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Mexico City

Mexico City is the capital and most populous city of Mexico. With an area of some 1550 square km and a population of 21 million, it is also one of the most important financial centers in the Americas.

Mexico City is the oldest capital city on both American continents and also one of two cities founded by Amerindians (Native Americans), the other being Quito in Peru.

Mexico City was originally built on an island of Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs in 1325 as Tenochtitlan, which was almost completely destroyed in the 1521 siege, and later redesigned and rebuilt in accordance with the Spanish urban standards.

In 1524, the municipality of Mexico City was established, known as México Tenochtitlán, and as of 1585, it was officially known as Ciudad de México (Mexico City).

Mexico City served as the political, administrative, and financial center of a major part of the Spanish colonial empire. After independence from Spain was achieved, the federal district was created in 1824.

On January 29, 2016, it ceased to be called the Federal District (Distrito Federal or D.F.) and is now in transition to become the country’s 32nd federal entity, giving it a level of autonomy comparable to that of a state.

Because of a clause in the Mexican Constitution, however, as the seat of the powers of the federation, it can never become a state, unless the capital of the country is relocated elsewhere.

Geography, Environment & Climate


Mexico City is located in the Valley of Mexico, a large valley in the high plateaus at the center of Mexico sometimes called the Basin of Mexico. This valley is located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in the high plateaus of south-central Mexico. Seismic activity is frequent here.

It has a minimum altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level and is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes that reach elevations of over 5,000 meters. Mexico City has an area of 1,495 square km.

This valley has no natural drainage outlet for the waters that flow from the mountainsides, making the city vulnerable to flooding. Drainage was engineered through the use of canals and tunnels starting in the 17th century.

Mexico City primarily rests on what was Lake Texcoco, a system of interconnected salt and freshwater lakes. Only a small section of the original lake remains, located outside the Federal District, in the municipality of Atenco, State of Mexico.

The Aztecs built dikes to separate the freshwater used to raise crops in chinampas and to prevent recurrent floods. These dikes were destroyed during the siege of Tenochtitlan, and during colonial times the Spanish regularly drained the lake to prevent floods.

Lake Texcoco was drained starting from the 17th century. Although none of the lake waters remain, the city rests on the lake bed’s heavily saturated clay. This soft base is collapsing due to the over-extraction of groundwater, called groundwater-related subsidence.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the city has sunk as much as nine meters in some areas. This sinking is causing problems with runoff and wastewater management, leading to flooding problems, especially during the rainy season.

The entire lake bed is now paved over and most of the city’s remaining forested areas lie in the southern boroughs of Milpa Alta, Tlalpan, and Xochimilco.


Mexico City has a subtropical highland climate, due to its tropical location but high elevation.

The average annual temperature varies from 12 to 16 °C. The temperature is rarely below 3 °C or above 30 °C. Overall precipitation is heavily concentrated in the summer months and includes dense hail.

The Central Valley of Mexico rarely gets snow during winter.

The area has two main seasons.

The rainy season runs from June to October when winds bring in tropical moisture from the sea, and the wettest month is July.

The dry season runs from November to May, when the air is relatively drier, and the driest month is December. This dry season is subdivided into a cold period and a warm period.

The cold period spans from November to February when polar air masses push down from the north and keep the air fairly dry.

The warm period extends from March to May when tropical winds again dominate but do not yet carry enough moisture for rain.


By the 1990s Mexico City had become infamous as one of the world’s most polluted cities. However, the city has become a model for dramatically lowering pollution levels.

By 2014 carbon monoxide pollution had dropped dramatically, while levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide were nearly three times lower than in 1992.

To clean up pollution, the federal and local governments implemented numerous plans including the constant monitoring and reporting of environmental conditions, such as ozone and nitrogen oxides. When the levels of these two pollutants reached critical levels, contingency actions were implemented which included closing factories, changing school hours, and extending the day without a car program to two days of the week.

The government also instituted industrial technology improvements, a strict biannual vehicle emission inspection, and the reformulation of gasoline and diesel fuels. The introduction of Metrobús bus rapid transit and the Ecobici bike-sharing were among efforts to encourage alternate, greener forms of transportation.


Historically, and since pre-Columbian times, the Valley of Anahuac has been one of the most densely populated areas in Mexico. When the Federal District was created in 1824, the urban area of Mexico City extended approximately to the area of today’s Cuauhtémoc borough.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the elites began migrating to the south and west and soon the small towns of Mixcoac and San Ángel were incorporated by the growing conurbation.

In 1921, Mexico City had less than one million inhabitants.

Up to the 1990s, the Federal District was the most populous federal entity in Mexico, but since then its population has remained stable at around 8.7 million. The growth of the city has extended beyond the limits of the Federal District to 59 municipalities in the state of Mexico and 1 in the state of Hidalgo.

With a population of approximately 19.8 million inhabitants (2008), it is one of the most populous conurbations in the world.

According to a genetic study done in 2011, the average genetic composition of people from Mexico City is 65% Native American, 31% European, and 3% African.

Historically since the era of New Spain, many Filipinos settled in the city and have become integrated in Mexican society. While no official figures have been reported, population estimates of each of these communities are quite significant.

Mexico City is home to the largest population of U.S. Americans living outside the United States. Current estimates are as high as 700,000 U.S. Americans living in Mexico City.

Origin of the Name

The name of México has several hypotheses that entail the origin, history, and use of the name México, which dates back to 14th century Mesoamerica.

The Nahuatl word Mexico means place of the Mexica but the ethnonym Mexicatl itself is of unknown etymology.

An alternate possibility is that the name “Mexico” may come from the word mexixin, a cress that grew in the swamplands of Lake Texcoco. It was an edible grass that the Aztecs or Mexica survived on as they settled where today lies México City.

The country México did not name its capital after itself, as in Mexico City – the accepted name internationally – but the converse actually applies.

Before Spanish times, the capital was formally named Tenochtitlan, but was the seat of the Mexica Empire which is known as the Aztec Empire.

As far back as 1590, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum atlas showed that the northern part of the New World was known as “America Mexicana” (Mexican America), as México City was the seat for the New Spain viceroyalty.

New Spain is mistaken as the old name for México, rather than the name of a large expanse of land that covered much of North America and included the Caribbean and the Philippines.

Since New Spain was not actually a state or a contiguous part of land, in modern times it would have been a Jurisdiction under the command of the authorities in modern Mexico City.

Under the Spaniards, Mexico was both the name of the capital and its sphere of influence, most of which exists as Greater Mexico City and the State of Mexico. Some parts of Puebla, Morelos and Hidalgo were also part of Spanish-era Mexico.


Complications arose with the capital’s former colloquial and semi-official name “Ciudad de Mexico, Distrito Federal” or “Mexico, D.F.”, which appears on postal addresses and is frequently cited in the media, thus creating a duplication whereas the shortened name was “Mexico, D.F., Mexico”. Legally, the name was simply Distrito Federal (Federal District or District of the Federation).

Since 2013, to refer to the City particularly in relation to government campaigns, the abbreviation CDMX has been used (from Ciudad de México).

This ended with the change in the statute of Mexico City into a state in 2016. Today it’s officially called only “Ciudad de México, México” abbreviated CDMX, Mexico.


