Mexico City - Expat Clusters
Due to its vastness, finding a place to live in Mexico City could seem a bit overwhelming, but relax. We will tell you all about it in the following paragraphs!
North (Ciudad Satélite, Echegaray, Zona Esmeralda)
This huge part of the Mexico City Metropolitan Area is in the surrounding state of Mexico. Laws are slightly different in the state of Mexico from those of the Federal District (DF), but the big-city problems are mostly the same. License plates from that area of the city say MEX-MEX at the bottom instead of DF-MEX. Many neighborhoods in this area are middle class.
The commercial activity is very extensive, specially along the main access way, called Periferico Norte or Boulevard Avila Camacho. But the residential areas have a rather suburban atmosphere. In this northern area of the Mexico City Metropolitan Area, you will find several expat clusters, inside the gated communities sorrounding the main golf clubs, named: Vallescondido, Chiluca, Club de Golf Bellavista, and Club de Golf Hacienda. They are very exclusive and rather expensive, but beautiful. The area of Chiluca and Vallescondido golf club communities is also known as Zona Esmeralda (Emerald Zone), because it is surrounded by green areas (forests) owned by the Federal government to serve as oxygen suppliers for the rest of the Metropolitan Area.
The advantage of living in the North expat clusters are: the quality of life, the presence of renowned schools, like Colegio Aleman (German School) and Greengates. The gated communities are beautifully surrounded by the golf courses, safety can be really felt there, all in a neighbourly environment.
The big minus is the great distance (and amount of traffic) from the financial and cultural hubs of Mexico City. The only access routes are the almost always jammed Periferico Norte and the very pricey Toll way Autopista Chamapa-La Venta, considered one of the most expensive toll ways in the world (about $12 USD for a one-way trip to the West area of Mexico City).
North-West (Tecamachalco, La Herradura, Interlomas, Lomas de la Herradura)
This expat cluster area is considered more or less upper middle-class by Mexican standards, and it contains a relatively large Jewish community. There is a suburban environment, mixed with a lot of traffic at peak hours due to the many schools, restaurants and shopping places around the area, and its vicinity to the Periferico Norte.
Tecamachalco is generally a nice place to live, with a few gated communities and local police strolling the streets frequently, although it is still a little apart from the cultural life of the town, and depends on the Periferico Norte for access.
There are enough places for essential shopping and some nice restaurants; Tecamachalco has a relatively easy access to both Interlomas and Polanco, both good places for dining and shopping. Public transportation access is limited.
Interlomas and Lomas de la Herradura are newer neighborhoods. Interlomas also has the advantage of many shopping areas, some restaurants, gym and fitness facilities, and its closeness to the Autopista Chamapa-La Venta (see above). There is also a new and modern hospital, the 'Hospital Angeles Interlomas'. La Herradura is a a little greener and has some parks. Access to La Herradura is somewhat inconvenient because you have to drive through Tecamachalco to get there from the center of town. It has the same problem regarding access to the southern part of the city. But the small mostly gated communities are very nice and safe. Public transportation access is very limited, but does exist. You can always call a taxi from Interlomas taxi stand + 52 (55) 5291 5851. It is quick, cheap and easy. Just remember that a taxi taking you anywhere from the suburbs asks for less money than the one bringing you back. This is legal.
Anahuac University, a small, private college is close by and there are very good schools in this area.
West ( Lomas de Chapultepec, Bosques de las Lomas, Lomas de Bezares, Vistahermosa, Santa Fe)
Originally, "Chapultepec Heights" (commonly called "Las Lomas") is where Mexico City's most expensive housing is. Accessibility is among the best because it is close to the north, south, and center of the Metropolitan Area, although the development of Bosques and Santa Fe have significantly increased traffic on its wide boulevards, Reforma, Palmas and Virreyes, which cross the area from east to west (heading out to Toluca, outside the city). Office buildings are located on Palmas and Reforma avenues. El Bosque de Chapultepec ("Chapultepec Park") is Mexico City's largest park. It lines the southern border of the entire development, providing a lot more green than you normally see in this City. Las Lomas is where most embassies can be found, as well as where most ambassadors and diplomats live.
The newer developments of Bosques de las Lomas, Lomas de Bezares and Vistahermosa are also very nice, and have a good number of office buildings and exclusive shopping malls and restaurants. The access, via Reforma, is a little easier than that of the Northwest. Most of the West area has hired private "Bank and Industry" police officers to patrol their streets, which makes this area relatively safer than most others. Once inside "Bosques" (as it's generally called), the streets are wide and well paved, with pleasant surroundings.
Santa Fe is Mexico City's newest upscale addition and it is where some of the best office space in the City is to be found, with the head offices of GE, EDS, IBM, Daimler-Chrysler, Televisa, and others and therefore, expats coming to work like to live close by. Santa Fe also has the Universidad Iberoamericana and the Tecnologico de Monterrey, both very reputable universities, as well as what is considered the largest shopping mall in Latin America, Centro Santa Fe. A number of very good restaurants have flourished along the main street, and there is also a Sheraton Suites hotel in the immediate vicinity for visitors. There are many gated communities with apartments and townhouses, and security is good.
