Mexico City

Mexico City Travel Guide

Zócalo, Mexico City Travel Guide by CC user antonystanley on Flickr

Zócalo, Mexico City Travel Guide by CC user antonystanley on Flickr

Introduction

With a metropolitan population estimated at over 21 million people, Mexico City is the largest urban area in the Western Hemisphere and in the Spanish speaking world, and is the 10th largest city on Earth. Despite this mass of humanity inhabiting this high mountain valley (at 7,200 feet, climbing stairs will be tougher than you ever imagined), the melding of cultures from across this diverse nation make it a must-see.

The food, architecture, and museums showcasing the remnants of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic civilizations make it so, and you’ll leave here wanting to come back soon, all the while remembering how you were initially apprehensive of visiting in the first place (it’s much safer than you think, as it is as secure or more secure than many cities in the United States).

Cultural Experiences

Palacio de Bellas Artes by CC user esparta on Flickr

One little known fact is that Mexico City is home to the largest number of museums in the world. From history to the hiding place of an exiled Russian revolutionary (Leon Trotsky), there is much to take in here if you are a museum fanatic.

The one place you shouldn’t miss before skipping town though is the National Museum of Anthropology. Containing the largest trove of artifacts from pre-Hispanic civilizations in the world, it will allow you to experience the totality of Mexico’s past without having to visit every set of ruins scattered across the country.

From the Aztecs to the Mayans, it contains sculptures, stone calendars and countless tools that people used to go about their daily lives long before the Spanish ever arrived.

Next, check out the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, which can be found in the heart of Centro Historico. Built atop a former Aztec temple, this church ranks as the largest cathedral in the Americas.

Taking over the better part of 250 years to construct, the time that was taken is evident in the attention to detail. Each side of the building has a fabulous facade, and the interior will dazzle visitors, as two altars and other interior design touches have been crafted with gold.

One of the most significant buildings in Mexico with respect to culture is the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Found opposite Alameda Park, this spectacular structure draws inspiration from a number of architectural styles, with Neoclassical, Art Nouveau and Art Deco being most prominent.

Home to Mexico’s national opera and ballet company, this venue regularly hosts these productions, as well as theatrical productions. Elsewhere in the building, some of the nation’s best visual artwork can be admired as well.

Other Attractions

Chapultepec Park from Chapultepec Castle by CC user viajor on Flickr
Dating back to the days when the Aztecs still controlled Mexico City (then known as Tenochtitlan), the Zocalo has been a gathering place for the citizens of this capital for many centuries. Dwarfed only in size by Tienanmen Square in Beijing and Red Square in Moscow, there is plenty of room for concerts, performing arts events, and general gatherings during lunches, evenings and weekends.

While options along the edge of the square for dining and coffee are limited, the streets immediately outside the square have plenty of choice, thus making a great place to relax after seeing many of the historic sights that are located in or around the Zocalo.

When the sun shines strongly on a beautiful Saturday, many of the residents of Mexico City catch the subway to Chapultepec Park, which is this city’s most beloved green space.

In addition to being home to the aforementioned National Museum of Anthropology, it is also home to Chapultepec Castle (served as the home of Mexican emperor and presidents until 1940), the Chapultepec Zoo and a Botanical Gardens.

However, the greatest pleasure of being here is to simply stroll along its tree-lined paths and enjoy authentic Mexican street food from the numerous carts that line the way.

A show that is not to be missed before leaving this massive city is a lucha libre show. A twist on professional wrestling, it is immensely entertaining, even if you cannot understand what is being said. The best venue to take this athletic drama in is at Arena Mexico, which can be found in Colonia Doctores.

Known as the “cathedral of lucha libre” by local promoters, the official capacity of 16,500 people will create an electric atmosphere that will be unlike any that you have likely experienced in your life to date.