90 Fascinating Facts About Mexico City

Fun & Interesting facts about Mexico City

Mexico City, the namesake capital of Mexico, is one of the largest, oldest, and culturally rich cities in the Americas. What is Mexico City famous for?  

In this article you’ll find all kinds of fun and interesting facts about Mexico City. For even more facts relating to the whole country, also see our fun facts about Mexico!

General Mexico City Facts 

  • Mexico City is the 5th largest in the world by metropolitan population, at 21.8 million. 
  • Mexico City is the largest city in North America and the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world.  
Mexico City viewed from above with the sun setting.
Aerial view of Mexico City
  • There are 2772 people per km2 (7180 per mi2) in Mexico City, similar to Tokyo, Japan, but 10 times more crowded than Atlanta, Georgia.  
  • The State of Mexico surrounds Mexico City on three sides. It is one of 32 states in Mexico and has a population of 17 million. People or things from this state are called Mexiquense, to differentiate them from Mexican/Mexicano, the which refer to the whole country. 
  • Mexico City sits at 2240 meters (7349 feet) above sea level, similar in height to the peak of Mount Olympus in Washington State. Thus some visitors experience mild symptoms of altitude sickness upon arrival. 
  • Mexico City is at the same latitude as Luang Prabang in Laos.  
  • Mexico City is antipodal to Rodriguez, an island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. 
Angel of Independence status and traffic circle in Mexico City viewed from above.
The Angel of Independence is one of the most recognizable Mexico City landmarks.
  • Mottos for Mexico City have included La Ciudad de los Palacios (“the City of the Palaces”), La Ciudad de la Esperanza (“The City of Hope”), and Capital en Movimiento (“Capital in Movement”). 
  • People from Mexico City are formally called capitalinos (capitalina for women). A slang term for them is chilangos/gas, which some see as derogatory, but others embrace.  
  • Since 2016, Mexico City’s official name has been Ciudad de México, often abbreviated as CDMX. Before that it is was Distrito Federal, of DF. 

