Mexico City

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Mexico City, Mexico

The greater Mexico City metropolitan area is one of the world's largest and most populated, with an estimate of about 20 million people living in the region. It is shaped roughly like an oval of about 60 km by 40 km, built on the dry bed of Lake Texcoco, and surrounded on three sides by tall mountains and volcanoes such as the Ajusco, the Popocatepetl and the Ixtlacihuatl.

Mexico City proper (with an estimated population of between 8 to 9 million) is in the Federal District (Spanish: Distrito Federal or D.F.), a federally-administered area (that is, not part of any Mexican state) which acts as the capital of Mexico. The rest of the metropolitan area extends beyond it into Mexico State, which surrounds D.F. on three sides. Legally and practically speaking, Mexico City is the same as the Federal District, and that is where most tourists will spend the majority of their time when visiting or staying in the city.

Mexico city is very decentralized, with both high-rise and low-rise buildings spread along several parts of the city, unlike US cities' skylines with all high-rise buildings clustered together in the downtown.

Mexico City is divided up into 16 delegaciones, similar to the boroughs of New York, which in turn are divided into "colonias" (neighborhoods), of which there are about 250. Knowing what colonia you're going to is essential to getting around, almost all locals will know where a given colonia is (but note that there are some colonias with duplicate or very similar names).

As with many very large cities, the structure is relatively decentralized, with several parts of the city having their own miniature "downtown areas." However, the real downtown areas are Centro, the old city center, and Zona Rosa, the new business and entertainment district.

The city is located 2200 m above mean sea level. Some people have breathing difficulties at high places and have experienced difficulty when breathing. The altitude is equivalent to more than 7,200 ft. This is far higher than any metropolitan area in the United States. If you live closer to sea level, you may experience difficulty breathing due to altitude and pollution. Air quality has, however, been improved in the last few years.

Mexico City ranks 8th in terms of GDP size among 30 world cities.  Mexico City is the wealthiest city in all of Latin America, with a GDP per capita of $25,258. Mexico City's poverty rate is also the lowest in Mexico. It is home to the Mexican Stock Exchange. Most of the large local and multinational corporations are headquartered here, mainly in the Polanco and Santa Fe districts.

The city sits in a valley surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, which results in poor air circulation and a tendency for air pollutants to stagnate over the city. Although the smog layer is visible nearly every day, its effects in terms of breathing and eye irritation are barely noticeable and it should not be cause for concern for visitors.

Mexico City is one of the most liberal cities in Latin America, and was the first jurisdiction in the region to legalize same-sex marriage (in December 2009). As such, this is generally a gay friendly city, particularly in the Zona Rosa District. Abortion on demand is also legal, as well as euthanasia and prostitution (the latter allowed only in designated districts).

Since it is a big city, it is the home of large foreign communities, like Cubans, Spaniards, Americans, Jews, Japanese, Chilean, Lebanese, and more recently Argentines and Koreans. Mexico City has a number of ethnic districts with restaurants and shops that cater to groups such as Chinese and Lebanese Mexicans.

It is the temporary home to many expats too, working here for the many multinational companies operating in Mexico. Foreigners of virtually any ethnic background may not get a second look if they dress conservatively and attempt to speak Spanish.

Most travelers arrive to Mexico City by air, to the Benito Juárez International Airport, located in the eastern part of the city. There are frequent flights to and from most larger cities in the world, as Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Santiago de Chile, Lima, London, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, Chicago, Toronto, and Tokyo.

There is another airport, Licenciado Adolfo López Mateos International Airport, which is in the City of Toluca 50 km southwest of Mexico City and has recently been transformed from a general aviation airport into the hub of several domestic low-cost carriers such as Interjet and Volaris which serve destinations as Monterrey, Cancún, Guadalajara, Tijuana, and many other Mexican cities.

If you arrive on an international flight, you will go through Immigration, luggage retrieval and then Customs. Make sure you fill in all forms prior to landing to make this an expedite process.

Although Mexico City is considered an expensive city, your trip budget will depend on your lifestyle and way of traveling, as you can find cheap and expensive prices for almost everything. Public transportation is very cheap and there are many affordable places to eat. On the other hand you can find world-class hotels and fancy restaurants with higher prices.

Like most metropolitan areas, transportation is available via taxi, rented car, bus, or metro (subway). Mexico City is a huge place, and if you get lost and you are far away from your hotel, you can simply hop into a pesero (mini bus) or bus that takes you to a Metro station; most of them do. Look for the sign with the stylized metro "M" in the front window. From there and using the wall maps you can get back to a more familiar place.

Driving around by car is the least advised way to visit the city due to the complicated road structure, generally reckless drivers, and the 3.5 million vehicles moving around the city. Traffic jams are almost omnipresent on weekdays, and driving from one end of the city to the other could take you between 2 to 4 hours at peak times.

Passenger train services unfortunately ceased operating in Mexico some ten years ago, and only freight trains ride to and around Mexico City.

Downtown Mexico City has been an urban area since the pre-Columbian 12th century, and the city is filled with historical buildings and landmarks from every epoch since then. It is also known as the City of Palaces, because of the large number of stately buildings, especially in the Centro. In addition, Mexico is the city with the largest number of museums in the world (without taking into account art galleries), with New York #2, London #3 and Toronto #4.

In addition to the world famous museums, Mexico City has many famous landmarks. Just a few:

Plaza de la Constitución, commonly known as Zócalo in the Centro Historico (Historic Downtown) is one of the largest squares in the world, surrounded by historic buildings, including the City Hall and the Cathedral.

La Catedral the biggest in the Americas. Containing many altars, it's principle altar is made from solid gold.

Angel de la Independencia or simply known as "El Angel" is a monument in Reforma Avenue and Florencia Street, near Zona Rosa. This monument celebrates Mexico's independance in 1810.

Coyoacán— historic Colonial Arts district which was home to Frida Kahlo, Leon Trotsky, and Diego Rivera, amongst others.

Torre Latinoamericana for stunning views of the city. Its central location, height (183 m or 597 ft; 45 stories), and history make it one of Mexico City's most important landmarks.

Mexico City is full of various plazas and parks scattered through every neighborhood, but the following are some of the biggest, prettiest, most interesting, or best-known.

Chapultepec Park and Zoo Paseo de la Reforma. Is a large park of 6 square Km. in the middle of the City host to many attractions, including the city Zoo and several museums.

Xochimilco, a vast system of waterways and flower gardens dating back to Aztec times in the south of the city where tourists can enjoy a trip in the "trajineras" (vividly-colored boats).

Plaza Garibaldi-Mariachi, in Mexico City is surrounded by bars and restaurants that cater to Mariachi Band enthusiasts.

This is just a small taste of all that Mexico City has to offer.
You will certainly make many wonderful discoveries as you explore and enjoy!

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Overview of Mexico City

Overview of Mexico City

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