The enormous urban jungle that is Mexico City is a must-see for any visitor who wants to get an understanding of Mexico and its culture. Mexico City is both a monument to the efforts of the Spanish settlers and a homage to the Aztec culture they destroyed. History looms large in Mexico City – the old town is painstakingly preserved and there is a reverence for the irrecoverable past of the older civilisations. It’s not just history though – there is plenty of fun to be had here. The nightclubs of Polanco and the restaurants of Coyoacan and the Zona Rosa are fabulous and the dozens of markets and malls make Mexico City a tremendous place to shop.
Areas & Neighbourhoods in Mexico City
Centro Historico — The city centre of Mexico City stands on the ruins of Tenochtitlan once the centre of the Aztec civilisation. The conquistadors tore down most of the buildings and constructed their own with many of the 16th century buildings surviving. But they couldn’t erase the Aztecs building Mexico City on the same street layout. Start at the Zocalothe main plaza and explore from there finding the National Palace the city cathedral and the Templo Mayor.
Coyoacan — The university area to the south of the city centre is the place to find the best in Mexico art and craft and it’s no coincidence that it’s the place that Frida Kahlo once called home. Her Casa Azul or blue house is a museum and has everything a fan of the artist could wish for. The museum to Leon Trotsky is nearby where the famous communist was murdered by one of Stalin’s agents.
Chapultepec — The enormous park at Chapultepec houses its own zoo the museum of anthropology and a large lake where you can kayak or hire a paddle boat. The museum has 12 halls devoted to Mexico before the conquistadors and is very well organised for English-speaking visitors.
Xochimilco — Mexico City’s famous Aztec canals can be found in Xochimilco. Hundreds of miles of waterways are navigated by gondola-style trajinera. The floating gardens and artificial islands known as chinampas are rewarding to explore and don’t miss the best known chinampa: the Island of the Dolls with hundreds of children’s dolls left by visitors.
Things to See in Mexico City
Starting in the Zocalo gives visitors the chance to really experience the best of Mexico City. From here you can find the Palacio Nacional the colonial-era palace which houses the offices of the Mexican president. Around the corner is the Metropolitan Cathedral built on the site of the Aztec sacred precinct where human sacrifices are said to have happened. The Templo Mayor is unmissable – you can see where archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of an Aztec temple and pyramid. Further afield don’t forget to visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Monumento a la Revolucion to discover how the dictator Porfirio Diaz was overthrown.
Things to Do in Mexico City
To really get to grips with what Mexico City has to offer you can’t go wrong with a sightseeing tour. Afterwards head down to the Aztec canal network in Xochimilco and discover the floating gardens there. The world famous Folkloric Ballet offers some stunning productions and for a great counterpoint take in a Lucha Libre wrestling match the next day. The nightlife in Palanco never stops and you can really see how Mexicans drink mezcal and cocktails. And the restaurants – with so many to choose you’ll be able to sample the best in tacos salsas and mezcales as well as a tasting tour of the markets and street food. And the shops – find your very own Frida Kahlo bag and pick up a bargain in San Angel. There’s too much to list but if you can imagine it Mexico City probably has it.