Mexico City, the largest city in the world and one of the most densely populated on the planet, is located in a picturesque valley surrounded by mountains. It was erected on the site of the settlement of the legendary Aztec tribe, whose wealth and cruelty have remained for centuries in the form of numerous legends. The current population of Mexico City partly absorbed the culture of the ancient tribe, but the Spanish colonialists, who came to this land in the 16th century and turned the former pagans into Christians, had a much greater influence. The national flavor of Mexico City is complemented by melancholic songs of mariachi ensembles beloved by Mexicans, spicy cuisine, tequila and various traditions. One of them is the celebration of the Day of the Dead in early November.
Mexico City is far from the safest city on the planet, it is located in a seismic zone, earthquakes are a common occurrence. Most of the tall structures are built with regard to possible tremors. Another “trouble” is the water-saturated ground under the city, which also does not contribute to the durability of buildings.
Mexico City is a city of contrasts, where ultra-modern skyscrapers side by side with ancient pyramids, poor and dangerous areas for tourists – with magnificent palaces. It is also an “open-air museum” that has preserved more than 1,400 monuments and historical relics. There are 10 archaeological zones (in the city itself and its environs), 8 universities, several academies, more than 80 museums, theaters, concert halls and exhibitions.
Districts of Mexico City
One of the most interesting parts of the city, built up with buildings of the colonial era, is the area around the Constitution Square (Zokalo), the Cathedral and the Presidential Palace. It is here that travelers go on their first walk around the Mexican capital.
Rosa Zone is the second most popular district of Mexico City. The tourist infrastructure is well developed here: hotels, nightclubs, shops, restaurants are at every step. Another area known for the street. Paseo de la Reforma, connecting the center and Chapultepec Park. The avenue is called none other than the “Champs Elysees”. It was founded under Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg and soon became the “front facade” of the city.
In the green areas of Alameda and Chapultepec, you can see ancient buildings – examples of Spanish architecture, magnificent squares, museums, fountains, monuments, well-groomed alleys and attractions. Also noteworthy are the areas of San Angel, Xochimilco and La Villa, located at some distance from the center.
There are places in Mexico City where it is better for a tourist not to go, especially at night. Contrary to stereotypes, they are not only on the outskirts – just a few blocks from the Zócalo there is the Tepito district, where drug dealers rule the ball. In addition, you need to avoid slums, auto repair shops and narrow alleys.
Of course, for the most colorful gizmos you need to go to markets and fairs. As a rule, in every tourist area there are such places. Typical souvenirs that will remind you of a trip to exotic Mexico: ceramic dishes with national ornaments made by Maya Indians, brightly painted skulls and figurines of Katrina – symbols of the Day of the Dead (one of the most spectacular holidays), hammocks, ponchos and sombreros embroidered with gold thread.
In any large supermarket like the American Walmart, a large selection of tequila and mezcal is presented at more humane prices than in souvenir shops. There you can also buy locally produced chocolate or hot spices that can diversify the usual cuisine and add spicy notes to the dishes.
The most famous markets in Mexico City with a large selection of products: Ciutadella (Calle de Balderas), Lagunilla (Lopez Rayon, 46 lote 1), Bazaar de Sabado (San Jacinto, 11), Sonora (Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, 419).
Prices are fixed in stores, but it’s worth haggling in the markets, and sellers will give way with great pleasure if you speak to them in Spanish, even if it’s “clumsy”. Unlike Arab merchants, Mexicans do not put on a show of bargaining – if the buyer leaves, they will not chase him, jumping over the counters.
Cuisine and restaurants in Mexico City
Mexican cuisine is an explosive mix of fiery flavors. It is as bright and unusual as the culture of this country, but, alas, completely unusual and even somewhat dangerous for the sensitive European stomach.
Naturally, restaurants of national and Latin American cuisine “rule the show” in the capital, where classic burritos, fajitas blazing in a frying pan, corn nachos, quesadillas with various fillings, and enchiladas are prepared.
But it is impossible to eat such food all the time, so there are dozens of establishments with more traditional cuisine for tourists, offering “neutral” European dishes, pizza, burgers, salads and the usual snacks.
The cost of dinner or lunch in a mid-range restaurant will not exceed 500 MXN. In a more democratic place, they usually fit in 250 MXN for a cup of coffee with dessert or a quick bite of pizza.
For a greater immersion in the traditions of the country, you should at least once go to a city eatery and try Mexican fast food: corn tacos with filling and buns with meat and vegetables (tortas al rosto). This meal costs a penny (up to 150 MXN for a generous portion), but the pleasure is unforgettable.
Entertainment and attractions
The most important historical places in Mexico City are the huge Zocalo Square, the main cathedral, founded back in the 16th century by Hernan Cortes, and the grandiose Baroque Presidential Palace, painted with magnificent drawings by the artist Diego Riviera. All of them are nearby, in the heart of the Mexican capital.
The Catholic Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the main center of pilgrimage in Mexico. Believers rush here to bow to the miraculous image of the saint. The magnificent building of the Palace of Fine Arts, where the opera stage is open, will attract connoisseurs of the architectural styles of Art Nouveau and Beaux Arts, and located in the middle of the park of the same name on the hill, Chapultepec Palace, once the imperial residence, will attract neoclassical fans.
The Templo Mayor archaeological zone keeps the mysteries of the ancient Aztec civilization and the great Tenochtitlan that has gone into oblivion. Once upon a time, on the site of the ruins, the pyramid-temples of Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli towered – powerful and gloomy Indian deities who accepted bloody human sacrifices.
Of the more modern sights, one should pay attention to the one built in the 1960s. the Azteca football arena (Calz. de Tlalpan, 3465), which has repeatedly hosted major matches and concerts of world stars.
Museums in Mexico City
The National Museum of Anthropology (Chapultepec Palace) houses a unique collection of artifacts from the pre-Columbian era: the stone of the Sun, giant sculptures in the form of Olmec heads, finds from excavations in Palenque and Chichen Itza. The history of the Mayans, Aztecs, Toltecs, northern Indian tribes unfolds before visitors.
The National Museum of History (Primera Seccion del Bosque de Chapultepec), on the contrary, presents an exposition dedicated to the period from the Spanish colonization of Mexico and Latin America to the present day. Here you can admire the collection of the era of the conquistadors, antique furniture, art objects of the 16th-20th centuries.
Of course, not without the House-Museums of Frida Kahlo, the most famous Mexican artist, and Leon Trotsky, where he lived for several months and was subsequently killed by a Soviet intelligence agent.
The works of Latin American painters and sculptors of the 16th-20th centuries are exhibited at the National Art Museum (Calle Tacuba, 8). Its exposition is divided into three parts: the era of colonization, the period of independence from Spain, the Mexican Revolution. The Soumaya Museum (Boulervard Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 303), founded by billionaire K. Slim and housed in a futuristic building, presents several hundred works by Rodin, as well as the creations of Monet, Pissarro, Degas and Renoir.
According to Bridgat, tourists travel to Mexico City all year round. Even in the most “harsh” winter months, the sun shines brightly and even warms here, and due to the location of the city in a mountainous area, there is no exhausting summer heat. From May to October, there is more rain and cloudy days: from 10 to 22 months, but the rest of the time the balance is restored. The best period to visit the Mexican capital is November-April: in addition to suitable weather conditions, a series of holidays and bright national festivals begin at this time.