) places its not a problem, but you never know where you will end up.Should you carry passport in Mexico? ›
When traveling in Mexico, the law requires that foreign visitors carry a passport and entry permit. You may be asked to present these documents at any point. If you do not present these documents, immigration authorities may lawfully detain you for up to 60 days while they review your immigration status.Is Polanco in Mexico City Safe? ›
Polanco Quick Facts
Although Mexico City is safe, Polanco is considered one of the safest of all its neighborhoods. Posh, sleek, and glamorous, Polanco has a mix of modern architecture and classic Spanish colonial revival buildings. The combination of old and new gives this neighborhood an exciting, dynamic energy.
Is Uber Safe For Female Users? Female rideshare drivers and riders often face higher risks of physical and sexual assault. Rideshare drivers and passengers face an increased risk of sexual and physical assault. Despite offering new safety features, Uber continues to face assault allegations.Do you tip Uber drivers in Mexico? ›
Tipping Taxis/Ubers in Mexico
You now have the option to leave a tip on Uber in Mexico. Once your ride is complete, go back onto the app and you can leave 10, 15 or 20 Pesos for the driver. It's not required, but it's always a nice way to encourage really great Uber drivers.
Yes. Inside the airport it's safe at all times; and there is plenty of activity during the night (especially if you're going to be at Terminal 1). What bad things did you think would happen ? My family and I slept at the airport near the 7-11 benches.Is it OK to have ice in Mexico City? ›
There is NO NEED to avoid ice in Mexico City. All restaurants around the city only used filtered water and most actually get their ice delivered each day. Ice is not made with tap water here. Trust me, on those hot days when you stop for lunch, you're going to want some ice in your agua fresca to keep it cool!How many days is enough for Mexico City? ›
You could easily spend a week in Mexico City and not get bored. But if you, like us, are on a tight schedule, 3-4 days is enough to get a feel for Mexico City and see some of its best parts. It's just a taste though. To really delve in, we think you'd need at least 5 days.What is the safest transportation in Mexico City? ›
- Metrobus in Mexico City.
- EcoBici bicycles at a docking station.
- Uber and other car-hailing services are currently the safest way of transportation in Mexican cities.
Although there will be some bacteria in the water from the tap it is fine to brush your teeth with, even if you are at a place where you can't drink the tap water.
No Lettuce or Unpeeled Raw Vegetables – Here's a dirty little secret. Many Mexicans soak their lettuce in water with disinfecting drops before consuming leafy greens at home. A common soak deploys iodized silver drops to eliminate microbes. Some even use bleach.Can you eat bananas in Mexico? ›
Do not eat salads or smoothies made from produce that has not been washed and dried or still wet from being washed. Fruits you can peel like bananas, kiwis, and mangos are okay, so long as you are the one peeling them. Ask for, and only drink from, sealed bottles of water.Is Chapultepec Park Safe? ›
Yes — For the majority of travelers, Chapultepec Park is safe.Is Polanco worth visiting? ›
One of Mexico City's most upper-class neighborhoods, Polanco is replete with high-end hotels and shopping malls as well as important theaters, art galleries, and museums. It is also home to some of Latin America's best restaurants and a number of cutting-edge bars.Is Polanco walkable? ›
Everything you need is just steps away from your Casai apartment. Polanco is made up of four main avenues that run parallel across the entire neighborhood — making it incredibly easy to find your way around.What is the safest beach in Mexico? ›
Located on the Caribbean Sea, Akumal is among the safest beaches in Mexico to visit. A must see for many Yucatan Peninsula visitors is the Mexico beach town of Akumal, to swim with the turtles in Akumal Bay.Is it safe to go to Mexico City right now? ›
Mexico City is safe. Of course, visitors should exercise the same precautions as they would in any bustling metropolis (like Paris, London, New York, etc.) —Uber when it's time to go home, avoid low-traffic areas, and stay sharp.Where do most Americans live in Mexico? ›
Lake Chapala: Mexico's Largest Expat Hotspot
Lake Chapala is Mexico's largest lake, and the surrounding area is also home to the largest concentration of U.S. expats in the world.
If you are a U.S. citizen, you may receive your Social Security payments outside the U.S. as long as you are eligible for them.Why are Americans moving to Mexico? ›
Lower Cost Of Living
What is this? With skyrocketing inflation and living costs in the United States, many Americans are finding that their dollars go much further in Mexico. Housing, healthcare, food, and transportation are just a few of the things that are significantly cheaper in Mexico than in the United States.
