There’s a fantastic Metropolis a few hours’ flight away on a plane, for often not much more than a domestic flight. Have you been to Mexico City or is there something holding you back?

Mexico City dining

Most US and Canadian travelers—even experienced ones—know less about the largest city in our hemisphere than they know about half the capital cities in Europe or Asia. Mexico City is an amazingly unknown entity for a city packed with so many superlatives and terrific things to see. Judging from the comments I hear all the time from those who should know better, it seems most people’s perceptions are still stuck in the 90s.

In short, Mexico City is a far cleaner, safer, and more interesting place than it was 20 years ago. And every time I go back I see more improvements. When I talk to expats who live there, especially the ones who have been there for a long time, they feel like they’re living in the most dynamic, interesting place in the world, with incredible potential to keep getting better. It’s a far different narrative than you hear in say, Madrid, Cleveland, or Manila.

I dare any hipster from Brooklyn or Portland to stroll through the Condesa and Roma neighborhoods and not be impressed with the diversity of bars, restaurants, and cool shops. I can’t imagine even the snobbiest art snob not finding something interesting in the 172 museums (reportedly the most in the world) and the dozens of galleries. If you’re a tourist, start with the Museum of Popular Art, where you’ll see cool things like this.

museo de arte popular

You could spend an entire day easily in the Anthropology Museum, where you’ll see things like this.

Mexico City

You could walk along the streets and stumble upon something like this (and yes, those are share bikes the locals use—set up long before NYC did it.)

Mexico City street

Downtown Mexico now has a hotel called just that, run by the ultra-hip Grupo Habita, a company that had the balls to put an upscale hotel and a hostel in the same building, sharing the same pool and bar. The first floor is filled with shops that are chic and fun while still being very Mexican and the richest man in the world has been buying up old buildings nearby and restoring them to their former glory.

Last week when I was there a festival of lights was going on. There were installations like this one, doing a light show on the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

DF festival

If you wondered whether locals have any appetite for art and culture, here’s what the crowd was like on the streets that night:

And then there’s the cuisine. Ask any well-traveled foodie where the best places to eat in the Americas are and after rattling off a few cities in the USA and maybe Canada, the next ones to come rolling off the tongue will inevitably be Lima and…Mexico City. Two of the top-50 restaurants in the world on Pellegrino’s prestigious annual list are here, but if you’re on a $50 a day budget you’ll eat really well too. It’s great from top to bottom.

And about that pollution? Sure, it’s a city of some 20 million if you count the outlying areas, but Delhi or Shanghai it is not. The city has taken huge steps to reduce pollution and it’s a blue sky place much of the time now. This was the view nearly every day I was there, those mountains being some 25 miles in the distance.

Mexico City cleaner air

One of the world’s great capital cities is on your doorstep. And it’s cheaper than Paducah or Boise. Just go already.

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