From an elevation of more than a mile in the air, Mexico City is a magical destination. Nearly 1,000 years of history can be explored here, and the city boasts many diverse neighborhoods. When you choose a place to stay in Mexico City, you also are making a decision about what kind of experiences you want to have.
The diverse areas in Mexico City are all worthy of exploration. From the Zocalo Area to Santa Fe, you’ll want to have your camera at the ready so you can capture lively street scenes, historic architecture and public art.
As Mexico’s capital, Mexico City is loaded with fantastic museums, and the nightlife never seems to die down. You could easily be dancing, drinking and socializing until the sun rises on the next morning.
If possible, it’s best to get around the city on foot. Mexico City is actually laid out perfectly to accommodate those choosing this method of transportation. Of course, this also is a large metropolitan area, so it stands to reason that you need an alternative form of transportation on occasion.
The sitio taxis that run all over the city are inexpensive and safe. You have little chance of getting lost when you’re riding with these experienced locals.
Most of the neighborhoods in Mexico City are well-connected by the community’s mass transit system. Unfortunately, safety and security concerns mean that it is not always advisable for travelers to use the buses and subway.
If you do venture into the subway, you’ll be impressed by the modern, well-organized underground stations and the smoothness and efficiency of the ride. Just be on high alert and keep an eye on your belongings. The Metro is a notorious haven for pickpockets and thieves.
Also, if you’ll be traveling by bus or subway, keep an eye out for pink placards that designate certain transportation for women only. This program was instituted in 2008 to stem the number of incidents on public transportation in which women were groped by men.
It’s a successful program, and it may be a wise choice to take advantage of this option for women traveling alone. Men should take care not to board one of these buses or cars.
Mexico City has many of the same problems as all other major metropolitan areas. Nonetheless, it remains an enchanting city that is full of color and life.
The locals are warm and welcoming, and the many distinctive neighborhoods in Mexico City are simply waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
Where to stay in Mexico City: Best areas and neighborhoods
If you’re wondering where to stay in Mexico City, then this in-depth look at all of the major neighborhoods will help you to arrive at an informed decision.
1. Historic Centre, best area to stay in Mexico City for sightseeing and budget travelers
Sometimes called Centro Historico or simply Centro, the heart of Mexico City is the home of the Zócalo, the city’s main plaza and the largest such gathering place in Latin America. In fact, the Zócalo can accommodate almost 100,000 people.
As the name suggests, this neighborhood in Mexico City is filled with historic buildings, many of which were built sometime between the 16th and 20th centuries.
This is Mexico City’s oldest neighborhood. The conquering Spaniards began building here in the 16th century on the ruins of the Aztec capital known as Tenochtitlan. It is this long and complex history that has led to the neighborhood being named a World Heritage Site.
The Zócalo is the focal point of the neighborhood, with many events, festivals and gatherings happening here throughout the year. Visitors can attend anything from a traveling museum to a skateboarding and BMX exhibition.
People who love history won’t be able to resist the charm of this district. This is where it is possible to visit excavated ruins dating from the Aztec empire. Called the Templo Mayor, this structure was once the spiritual centerpiece of Tenochtitlan.
The pyramid is a breathtaking sight, and to learn more about the structure and Aztec culture, a visit to the Museo del Templo Mayor is an absolute must.
Other popular sights in the neighborhood include the Catedral Metropolitana, the beautiful Diego Rivera murals at the Ministry of Education, the gorgeous Palacio Postal and Alameda Central, a municipal park that’s been in existence since 1529.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Mexico City, this is an excellent choice. It’s a center of entertainment and commerce. You’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars, shops and nightclubs.
Accommodations range from incredibly inexpensive hostels to elegant, old-world style inns. Rates tend to be quite affordable in this district, and many of the properties have rooftop restaurants and gardens.
This is a great place for any traveler to stay in Mexico City, but use caution when out after dark as pickpockets prowl the area.
2. Polanco, where to stay in Mexico City for luxury travelers
This sprawling residential area sits immediately to the west of the city’s center. Chapultepec Park is the heart of this neighborhood, and it is the largest green space in the city. The park dates to the 15th century when it was established by an Aztec ruler.
