From ancient ruins to modern metropolis, Mexico City pulses with the high energy beat of its cultural and historical past; Baroque buildings stand in proud defiance at the onslaught from contemporary skyscrapers; Aztec ruins compete for attention with hip restaurants and trendy bars; surrealist art battles with Mexican wrestling, all creating a spicy stew of intoxicating contrasts and flavours.
Once at the heart of the Aztec Empire, today Mexico City is the thriving cosmopolitan capital of Mexico, bursting with vibrant culture and an energy that can take your breath away. World-class museums, baroque architecture, ancient ruins, award-winning restaurants, exciting modern art and impressive cultural plazas make this a captivating and interesting city to explore. Located in the valley of Anahuac, Mexico City was built over the site of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, after the Spanish Conquest and the city’s cultural heritage is everywhere. The partly-excavated archaeological site of Templo Mayor, the main temple of the Aztecs is surrounded by wide colonial avenues, which in turn weave around the modern skyscrapers, giving the visitor an instant glimpse into the city’s rich heritage.
Many of Mexico City’s main attractions can be found around the central square, Plaza de la Constitution, known locally as El Zócalo and include Templo Mayor, the National Palace once the seat of power for the Spanish Viceroys and the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest cathedral in Latin America. The square is always buzzing with life and it’s a great spot to for grabbing a taco and settling down for a spot of people watching. More cultural highlights can also be found around Chapultepec Park. Not only is this one the world’s great urban parks, it is also the location of 10 museums and art galleries. We’d recommend visits to the world-class National Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Modern Art, which will both enrich your understanding of Mexican history and culture.
For a chance to escape the hustle and bustle, we think the neighbourhoods of San Angel and Coyocan are great places to hang out. Full of cafes, popular restaurants, cultural plazas and Mexican markets, they are both interesting areas to soak up the vibe. What’s more, La Casa Azul, the blue house where Frida Kahlo lived is in Coyocan and is a popular attraction. The house is full of art and mementos of her stormy relationship with husband and fellow artist Diego Rivera. Another highlight is a visit to the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan, around an hour from the city. This Toltec and later Aztec ceremonial temple complex is one of the country’s most impressive ancient monuments. For a spectacular perspective on this extraordinary site, it is also possible to fly over Teotihuacan in a hot air balloon.
We would also recommend a visit to the Venice of Mexico, Xochimilco, a huge network of canals, largely filled in by the colonists, but an area of pre-Hispanic floating gardens remain. This is a beautiful and colourful part of the city, making a great family day out and we’d recommend a canal cruise as a relaxing way to unwind. But if you’re after a little more excitement, head to a Luche Libre show, for the pantomime that is Mexican wrestling, where you can cheer on the good versus the bad and even buy your own mask.
The culinary scene here is really taking off and for some of the city’s finest cuisine, we’d recommend you head to the districts of Polanco, La Roma and Condesa for great restaurants, bars and boutique hotels. Jazz lovers will want to visit the famous Zinco Jazz Club and for a fun night out head to the area known as Zona Rosa where you can dance the night away. The accommodation choices in the city are comprehensive, so whether you’re looking for five-star luxury, old colonial glamour or contemporary boutique chic, there is something for all tastes and budgets. While the sheer size of Mexico City can feel overwhelming, there is so much to see and experience, we’d say just dive in and soak up all the atmosphere, culture and life on offer. We’d suggest a stay of three to four nights will enable you to get a taste of this enthralling city. Que la pases bien!