Mexico City is an amazing place to visit any time of year. There’s a plethora of cultural activities happening year-round and the food is always delicious. However, if you’ve decided to make the trip and are wondering when is the best time to visit, these are some considerations to keep in mind.
Mexico City is a very temperate and generally not humid place, so wintertime here is not that intense, even though we’re at elevation (Mexico City is higher than any city in the United States at 12,890 feet). Winter temperatures can drop to the low 40s at night but during the day temps rise back up to the 70s. However, houses here do not have heat and are made out of concrete which I don’t find to be the warmest building material. So people hang around their houses at night in the winter with jackets and hats on and you definitely need to bundle up a bit when you go out at night (though I’m from New England so “bundling up” here is a whole different concept). Weather aside, the month leading up to Christmas in Mexico City is a very festive time, Mexico being a predominantly Catholic country. The Christmas season starts on December 12th with the celebration for Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Virgin of Guadalupe is, without getting too deep here, a Mexican looking Virgin Mary who appeared to an indigenous man on the outskirts of Mexico City and whose image miraculously appeared on a cloth. That cloth hangs in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City where pilgrims flock every year to celebrate her feast day. The Basilica and the surrounding area become super crowded this time of year but all throughout the city you’ll hear fireworks and parties in her honor. Following December 12th there are Christmas posadas, which are processions of people singing to represent Mary and Joseph looking for a room in Bethlehem, followed by a celebration with lots of food. However, it may be harder as a tourist to get involved in these events as they are generally celebrated amongst families.
Springtime in Mexico City is the season of jacarandas, the equivalent of the cherry blossoms in D.C. The bright purple blossoms show up everywhere and provide pops of color and even blanket the sidewalks with purple flowers. The weather warms up to around 80 during the day and a pleasant coolness of 50 at night. As far as seasonal festivities, religious holidays continue with Semana Santa, the week before Easter. As most touristy destinations outside of the city fill up, the city is left relatively quiet. Celebrations around this time tend to be more solemn religious proceedings and some restaurants or tourist places may be closed. But if you’re interested in that sort of thing the working-class neighborhood of Iztapalapa does a real-life stations of the cross that’s quite impressive. As the spring turns into summer, the rainy season begins (or as was the case this year, rainy season began pretty much in March) and the dry landscape gets greener.
Summer in Mexico City brings torrential downpours pretty much every evening. During the day the sun shines brightly and highs even go down slightly from the spring. Around 6 or 7, clouds roll in and rain falls down hard for an hour or two. The rain is so intense that streets sometimes flood and the metro turns into a clammy slow nightmare. There’s not really any significant seasonal holidays during the summer either. Although this doesn’t really sound nice at all, the great part about the rainy season in Mexico City is that humidity is only an issue right before the rain starts and you’re not stuck with overcast cloudy skies, you can still explore during the day and just be sure to pack your umbrella and rain jacket for the evening.
The rainy season tapers off as fall begins, with intermittent rains continuing until October. The temperature drops to the mid 70s and around 50 at night. Fall is pretty much the season of Mexican holidays with Mexican Independence Day on September 16th and Day of the Dead on November 2nd. Independence Day is celebrated with fireworks and parades but what is unique about how they celebrate Independence Day here is the grito. At 11pm people gather in the main squares of the city to join in shouting “Viva la independencia, Viva México” and general revelry afterwards. Many families also choose to eat pozole, a typical Mexican soup with hominy and some sort of meat and then you choose your own adventure with toppings ranging from radishes to lettuce to spicy salsas.
The Day of the Dead in Mexico is an experience unlike any other in the world. Mexicans have an interesting view of death that really comes to life on Day of the Dead.
Basically the idea is that deceased family members will come visit their loved ones in spirit form on the evening before November 2nd so families create an ofrenda, or offering, which includes pictures of their loved ones, the typical cempasúchil flower, papel picado, a bit of salt and their relative’s favorite foods. The domestic ofrenda is recreated at museums and public spaces on grand scales and you can make a day of visiting various ofrendas at this time.
While Halloween has caught on here as well, the traditional way to celebrate on November 2nd is to go to the cemetery and have a sometimes raucous party by your relatives’ graves. There’s a parade that goes through the center full of Catrinas, the typical skeletal women with a giant feathered hat, and various other characters. I really can’t express how unique and indicative of Mexican culture Day of the Dead is, it’s an experience you have to live to even try to understand.
And if Day of the Dead and Independence Day wasn’t enough, fall is also the best time of year to eat ezquites and elote, which is corn off or on the cob served with mayo, cheese, chili and lime which may sound kind of gross as you read it but it is literally my favorite Mexican street food.
So if you couldn’t tell from my tone, I would recommend planning your trip to Mexico City in the fall, with springtime a close second. However, like I said before, you can’t go wrong with visiting this amazing and culturally profound city at any time of year. And if you’re not wanting to brave the rains or the cold here, summer and winter are great times to visit other areas of México, beach anyone?
When will you be visiting?