Tag Archives: Mexico City

Mexico City Transportation Guide

Mexico City is a bustling city of 20 million. It is the largest city in North America and attracts a huge number of tourists, expats, and temporary residents. Obviously, a huge city is going to need an approach to getting around easily. So we’ve created this Mexico City Transportation Guide to help you. Regardless of your travel preferences, we cover it all.

Walking

One of the more surprising aspects that I found about Mexico City, is just how walkable it is. With such a large population and urban sprawl, I was expecting much of the city to be difficult to get around. But mistaken we were.

Wide, expansive sidewalks line every street in the city. With a standardized grid layout, it is also easy enough to get from point A to point B with minimal difficulty. There are plenty of streets as well – particularly in Centro Historico – that are completely cut off to vehicular traffic on Sundays.

Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City

The massive plazas,  and numerous avenues, parks, and gardens make Mexico City extremely easy to traverse on foot. The majority of our ventures were taken on foot, and we find this to be a major plus when visiting any city because there is no better way to actually experience a city than to walk within it.

Art along Paseo de la Reforma

It is worth noting however, that despite its obvious European design influence that makes pedestrian life easy – the city is still huge. While walking is usually a good idea, sometimes, the sheer distance between places makes this approach unwise. So while, we recommend walking when you can – sometimes you’ll have to get around through another way.

Festive Skeltons on Paseo de la Reforma

Bikes

As we’ve mentioned before, we love using bikes when traveling. Getting out, and exploring a city on a bike is a wonderful way to get the same experiences you might get from walking, but at a tremendously expedited rate. The White Bikes in Cambodia provided us with an amazing experience.

Mexico City has several different options when it comes to bikes. You can rent bikes, or even use one of multiple bike sharing programs. Here, I’m just going to cover EcoBici.

Bike Problems

Unfortunately for us, we ran into a few issues with the bike sharing  program in Mexico City called EcoBici. It’s not fair to completely lay the blame on the system as we chose the wrong day and time to get bikes. To start with: The Mexico City Marathon was actively going on and we were trying to get the bikes on Paseo de la Reforma. None of the bike stations appeared to be working and we ran into issues.

EcoBici Stand

While we got a card, it didn’t want to actually give us a bike. Going to a kiosk didn’t help, as they were overwhelmed and we were short on time. We only tried to get a single one-day pass, which we never got refunded despite trying to contract them multiple times. Note – EcoBici has a reputation for difficult customer service.

EcoBici

Despite our issues, the program itself seems pretty good on the whole. Had we had more than a few days in the city, we would have made a point to get it to work for us – it was just unnecessary for the rest of our trip.

Info Kiosk for Ecobici

Currently, EcoBici has 444 stations with over 6,000 bicycles. The bikes are very recognizable, with a distinctive red and white paint job. You can see numerous residents utilizing them pretty much everywhere you go. The great thing, is that anyone can use them too – they’re not limited to locals only.

EcoBici Bikes

To use EcoBici as a tourist, you must purchase a card and register from one of a few locations:

  • Station Reader (Must be able to accept credit cards)
  • Kiosk
  • EcoBici Center

You must use a credit card to make the purchase and you can only use one card per bike. You can purchase a 7, 3, or single day use card. A single day card costs $90 MX pesos (~$5). The first 45 minutes are free, and extra charges will incur after that. If you really need to make a longer trip, simply swap out at another bike station.

Metro

Metro - Mexico City

Image courtesy of S●S▲-L●P►Z

The Mexico City Metro system is the second largest in North America behind New York City. Shortened to STC Metro, it is serviced by 195 stations and 12 lines across the city. Stations are both above and below ground.

The STC Metro is efficient, cheap, and accessible – however it can get very crowded during rush hour, and is advisable against using during this time.The first two trains are reserved for women and children, and the rest for the general public.

You need to use a Metro ticket, which you can purchase for MX $5.00 for a single day pass. You can buy multi-day passes depending upon your needs. A single day pass is good for unlimited rides for the day of purchase.

