It's a city plagued by an inescapable history of violent crime, including reports of kidnapping, armed robbery, extortion and sexual assault.

But it's time to forget everything you think you know about Mexico's capital.

Over the years, Mexico City has earned itself a reputation as one of the world's most dangerous travel destinations — a "crime-riddled urban jungle" to bypass on your way to trendy Tulum or the wildly popular Cancun.

Yet, while homicides, drug violence and trafficking have soared across the country over the past decade, the sprawling, bustling metropolis that is CDMX managed to avoid the worst of Mexico's corruption and has been very quietly earning fame as a culture-rich getaway for foreign tourists — in part thanks to The New York Times, which named it the number one travel destination for 2016.


A quick Google search for "is Mexico City safe to visit" produces hundreds of results, most alarmingly the endless horror stories involving solo female travellers running into trouble while attempting to navigate their way around the capital. Not to mention the confronting photos depicting cartel warfare, police raids and makeshift migrant camps.

Earlier this year, an American woman was killed by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting at an upscale taco joint. Just last month, a 25-year-old man's body was found hanging from a bridge with two bullet wounds to the head, wrapped from his ankles to his neck in white bandages.

Reading gruesome headlines such as these, one can see why it might not be the most obvious choice for a hen's party attended by a dozen Aussie women. And yet, the lure of tacos, tequila, rooftop bars, and sunshine (not to mention dirt cheap flights from New York) proved an easy sell. We were off!

Here's what those grisly photos don't reveal about Mexico City.


The densely populated, high-altitude capital happens to be one of Latin America's top spots for art, fashion, food, architecture and business. Not to mention it is home to the second largest number of museums in the world behind London.

From the National Museum of Anthropology to the legendary electric blue home of Frida Kahlo, there are more than 150 museums and galleries to choose from for those who love to spend their holidays wistfully soaking up the city's rich cultural history.


The food is unbeatable in Mexico City. Photo / Getty Images
The food is unbeatable in Mexico City. Photo / Getty Images

Whether you're travelling on a budget, or willing to spend your hard-earned on some of the city's ritziest culinary experiences, this place has you covered. Imagine breakfast tamales and street churros from hole-in-the-wall gems. Daydream about dollar tacos filled with fall-off-the-bone brisket, picture perfect seafood tostadas and fresh guacamole served with every single meal.

It would take several lifetimes to familiarise yourself with the food favourites of each neighbourhood, but don't be afraid to try some of their signature spices, and say yes to the grasshoppers, which are a delicacy eaten by the locals with gusto.



Mexico City's incredible Palace of Fine Arts. Photo / Getty Images
Mexico City's incredible Palace of Fine Arts. Photo / Getty Images

Most of the sites of interest to tourists are located smack-bang in the historic centre, or in the leafy green neighbourhoods of Roma and Condesa. We only had 48 hours (a small window to consume as many margaritas as possible) but one could easily spend three or four days walking or biking through the middle of the city.

The Palace of Fine Arts, where Diego Rivera painted The History of Mexico, Templo Mayor (Great Temple), the ruins of the 14th century Aztec kingdom Tenochtitlan, artisanal markets, ancient bookstores, food halls and open air antique stalls can be found all around you.

A short Uber ride away awaits the towering Angel of Independence and the historic landmark of Chapultepec Castle, featuring unparalleled 360-degree views of the entire city.


Mexico's capital is a city that knows how to party. Photo / Getty Images
Mexico's capital is a city that knows how to party. Photo / Getty Images

It would be remiss of me not to mention the capital's exceptional night-life. Underground bars that don't open until 9pm, discos serving only cheap beer and featuring spontaneous dance-offs, lively cantinas offering Latin music salsa dancing, chic speakeasies with killer cocktails hidden behind fridge doors, afternoon mariachi bands and Insta-worthy all-white rooftops perfect for people-watching with a mescal in each hand.

There really is something for every kind of celebration, at any age.


Don't assume you'll be able to pay on card. Take out cash in bulk to save on bank fees, and make sure you understand the peso-dollar conversion before handing over big notes.

Don't think it's okay not to tip. Sure, it's not New York City where wait staff will chase you down the street for leaving anything less than 20 per cent, but eating and drinking out is super cheap, at least 10 per cent is considered appropriate.

As with every tourist destination that has been issued with travel advisories, faux pas such as flaunting your valuables, drinking on the street, carrying your passport around in public, wandering into unsafe neighbourhoods and assuming that everybody speaks English all apply in Mexico City.

But have your wits about you, treat the locals with respect, be patient with timings and queues, and you're in for one helluva holiday.

The best part? Mexico City is not difficult to get to from Downunder — just a three and a half-hour flight from Los Angeles. And with the Mexican peso dropping significantly this month, it makes those tacos and margs very affordable indeed.