There are certain things I like about the Historic Center of Mexico City.
It is full of history and so many amazing buildings or museums to visit.
The park next to Bellas Artes metro is very pleasant to spend an afternoon.
It has one of my favorite jazz clubs in Mexico City called Zinco Jazz as you can see here.
The rent is relatively cheap if you wish to be somewhere Centric within the city.
The streets are also full of life with so many people, so many performers, plenty of literally insane homeless people and whatever else.
It also is a great window into contemporary Mexican politics for obvious reasons but one of them has to do with all the protests that happen there so frequently.
Additionally, if you wish to buy stolen goods that are relatively cheap, then the Historic Center is right for you!
Not only do you have Tepito nearby but you also have stolen goods you can find in the area like this stolen phone I once bought years ago that you can read about here.
Among many other benefits that likely come with the Historic Center.
Having said all that, there are some very strong negatives that come with the area.
Some of what I already said might actually be seen as negatives depending on your perspective.
Above all though, it's a reoccurring theme I have noticed among a handful of other expats I have known or met over the years who know Mexico City well.
The perception that the Historic Center has so much to offer but consistently has so much shit also that can completely ruin or worsen at the very least the experience of being or living there.
Some other expats I know have enjoyed living there but so many of them and plenty of locals I know just don't like the area very much.
Which is so odd given all its potential.
But there are reasons why it seems like so much of that potential is squandered by the retardation of some of the locals who are active in the area.
Let me explain.
View of the Zocalo
If you walk around the Zocalo, you will notice the occasional person trying to get you inside their restaurant with some menu.
At first, the prices look quite good.
And, to put a cherry on top, you are promised the best view of Mexico City's Zocalo.
This view specifically.
Who wouldn't want that?
To sit down with an amazing view like that with some wine and delicious steak.
Don't forget the empanadas as an appetizer.
Would even make for a good spot to propose to your woman if you wish to get married.
All around, it looks quite nice.
Then you get the bill for whatever you ordered.
And it ends up looking something like this.
Seriously? 420 pesos (21 bucks) for each single taco?
What's interesting though is that the restaurant that woman likely went to was an infamous restaurant in the area known as TERRAZA TENOCH.
As you can see here, they have literally 282 reviews with a solid 1 star rating.
Everybody hates this restaurant.
Here are some screenshots of some of the reviews left as to how bad it gets.
And here are some warnings from people on other social media platforms about similar restaurants like this one as there are others that do this shit in the Historic Center.
They beat you up?!
Well, that's not good customer service!
It seems to be the case with this place -- including in other bars in the area also -- that they give you a fake menu with lower prices and then pretend to use the menu with the higher prices when it comes time to pay.
As you can see here, apparently threatening to call the police can help.
Though, as a side point, I'm always skeptical of involving the police into it. I guess you could and maybe it worked like in this review here. But I wouldn't be surprised if some of the police were in on it.
As I wrote here anyway, there comes a point to which you just have to laugh at the retardation of how things are run down here.
I get every country has tourist traps.
But imagine such an ideal property with such an amazing view of one of Mexico's most important buildings being run by retard scammers who give Mexico a bad name by repeatedly fucking over local and foreign tourists.
It's the little things like that where if a country can't even get that right, then what the fuck can they get right?
You'd think you'd want your country well represented to the world by non scammers and so people don't go back home calling it a shithole.
And, beyond that, you'd want to ideally monetize such an important space even better than how it is now.
Because I guarantee you -- with all these negative reviews -- that they are losing money relative to what they could be earning if they built up a more solid reputation.
It almost makes you wonder though -- given their reputation -- how many people they need to scam each month to afford the expensive property since they likely don't get repeat business.
Here's a video on this type of restaurant and scam (it's not just one).
Outside of those terrazas, I've also heard similar stories in nearby Plaza Garibaldi where someone gets exaggerated prices beyond the original menu they saw in certain establishments over there.
In the rest of Mexico City, I never have this problem but seemingly you might need to be a little more aware of where you are eating in this part of town.
But it's not just them that is the problem.
Better Nightlife Needed
To be fair, a city of such size and importance such as Mexico City should have much nicer nightlife than it does.
I remember Buenos Aires having nicer nightlife from what I remember and wrote about here.