We didn’t use the Metro during our stay, though we considered it. For our purposes, it was ultimately easier to just use Uber.

Bus

There numerous buses throughout the city, and several different types to choose from. Cheap and efficient – they can also get very crowded and uncomfortable at times.

Metrobuses operate via platforms. They run circuitous routes that are pretty easily defined. These are typically red and white in coloring, though pink buses operate too – women only buses. We attempted to utilize them once, but had an issue with getting a ticket and did not spend long trying to fix it due to how busy it was.

Mexico City Bus

Image courtesy of So Cal Metro

Double-decker tourist buses also operate around the city. These are more expensive, but a ticket is purchased, you can hop on and off them all day as you please – moving from site to site. Their overall scope is more limited, but still hits a large portion of the city.

Longer haul buses can easily be taken out of Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte – North Central Autobus Station. The bus station is very large, with an expansive – though disappointing – food court. From here you can get a bus to farther out neighborhoods, cities, sites.

El Norte Station in Mexico City

We took a bus back from Teotihuacan to Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte, and the bus was very nice. It was crowded at first – I had to sit on the floor even – but it quickly dispersed and made for a more comfortable ride.

On The Bus to Mexico City

We had one check-point while police officers early-on which is a relatively normal occurrence. They count how many passengers – tourists – are aboard, in the event of robberies or other criminal activity. It is not common, but incidents do occur in Mexico – usually at night though.

Taxi

There are several classes of taxi in Mexico City. The most recognizable are the pink-and-white taxis. These are the cheapest of the classes and also the most dangerous. Passengers should verify that the cab has a license plate, registration, and that the driver matches the photo. It is advised to not take these at night.

Pink and White Taxi

There is also the libre cabs. These are metered taxis and will generally not run you more than MX $30 – MX $40 for most rides. These are safer than the the others, but still warrant caution at off-times.

Radio Taxis are higher end than the other classes. They cost a bit more, but are secure. You call in a cab directly to your location via the phone. A dispatcher sends out a driver to pick you up and take you to your location. Safety is not a concern when using these.

You can order a taxi via:

Some Reliable Radio Taxis are:

  • Radio Maxi Seguridad
  • Sitio Parque Mexico
  • Taxi-Mex
  • Taxs Radio Union

We never used taxis personally as we utilized other methods to get around. If you opt for utilizing apps for taxis, then in my opinion you might as well use our preferred service – Uber.

Uber

As usual, Uber was our preferred and most used method of transportation after walking. The ease of use really can’t stated enough. Language barriers don’t really present an issue, and prices are cheap.

There was an issue when getting to Teotihuacan, but that was my own fault – careless mistake putting in the wrong address. We still got there, just slower and more expensive than it should have been.

We used Uber multiple times to get to a few neighborhoods when we wanted to save our legs from excessive walking. Most of our rides came out to under $5. Its immediacy, cost, and widespread use make it a must-use when visiting.

Sign up on Uber using our link to get a a discount on your next trip!

Air

Mexico City is serviced by air via Benito Juárez International Airport [MEX]. 30 domestic and international airlines operate out of the airport, typically handling 100,000 individuals per day. It serves as the primary hub for Aeroméxico, Mexico’s largest airliner. Over 100 destinations, on 3 continents can be reached directly via Mexico City.

Bri at Mexico City International Airport

The airport is a medium size with multiple lounges, food courts, and shopping areas. The airport does feel dated however, and is cramped while at full capacity. We also found the boarding process to be disorganized and little chaotic – though ultimately fine in the end.

Grand Lounge at Mexico City International Airport
Departures Terminal at Mexico City International Airport

Due to MEX’s inability to operate at a higher capacity, a new airport is currently under construction roughly 10 miles north of the airport, east of Ecatepec.

~K~

Chacmool at the National Anthropology Museum Mexico City

National Anthropology Museum Mexico City

The National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City is an excellent way to discover the human history of Mexico. From the dawn of the human species until the modern day, it covers everything. It was for this reason – that it would inform our travels – that I insisted the museum be one of the first places we visit during our trip to Cuidad de Mexico.