Many Americans are leaving the states for Mexico City, which is angering some of the Mexican population there, the Los Angeles Times reports. Americans are capitalizing on the lower rents available, the cheaper standard of living, and the ability to stay in Mexico for six months without a visa.What is the safest city in Mexico to retire? ›
1. Merida. Widely acknowledged as the safest city in Mexico (and even Latin America), your biggest safety concern in Mérida will probably be the busy traffic.Where in Mexico do most expats live? ›
Expats tend to flock to the capital, Mexico City (Ciudad de México). With a metropolitan population of over 20 million people, this is not only the most populous city in North America, but also the largest city in the Spanish-speaking world and the sixth-largest city worldwide.How much do I need to retire in Mexico? ›
Average Cost to Retire in Mexico
A retired couple can expect to retire comfortably in Mexico with an average income of about $2,500 a month, or $30,000 a year, according to InternationalLiving.com. These figures include the cost of a house, a maid service, utilities, groceries, entertainment, health insurance and more.
The most popular and safest places to live in Mexico include Cancun and Tulum on the Caribbean coast, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlán on the Pacific side, and Lake Chapala and San Miguel de Allende in the interior. We don't recommend border towns such as Tijuana or Laredo as retirement destinations.Is Mexico City a nice place to live? ›
Is Mexico City Safe to Live In? The short answer is yes. Although there is a high rate of crime it is limited to certain areas of the city. Expatriates and foreigners living in Mexico City are able to enjoy a high quality of life and live safely within the city boundaries.What are neighborhoods called in Mexico City? ›
Centro - Covers the historic downtown (centro histórico) of Mexico City. Condesa - Twenties post-Revolution neighborhood. Roma - Beaux Arts neighbourhood next to Condesa, one of the oldest in Mexico City. Colonia Juarez - includes the Zona Rosa area.Is Zona Rosa Safe? ›
Zona Rosa (Pink Zone) is famous for its great nightlife, and is the most LGBTQ+ friendly area in Mexico City. The area is bustling with activity, day or night, and is very safe. However, if you're looking to stay in an area that's nice and quiet, Zona Rosa isn't it.What are the neighborhoods of Mexico City? ›
Mexico CityCan you live in Mexico on $1000 a month? ›
One can live in Mexico on $1,000 a month or even less quite easily. In fact, locals live on much tighter budgets. As a foreigner, you will see that pretty much everything costs less than in your home country. Rent, food, transportation and healthcare in Mexico are much cheaper than in the US, Canada or Western Europe.
Many Americans are leaving the states for Mexico City, which is angering some of the Mexican population there, the Los Angeles Times reports. Americans are capitalizing on the lower rents available, the cheaper standard of living, and the ability to stay in Mexico for six months without a visa.Is Uber safe in Mexico City? ›
If you're wondering 'is Uber safe,' the short answer is yes. It's the safest form of car transportation in Mexico City. Taking a taxi in Mexico City is not the safest idea unless you're familiar with the cab companies and know how to verify that the cab you're getting into can be trusted.Is Mexico City a walkable city? ›
Getting Around. Despite its size, Mexico City is relatively easy to navigate, particularly if you stay within the central neighborhoods. Comfortable year-round temperatures make it a great city for walking.Is there a Chinatown in Mexico? ›
The first Chinese immigrants settled in the border town of Mexicali over a hundred years ago. Their legacy endures in La Chinesca – the largest “Chinatown” in Mexico.Is Condesa safe at night? ›
I felt safe walking around the neighborhood even at nighttime which is a huge plus for anyone especially for a solo female traveler. I'm glad I chose to stay in La Condesa for my week in Mexico City.Is it safe to walk around Condesa? ›
As a whole, Mexico City is safe, and Condesa is considered one of the safest neighborhoods to stay.Is Roma Mexico City safe at night? ›
Criminals do not specifically target tourists; victims typically are targeted based on an appearance of prosperity, vulnerability, or a lack of awareness. The Mexico City neighborhoods of Centro Histórico, Roma, Juarez, Polanco, San Rafael, Condesa, Zona Rosa, and Coyoacán are well-traveled and generally safe.What is the best area to stay in Mexico? ›
- Playa Del Carmen. Credit: posztos/shutterstock.com. ...
- Mexico City. Aztec display in the zocalo in Mexico City. ...
- Tulum. Tulum, Mexico. ...
- Puerto Vallarta. Credit: karamysh/Shutterstock.com. ...
- Cabo San Lucas. Credit: Bigstock.com. ...
- San Miguel de Allende. Credit: jiuguangw via Flickr. ...
- Zihuatanejo. ...
Cholula, the most important settlement of ancient Puebla, was established between 800 and 200 B.C. and is considered the oldest continually inhabited city in Mexico. By 100 B.C., the Olmecs had developed Cholula into one of Mexico's most active cities.Is San Rafael safe in Mexico City? ›
Located a bit further west from downtown than most of the safest neighborhoods in Mexico City, San Rafael is a great choice if you want a truly local experience in Mexico's capital. It's one of the most historic neighborhoods in CDMX.