In many ways, this is Mexico City’s most exclusive and upscale neighborhood. Visitors will find plenty of museums, restaurants, shops and entertainment throughout the district. Sometimes called the Beverly Hills of Mexico City, this is a fabulous place to stay.
This is definitely a destination for shoppers. The district boasts the biggest department store in Latin America in addition to six malls. Avenida Presidente Masaryk is the main shopping thoroughfare where visitors will find Cartier, Rolex, Gucci, Tiffany and many more.
Given the neighborhood’s upscale reputation, it’s fitting that many of the city’s finest restaurants are located here. It’s easy for gourmands to enjoy a memorable meal on every street in the district.
This also is an excellent place to stay in Mexico City because of the museums. This is the home of the renowned National Museum of Anthropology as well as the Chapultepec Castle and the Modern Art Museum.
From beautiful parks to art galleries, it’s easy to see why this is one of the best neighborhoods in Mexico City.
In keeping with the upscale surroundings, the hotels in the district tend to be rather expensive. Visitors will find everything from high-rise versions of internationally recognized brand-name hotels to small boutique inns housed in historic properties.
There is a dearth of hostels, so those looking for a really affordable stay are better off in Centro.
3. Paseo de La Reforma, where to stay in mexico City for first timers
Think of La Reforma as the Times Square of Mexico City. Everything happens along this main thoroughfare. Monuments, shops, outdoor markets and nightclubs line every mile of this memorable street.
What’s more, you’ll find all sorts of hotel accommodations that are suitable for every budget and style.
The area along the Paseo de La Reforma is incredibly friendly to pedestrians, encouraging visitors to get out and explore.
It’s easy to get to El Angel de Independencia on foot, and there is an incredible number of eateries in the area serving authentic Mexican fare. Countless monuments line the boulevard, offering a broad survey of Mexican history.
Whether you walk or take a taxi, the whole city is accessible, making this one of the best areas in Mexico City to look for a hotel.
Because of the Paseo de La Reforma’s extension diagonally across the heart of the city, it is possible to find all sorts of accommodations.
Hostels costing just a few dollars per night are widely seen as are high-rise, new construction hotels with plenty of upscale amenities.
Read our article on the best things to do in Mexico City
4. Condesa, bohemian and trendy neighborhood
A Bohemian neighborhood that is undeniably hip, Condesa is one of the most popular areas in Mexico City. The boulevards are wide and lined with graceful trees, and art nouveau and art deco architecture dominate the district.
Inside the buildings, visitors find an eclectic collection of art galleries, bars, restaurants and shops. The younger crowd loves Condesa after dark for its many clubs and night spots.
Condesa’s trendiness comes at a price. Many people live here, and it is one of the most expensive districts in Mexico City. Nonetheless, it also is one of the most charming.
Its centerpiece is lovely Parque Mexico, where most of the city’s dog population spends the day while their human counterparts are at work. Live music and other performances are frequently given here. Moreover, this is a wonderful place to enjoy a walk or a jog.
In keeping with its Bohemian yet expensive reputation, visitors will find a range of accommodations here. Tourists who want to stay in Mexico City where the cool young crowd hangs out will love it.
It’s filled with trendy boutique hotels and smaller properties with distinctive charm. Prices tend to be high, but bargains can be found by the determined. This is not the section for finding an inexpensive hostel.
5. Roma, excellent place to stay in Mexico City for travelers on any budget
Made famous in a well-received Academy Award-winning film, Roma is Condesa’s equally Bohemian and chic neighbor. It lies to the immediate west of the city’s historic center, making it easy to reach from that district.
Established in the early twentieth century, La Roma started out as an enclave of the upper classes. It became distinctly middle class in the second half of the century, with the 1985 earthquake bringing a downturn in the district’s fortunes.
All of that is now in the past, and gentrification is running riot in Roma. The streets are lined with art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Nonetheless, the neighborhood remains largely residential. As in Condesa, Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings are found here in abundance.
