Experience the best of Mexican traditions in the cosmopolitan capital of Mexico City.
One of the best times for a visit to Mexico City is during its Día de Muertos celebration. This lively holiday centers on November 1 (traditionally honoring deceased children) and 2 (honoring deceased adults), but spans from late October through early November. You can see and do everything you could the rest of the year, with the added spirit of Mexico at its festive finest. Look for ofrendas everywhere. These altars of remembrance hold flowers, candied skulls, toys, and sometimes bottles of tequila; some can be quite elaborate. You’ll also encounter plenty of catrinas—skeletons dressed to the nines.
While you’re in the city, or if you plan to visit Mexico City at other times of the year, take time to visit some of its UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Historic Center, Xochimilco, UNAM (Mexico’s largest public university), and architect Luis Barragan’s House and Studio. Mexico City has more museums than any city in the world except London. In 2008 UNESCO added Día de Muertos to its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. Here are some ideas to get you started.
WHEN TO GO: Perched at 7,382 feet, Mexico City enjoys pleasant weather year-round, with summer and autumn high temperatures in the low 70s. In the dry months of winter, the thermometer ranges from the low 40s to around 70F, while spring can climb into the upper 70s. It’s a good idea to use sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and, on your first day or two, take it easy. To enjoy Day of the Dead activities, plan to visit Mexico City from mid-October to the first week in November.
PACK: Bring a good pair of walking shoes for your explorations about the city and environs. Plan on casual clothes during the day, but something a little dressier for restaurants and bars. A light jacket for cooler evenings can come in handy.
SLEEP: Some of the best hotels options are found in the upscale Polanco and Reforma areas. The mix of leafy neighborhoods and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture with bustling thoroughfares and modern conveniences make these areas a big draw. One of the city’s top boutique hotels, Las Alcobas pampers you at every turn—from the welcome refreshments to the in-room spa. Situated in the heart of Polanco’s business and entertainment district, the hotel was designed to create an intimate retreat within the city.
Located on the lovely Paseo de Reforma (the Champs Élysées of Mexico City), Le Meridien offers luxury rooms, a gym, and swimming pool within walking distance of great museums and 18th-century palaces. Also on the Paseo de Reforma, St. Regis has palatial rooms, with 350-thread-count Pratesi linens, marble baths, and state-of-the-art technology. And the nearby Four Seasons is always a reliable word in luxury.
With world-renowned restaurants like Pujol, iconic local artists like Diego Rivera, and hip neighborhoods like Condesa, Mexico City is arguably the cultural and culinary capital of North America. Lesser known, however, is that beyond the city’s haze spreads a world of volcanoes and mountains to climb, ancient ruins to explore, and villages to experience. Wake up early to take a break from city life and make the most of a day’s escape with these diverse excursions.
How to Get There: Take a bus from Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte, Gate 8.
Don’t Forget to Pack: Bring cash for bus and entrance fee, water, sunblock, snacks, camera, and athletic shoes.