Mexico City was traditionally known as La Ciudad de los Palacios (“the City of the Palaces”), a nickname attributed to Baron Alexander von Humboldt when visiting the city in the 19th century, who, sending a letter back to Europe, said Mexico City could rival any major city in Europe.

During Andrés López Obrador’s administration, a political slogan was introduced: la Ciudad de la Esperanza (“The City of Hope”). This motto was quickly adopted as a city nickname but has faded since the new motto Capital en Movimiento (“Capital in Movement”) was adopted by the administration headed by Marcelo Ebrard, though the latter is not treated as often as a nickname in media.

The city is colloquially known as Chilangolandia after the locals’ nickname chilangos. Chilango is used pejoratively by people living outside Mexico City to “connote a loud, arrogant, ill-mannered, loutish person”.

For their part, those living in Mexico City designate insultingly those who live elsewhere as living in la provincia (“the provinces”, the periphery) and many proudly embrace the term chilango.

Residents of Mexico City are more recently called defeños (deriving from the postal abbreviation of the Federal District in Spanish “DF” which is read “De-Efe”). They are formally called capitalinos (in reference to the city being the capital of the country), but “perhaps because capitalino is the more polite, specific, and correct word, it is almost never utilized”.


Aztec period

The city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan was founded by the Mexica people in 1325. The old Mexica city that is now simply referred to as Tenochtitlan was built on an island in the center of the inland lake system of the Valley of Mexico, which it shared with a smaller city-state called Tlatelolco.

According to legend, the Mexicas’ principal god, Huitzilopochtli indicated the site where they were to build their home by presenting an eagle perched on a nopal cactus with a snake in its beak.

Between 1325 and 1521, Tenochtitlan grew in size and strength, eventually dominating the other city-states around Lake Texcoco and in the Valley of Mexico.

When the Spaniards arrived, the Aztec Empire had reached much of Mesoamerica, touching both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

Spanish conquest

After landing in Veracruz, Hernán Cortés advanced upon Tenochtitlan with the aid of many of the other native peoples, arriving there on November 8, 1519. Cortés and his men marched along the causeway leading into the city from Iztapalapa, and the city’s ruler, Moctezuma II, greeted the Spaniards. They exchanged gifts, but the camaraderie did not last long. Cortés put Moctezuma under house arrest, hoping to rule through him.

Tensions increased until, on the night of June 30, 1520 – during a struggle known as “La Noche Triste” – the Aztecs rose up against the Spanish intrusion and managed to capture or drive out the Europeans and their Tlaxcalan allies.

Cortés regrouped at Tlaxcala. The Aztecs thought the Spaniards were permanently gone, and they elected a new king, Cuitláhuac, but he soon died. The next king was Cuauhtémoc.

Cortés began a siege of Tenochtitlan in May 1521.

For three months, the city suffered from the lack of food and water as well as the spread of smallpox brought by the Europeans. Cortés and his allies landed their forces in the south of the island and slowly fought their way through the city.

Cuauhtémoc surrendered in August 1521. The Spaniards practically razed Tenochtitlan during the final siege of the conquest.


Cortés first settled in Coyoacán but decided to rebuild the Aztec site to erase all traces of the old order. He did not establish a territory under his own personal rule but remained loyal to the Spanish crown.

The first Spanish viceroy arrived in Mexico City fourteen years later. By that time, the city had again become a city-state, having power that extended far beyond its borders.

Although the Spanish preserved Tenochtitlan’s basic layout, they built Catholic churches over the old Aztec temples and claimed the imperial palaces for themselves.

Tenochtitlan was renamed “Mexico” because the Spanish found the word easier to pronounce.

Growth of Colonial Mexico City

The city had been the capital of the Aztec empire and in the colonial era, Mexico City became the capital of New Spain. The viceroy of Mexico or vice-king lived in the viceregal palace on the main square or Zócalo.

The Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishopric of New Spain, was constructed on another side of the Zócalo, as was the archbishop’s palace, and across from it the building housing the City Council or ayuntamiento of the city.

A famous late seventeenth-century painting of the Zócalo by Cristóbal de Villalpando depicts the main square, which had been the old Aztec ceremonial center.

The existing central place of the Aztecs was effectively and permanently transformed into the ceremonial center and seat of power during the colonial period and remains to this day in modern Mexico, the central place of the nation.

The rebuilding of the city after the siege of Tenochtitlan was accomplished by the abundant indigenous labor in the surrounding area. Franciscan friar Toribio de Benavente Motolinia, one of the Twelve Apostles of Mexico who arrived in New Spain in 1524, described the rebuilding of the city as one of the afflictions or plagues of the early period:

The seventh plague was the construction of the great City of Mexico, which, during the early years used more people than in the construction of Jerusalem.

The crowds of laborers were so numerous that one could hardly move in the streets and causeways, although they were very wide. Many died from being crushed by beams, falling from high places, or tearing down old buildings for new ones.

Preconquest Tenochtitlan was built in the center of the inland lake system, with the city reachable by canoe and by wide causeways to the mainland. The causeways were rebuilt under Spanish rule with indigenous labor.

Colonial Spanish cities were constructed on a grid pattern if no geographical obstacle prevented it. In Mexico City, the Zócalo (main square) was the central place from which the grid was then built outward.

The Spanish lived in the area closest to the main square in what was known as the traza, in orderly, well-laid-out streets. Indian residences were outside that exclusive zone and houses were haphazardly located.

Spaniards sought to keep Indians separate from Spaniards but since the Zócalo was a center of commerce for Indians, they were a constant presence in the central area, so strict segregation was never enforced.

At intervals, Zócalo was where major celebrations took place as well as executions. It was also the site of two major riots in the seventeenth century, one in 1624, and the other in 1692.

The city grew as the population did, coming up against the lake’s waters.

As the depth of the lake water fluctuated, Mexico City was subject to periodic flooding. A major labor draft, the desagüe, compelled thousands of Indians over the colonial period to work on infrastructure to prevent flooding.

Floods were not only an inconvenience but also a health hazard, since during flood periods human waste polluted the city’s streets.

By draining the area, the mosquito population dropped as did the frequency of the diseases they spread. However, draining the wetlands also changed the habitat for fish and birds and the areas accessible for Indian cultivation close to the capital.

The 16th century saw a proliferation of churches, many of which can still be seen today in the historic center. Economically, Mexico City prospered as a result of trade. Unlike Brazil or Peru, Mexico had easy contact with both the Atlantic and Pacific worlds. Although the Spanish crown tried to completely regulate all commerce in the city, it had only partial success.

The concept of nobility flourished in New Spain in a way not seen in other parts of the Americas. Spaniards encountered a society in which the concept of nobility mirrored that of their own. Spaniards respected the indigenous order of nobility and added to it. In the ensuing centuries, possession of a noble title in Mexico did not mean one exercised great political power, for one’s power was limited even if the accumulation of wealth was not. The concept of nobility in Mexico was not political but rather a very conservative Spanish social one, based on proving the worthiness of the family. Most of these families proved their worth by making fortunes in New Spain outside of the city itself, then spending the revenues in the capital, building churches, supporting charities, and building extravagant palatial homes. The craze to build the most opulent residence possible reached its height in the last half of the 18th century. Many of these palaces can still be seen today, leading to Mexico City’s nickname of “The City of Palaces” given by Alexander Von Humboldt.

