Mexico City is located in the Valley of Mexico, a plateau in the center of the country, surrounded by mountains. The entire Distrito Federal as well as parts of the neighboring states lie about 2,240 meters above sea level.
Settling in or around Mexico City is by no means a new idea. The first Aztec settlement of Tenochtitlan was established there nearly 700 years ago. After a period of battles, sieges, and the complete rebuilding that followed, large numbers of settlers started moving to Mexico City — which became the city’s official name in 1585.
However, the woods and lakes that defined the valley back then are long gone. Do not expect to lay eyes on anything but urban landscapes when first arriving in Mexico City. A steady feature, however, are the aforementioned mountains, some of which are active volcanoes. Currently, Popocatépetl, located around 70 km outside the city, is fairly active, with minor eruptions every now and then. While officials have raised warning levels as a precautionary measure, there is little indication of any direct danger to citizens of the city. So Popocatépetl is no reason to reconsider your move to Mexico City.
Mexico City’s elevation is obviously a major factor for the local climate. While parts of Mexico have a reputation for either being prime locations for sun-worshipping tourists or being covered by desert, expats moving to Mexico City will be greeted by a relatively temperate climate. Although it is undeniable that temperatures can rise considerably (at times exceeding 30°C), it tends to be a somewhat chilly city, so you might want to bring along a sweater, even for summer nights.
Better yet, also bring an umbrella when moving to Mexico City. The summer months, from June to October, see the majority of rainfall, while the remaining months are very dry. In the winter, temperatures below freezing are not uncommon, but they rarely reach double digits.
One of Mexico City’s defining features is its gigantic dimensions, which will have escaped the fewest of expats interested in moving here. While this tends to get slightly overblown, Metropolitan Mexico City is without a doubt huge, with its more than 20 million citizens.
The metropolitan area extends across almost half the Valley. Settling down somewhere in the rest of the Valley is an option, too. However, due to the job market, proximity to amenities such as international schools, and the horrific situation for commuters — who have to travel an average of 108 minutes to get downtown — most expats opt to move to Mexico City proper.
If you move to Mexico City, you will need to decide on one of the 16 delegaciones (boroughs) of the city proper, all of which enjoy a certain degree of political autonomy from the city administration. As is usually the case for cities of this size and history, expats moving to Mexico City will experience a wide variety of atmospheres and traditions, even within one and the same borough. In alphabetical order, the boroughs are Álvaro Obregón, Azcapotzalco, Benito Juárez, Coyoacán, Cuajimalpa, Cuauhtémoc, Gustavo A. Madero, Iztacalco, Iztapalapa, Magdalena Contreras, Miguel Hidalgo, Milpa Alta, Tláhuac, Tlalpan, Venustiano Carranza, and Xochimilco.
The 16 official delegaciones are further segmented into hundreds of colonias, or neighborhoods. Figuring out where to settle down can be a daunting task, so expats moving to Mexico City will be wise to hire a reputable realtor. Due to the large expat population in the city, you should run into very few problems trying to find someone with experience and an instinct for expats’ needs and wishes.
Due to the high number of boroughs there is not just a single one where most expats live. Nevertheless, due to their reputation of being safer and their proximity to many international schools, the following colonias are the most popular among expats: Lomas de Chapultepec, Polanco, Bosques de las Lomas, and Santa Fe.
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