Getting to the Museo Nacional Antropología

Chapultepec Park

The National Anthropology Museum is in the Chapultepec Park district of Mexico City. It is on the north side of the park, above Lago de Chapultepec and Paseo de la Reforma. Its location makes it an opportune destination for entire day’s outing – we combined our day with Chapultepec Castle.

Statue of a Runner

Need to Know:

  • Address: Av Paseo de la Reforma & Calzada Gandhi S/N, Chapultepec Polanco, Miguel Hidalgo, 11560 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
  • Hours: 9 am – 7 pm (Closed Mondays)
  • Entrance Fee: $70.00 MX pesos. (~$3.70 USD)

Finding Your Way

The museum is very large and has a large avenue leading to it. There are also signs throughout Chapultepec Park that will direct you where to go. Opposite the museum, is a large pole and demonstration ground. Here we witnessed an indigenous ceremony where drum and flute players hang by their feet upside down while spinning to the ground.

Musicians Dangle While Playing

Upon entering the front building you have three options:

  • Left: Gift Shop
  • Right: Special Exhibition
  • Center: Permanent Exhibition

You cannot have backpacks, bags, etc – luckily, the museum provides a “coat storage” for you just behind the gift shop. After that, you can proceed towards the right side of the entrance building where you can purchase your tickets and receive a map.

Entry Building

The Museum

Designed in 1960, the museum is – to say the least – huge. With 23 rooms, each covering a distinct aspect of Mexican heritage, culture, and history, the establishment is the most visited museum in Mexico.

The museum began in 1790 and expanded and moved numerous times over the following centuries. For a while, the collection was housed in Chapultepec Castle, before settling at the current location.

The current design is that of a horseshoe around a large central pond. The buildings are two stories with a courtyard accessible from the bottom floor.

Anthropology Museum Courtyard

Inform the Rest of Your Travels

As I stated above, a big reason I wanted to do the museum, and to do it early, was to inform the rest of our time in Mexico. Our plan was to visit Teotihuacan the following day and Templo Mayor sometime soon after. These massive archaeological sites, I thought, would be better appreciated if we knew about them beforehand. I was right.

Teotihuacan Scale Model

When we entered, the ticket master handed us a map, and circled a few key exhibits. As it was a little bit later in the day, we would not have the time to see the whole museum. You will need at least a whole day to see everything – however, you can still get a great experience even if you only see half. If you have the time and interest, you could spend a second day there too!

We spent around 4 hours in the museum. All the exhibits were kept in top shape, and were highly informative and interesting. One aspect that we particularly enjoyed was how the bottom floor exhibits had their own outdoor exhibit portions as well. These gardens gave fresh air and a more authentic presentation of the artifacts.

Cave Paintings

We put our focus on the Mayans, Olmecs, Aztecs, and Teotihuacan, as well as on the Oaxaca region. Though, we did still manage to see the majority of the museum. It does not disappoint at all.

Exhibition

Human Sacrifices With Jawbone Necklaces

These human sacrifices were found at Templo Mayor. Their hands were bound behind their backs, and were wearing necklaces made of human jawbones.


Temple Reconstruction

A reconstruction of an Aztec temple in one of the many outside exhibits. This is a part of the Tenochtitlan exhibit.

Statue of a God

A stone carving of an Aztec God.

Aztec Sun Calendar

Arguably one of the most recognizable artifacts from the Aztecs – the great stone sun calendar is a huge monolithic carving.

Scale Model of Templo Mayor

A scale model replica of the Templo Mayor complex. The ruins of the complex can be seen in Centro Historico.

Jaguar Statue

The Jaguar is an important animal in the mythologies of the Aztecs.

Stone carving

The Mesoamericans were highly skilled stone workers.

Textiles

Second-floor exhibits display more modern items. Here, we viewed the traditional dress and textiles of the region.

Skeletons

Death was a very important part of the cultures of Mexico and Central America.

