Are you considering a trip to Mexico City this year? If so, here is some helpful background info to get you acquainted with the area.
Founded by the Mexica as Teotihuacan, and then invaded by Hernán Cortes and renamed Mexico City, the metropolis actually sits on the island of Lake Texcoco, built by the Aztecs and has reportedly been sinking three feet every year according to Eco Watch. The urban population is reportedly at 21 million people and is growing every day.
As you can probably picture, there is an enormous amount to see and do in Mexico City any day of the year. Here is a 4-day itinerary to make it easier.
Stay in the areas of Coyoacan, Centro, Roma, Polanco or Condesa
Known to be the biggest park in the Latin American continent, Chapultepec runs 1,695 acres — think of a standard American football field, but bigger! Resembling Central Park in New York, Chapultepec is not only trees and grass, it has major attractions such as a zoo, the Rufino Tamayo Museum, the Chapultepec Castle, a lake where you can rent paddle boats and much more. One of my favorite activities is an outside silent reading room as seen on the image above. Here you can grab a book and sit down while classical music soothes you into another dimension. My second favorite activity is the Museum of Anthropology.
Museo Nacional de Antropología
The National Museum of Anthropology is THE museum to visit in Mexico City. Even though el Districto Federal isn’t known to be the museum capital of the world, this one is a must-visit. Located within Chapultepec, the museum is the largest and most visited in D.F. with approximately two million visitors a year. It has 11 exhibitions separated by each region in Mexico, each one containing some of the most important archaeological and anthropological relics in the world pertaining to pre-Columbian culture and heritage in Mexico. I was there for three hours and it wasn’t enough. It takes many hours to navigate the whole museum but rest assured you will get lost in the interesting history. Go early. Open through Tuesday through Sunday.
Roma and Condesa at night
Roma and Condesa are the two trendiest places in Mexico City, catering to the hipsters of Mexico as well as tourists looking for a fancier experience. The two neighborhoods sit next to each other, making it easy to explore both in one night. For mid-range prices, chic restaurants, mezcalerias and nightlife, just arrive at the roundabout—the center of it all—and go wherever pulls you in. One of my fave mezcalerias in Condesa is La Clandestina, a small bar that makes their own mezcal. If you ask, they will give you a tasting of the various mezcals they think you would like. Included are delicious, salty pumpkin seeds.
Truly one of the grandest archaeological sites I have ever visited, Teotihuacan, a Nahuatl word named after the Aztecs meaning, “Place of the Gods,” has a history dating back to 100 BC. There is too much to say about its history. Read more here. But I must say, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon are the two most dominating in all of the 83 square kilometers and are worth the steep climb, both for the views and to understand the possible immensity of man-made structures. Teotihuacan is about three hours away from Mexico City, and you have to take a bus at the Autobuses del Norte station. Here are accurate instructions.
Frida Kahlo Museum and Coyoacan Center
It wouldn’t be a visit to Mexico City if you didn’t go to La Casa Azul to see the house where the infamous feminist painter Frida Kahlo grew up and lived her whole life. Inside is the Frida Kahlo Museum where you can view the dresses she wore—inspired by the traditional Mexican wear the women of Juchitan have cultivated. This community of women is also known as the last matriarchal society in the world. Once you’ve been inspired by the one and only, take a walk to the center of Coyoacan to eat and explore the markets.
If you’re looking for a hilarious, unforgettable night time event, check out Mexico’s cooler version of America’s WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). Lucha Libre in Mexico City is a form of entertainment of masked men wrestling professionally in an arena where the ultimate taboo is to de-mask another luchador. The show is a somewhat amateurish performance combined with acrobatics and intense physical contact between luchadores until one wanes and the referee declares the other a winner. Get tickets earlier in the day at Arena Mexico and join the fun at night!
Diego Rivera Murals: Palacio Nacional and Secretaría de Educación Pública
Once you’ve seen Frida Kahlo, there’s no missing Diego Rivera’s works. Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were life partners. Contrary to Frida’s smaller works, Diego created grand-scale montages of Mexico’s history in relation to current events of his time. His works were intricately complex and controversial, provoking critical analysis on what the country was facing in the early to mid-twentieth century. One of his biggest murals can be seen at Palacio Nacional on Plaza de la Constitution, as seen above, along with other works. A great amount of his other works can be seen at the Secretary of Public Education on Calle Republic de Argentina 28. Both are free to enter but proper identification will be requested.
Ballet Folklorico de Mexico
Founded by the grand Mexican ballet choreographer Amalia Hernández, Ballet Folklorico de Mexico has represented Mexico folkloric dance for six decades now. The opulent cultural costumes and music and the extraordinarily talented dancers bring the show alive and back to the rich times of Mesoamerica. The shows happen year-round at the Palace of Fine Arts. Visit the website for more info.