The Grito de Dolores (“Cry of Dolores”), also known as El Grito de la Independencia (“Cry of Independence”), marked the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. The Battle of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, occurred four days later. After a decade of war, Mexico’s independence from Spain was effectively declared in the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire on September 27, 1821. Unrest followed for the next several decades, as different factions fought for control of Mexico.

The Mexican Federal District was established by the new government and by the signing of their new constitution, where the concept of a federal district was adapted from the United States Constitution. Before this designation, Mexico City had served as the seat of government for both the State of Mexico and the nation as a whole. Texcoco and then Toluca became the capital of the state of Mexico.

The Battle of Mexico City in the U.S.–Mexican War of 1847

The Battle for Mexico City was a series of engagements from September 8 to 15, 1847, in the general vicinity of Mexico City during the U.S.-Mexican War. Included are major actions at the battles of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec, culminating with the fall of Mexico City. The U.S. Army under Winfield Scott scored a major success that ended the war. The American invasion into the Federal District was first resisted during the Battle of Churubusco on August 8 where the Saint Patrick’s Battalion, which was composed primarily of Catholic Irish and German immigrants, but also Canadians, English, French, Italians, Poles, Scots, Spaniards, Swiss, and Mexican people, fought for the Mexican cause repelling the American attacks. After defeating the Saint Patrick’s Battalion, the Mexican–American War came to a close after the United States deployed combat units deep into Mexico resulting in the capture of Mexico City and Veracruz by the U.S. Army’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Divisions. The invasion culminated with the storming of Chapultepec Castle in the city itself.

During this battle, on September 13, the 4th Division, under John A. Quitman, spearheaded the attack against Chapultepec and carried the castle. Future Confederate generals George E. Pickett and James Longstreet participated in the attack. Serving in the Mexican defense were the cadets later immortalized as Los Niños Héroes (the “Boy Heroes”). The Mexican forces fell back from Chapultepec and retreated within the city. Attacks on the Belén and San Cosme Gates came afterward. The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in what is now the far north of the city.

Porfirian era (1876–1911)

Events such as the Mexican–American War, the French Intervention, and the Reform War left the city relatively untouched and it continued to grow, especially during the rule of President Porfirio Díaz.

During this time the city developed a modern infrastructure, such as roads, schools, transportation systems, and communication systems. However, the regime concentrated resources and wealth in the city while the rest of the country languished in poverty.

Under the rule of Porfirio Díaz, Mexico City experienced a massive transformation.

Díaz’s goal was to create a city that could rival the great European cities. He and his government came to the conclusion that they would use Paris as a model, while still containing remnants of Amerindian and Hispanic elements.

This style of Mexican-French fusion architecture became colloquially known as Porfirian Architecture. Porfirian architecture became very influenced by Paris’ Haussmannization.

During this era of Porfirian rule, the city underwent an extensive modernization.

Many Spanish Colonial-style buildings were destroyed, replaced by new much larger Porfirian institutions, and many outlying rural zones were transformed into urban or industrialized districts with most having electrical, gas, and sewage utilities by 1908.

While the initial focus was on developing modern hospitals, schools, factories, and massive public works, perhaps the most long-lasting effects of the Porfirian modernization were the creation of the Colonia Roma area and the development of Reforma Avenue.

Many of Mexico City’s major attractions and landmarks were built during this era in this style.

Diaz’s plans called for the entire city to eventually be modernized or rebuilt in the Porfirian/French style of the Colonia Roma; but the Mexican Revolution began soon afterward and the plans never came to fruition, with many projects being left half-completed.

One of the best examples of this is the Monument to the Mexican Revolution.

Originally the monument was to be the main dome of Diaz’s new senate hall, but when the revolution erupted only the dome of the senate hall and its supporting pillars were completed, this was subsequently seen as a symbol by many Mexicans that the Porfirian era was over once and for all and as such, it was turned into a monument to victory over Diaz.

Mexican Revolution (1910–1920)

The capital escaped the worst of the violence of the ten-year conflict of the Mexican Revolution. The most significant episode of this period for the city was the February 1913 La decena trágica (“The Ten Tragic Days”), when forces counter to the elected government of Francisco I. Madero staged a successful coup. The center of the city was subjected to artillery attacks from the army stronghold of the ciudadela or citadel, with significant civilian casualties and the undermining of confidence in the Madero government. Victoriano Huerta, chief general of the Federal Army, saw a chance to take power, forcing Madero and Pino Suarez to sign resignations. The two were murdered later while on their way to Lecumberri prison. Huerta’s ouster in July 1914 saw the entry of the armies of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, but the city did not experience violence. Huerta had abandoned the capital and the conquering armies marched in. Venustiano Carranza’s Constitutionalist faction ultimately prevailed in the revolutionary civil war and Carranza took up residence in the presidential palace.

20th century to present

The history of the rest of the 20th century to the present focuses on the phenomenal growth of the city and its environmental and political consequences. In 1900, the population of Mexico City was about 500,000. The city began to grow rapidly westward in the early part of the 20th century and then began to grow upwards in the 1950s, with the Torre Latinoamericana becoming the city’s first skyscraper. The 1968 Olympic Games brought about the construction of large sporting facilities.

In 1969 the Metro system was inaugurated. Explosive growth in the population of the city started in the 1960s, with the population overflowing the boundaries of the Federal District into the neighboring state of Mexico, especially to the north, northwest, and northeast. Between 1960 and 1980 the city’s population more than doubled to nearly 9 million.

In 1980 half of all the industrial jobs in Mexico were located in Mexico City. Under relentless growth, the Mexico City government could barely keep up with services. Villagers from the countryside who continued to pour into the city to escape poverty only compounded the city’s problems. With no housing available, they took over lands surrounding the city, creating huge shantytowns that extended for many miles. This caused serious air pollution in Mexico City and water pollution problems, as well as subsidence due to over-extraction of groundwater. Air and water pollution has been contained and improved in several areas due to government programs, the renovation of vehicles, and the modernization of public transportation.

The autocratic government that ruled Mexico City since the Revolution was tolerated, mostly because of the continued economic expansion since World War II. This was the case even though this government could not handle the population and pollution problems adequately. Nevertheless, discontent and protests began in the 1960s leading to the massacre of an unknown number of protesting students in Tlatelolco.

Three years later, a demonstration in Maestros Avenue, organized by former members of the 1968 student movement, was violently repressed by a paramilitary group called “Los Halcones”, composed of gang members and teenagers from many sports clubs who received training in the U.S.

On Thursday, September 19, 1985, at 07:19, Mexico City was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 8.1 on the Richter magnitude scale. Although this earthquake was not as deadly or destructive as many similar events in Asia and other parts of Latin America, it proved to be a disaster politically for the one-party government.

The government was paralyzed by its own bureaucracy and corruption, forcing ordinary citizens to create and direct their own rescue efforts and to reconstruct much of the housing that was lost as well.

However, the last straw may have been the controversial elections of 1988. That year, the presidency was set between the P.R.I.’s candidate, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and a coalition of left-wing parties led by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, son of the former president Lázaro Cárdenas. The counting system “fell” because coincidentally the light went out and suddenly, when it returned, the winning candidate was Salinas, even though Cárdenas had the upper hand.