Most streets in this area are quiet. Large, leafy trees provide a pleasant contrast with all of the development in the region. The sprawling Jardin Ramon Lopez Velarde dominates the landscape to the east. Several smaller parks and public squares also are located within Roma.
As a largely residential neighborhood, this is one of the areas in Mexico City that doesn’t have a great deal of options for accommodations. Nonetheless, what is there includes a tolerably wide selection.
Hostels charging just a few dollars per night are found nearby, and there also are modern hotels with plenty of amenities that cost a few hundred dollars per night. Consequently, Roma could be an excellent place to stay in Mexico City for travelers on any budget.
6. Zona Rosa, where to stay in Mexico City for nightlife
Effervescent and relentlessly touristy, Zona Rosa never seems to stop, let alone slow down. This is Mexico City’s most gay-friendly neighborhood, though it quickly becomes clear that all are welcome in this eclectic corner.
If your idea of a good time is browsing through trendy shops by day and dancing through the night at a series of bars and clubs, then this is the best place for you to stay in Mexico City.
Zona Rosa was initially developed late in the nineteenth century to accommodate European immigrants and well-to-do residents of the city center who were looking for a quieter, less busy option.
With the Mexican Revolution underway between 1910 and 1920, development in the district was put on hold for many years. The resolution of that conflict allowed building to continue. By the 1950s, artists and intellectuals were beginning to flood into the neighborhood.
The new residents gave Zona Rosa a Bohemian flair, attracting plenty of upscale bars and restaurants. International dignitaries would be brought here to dine, but the halcyon days were destined to end.
Many of the more respectable businesses began leaving in the 1980s, making way for increasingly touristy offerings along with prostitution and other criminal enterprises.
With the turn of the century, Mexico City officials turned their sights to revitalizing the neighborhood. They succeeded in many ways, though it is generally not considered safe to walk here at night, and it is inadvisable to get too drunk when out and about.
This is one of the city’s premier areas for shopping and nightclubs of all sorts. While some night spots are relatively straightforward, others seem to try to outdo each other in terms of outrageousness.
As mentioned, Zona Rosa is incredibly gay-friendly, with numerous bars, clubs and other businesses catering to the community.
While visitors will find plenty of intriguing shops here, they also should be prepared to encounter numerous erotic shops, which may mean that this is not the most family-friendly neighborhood.
Nonetheless, the antique vendors are charming, and the frequent festivals are fun. People are warm and welcoming here. Moreover, there are plenty of wonderful restaurants that beg to be sampled.
Whatever type of accommodations you prefer, you can probably find it in the Zona Rosa. Hotel prices tend to be cheap, even for the more upscale properties in the neighborhood. There are even a few hostels in the zone. However, they tend to be a bit more expensive than they are in other neighborhoods.
If you prefer the other end of the spectrum, Zona Rosa also is home to some surprisingly upscale properties that feature fitness centers, spas, swimming pools and many other amenities. These will cost several hundred dollars per night.
7. Coyoacan, coolest area to stay in Mexico City
This is a beautiful, colonial-era neighborhood that features cobblestone streets and old-world charm. It’s found about five miles from the city center, and it can be reached by Line 3 of the Metro. The town square here is gorgeous. Many people come to see it and the collection of superb museums.
Coyoacán once was the home of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. After Leon Trotsky was exiled from the USSR, he lived here as well. Despite all of the old-world grandeur, the air is tinged with a counter-culture feel. A fun hippie market is held here every weekend.
Not so long ago, Coyoacán was independent of Mexico City, and that spirit of independence remains strong in the community. When visiting the coffee shops and cafes, visitors are likely to encounter spirited political and cultural debates.
Mexico’s national university is found nearby, which likely contributes to the intellectual and progressive atmosphere. Many art schools are located within the district, so expect to find several galleries and exhibitions.
This is the district where you’ll find the excellent Frida Kahlo Museum where you can learn about her work and life. Museums dedicated to Diego Rivera and Leon Trotsky also are found here. The National Museum of Popular Culture similarly is located in Coyoacán. This institution features an extensive collection of folk art.
