Experience the Ten Best Things To Do in Mexico’s Largest City
Mexico City is a city like no other. Many visitors come expecting pollution and crime and are amazed to find so much history and culture. Also, for one of world’s biggest cities, it is surprisingly easy to get around on public transport. Mexico City is the ultimate clash of civilisations, where Spanish cathedrals were built literally on top of Aztec temples. Now the people, art, culture and music of Mexico City reflects this mix of indigenous and Spanish heritage.
The Zocalo and the Templo Mayor
In the heart of Mexico City lies the Zocalo. The huge cathedral towers over the square, displaying the might of the Spanish empire. On the weekends, there are indigenous dancers and people performing smoke ceremonies around the exterior of the cathedral, along with many stalls selling clothes and jewellery. Next to the Zocalo is the site of the Aztec’s Templo Mayor, which was the principal temple of their city, named Tenochtitlan. Until recently the temple lay forgotten under buildings, but now it is a museum that allows you to walk among the ruins, close enough to touch them. There is also an excellent museum on the site, displaying some of the Aztec treasures found around the temple.
The Palacio National
The Palacio National on the Zocalo is a collection of government buildings and would be of little interest if not for the incredible Diego Rivera mural inside. In one of his biggest and most ambitious murals, Rivera tells the story of the history of Mexico on these walls. The scope of his vision is truly outstanding and it is worth paying for guide to explain the details of the mural. Entry is free but official ID such as a passport is required on entry.
This decadent opera house is a great place to see the work of a variety of Mexican muralists, including Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros. The walls of the opera house give insight into the Mexican muralist movement, with dozens of stunning works painted onto the walls and stairwells. There is free entry to the murals on Sundays, but there are often queues.
The Alameda and the Museum of Diego Rivera
Strolling through the Alameda Park in the historic centre on a sunny Sunday is a great place to see all manner of street performers, food stalls and free concerts. Just to the side of the park is the Museum of Diego Rivera. This is really just one Rivera mural called Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park. In this mural, Rivera depicts the famous figures of Mexican history all together in the park. A key to the mural explains who is who.
Garibaldi is the place to go to in Mexico City to see mariachis. visitors will know they are close to the square because on a weekend night because the mariachis can been seen and heard blocks away. It costs around 80-100 pesos a song to be serenaded by a group of about eight exemplary musicians. There are also groups performing banda and norteña music. One word of warning though: some of the bars around the square often take advantage of foreigners with unfair charges to the bill, so be careful.
The Pyramids of Teotihuacan
When most people think of pyramids, they think of Egypt. For this reason it can be starting to learn that the world’s second and third largest pyramids are in fact in Mexico. The pyramids are a day trip, about an hour and a half out of the city. Leave early to beat the heat, wear some sunscreen and take plenty of water and food: there are not a lot of either for sale at the pyramids themselves. There are two main pyramids to climb, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. Both afford great views of the area and give a small glimpse of the culture that constructed these pyramids so long ago.
Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Coyoacan
No trip to Mexico City would be complete without a trip to the bohemian Spanish-style suburb of Coyoacan. Frida Kahlo’s house, named the Casa Azul, is a short walk from the main square. Paintings aside, the house itself is a work of art. The striking blue is contrasted with the green of the plants and the colours of the paintings and artesian items inside. Frida grew up in his house, and eventually lived with her husband Diego Rivera. Wandering through her living space gives a sense of the Frida’s troubled life and her passion for Mexico. However, despite the title, the museum doesn’t contain many of Frida’s paintings as you might expect. Real Frida fans need to go to Dolores Olmeda museum.
The Trotsky Museum
But for a few mishaps of history, Leon Trotsky would have been the leader of Russia instead of Stalin. However, when Stalin took power Trotsky had to flee and ended up living out his last years in Mexico City, until he was eventually murdered by Stalinists. The museum shows us Trotsky’s humble home and documents his life, including his strange connection to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. It is a short walk from the Casa Azul in Coyoacan and so it makes sense to visit the two museums in one day.
The Anthropology Museum
If visitors only see one museum in Mexico City, it should be this one. This museum houses Latin America’s foremost collection of pre-Hispanic culture and artefacts. It is organised into a collection of rooms, covering the different periods and civilisations of Mexico. The sheer scope of the collection can be daunting, and so take a break in the café after exploring a few of the rooms. Renting some headsets greatly enhances the museum experience, as it de-mystifies the exhibits and explains the different points of interest in each room. The Aztec or Mexica room is the home of the huge sunstone, displaying the Aztec calendar. This is one of the most impressive rooms in the museum and it is a good room to start your tour.