As a result of the fraudulent election, Cárdenas became a member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution. Discontent over the election eventually led Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas to become the first elected mayor of Mexico City in 1997.

Cárdenas promised a more democratic government, and his party claimed some victories against crime, pollution, and other major problems. He resigned in 1999 to run for the presidency.

Sightseeing & Tourist attractions

Mexico City is a destination for many foreign tourists.

The Historic center of Mexico City (Centro Histórico) and the “floating gardens” of Xochimilco in the southern borough have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Famous landmarks in the Historic Center include the Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo), the main central square.
During the winter, the main square of the Zócalo is transformed into a gigantic ice skating rink, which is said to be the largest in the world behind that of Moscow’s Red Square.

Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace, ancient Aztec temple ruins Templo Mayor (“Major Temple”), and modern structures, all within a few steps of one another. The Templo Mayor was discovered in 1978 while workers were digging to place underground electric cables.

The most recognizable icon of Mexico City is the golden Angel of Independence on the wide, elegant avenue Paseo de la Reforma, modeled by the order of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico after the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

This avenue was designed over the Americas’ oldest known major roadway in the 19th century to connect the National Palace (seat of government) with the Castle of Chapultepec, the imperial residence. Today, this avenue is an important financial district in which the Mexican Stock Exchange and several corporate headquarters are located.

Another important avenue is the Avenida de los Insurgentes, which extends 28.8 km (17.9 mi) and is one of the longest single avenues in the world.

Chapultepec Park houses the Chapultepec Castle, now a museum on a hill that overlooks the park and its numerous museums, monuments, and the National Zoo and the National Museum of Anthropology (which houses the Aztec Calendar Stone).

Another piece of architecture is the Fine Arts Palace, a white marble theatre/museum whose weight is such that it has gradually been sinking into the soft ground below. Its construction began during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz and ended in 1934, after being interrupted by the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s.

The Plaza of the Three Cultures in the Tlatelolco neighborhood, and the shrine and Basilicas of Our Lady of Guadalupe are also important sites.

There is a double-decker bus, known as the “Turibus”, that circles most of these sites, and has timed audio describing the sites in multiple languages as they are passed.

Museums, Theaters & Cinema

In addition, the city has about 160 museums—the world’s greatest single metropolitan concentration —over 100 art galleries, and some 30 concert halls, all of which maintain a constant cultural activity during the whole year.

It has either the third or fourth-highest number of theatres in the world after New York, London, and perhaps Toronto.

Many areas (e.g. Palacio Nacional and the National Institute of Cardiology) have murals painted by Diego Rivera. He and his wife Frida Kahlo lived in Coyoacán, where several of their homes, studios, and art collections are open to the public.

The house where Leon Trotsky was initially granted asylum and finally murdered in 1940 is also in Coyoacán.

In addition, there are several restored haciendas that are now restaurants, such as the San Ángel Inn, the Hacienda de Tlalpan, and the Hacienda de los Morales.


Mexico City has numerous museums dedicated to art, including Mexican colonial, modern and contemporary art, and international art.

  • The Museo Tamayo was opened in the mid-1980s to house the collection of international contemporary art donated by famed Mexican (born in the state of Oaxaca) painter Rufino Tamayo. The collection includes pieces by Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky, Warhol, and many others, though most of the collection is stored while visiting exhibits are shown.
  • The Museo de Arte Moderno (Museum of Modern Art) is a repository of Mexican artists from the 20th century, including Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros, Kahlo, Gerzso, Carrington, Tamayo, among others, and also regularly hosts temporary exhibits of international modern art.
  • In southern Mexico City, the Museo Carrillo Gil (Carrillo Gil Museum) showcases avant-garde artists, as does the University Museum/Contemporary Art (Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo – or MUAC), designed by famed Mexican architect Teodoro González de León, inaugurated in late 2008.
  • The Museo Soumaya, named after the wife of Mexican magnate Carlos Slim, has the largest private collection of original Rodin sculptures outside Paris. It also has a large collection of Dalí sculptures, and recently began showing pieces in its masters’ collection including El Greco, Velázquez, Picasso, and Canaletto. The museum inaugurated a new futuristic-design facility in 2011 just north of Polanco, while maintaining a smaller facility in Plaza Loreto in southern Mexico City.
  • The Colección Júmex is a contemporary art museum located on the sprawling grounds of the Jumex juice company in the northern industrial suburb of Ecatepec. It is said to have the largest private contemporary art collection in Latin America and hosts pieces from its permanent collection as well as traveling exhibits by leading contemporary artists.
  • The new Museo Júmex in Nuevo Polanco was slated to open in November 2013.
  • The Museo de San Ildefonso, housed in the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico City’s historic downtown district is a 17th-century colonnaded palace housing an art museum that regularly hosts world-class exhibits of Mexican and international art. Recent exhibits have included those on David LaChapelle, Antony Gormley, and Ron Mueck.
  • The National Museum of Art (Museo Nacional de Arte) is also located in a former palace in the historic center. It houses a large collection of pieces by all major Mexican artists of the last 400 years and also hosts visiting exhibits.
    Jack Kerouac, the noted American author, spent extended periods of time in the city and wrote his masterpiece volume of poetry Mexico City Blues here. Another American author, William S. Burroughs, also lived in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of the city for some time. It was here that he accidentally shot his wife.
  • Another major addition to the city’s museum scene is the Museum of Remembrance and Tolerance (Museo de la Memoria y Tolerancia), inaugurated in early 2011. The brainchild of two young Mexican women as a Holocaust museum, the idea morphed into a unique museum dedicated to showcasing all major historical events of discrimination and genocide. Permanent exhibits include those on the Holocaust and other large-scale atrocities. It also houses temporary exhibits; one on Tibet was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in September 2011.

Most of Mexico City’s more than 150 museums can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00, although some of them have extended schedules, such as the Museum of Anthropology and History, which is open to 19:00.
In addition to this, entrance to most museums is free on Sunday.
In some cases, a modest fee may be charged.

Music, theater, and entertainment

Mexico City is home to a number of orchestras offering seasonal programs.

  • Mexico City Philharmonic, which performs at the Sala Ollin Yoliztli
  • National Symphony Orchestra, whose home base is the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of the Fine Arts), a masterpiece of art nouveau and art decó styles
  • Philharmonic Orchestra of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (OFUNAM) which performs at the Sala Nezahualcóyotl
  • Minería Symphony Orchestra also performs at the Sala Nezahualcóyotl, which was the first wrap-around concert hall of the world’s western hemisphere when inaugurated in 1976

There are also many smaller ensembles that enrich the city’s musical scene

  • Carlos Chávez Youth Symphony, the New World Orchestra (Orquesta del Nuevo Mundo)
  • National Polytechnical Symphony
  • Bellas Artes Chamber Orchestra (Orquesta de Cámara de Bellas Artes)

The city is also a leading center of popular culture and music. There are a multitude of venues hosting Spanish and foreign-language performers. These include the 10,000-seat National Auditorium that regularly schedules Spanish and English-language pop and rock artists, as well as many of the world’s leading performing arts ensembles, the auditorium also broadcasts Grand Opera performances from New York’s Metropolitan Opera on giant, high-definition screens. In 2007 National Auditorium was selected world’s best venue by multiple genre media.