While I don't need though the nicest clubs to be happy with the nightlife and don't go out too often so it doesn't concern me too much, it still is something you notice about the city.
Why don't they have better nightlife?
And one area of Mexico City that really exemplifies the stunning waste of potential in this detail is the Historic Center.
From most of my occasions going to the Historic Center, I find the following to be true:
For one, you have a few of these mini spots on the ground and not high up on any terraza where one can get a drink but they aren't overly exciting. They won't rip you off but they aren't exciting spots to have a drink in.
Second, you have a lot of these "terraza" bars or bars higher up anyhow that lie about everything with prices.
Especially on Madero street.
They will tell you "the prices are x" and then, when you get a menu while sitting down, you notice the prices are usually way higher.
On other occasions, they also might give you a fake menu at the beginning but then use another menu with higher prices.
And, for Mexicans who don't like tipping more than 10%, they'll usually get pissed off when the tips expected are around 15% to 20%.
I don't personally mind the tipping though.
It's the bullshit on knowing what the prices are that is annoying.
Whenever I am there looking for a bar, I always avoid those spots.
In fact, I'd honestly recommend you just get on the metro and walk out of Metro Tepito where you have little bars across the street that you'll be walking down.
I know Tepito has a bad reputation of being dangerous but I've had a beer or two there before on a very few occasions and never got ripped off.
Not saying you won't get ripped off there but, at least in my experience, there was no bullshit on the prices.
Imagine that for a second.
One of Mexico City's most important historical areas (THE HISTORIC CENTER) having a handful of their bars on such an important street (MADERO) being out competed by some cheap ass spots in Tepito.
To be fair though, the main benefit I see in the Historic Center with nightlife is that it does have certain bars that appeal to certain tastes that are run well.
Like Zinco Jazz for jazz music.
Or, as you can see here, a decent cigar bar.
So it's not all bad.
But much could be improved in this respect.
This is another issue frequently brought up regarding the Historic Center.
So many people I know of dislike the safety of the area.
Perhaps they live there and they have difficulty getting some chicks back because some scary homeless dudes hang outside.
Maybe they walk too far towards Plaza Garibaldi and hear gunshots.
Go any distance past there closer to Garibaldi metro and it will get much sketchier to the average tourist who hasn't been accustomed to living in areas like iztapalapa.
Even among other expats I know who have lived here long enough, they increasingly find the Historic Center to just be relatively sketchy and not as appealing as other parts of the city.
And I feel it mostly comes down to 1) the excessive amount of homeless people outside who are way more aggressive and with worse mental issues than what I see in the rest of CDMX and 2) how you don't have to go very far from the Historic Center to find some shit looking streets.
On the first point, I've lived in areas much sketchier than the Historic Center and never get harassed by homeless people.
But, when I last lived there, I ended up getting into an argument with a homeless person as I wrote here.
Or maybe the motherfucker is too autistic and he jumps in front of your photo to ask if you want to buy something and you have to tell his autistic ass to fuck off.
Maybe they'll literally shove their product within an inch of your face thinking you'll want to buy it.
The Historic Center is by far the worst area I have seen in all of Mexico City in terms of how aggressive the homeless folks are and how common they are.
Above all, it definitely leaves something to be desired.
The Historic Center is basically Ground Zero for protests in the entire city.
Another favorite spot is the Reforma Avenue outside Angel of Independence statue.
When I lived there briefly, it felt like a new protest was somewhere everyday.
I remember my landlord recorded a small video on her phone of some protesters attacking the police with homemade weapons outside her apartment below and sent it to everyone in the building so that "we can be careful" when going outside.
In other cases, the protesters might try to destroy property as you can see here.
Oddly enough, it's quite common for the police to put these giant blue walls around areas like Bellas Artes museum now for decent periods of time to try to prevent that from happening.
Imagine that being the message you send to the world:
Sorry, we can't show you one of our most impressive museums in the city that demonstrates so much of our finest art and culture because we are incapable of defending it properly from destruction and damage.
Not only that but it is also a giant eye sore.
When it comes to the protests themselves anyhow, I never did mind them personally except one time when a chick tried stealing my phone as I wrote here.
On one hand, I do kinda like them because it does give you an interesting glimpse into the politics of the day in this country.
On the other hand, it's like snow.
It's interesting at first but then gets boring quickly and you don't really want to live with it daily.