Do Visit The National Anthropology Museum

Olmec Stone Head

I really don’t think I can emphasize enough, just how impressive the museum is. It’s excellently curated and should keep you occupied the entire time you are there. The displays are in Spanish, English, and Nahuatl – so don’t worry about understanding if you don’t speak Spanish.

Kyle and Bri
~K~

Mexico City Tenochtitlan Mask Wall

Templo Mayor – Tenochtitlan Ruins – Mexico City

In the heart of Mexico City’s Centro Historico district, the ancient Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan, lies the ruins of Templo Mayor. Today, what remains is only ruins, but the site was once one of the most important temples in the Aztec Empire. It is now a great look into Aztec and Mesoamerican culture and history in the center of the now bustling Mexico City.

Templo Mayor Ruins and Metropolitan Cathedral

Getting In

Our path to visiting Templo Mayor was part of a much longer and bigger day. Because of the way that we went, it seemed to be far more complicated to get into the archaeological site than it actually is.

We had approached from the west, on the north side of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Zocalo Square. There is an elevated walkway that goes around the north side of the site and offers decent views of the ruins – but it didn’t seem to offer any actual entrances.

We walked the entire outer boundary of the ruins, but with no luck. At one point, we thought we found the entrance, but it actually turned out to be the exit. The exit is surprisingly more elaborate and conspicuous than the entrance. Most likely, it served as the entrance at one time.

Not the entrance to Templo Mayor

Regardless, the actual entrance to Templo Mayor is on the south side of the compound, and can easily be accessed via the east side of the Metropolitan Cathedral.

We were wearing shawls and hoods, not because it was cold – but because of pretty bad sunburns we received the previous day at Teotihuacan.

Kyle at Templo Mayor
Briana at Templo Mayor

Need To Know

  • Address: Seminario 8, Centro Histórico, Cuauhtémoc, 06060 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
  • Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 09:00 – 17:00 / Closed Mondays
  • Cost: $70 Pesos (~ $4 USD) for adults. Free for children under 13, Mexican students and educators, and seniors.
  • No food, water, or umbrellas are allowed – free stowage is provided at entrance.
  • Photography is allowed.

Entering the Ruins

Templo Mayor archaeological site

Once you exit the entry building, you arrive to the ruins of Templo Mayor itself. We broke this up into two different viewing times: once before, and once after visiting the Templo Mayor Museum. This may not seem intuitive at first, but it actually does serve a purpose.

We entered a small, elevated walkway and explored the ruins some. There are plaques, but upon initial viewing, you don’t walk away with much understanding. But this is okay! It piques your interest for the monster to come that is the Templo Mayor Museum.

Kyle and Briana at Templo Mayor

History of Templo Mayor

Legend says that the Aztecs were in search of a location to build their city. In a vision, the king was told to found their city when they found an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake. The next day, that is what they saw. The city of Tenochtitlan was founded sometime around 1325 CE with the main temple built at the site the eagle was seen.

Rediscovery

The site is a very large and robust archaeological site, still undergoing excavation today. On some days, you may even see archaeologists hard at work to recover more artifacts. Much of the site is buried beneath the Metropolitan Cathedral, Zocalo Square, the Palace, and other colonial buildings.

Archaeologists Working at Templo Mayor

However, in 1978, electric workers came across the massive stone monolith while digging. Work stopped, and a special study ensued from 1978 to 1982 to determine if the site was worth studying. At the end of the study, it was deemed a very well preserved and intact site, which lead to the demolition of 13 buildings. The ruins remain as found, with small artifacts housed in the adjoining Templo Mayor Museum.

Modern sewer pipe in the ruins of Templo Mayor

The coup-de-grace of Templo Mayor is the massive pyramid that once stood 200 feet tall. It went through seven different construction phases, each phase building a new pyramid atop the old.