Other Cultural centers

Other popular sites for pop artist performances include the 3,000-seat Teatro Metropolitan, the 15,000-seat Palacio de los Deportes, and the larger 50,000-seat Foro Sol Stadium, where popular international artists perform on a regular basis.

The Cirque du Soleil has held several seasons at the Carpa Santa Fe, in the Santa Fe district in the western part of the city.

There are numerous venues for smaller musical ensembles and solo performers. These include the Hard Rock Live, Bataclán, Foro Scotiabank, Lunario, Circo Volador and Voilá Acoustique.

Recent additions include the 20,000-seat Arena Ciudad de México, the 3,000-seat Pepsi Center World Trade Center, and the 2,500-seat Auditorio Blackberry.

The Centro Nacional de las Artes (National Center for the Arts has several venues for music, theatre, and dance.

UNAM’s main campus, also in the southern part of the city, is home to the Centro Cultural Universitario (the University Culture Center) (CCU).

The CCU also houses the National Library, the interactive Universum, Museo de las Ciencias, the Sala Nezahualcóyotl concert hall, several theatres and cinemas, and the new University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC).

A branch of the National University’s CCU cultural center was inaugurated in 2007 in the facilities of the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known as Tlatelolco, in north-central Mexico City.

The José Vasconcelos Library, a national library, is located on the grounds of the former Buenavista railroad station in the northern part of the city.

The Papalote children’s museum, which houses the world’s largest dome screen, is located in the wooded park of Chapultepec, near the Museo Tecnológico, and La Feria amusement park.

The Cineteca Nacional (the Mexican Film Library), near the Coyoacán suburb, shows a variety of films, and stages many film festivals, including the annual International Showcase, and many smaller ones ranging from Scandinavian and Uruguayan cinema to Jewish and LGBT-themed films.

Cinépolis and Cinemex, the two biggest film business chains, also have several film festivals throughout the year, with both national and international movies.

Mexico City tops the world in a number of IMAX theatres, providing residents and visitors access to films ranging from documentaries to popular blockbusters on these especially large, dramatic screens.

Parks, Zoos & Recreation

  • Chapultepec Park, the city’s most iconic public park, has a history back to the Aztec emperors who used the area as a retreat. It is south of the Polanco district and houses the city’s zoo, several ponds, seven museums including the National Museum of Anthropology, and the oldest and most traditional amusement park, La Feria de Chapultepec Mágico, with its vintage Montaña Rusa rollercoaster.
  • Other iconic city parks include the Alameda Central, Mexico City historic center, a city park since colonial times and renovated in 2013.
  • Parque México and Parque España in the hip Condesa district.
  • Parque Hundido and Parque de los Venados in Colonia del Valle.
  • Parque Lincoln in Polanco.

There are many smaller parks throughout the city. Most are small “squares” occupying two or three square blocks amid residential or commercial districts.

Several other larger parks such as the Bosque de Tlalpan and Viveros de Coyoacán, and in the east Alameda Oriente, offer many recreational activities.

  • Northwest of the city is a large ecological reserve, the Bosque de Aragón.
  • In the southeast is the Xochimilco Ecological Park and Plant Market, a World Heritage site.
  • West of the Santa Fe district are the pine forests of the Desierto de los Leones National Park.

Amusement parks include Six Flags México, in the Ajusco neighborhood, in Tlalpan borough, which is the largest in Latin America. There are numerous seasonal fairs present in the city.


Mexico City has three zoos:

  • Chapultepec Zoo is located in the first section of Chapultepec Park in the Miguel Hidalgo. It was opened in 1924. Visitors can see about 243 specimens of different species including kangaroos, giant pandas, gorillas, caracals, hyenas, hippos, jaguars, giraffes, lemurs, and lions, among others.
  • Zoo San Juan de Aragon is near the San Juan de Aragon Park in the Gustavo A. Madero. In this zoo, opened in 1964, there are species that are in danger of extinction such as the jaguar and the Mexican wolf. Other guests are the golden eagle, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, caracara, zebras, African elephant, macaw, and hippo, among others.
  • Zoo Los Coyotes is a 27.68-acre (11.2 ha) zoo located south of Mexico City in the Coyoacan. It was inaugurated on February 2, 1999. It has more than 301 specimens of 51 species of wild native or endemic fauna from Mexico City. You can admire eagles, ajolotes, coyotes, macaws, bobcats, Mexican wolves, raccoons, mountain lions, teporingos, foxes, and white-tailed deer.

Gastronomy & Cuisine

Mexico City offers a variety of cuisines. Restaurants specializing in the regional cuisines of Mexico’s 31 states are available in the city. Also available are an array of international cuisines, vegetarian and vegan cuisines are also available, as are restaurants solely based on the concepts of local food and slow food.

Mexico City is known for having some of the freshest fish and seafood in Mexico’s interior. La Nueva Viga Market is the second largest seafood market in the world after the Tsukiji fish market in Japan.

The city also has several branches of renowned international restaurants and chefs. These include Paris’ Au Pied de Cochon and Brasserie Lipp, Philippe (by Philippe Chow); Nobu, Morimoto; and Pámpano, owned by Mexican-raised opera legend Plácido Domingo.

There are branches of the exclusive Japanese restaurant Suntory, Rome’s famed Alfredo, as well as New York steakhouses Morton’s and The Palm, and Monte Carlo’s BeefBar. Three of the most famous Lima-based Haute Peruvian restaurants, La Mar, Segundo Muelle and Astrid y Gastón have locations in Mexico City.

For the 2014 list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants as named by the British magazine Restaurant, Mexico City ranked with the Mexican avant-garde restaurant Pujol at 20th best. Also notable is the Basque-Mexican fusion restaurant Biko, which placed outside the list at 59th, but in previous years has ranked within the top 50.

Mexico’s award-winning wines are offered at many restaurants, and the city offers unique experiences for tasting the regional spirits, with broad selections of tequila and mezcal.

At the other end of the scale are working-class pulque bars known as pulquerías, a challenge for tourists to locate and experience.

Traditional markets & Shopping

Mexico City offers an immense and varied consumer retail market, ranging from basic foods to ultra high-end luxury goods. Consumers may buy in fixed indoor markets, mobile markets (tianguis), from street vendors, from downtown shops in a street dedicated to a certain type of good, in convenience stores and traditional neighborhood stores, in modern supermarkets, in warehouse and membership stores and the shopping centers that they anchor, in department stores, big-box stores and in modern shopping malls.

Traditional markets

The city’s main source of fresh produce is the Central de Abasto. This in itself is a self-contained mini-city in Iztapalapa borough covering an area equivalent to several dozen city blocks. The wholesale market supplies most of the city’s “mercados”, supermarkets and restaurants, as well as people who come to buy the produce for themselves. Tons of fresh produce are trucked in from all over Mexico every day.

The principal fish market is known as La Nueva Viga, in the same complex as the Central de Abastos. The world-renowned market of Tepito occupies 25 blocks, and sells a variety of products.

A staple for consumers in the city is the omnipresent “mercado”. Every major neighborhood in the city has its own borough-regulated market, often more than one. These are large well-established facilities offering most basic products, such as fresh produce and meat/poultry, dry goods, tortillerías, and many other services such as locksmiths, herbal medicine, hardware goods, sewing implements; and a multitude of stands offering freshly made, home-style cooking and drinks in the tradition of aguas frescas and atole.