But, with everything else said, I wouldn't say it's the worst thing about the Historic Center because, at the end of the day, every country has protesters and people have a right to peacefully assemble.
Not destroy metro stations that the working class has to use and that have nothing to do with "destroying the patriarchy" or whatever the fuck they think they are doing here.
Peacefully I said, god damn it.
Many Such Cases
To be fair to Mexico City, these issues are not unique to the city itself.
Other capital cities will have more protesters in the important areas obviously.
Comes with the program of living in such neighborhoods.
Get used to it or leave.
And, when it comes to the scams, you'll find similar aggressive hustlers and scammers in other areas popular with tourists.
Especially in the third world.
Be it areas like Cartagena of Colombia for example.
It's the main reason why I don't like said areas as much as I would otherwise and am always more on guard about scams when visiting such areas.
When I went to Xochimilco for example where scams at the canals are common, I did my research ahead of time as to what to expect and how some of the scams work.
It's such a shame because such areas have so much potential and could be awesome as fuck but either never reach their full potential or become completely dogshit due to the retard practices of some of the locals running the establishments in the area and how the authorities are sometimes bought off to not go after those that fuck up the area.
Then the locals wonder why they get called third world.
Should be obvious, right?
If the message you send more frequently than other places to tourists who are here for a week is "we'll scam and fuck you over," you really think that'll last a positive impression?
But let's wrap this up.
Having said all that, I do like the Historic Center.
Whenever I am back there, I genuinely enjoy a nice sitting down in the park next to Bellas Artes metro.
With some black tea in hand.
It's quite nice.
Like I said, it does have some decent bars that specialize in things like jazz music.
And I don't go out drinking too much so those scamming bars are not a big deal.
You got other more normal bars that are OK for a drink that don't scam either.
And when it comes to food?
I remember quite well there being plenty of restaurants that served decent food too and most don't scam you.
Even if you wanted one of those restaurants on the "terraza," I have heard there are a few that are more trust worthy.
As of this writing in 2022, I heard that "El Balcon del Zocalo," "Gran Hotel CDMX," and "Terraza Catedral" are more trustworthy.
I cannot personally vouch for them and say they are. Never ate at any of those. Simply what I have heard over the years.
Before going to any of those, check out the reviews obviously that are more recent to see if things are still good or maybe ask some locals you might know who are familiar with the area (if you happen to know any).
Outside of restaurants though, there is one complaint I do have.
Which is that, as someone who lives here in Mexico City and isn't a tourist, I found it annoying that there were no real grocery stores nearby that I saw.
I remember finding one small place that has some meats and stuff but not what I'd call a real grocery store.
It left much to be desired.
Still, with Uber Eats and Rappi, that can be fixed by having your groceries delivered.
Plus, I'm sure you could find other spots to buy food from.
I'm not aware of any street markets near there but I'd bet there is one. I must've not seen any but I do know that Buenavista isn't far and they got some supermarkets.
At any rate, the Historic Center leaves much to be desired for sure.
A lot that could be improved.
My main tips here would be at least the following:
1. Check Google Reviews of any important restaurants or bars like those in the terraza before going there. Check if scams are common.
2. Ask for the prices and the menu before eating or drinking there if you haven't been there before (in terrazas or elsewhere). If they don't give you a menu with prices, leave (in Mexico City, it is technically required to show prices). Maybe even take a picture of the menu if it has prices and you aren't confident that they won't scam you. If they are scamming you, threaten to call the cops. Apparently that has worked in some cases (though I'd imagine some are in on it as everyone knows about the terraza issue).
3. See a protest? Especially a feminist one? Consider going the opposite way (if not a feminist protest, it might be safe).
4. In order to be extra safe from protests, try to follow the news more regularly. Sometimes they will report on protests set to happen. Also, if I remember right, I once knew a Canadian guy named Darrel who told me about something the US State Department has that warns about chaotic events about to happen to your phone. Not sure if it still exists but you should look into it.
5. Just keep walking if someone is trying to get you in their bar or restaurant. Don't look at the menu. Keep going.
Above all though, the Historic Center still offers plenty of value for those wishing to live in Mexico City but you just have to take extra precautions with some of the above.
There really are so many things I like about it and could see myself living there again.
But that's all I got to say.
If you got anything to add, drop a comment below.
And follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.