Staircase ruins at Templo Mayor

Spanish Conquest

When the Spaniards arrived in 1519, lead by Hernan Cortes, they saw the seventh phase of the pyramid. It was topped with two temples: one to Huitzilopochtli – the god of war and sun; and one to Tlaloc – the god of water. They were impressed at the number and grandeur of the temples, but were revolted at the beliefs of the Aztecs and human sacrifice.

Ruins of Templo Mayor

In 1519, the Spaniards began a war against the Aztecs that would rage on in bloody conflict until Tenochtitlan fell in 1521. Cortes ordered the destruction of the city – and of the temple – and began the construction of a Mediterranean style city built in its place.

The site of Templo Mayor quickly fell to nothing more than memory as the Spanish and later Mexican governments continued to build atop the site. It would remain mostly forgotten until its rediscovery in 1978.

Templo Mayor Museum

Templo Mayor Museum Entrance

We entered the museum, not knowing what to expect. We had thought it would be rather small – but we were wrong. The museum is rather large, although compact, and is very well curated. You can easily dedicate 2 – 3 hours wandering it’s four floors and eight exhibition rooms. It even has a small gift shop.

Room 1: Historical Background

This room provides an overview of the history of the site and it’s discovery.

Tlaltecuhtuli monolith on display at Templo Mayor Museum
Model of Zocala Square and Templo Mayor

Room 2: War and Sacrifice

This room showcases artifacts relating to the violence of the Aztecs. Funerary offerings, skulls, and weapons adorn the room.

Skulls and Bones at Templo Mayor
Stone Carved Skulls at Templo Mayor Museum

The fired clay statue of Mictlantecuhtli shows the god of the underworld with his liver hanging out and skin removed.

Mictlantecuhtli statue recovered from the ruins of Templo Mayor

Room 3: Tribute and Trade

This room covers the important role of trade and commerce throughout the Aztec Empire. Merchants were extremely important in the Mexica culture. They would often serve as communication links between cities, and assault of a merchant was seen as an act of war.

Aztec ceremonial mask found at Templo Mayor

Room 4: Huitzilopochtli

This room is dedicated to the god Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and human sacrifice.

Huitzilopochtli statue recovered at Templo Mayor

Room 5: Tlaloc

This room is showcases the god Tlaloc, the god of water. It was believed that rain was the result of breaking pots in the heavens. The shattering of ceramic was believed to be the sound we know as thunder.

Room 6: Flora and Fauna

Animals and plants were an important part of Aztec and Mexica life. This room covers the different species of importance in the cultures of the regions including: jaguars, dogs, eagles, crocodiles, and hummingbirds.

XOLOITZCUINTLI taxidermy dog at Templo Mayor

Room 7: Agriculture

Part of the success of the Tenochtitlan was the innovative agricultural practices. The city was built on a lake, and food was grown on chinampas. Chinampas were floating platforms built of reed, wood, and filled with soil.

Important plants grown were:

  • Maize
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Chili
  • Tomato
  • Amaranth

Room 8: Historical Archeology

The final room documents the colonial times of city, and it’s transition from Aztec to Spanish to Mexican.

Each room had an interactive video display. However, most were not working when we went – much to the dismay of a security guard.

Interactive Templo Mayor Museum Display

Returning to the Ruins, with New Understandings

After completing our long run through the museum, we returned to the ruins outside. With a now far greater understanding of the site, we could now better appreciate what we were looking at.

Cat walk through Templo Mayor Ruins

Most of the ruins remain open to the elements. But a few sections have permanent roofs. These sections contain important relics or areas such as rooms.

The walkways in this area are far longer and more extensive than the initial ones. As well, they get lower, so you can start to get a better scale of what it was like to walk among the temples.

Chacmool at Templo Mayor Ruins
Covered Ruins of Red Room at Templo Mayor
Carved Snake Head and Eagle at Templo Mayor

After many hours, we made our way out of Templo Mayor. If you didn’t leave anything at the entrance then you can simply exit through the main exit – otherwise, just backtrack to the entrance to gather your things!

Carved Snake head at Templo Mayor
Templo Mayor Ruins with Metropolitan Cathedral in Background