In addition, “tianguis” or mobile markets set up shop on streets in many neighborhoods, depending on day of week. Sundays see the largest number of these markets.

Street vendors

Street vendors ply their trade from stalls in the tianguis as well as at non-officially controlled concentrations around metro stations and hospitals; at plazas comerciales, where vendors of a certain “theme” (e.g. stationery) are housed; originally these were organized to accommodate vendors formerly selling on the street; or simply from improvised stalls on a city sidewalk. In addition, food and goods are sold from people walking with baskets, pushing carts, from bicycles or the backs of trucks, or simply from a tarp or cloth laid on the ground. In the centre of the city informal street vendors are increasingly targeted by laws and prosecution.

Downtown shopping

The Historic Center of Mexico City is widely known for specialized, often low-cost retailers. Certain blocks or streets are dedicated to shops selling a certain type of merchandise, with areas dedicated to over 40 categories such as home appliances, lamps and electricals, closets and bathrooms, housewares, wedding dresses, jukeboxes, printing, office furniture and safes, books, photography, jewelry, and opticians. The main department stores are also represented downtown.

Traditional markets downtown include the La Merced Market; the Mercado de Jamaica specializes in fresh flowers, the Mercado de Sonora in the occult, and La Lagunilla in furniture.

Ethnic shopping areas are located in Chinatown, downtown along Calle Dolores, but Mexico City’s Koreatown, or Pequeño Seúl, is located in the Zona Rosa.

Supermarkets and neighborhood stores

Large, modern chain supermarkets, hypermarkets and warehouse clubs including Soriana, Comercial Mexicana, Chedraui, Bodega Aurrerá, Walmart and Costco, are located across the city. Many anchor shopping centers that contain smaller shops, services, a food court and sometimes cinemas.

Small “mom-and-pop” corner stores (“abarroterías” or more colloquially as “changarros”) abound in all neighborhoods, rich and poor. These are small shops offering basics such as soft drinks, packaged snacks, canned goods and dairy products. Thousands of C-stores or corner stores, such as Oxxo, 7-Eleven and Extra are located throughout the city.

Administrative division of Mexico City

Federal District

The Acta Constitutiva de la Federación of January 31, 1824, and the Federal Constitution of October 4, 1824, fixed the political and administrative organization of the United Mexican States after the Mexican War of Independence. In addition, Section XXVIII of Article 50 gave the new Congress the right to choose where the federal government would be located. This location would then be appropriated as federal land, with the federal government acting as the local authority. The two main candidates to become the capital were Mexico City and Querétaro.

Due in large part to the persuasion of representative Servando Teresa de Mier, Mexico City was chosen because it was the center of the country’s population and history, even though Querétaro was closer to the center geographically. The choice was official on November 18, 1824, and Congress delineated a surface area of two leagues square (8,800 acres) centered on the Zocalo. This area was then separated from the State of Mexico, forcing that state’s government to move from the Palace of the Inquisition (now Museum of Mexican Medicine) in the city to Texcoco. This area did not include the population centers of the towns of Coyoacán, Xochimilco, Mexicaltzingo and Tlalpan, all of which remained as part of the State of Mexico.

In 1854 president Antonio López de Santa Anna enlarged the area of the Federal District almost eightfold from the original 220 to 1,700 km2 (80 to 660 sq mi), annexing the rural and mountainous areas to secure the strategic mountain passes to the south and southwest to protect the city in event of a foreign invasion. (The Mexican–American War had just been fought.) The last changes to the limits of the Federal District were made between 1898 and 1902, reducing the area to the current 1,479 km2 (571 sq mi) by adjusting the southern border with the state of Morelos. By that time, the total number of municipalities within the Federal District was twenty-two.

While the Federal District was ruled by the federal government through an appointed governor, the municipalities within it were autonomous, and this duality of powers created tension between the municipalities and the federal government for more than a century. In 1903, Porfirio Díaz largely reduced the powers of the municipalities within the Federal District. Eventually, in December 1928, the federal government decided to abolish all the municipalities of the Federal District. In place of the municipalities, the Federal District was divided into one “Central Department” and 13 delegaciones (boroughs) administered directly by the government of the Federal District. The Central Department was integrated by the former municipalities of Mexico City, Tacuba, Tacubaya and Mixcoac.

In 1941, the General Anaya borough was merged to the Central Department, which was then renamed “Mexico City” (thus reviving the name, but not the autonomous municipality). From 1941 to 1970, the Federal District comprised twelve delegaciones and Mexico City. In 1970 Mexico City was split into four different delegaciones: Cuauhtémoc, Miguel Hidalgo, Venustiano Carranza and Benito Juárez, increasing the number of delegaciones to sixteen. Since then, in a de facto manner, the whole Federal District, whose delegaciones had by then almost formed a single urban area, began to be considered a synonym of Mexico City.

The lack of a de jure stipulation left a legal vacuum that led to a number of sterile discussions about whether one concept had engulfed the other or if the latter had ceased to exist altogether. In 1993 this situation was solved by an amendment to the 44th article of the Constitution whereby Mexico City and the Federal District were set to be the same entity. This amendment was later introduced into the second article of the Statute of Government of the Federal District.

Political structure

Mexico City, being the seat of the powers of the Union, did not belong to any particular state but to all. Therefore, it was the president, representing the federation, who used to designate the head of government of the Federal District, a position which is sometimes presented outside Mexico as the “Mayor” of Mexico City. In the 1980s, given the dramatic increase in population of the previous decades, the inherent political inconsistencies of the system, as well as the dissatisfaction with the inadequate response of the federal government after the 1985 earthquake, residents began to request political and administrative autonomy to manage their local affairs. Some political groups even proposed that the Federal District be converted into the 32nd state of the federation.

In response to the demands, in 1987 the Federal District received a greater degree of autonomy, with the elaboration the first Statute of Government (Estatuto de Gobierno), and the creation of an Assembly of Representatives. In the 1990s, this autonomy was further expanded and, starting from 1997, residents can directly elect the head of government of the Federal District and the representatives of a unicameral Legislative Assembly (which succeeded the previous Assembly) by popular vote.

The first elected head of government was Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. Cárdenas resigned in 1999 to run in the 2000 presidential elections and designated Rosario Robles to succeed him, who became the first woman (elected or otherwise) to govern Mexico City. In 2000 Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected, and resigned in 2005 to run in the 2006 presidential elections, Alejandro Encinas being designated by the Legislative Assembly to finish the term. In 2006, Marcelo Ebrard was elected for the 2006–2012 period.

The Federal District does not have a constitution, like the states of the Union, but rather a Statute of Government. As part of its recent changes in autonomy, the budget is administered locally; it is proposed by the head of government and approved by the Legislative Assembly. Nonetheless, it is the Congress of the Union that sets the ceiling to internal and external public debt issued by the Federal District.

According to the 44th article of the Mexican Constitution, in case the powers of the Union move to another city, the Federal District will be transformed into a new state, which will be called “State of the Valley of Mexico”, with the new limits set by the Congress of the Union.

Boroughs and neighborhoods

For administrative purposes, the Federal District was divided into 16 municipalities (previously called boroughs).

