At first glance, the words “green” and “Mexico City” don’t seem compatible. Mexico’s capital is one of the most congested and polluted cities in the world, but don’t let that discourage you from enjoying these green sites south of the border.

CITY OFFICIALS HAVE expressed their commitment to greening the capital and creating opportunities for ecotourism. You don’t have to wait until all of their plans are realized, though. Check out our Green Guide to Mexico City and enjoy some of the best outdoor and indoor recreational, cultural, and culinary treasures of this vast city.

Practical Information:

If you’re flying into Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport, you can choose a taxi service or the Metro to reach the city center, which is about 15 minutes away. For more information about navigating the airport, please visit the Top 10 Tips for Navigating Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport.

Activities

Every Sunday, Mexico City converts one of its main avenues, Paseo de la Reforma, into a pedestrian, cyclist, and skaters-only thoroughfare, thanks to the progressive vision of Mayor Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, who is green conscious. Beyond just shutting down the avenue to vehicles, the city offers free bike rentals and staffs hydration stations, mechanics’ kiosks, and even provides medical service along the route.

One of Mexico City’s greatest green treasures, the Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest) is the capital city’s answer to New York’s Central Park. In addition to a botanical garden, the Bosque boasts an expansive green space dotted by waterways, monuments, sculpture, and statuary, and ample recreation areas. Along the park’s edge you can find the Museo de Arte Moderno (Museum of Modern Art), the Museo de Historia Natural (Natural History Museum), and the Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Anthropology Museum), all of which are easily reached by Metro.

Mexico City has three ecological reserves: Xochimilco, San Nicolas Totolapan, and Desierto de los Leones, each with its own unique flora and fauna. Each reserve is a great day trip offering a variety of recreational activities. At Desierto de los Leones you might enjoy bird watching, as the reserve is a magnet for migratory birds. San Nicolas offers guided walking tours, and Xochimilco offers bike rentals, among other services and activities.

Mexico City’s Turibus may seem hopelessly touristy and contrary to the spirit of independent and off-the-beaten path travel, but it not only offers a tremendous value for your traveling dollar, sporting you all over the city with unlimited hop-on/hop-off privileges when you purchase a day pass, but it also gets you into some of the city’s greenest areas. By joining other visitors on this bus tour, you’re cutting down on individual car/taxi emissions, too.

Within the center of the city, you can rent a Segway, which has a zero emissions rating. At present, the Segway office in Reforma offers two tours (2-3 hours each) for $50 USD.

Arts and Culture

In addition to the museums mentioned above, the Palacio de Bellas Artes is an obligatory stop for arts lovers, if for no other reason than to enjoy the beauty of the building itself. The Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Casa Azul, is located in the artist’s home in the neighborhood of Coyoacan. Small and intimate, this museum gives Kahlo aficionados a true sense of the place where many of her paintings were created. To find out what’ other activities will be going on in the city during your visit, check the Secretary of Tourism’s website, which maintains a calendar of current and upcoming events.

Eats

Mercados: While Mexico City is indisputably cosmopolitan, it retains long-cherished traditions, among them maintaining the variety of fruit and vegetable markets tucked into neighborhoods around the vast city. At any of these mercados you can buy your own fruit and vegetables or enjoy a reasonably priced meal at any of the food stalls in the market.

Restaurants and Bars: Eating local is easy in Mexico City, as many staples of the Mexican kitchen are brought in daily from nearby fields just outside the city center. One favorite where the menu is constructed entirely around in-season foods is OW 9. Another green option for dinner and drinks can be found at the condesa df hotel. The lighting is low, the dining area is an interior patio with a retractable ceiling that opens to a view of the sky, and diners are surrounded by plants, which create a sense of privacy and intimacy at every table. Enjoy drinks and light snacks on the rooftop bar, which has comfortable lounges, blankets, heat lamps, and an unbeatable view.

Where to Stay

Mexico City has its work cut out for it with respect to green lodging, though one notable exception is The Red Treehouse. Wherever you stay, be a green guest—let the housekeeping staff know you don’t need sheets or towels changed, bring your own toiletries, and ensure that lights and appliances are turned off when you leave the room.

Learn More: In June, 2008, Mexico City will be launching a print and online version of Las Paginas Verdes, The Green Pages—a guide to the city’s sustainable businesses. Visit www.laspaginasverdes.com.