Interesting & Crazy Facts about Mexico City 

  • Tenochtitlan, the original city, was originally built on an island on Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico. The lake was drained by the Spanish. Mexico City is currently sinking into the lake bed’s clay by as much as 20 inches per year. 
A painting of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec Capital in Mexico
Artist’s rendition of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec Capital
  • There is no drainage from the Valley of Mexico, so the city is subject to frequent flooding
  • Ancient farmers in the Valley of Mexico invented chinampas, or floating gardens. These can still be seen today in Xochimilco, one of the city’s 16 boroughs.  
Boats in Xochimilco area of Mexico City
Boats ply the chinampas of Xochimilco.
  • The Valley of Mexico is surrounded by the Cordillera Neo-Volcánica (Neo-Volcanic Range). One of the county’s most active volcanoes, Popocatépetl, is only 70 km (43 mi) from the city
  • Snow has fallen on Mexico City three times since 1908. 
  • Mexico City has similar air pollution levels to Los Angeles. Mexico and LA also happen to be sister cities.  
  • Mexico City has 18 other twin or sister cities.  
Zócalo, Mexico City's main square
The Zócalo, the main square of Mexico City
  • Every year in December, the largest skating rink in the Americas is set up in the Zócalo, called Ice World. It uses an aluminum system to cool the ice, allowing people to skate in outdoor temperatures of up to 30°C. 
  • Paseo de la Reforma, a wide avenue in central Mexico City, was modeled on Champs-Élysées in Paris. Every Sunday, the road is closed to traffic from 8 AM to 2 PM to allow cyclists, scooter riders, and pedestrians take over. 
  • The Mexico-Tacuba Road (which goes by various other names) is one of the longest continually used road in the Americas. The Aztecs built it to connect the city center to Tacuba in the west.  
Chapultepec Castle and gardens during sunset
Castillo de Chapultepec, or Chapultepec Castle
  • Chapultepec is one of the largest parks in the Americas. It used to be a retreat for Aztec rulers. The park is also home to Chapultepec Castle, which is one of only two royal castles in the Americas (the other is Iturbide Palace, also in Mexico City). It once housed Emperor Maximilian I of the Habsburg family from Vienna, Austria.  
  • Every year, millions of pilgrims flock to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tepeyac borough of northern Mexico City. It is one of the most visited churches in the world.  
  • On All Saints Day, the day after the Day of the Dead, there are passion plays in Iztapalapa borough in which participants are whipped as they reenact the crucifixion of Christ. On a hill overlooking the area, Aztecs used to light a sacred flame at the start of a new calendar cycle.  
  • Mexico City has the second largest metro system in the Americas, after New York City. It has 195 stations and served 1.65 billion passengers in 2019. 
A moving metro car in Mexico City
The Mexico City Metro
  • Mexico City’s metro is one of the cheapest in the world, with a ticket costing 5 pesos (US$ 0.25).  
  • Many Aztec ruins were uncovered during the digging of the metro system. Today, Pino Suárez station is a mini museum of artifacts uncovered by the metro construction.  
  • Due to traffic congestion, cars move at an average speed of 20 km/hr (12 mph) in Mexico City. 
  • There are more than 140,000 taxis in Mexico City. However, many nowadays opt for sitios (private taxes) or app-taxis, like Uber. 
Green and white Mexico City taxis
Taxis in Mexico City
  • Mexico City has over 170 museums, more than any other city in the world. This includes museums dedicated to narco-crime, chocolate, shoes, the saint of death, torture, mezcal & tequila, and antique toys. 
  • The Museo Nacional de Antropología, or National Museum of Anthropology, is the largest and most visited museum in Mexico. Its most famous piece is the Aztec Sun Stone, which was found buried in the Zócalo
Aztec sunstone in Mexico City's Museum of Anthropology
The Aztec Sun Stone in the Museum of Anthropology
  • Some of the most famous murals can be found at Palacio de Bellas Artes, the city’s most important center of arts. 
  • Diego Rivera was married to artist Frida Kahlo. Her work was relatively unknown until the 1970s. She often did self-portraits, and is famous for her unibrow. Her house in Mexico City is now a museum called Blue House
Sign in Blue House, Mexico City, saying the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived here.
Frida Kahlo’s house is now a museum of her art.
  • The National Autonomous University of Mexico is the largest university in Latin America and one of the 10 largest in the world by student enrollment number (over 600,000). Its main campus (Ciudad Universitaria) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  
  • Estadio Azteca, or Aztec Stadium, can seat 91,653 fans, making it the largest in Latin America. It is home to the América team and Mexico’s national football team. 
  • Azteca Stadium was the first venue in the world to host more than one FIFA World Cup.  
  • Mexico City is known for its tribus urbanas, or subcultures. These include punks, rockerosraperoscholosgrafiterosmetalerosgóticostribalerascumbieros, skaters, and frikis (anime lovers). 
  • 18.7% of Mexico City’s population is indigenous.  
An indigeneous Mexican man wearing a costume and performing in the Zócalo of Mexico City
An indigenous Mexican performer in the Zócalo
  • Around 700,000 Americans live in Mexico City. 
  • Slim Carlos, the richest man in Latin America, lives in a relatively modest house in Mexico City. He also owns two mansions in New York City and numerous buildings in Mexico City, including the iconic Museo Soumaya, which houses his extensive art collection 
  • Mexico City is responsible for 22% of the country’s GDP. If Mexico City were an independent country, it would be the fifth largest economy in Latin America.  
  • Central de Abasto, the largest market in the Mexico City, handles 30,000 tons of product every day. It has over 2000 shops and employs 70,000 people. 
Aerial view of Central de Abasto in Mexico City
Enormous Central de Abasto market
  • The tianguis (open-air market) in Tepito is famous for counterfeit products, crime, art, boxing, and Santa Muerte, or “Our Lady of Holy Death.” The market dates to pre-Spanish times. 
  • Mexico City has progressive policies, including legal abortions, euthanasia, no-fault divorce, and same-sex marriage. 
  • One third of Mexico City’s population has been a victim of crime, and two thirds do not trust the local police.
  • Mexico City has one of the world’s highest police-to-resident ratios, with one officer per 100 citizens. 
  • An estimated 15,000 children live on the streets of Mexico City. 
  • According to Numbeo’s Crime Index, Mexico City is safer than the American cities of Albuquerque, Saint Louis, Detroit, and Baltimore, as well as Alice Springs, Australia and Bradford, UK.