Given that Mexico City is organized entirely as a Federal District, most of the city services are provided or organized by the Government of the Federal District and not by the boroughs themselves, while in the constituent states these services would be provided by the municipalities.

  • 01. Álvaro Obregón (727,034)
  • 02. Azcapotzalco (414,711)
  • 03. Benito Juárez (385,439)
  • 04. Coyoacán (620,416)
  • 05. Cuajimalpa (186,391)
  • 06. Cuauhtémoc (531,831)
  • 07. Gustavo A. Madero (1,185,772)
  • 08. Iztacalco (384,326)
  • 09. Iztapalapa (1,815,786)
  • 10. Magdalena Contreras (239,086)
  • 11. Miguel Hidalgo (372,889)
  • 12. Milpa Alta (130,582)
  • 13. Tláhuac (360,265)
  • 14. Tlalpan (650,567)
  • 15. Venustiano Carranza (430,978)
  • 16. Xochimilco (415,007)

The boroughs are composed by hundreds of colonias or neighborhoods, which have no jurisdictional autonomy or representation.

The Historic Center is the oldest part of the city (along with some other, formerly separate colonial towns such as Coyoacán and San Ángel), some of the buildings dating back to the 16th century.

Other well-known central neighborhoods include Condesa, known for its Art Deco architecture and its restaurant scene.

Colonia Roma, a beaux arts neighborhood and artistic and culinary hot-spot.

Zona Rosa, formerly the center of nightlife and restaurants, now reborn as the center of the LGBT and Korean-Mexican communities.

Also Tepito and La Lagunilla, known for their local working-class foklore and large flea markets.

Santa María la Ribera and San Rafael are the latest neighborhoods of magnificent Porfiriato architecture seeing the first signs of gentrification.

West of the Historic Center (Centro Histórico) along Paseo de la Reforma are many of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods such as Polanco, Lomas de Chapultepec, Bosques de las Lomas, Santa Fe, and (in the State of Mexico) Interlomas, which are also the city’s most important areas of class A office space, corporate headquarters, skyscrapers and shopping malls.

Nevertheless, areas of lower income colonias exist in some cases cheek-by-jowl with rich neighborhoods, particularly in the case of Santa Fe.

The south of the city is home to some other high-income neighborhoods such as Colonia del Valle and Jardines del Pedregal, and the formerly separate colonial towns of Coyoacán, San Ángel, and San Jerónimo.

Along Avenida Insurgentes from Paseo de la Reforma, near the center, south past the World Trade Center and UNAM university towards the Periférico ring road, is another important corridor of corporate office space.

The far southern boroughs of Xochimilco and Tláhuac have a significant rural population with Milpa Alta being entirely rural.

East of the center are mostly lower-income areas with some middle-class neighborhoods such as Jardín Balbuena.

Urban sprawl continues further east for many miles into the State of Mexico, including Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, now increasingly middle-class, but once full of informal settlements. These kind of slums are now found on the eastern edges of the metropolitan area in the Chalco area.

North of the Historic Center, Azcapotzalco and Gustavo A. Madero have important industrial centers and neighborhoods that range from established middle-class colonias such as Claveria and Lindavista to huge low-income housing areas that share hillsides with adjacent municipalities in the State of Mexico.

In recent years much of northern Mexico City’s industry has moved to nearby municipalities in the State of Mexico. Northwest of Mexico City itself is Ciudad Satélite, a vast middle to upper-middle-class residential and business area.

Metropolitan area

Greater Mexico City is formed by the Federal District, 60 municipalities from the State of Mexico and one from the state of Hidalgo.

Greater Mexico City is the largest metropolitan area in Mexico and the area with the highest population density. As of 2009, 21,163,226 people live in this urban agglomeration, of which 8,841,916 live in Mexico City proper.

In terms of population, the biggest municipalities that are part of Greater Mexico City (excluding Mexico City proper) are:

  • Atizapan de Zaragoza (489,775)
  • Chimalhuacán (602,079)
  • Cuautitlán Izcalli (532,973)
  • Ecatepec de Morelos (1,658,806)
  • Ixtapaluca (467,630)
  • Naucalpan (833,782)
  • Nezahualcóyotl (1,109,363)
  • Tlalnepantla de Baz (664,160)

The above municipalities are located in the state of Mexico but are part of the Greater Mexico City area. Approximately 75% (10 million) of the state of México’s population live in municipalities that are part of Greater Mexico City’s conurbation.

Greater Mexico City was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the country until the late 1980s. Since then, and through a policy of decentralization in order to reduce the environmental pollutants of the growing conurbation, the annual rate of growth of the agglomeration has decreased, and it is lower than that of the other four largest metropolitan areas (namely Greater Guadalajara, Greater Monterrey, Greater Puebla and Greater Toluca) even though it is still positive.

The net migration rate of Mexico City proper from 1995 to 2000 was negative, which implies that residents are moving to the suburbs of the metropolitan area, or to other states of Mexico. In addition, some inner suburbs are losing population to outer suburbs, indicating the continuing expansion of Greater Mexico City.



Mexico City is served by the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, a 225.9 km (140 mi) metro system, which is the largest in Latin America. The first portions were opened in 1969 and it has expanded to 12 lines with 195 stations. The metro transports 4.4 million people every day. It is the 8th busiest metro system in the world, behind Tokyo (10.0 million), Beijing (9.3 million), Shanghai (7.8 million), Seoul (7.3 million), Moscow (6.7 million), Guangzhou (6.2 million), and New York City (4.9 million).

It is heavily subsidized, and has some of the lowest fares in the world, each trip costing 5.00 pesos (roughly 0.27 USD) from 05:00 am to midnight. Several stations display pre-Columbian artifacts and architecture that were discovered during the metro’s construction. However, the metro covers less than half of the total urban area.

The Metro stations are also differentiated by the use of icons and glyphs which were proposed for people who could not read. The specific icons were developed based on historical (characters, sites, pre-Hispanic motifs), linguistic, symbolic (glyphs) or location references and has been emulated in further transportations alternatives in the City and in other Mexican cities. Mexico City is the only city in the world to use the icon reference and has become a popular culture trademark for the city.

Suburban rail

A suburban rail system, the Tren Suburbano serves the metropolitan area, beyond the city limits of the metro, to municipalities such as Tlalnepantla and Cuautitlán Izcalli, with future extensions to Chalco and La Paz.


Peseros are typically half-length passenger buses (known as microbús) that sit 22 passengers and stand up to 28. As of 2007, the approximately 28,000 peseros carried up to 60 percent of the city’s passengers. In August 2016, Mayor Mancera announced that new pesero vehicle and concessions would be eliminated completely unless they were ecologically friendly vehicles, and in October 2011 the city’s Secretary of Mobility Héctor Serrano states that by the end of the current administration (2018) there would no longer by any peseros/microbuses circulating at all, and that new full-sized buses would take over the routes.

Urban buses

City agency Red de Transporte de Pasajeros operates a network of large buses. In 2016, more bus routes were added to replace pesero routes.

In 2016, the SVBUS express bus service was launched, with limited stops and utilizing the city’s toll roads on the second-level of the Periférico ring road and Supervía Poniente and connecting Toreo/Cuatro Caminos with Santa Fe, San Jerónimo Lídice and Tepepan near Xochimilco in the southeast.