In terms of apartments, these are generally upscale and some offer beautiful views of the Valley of Mexico. Road access is fairly good via Reforma and Constituyentes, and closely connected to the toll way Autopista Chamapa-La Venta.
You can find very good schools here, too.
Center-West (Polanco, Anzures )
Polanco is a mixture of commercial and residential areas with a lot of offices, boutiques and department stores. Upscale shopping malls and three of Mexico City's best hotels are here. It is well located with regard to the center, western, and northern parts of the City and it also has good access to Mexico City's largest green area, Chapultepec Forest. Along with excellent shopping and restaurants, Polanco also offers a great cultural scene, being the home of the Anthropology and History National Museum and the Museo Rufino Tamayo. There is also a theatre, many cinemas -including one for arthouse films- and two of the most important musical venues in the City, the National Auditorium and the Hard Rock Live.
Despite all this activity, Polanco still keeps a residential feeling in some areas, but don't expect much of a community environment. The area houses a very large Jewish community (larger than that of Tecamachalco) and Orthodox Jews can be seen leaving the several synagogues of Polanco. Finding a parking spot is a problem and traffic can be annoying during the peak hours. Still, Polanco is an excellent choice to live for those who like an active urban lifestyle. Security is lower than that of the previous mentioned expat clusters, though.
There are renowned schools.
The Zona Rosa or "Pink Zone" used to be the best commercial and office area in the City over 20 years ago. In many ways, it was what Polanco currently is. Some of the best hotels in the City are still there, including the Sheraton, the Four Seasons and the Marquis Reforma. But today, the Zona Rosa wouldn't be a good choice for a family. Security has declined, and a lot of cantinas and bars of ill repute are part of the scenery. It still has a lot of prime office space and is very centrally located, but access is often blocked by public demonstrations (called "manifestaciones"). It does offer great nightlife, though!
Center-South (Condesa, Roma)
Currently the hippest, fashionable part of town (old, but "rediscovered" by the intellectuals some 10 years ago), with all sorts of restaurants, bars and cafés. There are beautiful buildings dating from the early 1900s, with a strong French influence.
The Roma-Condesa zone is definitely accessible because of its central location and easy travel to the south and west of the Metropolitan Area. The area is sometimes blocked by public demonstrations at the Ministry of Economy, which has its headquarters at the western edge of the Condesa. Also, its central location (on top of the old lake bed) means that earthquakes are specially strong there.
At the Colonia Roma you will find several important galleries and the "Casa Lamm", a beautiful mansion where art, history and literature courses are taught.
The crime rate is slightly higher than that of Polanco, and there are still some buildings that need remodelling or at least proper maintenance, which means that they are still not in the best condition.
South (Colonia del Valle, Las Aguilas, Barranca del Muerto, Mixcoac, Insurgentes Sur, San Angel, Coyacan)
This is considered the beginning of the "South" in Mexico City. These are basically middle-class communities, and some of them have been there for over 50 years. The environment varies around the area. It can be very busy and hectic around Insurgentes, or it can feel very homey in some neighborhoods around Mixcoac, Valle, or Aguilas, for example. It's a relatively large zone, so it would be a good idea to get to know it before making a decision.
Accessibility is very decent in spite of traffic, and the area has a lot to offer in terms of schools, restaurants, bars, cultural and business life, specially when you consider the proximity of both the Condesa (to the north) and Coyoacan and San Angel (to the south).
San Angel and Coyoacan are beautiful, picturesque Mexican neighborhoods, with many plazas and cobblestone streets. It is incredible how you can feel so far away from city life, when in fact, San Angel and Coyoacan are totally surrounded by it. Considered the intellectual heart of the City, here you can find many, many bookstores and cafés, as well as restaurants, all sorts of galleries, and schools.
During one of your first visits to the City you'll probably be taken to "el Bazar del Sabado" in San Angel, which is a big market full of art and handicrafts.
These are nice areas to live in, but getting yourself anywhere north, including downtown can take a long time, specially during the peak traffic hours.
South-West (Pedregal, Ajusco)
This 30 to 40 year-old area of the South of Mexico City is built on (and made of) volcanic rock because the Ajusco, currently a wooded mountain park, is an extinct volcano that erupted ages ago. The area has some impressive houses, specially Pedregal, with upper class residents. At one edge it borders on University City, which is the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the world's largest university, with over 250,000 students. There can be street demonstrations around Insurgentes Sur Avenue. Also, the Aztec Stadium (the largest stadium in terms of seats in the world) is in that general zone, so important football soccer matches can mess up traffic. Beyond that, both Insurgentes Sur and Perisur (a large mall in the area) provide for great shopping and there are plenty of restaurants in that same area to choose from.
Top of the line schools and hospitals are around, and the access roads to the Cuernavaca-Acapulco highway go through there too -heading for nice towns and the beach! and for the kids, there's a theme park, Six Flags - Mexico.
There are also two important hotels, the Radisson and the Royal Pedregal. If you don't have anything that requires you to drive downtown, or north on a daily basis, it's a great place to live.
Of course, there are hundreds of other neighborhoods around the largest city in the world, but we have mentioned those where most expat clusters can be found.