A long layover, a short business meeting or a few unexpected hours of free time could equal an opportunity to answer emails or upload your expense report. But who wants to work when there’s a world of cultural curiosities outside your door? Whether you’ve got a few minutes or a few hours, here’s what we recommend for a Half-Day Holiday in some of the top 10 most-visited cities in the world.
Viva México! With one of the biggest populations in the world, Mexico City is a vivacious capital, chock full of history, culture and some of the spiciest food on the planet. As an important financial center and a developing market in North America, it’s also on the itinerary for international business travelers.
Known as Distrito Federal – or D.F. – to locals, this lively hub gets a bad rep thanks to the narco-violence that has infected many regions of Mexico. But with tourism, business and the federal police centered in Mexico City, it’s one of the safest spots in the country.
Stay smart on safety
Like any big city with an even bigger socioeconomic disparity, road warriors must be mindful of their surroundings. A few extra rules of thumb apply to Mexico City:
Never hail a taxi off the street. Instead, have your hotel call ahead for a cab.
From the Mexico City International Airport or bus stations, simply visit the official taxi stands (Taxis Autorizados) to arrange a safe ride.
Take small amounts of cash out from ATMs in malls or stores, whenever possible. Avoid currency exchange houses – it’s popular for their employees to give information to criminals about your large exchanges.
Finally, remember cash is accepted everywhere – cards are not.
Mixing business with culture
Most conventions and meetings in Mexico City happen in the bustling business district of Santa Fe. Located in the western part of the city, you’ll need a car or a cab to get to this rather uninspired development of high rises and shopping malls.
With a few extra hours, leave Santa Fe and explore the neighborhoods that carry the unique lifeblood of Mexican culture:
This upscale neighborhood is located north of the Bosque de Chapultepec, a massive park that includes a museum, a zoo and even a castle in the middle! You’ll also find the best restaurants and night clubs of Mexico there. With several extra hours, check out the cavernous Museum of Anthropology to learn more about Mexico’s indigenous past.
An up-and-coming part of the city, this neighborhood boasts brilliant architecture, bohemian bookshops and cafes, and a quirky museum dedicated to commercial packaging.
Finally, if you want fine dining, salsa dancing and a fun night out, visit Colonia Condesa, Colonia Roma’s trendier counterpart.
What not to miss
The most adventurous way to experience gastronomy of Mexico is standing up: local fruit and vegetable markets dot every neighborhood and it’s easy to buy a plate of mole or tacos al pastor for a few pesos. Choose your food cart wisely, though – proper hygiene and refrigeration are issues at Mexican markets.
If you’re looking for local art, visit the San Ángel Bazaar on a Saturday morning. Struggling painters line the outdoor walkways, while flowers, textiles and other goods sell for a good price inside. Always negotiate in Mexico – not only is bargaining culturally expected, it’s part of the fun.
With only a few extra hours, taking a taxi is the easiest bet. Keep in mind traffic is some of the worst in the world – give yourself at least an hour to get just about anywhere, especially the airport.
But if you want to skip the traffic jams altogether, hop onto the underground Metro. Its 12 lines can take you all over this huge city for muy cheap – about $.25 per ride. Try to avoid the crushing crowds (sometimes, quite literally) during rush hour, from 7 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.
If you have plans to head to Mexico City for business, we’d love to hear from you. Let us know your best tips and best bets in the comments below.