Suburban buses also leave from the city’s main intercity bus stations.

Bus rapid transit

The city’s first bus rapid transit line, the Metrobús, began operation in June 2005, along Avenida Insurgentes. Line 2 opened in December 2008, serving Eje 4 Sur, line 3 opened in February 2011, serving Eje 1 Poniente, and line 4 opened in April 2012 connecting the airport with San Lázaro and Buenavista Station at Insurgentes. As the microbuses were removed from its route, it was hoped that the Metrobús could reduce pollution and decrease transit time for passengers. In June 2013, Mexico City’s mayor announced two more lines to come: Line 5 serving Eje 3 Oriente and Line 6 serving Eje 5 Norte. As of June 2013, 367 Metrobús buses transported 850,000 passengers daily.

Mexibús bus rapid transit lines serve suburban areas in the State of Mexico and connect to the Mexico City metro.

Trolleybus, light rail, streetcars

Electric transport other than the metro also exists, in the form of several Mexico City trolleybus routes and the Xochimilco Light Rail line, both of which are operated by Servicio de Transportes Eléctricos. The central area’s last streetcar line (tramway, or tranvía) closed in 1979.

Roads and car transport

In the late 1970s many arterial roads were redesigned as ejes viales; high-volume one-way roads that cross, in theory, Mexico City proper from side to side. The eje vial network is based on a quasi-Cartesian grid, with the ejes themselves being called Eje 1 Poniente, Eje Central, and Eje 1 Oriente, for example, for the north-south roads, and Eje 2 Sur and Eje 3 Norte, for example, for east-west roads. Ring roads are the Circuito Interior (inner ring), Anillo Periférico; the Circuito Exterior Mexiquense (“State of Mexico outer loop”) toll road skirting the northeastern and eastern edges of the metropolitan area, the Chamapa-La Venta toll road skirting the northwestern edge, and the Arco Norte completely bypassing the metropolitan area in an arc from northwest (Atlacomulco) to north (Tula, Hidalgo) to east (Puebla). A second level (where tolls are charged) of the Periférico, colloquially called the segundo piso (“second floor”), was officially opened in 2012, with sections still being completed. The Viaducto Miguel Alemán crosses the city east-west from Observatorio to the airport. In 2013 the Supervía Poniente opened, a toll road linking the new Santa Fe business district with southwestern Mexico City.

There is an environmental program, called Hoy No Circula (“Today Does Not Run”, or “One Day without a Car”), whereby vehicles that have not passed emissions testing are restricted from circulating on certain days according to the ending digit of their license plates; this in an attempt to cut down on pollution and traffic congestion. While in 2003, the program still restricted 40% of vehicles in the metropolitan area, with the adoption of stricter emissions standards in 2001 and 2006, in practice, these days most vehicles are exempt from the circulation restrictions as long as they pass regular emissions tests.


Street parking in urban neighborhoods is mostly controlled by the franeleros a.k.a. “viene vienes” (lit. “come on, come on”), who ask drivers for a fee to park, in theory to guard the car, but with the implicit threat that the franelero will damage the car if the fee is not paid. Double parking is common (with franeleros moving the cars as required), impeding on the available lanes for traffic to pass. In order to mitigate that and other problems and to raise revenue, 721 parking meters (as of October 2013), have been installed in the west-central neighborhoods Lomas de Chapultepec, Condesa, Roma, Polanco and Anzures, in operation from 8 AM to 8 PM on weekdays and charging a rate of 2 pesos per 15 minutes, with offenders’ cars booted, costing about 500 pesos to remove. 30 percent of the monthly 16 million-peso (as of October 2013) income from the parking-meter system (named “ecoParq”) is earmarked for neighborhood improvements. The granting of the license for all zones exclusively to a new company without experience in operating parking meters, Operadora de Estacionamientos Bicentenario, has generated controversy.


The local government continuously strives for a reduction of massive traffic congestion, and has increased incentives for making a bicycle-friendly city. This includes North America’s second-largest bicycle sharing system, EcoBici, launched in 2010, in which registered residents can get bicycles for 45 minutes with a pre-paid subscription of 300 pesos a year. There are, as of September 2013, 276 stations with 4,000 bicycles across an area stretching from the Historic center to Polanco. within 300 metres (980 feet) of one another and are fully automatic using a transponder based card. Bicycle-service users have access to several permanent Ciclovías (dedicated bike paths/lanes/streets), including ones along Paseo de la Reforma and Avenida Chapultepec as well as one running 59 kilometres (37 miles) from Polanco to Fierro del Toro, which is located south of Cumbres del Ajusco National Park, near the Morelos state line. The city’s initiative is inspired by forward thinking examples, such as Denmark’s Copenhagenization.

Intercity buses

The city has four major bus stations (North, South, Observatorio, TAPO), which comprise one of the world’s largest transportation agglomerations, with bus service to many cities across the country and international connections. There are some iintercity buses that leave directly from the Mexico City International Airport.


Mexico City is served by Mexico City International Airport (IATA Airport Code: MEX). This airport is Latin America’s busiest, with daily flights to United States and Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Europe and Asia. Aeroméxico (Skyteam) is based at this airport, and provide codeshare agreements with non-Mexican airlines that span the entire globe. The airport is also a hub for Volaris, Interjet and Aeromar.

In 2016, the airport handled almost 42 million passengers, about 3.3 million more than the year before. This traffic exceeds the current capacity of the airport, which has historically centralized the majority of air traffic in the country. An alternate option is Lic. Adolfo López Mateos International Airport (IATA Airport Code: TLC) in nearby Toluca, State of Mexico, although due to several airlines’ decisions to terminate service to TLC, the airport has seen a passenger drop to just over 700,000 passengers in 2014 from over 2.1 million passengers just four years prior.

In the Mexico City airport, the government engaged in an extensive restructuring program that includes the addition of a new second terminal, which began operations in 2007, and the enlargement of four other airports (at the nearby cities of Toluca, Querétaro, Puebla, and Cuernavaca) that, along with Mexico City’s airport, comprise the Grupo Aeroportuario del Valle de México, distributing traffic to different regions in Mexico. The city of Pachuca will also provide additional expansion to central Mexico’s airport network.

During his annual state-of-the-nation address on September 2, 2014, President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto unveiled plans for a new international airport to ease the city’s notorious air traffic congestion, tentatively slated for a 2018 opening. The new airport, which would have six runways, will cost $9.15 billion and would be built on vacant federal land east of Mexico City International Airport. Goals are to eventually handle 120 million passengers a year, which would make it the busiest airport in the world.

Tourist Assistance + Emergency Numbers

You can dial 078 from any phone, where you can find free information about tourist attractions, airports, travel agencies, car rental companies, embassies and consulates, fairs and exhibitions, hotels, hospitals, financial services, migratory and other issues.

Or dial the toll-free (in Mexico) number 01-800-006-8839.

You can also request information the email


General Information: 040 (not free)

National Emergency Service: 911

Radio Patrols: 066
Police (Emergency): 060
Civil Protection: +52(55)5683-2222
Anonymous Complaint: 089

Setravi (Transport Mobility): +52(55)5209-9913
Road Emergency: 074

Cruz Roja: 065 o +52(55)5557-5757
Firefighters: 068 o +52(55)5768-3700

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