Mexico City, the capital of the country with the same first name, is a megacity with more than 21 million inhabitants. Being divided into distinctive boroughs, however, it is very easy and fun to navigate. Two huge volcanic mountains overlook this vibrant center, Popocatépetl, and Iztaccíhuatl, each over 5,000 meters (16, 404 feet) tall, conferring a mystical allure to the whole picture. But down, in the warm bosom of the streets of Mexico City, the visitor will find psychedelic local color in its murals, sunbathed plazas and shady courtyards, traditional and modern music as well as local and international flavors.
Things to see and do in Mexico City
Start your journey in the Centró Histórico de la Ciudad, which is the historic center of Mexico City. On the sight of the main square, Zócalo, an Aztec settlement was erased and a Spanish colonial city rose in its place. You will find around 1,400 colonial buildings here dating from between the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Many notable landmarks such as the National Palace (Palacio Nacional), the Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos), the Main Temple (Templo Mayor) with its Aztec relics, are walking distance away from Constitution Square (Plaza de la Constitución), the formal name of the city’s bustling main plaza.
Visit San Ildefonso College (Colegio de San Ildefonso) if you would like to admire the earliest masterpieces of Mexican muralism. Buy your souvenirs at La Ciudadela, a rich artisanal market with over three hundred stalls welcoming you with a plethora of choices. Do not take the first price offered, but a bargain, it is normal and customary in Mexico.
Stop by for a short visit at Casa de Azulejos (the House of Tiles). It is a magnificent eighteenth-century palace of blue and white splendor. And if you still have time and energy, choose from Museo Biblioteca Palacio Postal, Museo Franz Mayer, and Palacio des Bellas Artes. You cannot go wrong with either of them.
Recharge your energy levels in beautiful parks, such as Alameda Central and Chapultepec Park.
Stroll in the leafy avenues of Alameda Park or sit in Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest) to relax and gain new energy for your sightseeing. Called also the ‘lungs of the city’, this park is not quite a forest, but it is one of the largest urban parks in the world. Apart from its refreshing nature, it houses cultural institutions, such as the Auditorio Nacional, the Museum of Anthropology as well as a well-supplied and colorful zoo. Take pictures with flamingoes, pandas or enjoy the dolphin show.
Visit the upscale Polanco, Roma, and Condesa districts
These are beautiful and authentically local districts, which will come as a nice change of the historical center. Museo Soumaya is the biggest must-see in the neighborhood of Nuevo Polanco, a masterpiece of contemporary architecture. Its interior, a free museum, shelters more than 60,000 artworks, among which you can see famous pieces from Salvador Dalí, Auguste Rodin, Vincent Van Gogh and many others. Museo Jumex, adjacent to it, houses the largest contemporary private art collection in Latin America.
Visit the famous landmarks of Coyoacán
Meaning ‘place of coyotes’, the southern historic center of one of the sixteen boroughs of Mexico City used to be a quaint little village. Now a bohemian center, this artsy place draws intellectuals, writers, and artists like a magnet. Its main tourist pilgrimage sight is the Frida Kahlo Museum also known as Casa Azul (Blue House), dedicated to the life and work of this prominent Mexican artist. This is where she was born, lived for a while and even died in one of the upper rooms. Visit also the House-Studio Museum of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, a controversial piece of architecture and a fascinating sight, connected to these two giants of Mexican art.
Pop in Ciudad Universitaria to experience the buzz of the place
Being the biggest construction project at the time of its erection since the time of the Mayan edifices, the University district will impress you with gigantic murals. If you got interested in the art of Diego Rivera, visit the Stadium to see his last work, which he did not live to finish.
Mexico City is considered the culinary capital not only of Mexico but the whole of Latin America. It has an exceptional local cuisine as well as fine dining from countries all over the world. The first and currently most hip place I would recommend is Quinton. Situated in the high-end Polanco district, the chefs in Quintonil use local ingredients from Mexican producers and transform it into unique, innovative, contemporary dishes. The setting is lovely, warm and welcoming. J and G Grill Mexico calls itself and American restaurant but changes its menu every four months as well based on the local, seasonal produce. Situated on the second floor of St Regis Hotel, this restaurant is a place for good wine, quality food, and top-notch service. My third recommendation is Maximo Bistrot Local. This small, casual gem of a restaurant has never had one bad review in its life. Serving fantastic, fresh Mexican fusion food, it caters to all tastes and needs. Has an Open Table service every day from 7 pm but make sure to book in advance if you do not wish to wait forever to get a table.