Reports of crime in Mexico, including Mexico City, almost kept me away. That would have been most unfortunately. Crime happens everywhere, but on the ground, it did not seem particularly dangerous in Mexico City. The reality is it is on par with Chicago in terms of most crimes (yet being attacked because of your race or ethnicity is much less common in Mexico City!) The people here are friendly and helpful. We went in several areas which I am guessing are outside the typical tourist zones, and noticed people milling around at 3:30 a.m. when we left for the return trip.
It may seem odd, but leaving the airport it was like being in China. Now, you’ll have to understand the perspective here. Cities in China are busy with people, as is Mexico City. Dallas is providing the point of reference, and at any given time most places are void of people.
We arrived at the Hampton Inn about 11 pm. It’s not far off of the Zócalo, the main square. The hotel itself looked nice enough, but the route to it was less than direct, and the area seemed suspect. I looked out the third story window to see shuttered storefronts and wondered.
By morning the shops were open and the street was buzzing with activity. We set out for the Zócalo unaccompanied and felt completely comfortable walking the streets. Unfortunately, the square was covered with tents for an event and we did not get to see it.
There are many beautiful buildings around the Zócalo, including the Grand Hotel. You can’t just walk in and wander around, so we headed for the rooftop bar.
We joined a friend from Dallas and someone we had known through Facebook on a walking tour of some historic sites. Mexico City was built on Aztec temples and one building that now houses the Consulate of Spain has an area underneath where you can see some of the ruins and get a sense of what had been there previously.
Mexico City is filled with Churches. You see so many and they start to blend together in your mind. The most memorable with a Baroque-style interior. Our guide said it was a response of sorts to Martin Luther and reforms unfriendly to gilded decoration and statues. Anyone visiting gets the message.
The most impressive building on our tour was the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which I had been incorrectly referring to as an opera house. The Beaux Arts exterior seems somewhat foreign to the Art Deco interior, however. It took a long time to complete due to political turmoil. By the time construction resumed, tastes had changed.
The other buildings worth mentioning are the Post Office and the building that houses the Museo Nacional de Arte, which I understand was built as a private residence (whoa).
It seems that most people visiting want to see the Frida Kahlo Museum, but with only a few days in the city, we decided to limit time spent indoors, and to stay in the historic center city area. We did head to see the Diego Rivera murals at the Secretaria de Educacion Publica and Museo Mural Diego Rivera.
As far as street traffic, there is a lot. As far as transportation, not so many bicycles, a variety of bus service, both public and commercial including electric buses running from a pantograph, a subway (which I did not explore, and a variety of taxi service including uber (which was about half the price of the hotel cab return ride to the airport.) I have learned the hard way only to use official cabs in foreign countries, however.
The final thing to mention about Mexico City is the affordability. I don’t think we spent $300 on food in two days (for 3 people). That included several rounds of drinks. If you are looking for tourist items to bring home, we didn’t see much that was made in Mexico. The Popular Art Museum gift shop is one exception.
Now that I have a few days in Mexico City under my belt, I look forward to another trip. It is only a short flight from many U.S. cities, including just over 2 hours from Dallas (and the weather is way better in Mexico City).