Another fascinating spot is the Los Coyotes Zoo with its collection of native animals. Most visitors won’t want to miss an opportunity to explore Vivero Coyoacán, the neighborhood’s principal park. It is the home of the famous Fountain of the Coyotes, which is renowned across the city.
Whether you are enjoying the museums or the traditional Mexican market in Coyoacan, you may reach the conclusion that this is one of the best neighborhoods in Mexico City.
Unfortunately, there’s not an overabundance of accommodation choices here. Most are clustered around the neighborhood’s perimeter. The good news is that they are a fairly eclectic mix.
Given the proximity of the university, cheap hotels are easy to find, though there seems to be a shortage of hostels. Most of the other hotels are reasonably priced.
You won’t find much for recognizable brand names. What you get instead are unique guest houses, inns and hotels that are far more personable and interesting. If you can find accommodations here, you’ll probably love it.
8. San Angel, lovely cobblestone streets and colonial-era architecture
This gorgeous neighborhood is an ideal home base for people who love history and culture. In its earliest days, Spanish nobility retreated here to get away from the bustle and heat of the city.
Expansion soon saw the area absorbed into the city proper, but the neighborhood still retains its lovely cobblestone streets and colonial-era architecture.
The Bazar del Sabado is held here each weekend, and it is a “must do” for visitors. The Saturday Bazaar is held in the Plaza San Jacinto which is the center of the neighborhood. Spending a whole day browsing here is easy as this outdoor market features some of the best handicrafts made across Mexico.
In addition to the bazaar, the Plaza is the site of historic events, and it is surrounded by graceful buildings and fascinating restaurants. Near the Plaza is the Museo Casa del Risco with its superb exhibition of art from Mexico and Europe.
The Templo y Ex-Convento del Carmen, which was built in 1615, also is nearby. In addition to an architecturally impressive edifice, the grounds of the monastery boast enormous gardens that are waiting to be explored.
Visitors will find numerous parks, charming restaurants and unusual boutiques throughout the district. Arriving here is easy thanks to Line 1 of the Metrobus system. Accommodation choices are few and far between in the district.
What there is, however, is relatively inexpensive yet quaint. Bed and breakfasts, guest houses and inns offer plenty of personality and won’t break the bank.
9. Santa Fe, one of Mexico City’s newest neighborhoods
This highly commercial area is one of Mexico City’s newest neighborhoods. It’s filled with gleaming skyscrapers, but it doesn’t lend itself particularly well to being a place to stay in Mexico City.
Everything looks fabulous and modern. However, there is a definite shortage of accommodations here.
If you were blindfolded and dropped in Santa Fe, you could be forgiven for believing that you had been left in an American city. This is where you’ll find the local offices for many multinational corporations and high-tech businesses.
Young professionals with plenty of money settle here in droves in high-rise condominiums and apartments. Accordingly, a restaurant and nightlife scene has sprung up here to cater to them. Santa Fe also boasts a sprawling shopping center filled with upscale shops.
The area is well-served by buses, so it’s not much of a problem to make the 12-mile journey from the city’s center. Mass transit to the neighborhood is an absolute necessity because so many workers must commute here. Predictably, morning and evening rush hours produce a traffic jam of epic proportions.
Santa Fe sprang up quickly in the 1980s and 1990s. While great attention was paid to gleaming skyscrapers, there seems to have been little overall planning. Accordingly, you’ll find few parks, greens spaces or even pathways for pedestrians. This is not one of the most visitor-friendly areas in Mexico City.
Accommodations are few and far between, congregating mostly on the neighborhood’s perimeter. Some are surprisingly inexpensive yet modern and include some nice conveniences like 24-hour restaurants.
If you’re willing to pay top dollar in the neighborhood, you can reserve a room at a full-service resort with restaurants, spa and swimming pools.
Santa Fe is a fairly safe neighborhood, but it is far away from most of Mexico City’s top sights, and it lacks much in the way of interest for tourists. The lodgings here are exceptionally nice, so it may still be a worthwhile choice.