Facts about Mexico City’s History 

  • A skull of a paleo-Indian woman, dubbed Peñon woman, has been dated to 10,000-12,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest human remains in the Americas. It was found on an island of the former Lake Texcoco.  
The pyramids at Teotihuacan
The ancient city of Teotihuacan is just outside of Mexico City.
  • Teotihuacan, 40 kilometers northeast of Mexico City, was one of the largest cities in the world at its peak (0 – 500 CE). It had a population of 200,000, and its pyramids are some of the largest in the world. It was dedicated to the trade of obsidian. Today it is Mexico’s most visited archaeological site. 
  • The Teochichimecas and later the Toltecs passed through the area of Mexico City. The capital of the Toltecs, Tula, is 50 kilometers north of Mexico City. The Aztecs would see the Toltecs as their cultural and intellectual ancestors. 
  • The Aztecs (Mexica people) founded Mexico City on March 13, 1325, calling it Tenochtitlan. At its height, it had 150,000+ inhabitants, and the area around it was one of the most densely populated places on earth. 
A colorful Aztec pyramid base in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City
Aztec pyramid recreation in the Museum of Anthropology
  • In the Siege of Tenochtitlan (May 26 to August 13, 1521), Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and his army destroyed most of the city, and the Aztec empire came to an end.  
  • After the conquest, the city became known as México Tenochtitlán, and in 1585, simply Ciudad de México (Mexico City).  
  • Mexico City thus became the capital of New Spain. The Spanish occupied the Aztec imperial palaces and built churches on top of Aztec temples.  
Mexico Cathedral and a miniature model of Teniochtitlan
The Spanish-built Mexico Cathedral, with a model of Tenochtitlan, upon which it is built
  • As the city grew outward, the Spanish drained the waters of Lake Texcoco, which also improved sanitation and the spread of diseases, and reduced mosquitos, but took away the livelihoods of many locals.
  • After independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico City became a federal district.  
  • Mexico City developed a modern infrastructure under the rule of Porfirio Díaz (1884 – 1911), but much of the city’s population remained impoverished. 
Black & white photograph of Emiliano Zapata and a group of Mexican revolutionaries
Emiliano Zapata and other Mexican revolutionaries
  • In 1922, Diego Rivera painted his first important muralCreation, in the Bolívar Auditorium of the National Preparatory School in Mexico City. While painting it, he protected himself from right-wing students with a gun. 
  • From 1900 to 1975, the metropolitan population of Mexico grew by 20 times, from 500,000 to 10 million.  
Postal Palace and Torre Latinoamericana
Palacio Postal and Torre Latinoamericana, Mexico City’s first skyscraper
  • Mexico City became a center of modernist architecture in the 1950s, with the most notable example being the Ciudad Universitaria.  
  • The 1968 Summer Olympic Games were held in Mexico City. It was the first time the Games were hosted in Latin America or any Spanish-speaking country. 
  • The Mexico City Metro began operation in 1969. 
  • The 1985 Mexico City earthquake killed at least 5000 people and caused over 400 buildings to collapse. 
  • In 1997, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas became the first elected mayor of Mexico City

Facts about Food and Drinks in Mexico City 

  • The taco is the most emblematic dish in Mexico City. These are hand-sized tortillas made with corn or wheat, topped and garnished with various ingredients. 
A woman in colorful clothes holding a plate of tacos
Tacos are Mexico City’s signature street food
  • Different types of tacos include al pastor (spit-roasted pork often topped with pineapple) and the similar tacos árabes, barbacoa (lamb), carnitas (braised pork parts), tacos al carbón (grilled meats), tacos de guisado (stewed veggies or meats), chorizo (sausage), fish tacos, gourmet tacos, and vegan tacos.  
  • A popular dish originating in the Mexico City region is sopa Azteca (Aztec soup), also known as sopa de tortilla. It’s a tomato and chicken-based broth topped with strips of fried tortilla and hunks of cheese that melt in the soup.
  • Mexico City’s street food is called antojitos or “little cravings”. It includes a wide range of foods, such as tacos, quesadillas, tamales, gorditas, tostadas, tlacoyos, churroselotes, and chicharrónes
  • Agua fresca is a common drink served on the street. It is often made with fruit juice, water, and sugar, but can also be made with tamarind, hibiscus, or rice (a drink called horchata).  
Containers of Agua fresca in Mexico City
Agua fresca in Mexico City
  • Some ancient indigenous ingredients are making a comeback in Mexico City’s restaurants, including nopal (cactus fruit), quelites (wild greens), chapulines (grasshoppers), huitlacoche (larvae), and chinicuiles (caterpillars). 
  • La Nueva Viga Market is the world’s second largest seafood market, after Toyosu Market in Tokyo. 
  • Because so many people migrate to Mexico City from all over the country, many regional dishes can be enjoyed in the city, such as mole negro (a chocolate-based sauce from Oaxaca), chiles en nogada (stuffed chilis from Puebla), and birria (a stew from Jalisco).  
Chiles en nogada, a regional Mexican dish that can be found in Mexico City
Regional dishes like chiles en nogada are common in Mexico City
  • The ancient Aztec drink pulque, lightly alcoholic and made from agave sap, is undergoing a revival and can be enjoyed today at pulquerías in Mexico City. 
  • Cantinas are the quintessential traditional establishments for drinking and enjoying botanas (complimentary snacks). 
  • Although most major Mexican beers are made in other parts of Mexico, Mexico City is home to dozens of microbreweries, brewpubs, and craft beer bars.  
  • While tequila is a big deal in Mexico City, mezcal (or mescal) is becoming increasingly popular. Mezcal is made with the agave plant and is often bottled with a worm (a larva found on the agave plant), but tequila is only made with blue agave. 
Shots of mezcal and some spicy sauces on a table in Mexico
Sampling mezcal in Mexico City
  • Along with the margarita, the paloma might just be Mexico City’s most popular cocktail. It is made with tequila blanco, grapefruit, and lime.   
  • Local hangover cures in Mexico City include vuelve a la vida (a spicy, cold seafood salad), polla (a smoothie with orange, sherry, raw quail egg, and vanilla), birria (stew) and barbacoa (slow cooked meat). 
  • Pujol in Mexico City is rated as #9 on the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants. Chef Enrique Olvera, born in Mexico City, does refined cuisine using indigenous Mexican ingredients.  

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