The Dolores Olmeda Patino Museum
This little visited museum in the south of the city is the hidden gem of Mexico City art museums. It takes a bit of organisation to get there but it is well worth the effort. Dolores Olmeda Patino was a prolific collector, patron of the arts and friend of Diego and Frida. The museum was once her house and is full of her collections of pre-Hispanic artesian items and Diego’s paintings. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the collection are the twenty-five Frida Kahlo paintings, the biggest collection of her work in the world. The house itself is a former Spanish hacienda with huge grounds is home to peacocks and strange pre-Hispanic hairless dogs.
Crafts for sale at the Plaza San Jacinto in San Ángel.
POOR Mexico City. Just as it was luring back travelers with cool new hotels, a flourishing contemporary art scene and semi-endurable pollution levels, Mexico’s escalating drug violence became front-page news. Then the capital became a swine flu epicenter. Suddenly, a run for the border didn’t seem like such a smart idea. Ready for the truth? The time to visit this megacity — about 20 million people live in the metropolitan area — has rarely been better. Eager to attract people again, luxury hotels are offering specials that slash room rates by up to 65 percent. More restaurants, hotels and art galleries have sprung up in chic neighborhoods like Condesa and Roma. And Mexico City has probably never been this clean: even the street vendors now cart around big bottles of hand sanitizer.
1) AZTEC ASSIMILATION
A stroll through Condesa, the lush neighborhood where Paris Hilton frolicked when she visited (don’t hold that against it), will quickly vanquish the stereotype of Mexico City as an unsafe eyesore. Start at Parque Mexico (intersection of Avenida Sonora and Avenida Mexico), where locals and their dogs mix with hipsters en route to sidewalk espresso bars. A Macarena dance contest (irony included) was in full swing in the band shell on a recent weekend. Atlixco, a side street nearby, is becoming a hub for boutiques. Soho Condesa (Atlixco 100B; 52-55-5553-1730) serves up funky sunglasses on fur-lined shelves, while Milagro (Atlixco 38, www.collection-milagro.com) has colorful handbags embroidered by local artists.
2) RESTAURANT ROW
The posh district of Polanco, with its leafy streets named after famous writers, is the center of the city’s foodie scene. There are newer restaurants — Astrid & Gastón (Tennyson 117; 52-55-5282-2666; astridygaston.com), the latest from the Peruvian restaurateur Gastón Acurio, opened with a splash about a year ago. But the young, moneyed crowd still flocks to an older favorite: Ivoire (Emilio Castelar 95; 52-55-5280-0477). The French-Mexican menu can be hit and miss (try the lobster risotto with azafrán for 250 pesos, or $20 at 12.5 pesos to the dollar), but the buzzy rooftop bar with candle-lit views makes up for it.
3) NO WORM, JUST CHICKEN
Mezcal, once spurned as the poor man’s tequila in Mexico and historically sold in the United States with a gimmicky worm floating inside, was embraced by trend setters here a few years ago and the craze continues. La Botica (Campeche 396, Condesa; 52-55-5211-6045; labotica.com.mx) serves up over 30 varieties, including one steeped with chicken breasts during distillation. Locals insist that the chicken softens the alcohol’s smoky flavor, and they are right. Sip, don’t slam.
4) ART INJECTION
Two stars of the contemporary art world — Gabriel Orozco and Miguel Calderón — have been nurtured by the quirky Kurimanzutto Gallery (Rafael Rebollar 94; 52-55-5256-2408; kurimanzutto.com), which moved into a renovated lumber yard in San Miguel last fall. Older galleries are clustered in the adjacent Roma district, including OMR (Plaza Rio de Janeiro 54; 52-55-5207-1080; galeriaomr.com), which handles artists like Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, known for working with electronics and sound.
5) NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Visiting art dealers and collectors often head to Contramar (Durango 200, Roma; 52-55-5514-3169; contramar.com.mx) for lunch, feasting on raw-tuna-topped tostadas and basking in the see-and-be-seen atmosphere. Another lunch spot, which has landed on several best-new-restaurant lists, is Fonda la Veracruzana (Medellín 198, Roma; 52-55-5574-0474). Decorated with white- and green-checkered tablecloths, it serves impossibly fresh Peruvian seafood dishes at bargain prices (44 pesos for a “small” portion of the ceviche, which came in a giant sundae glass). The salty fried shrimp with garlic (110 pesos) was good, too.
6) BIZARRE BAZAAR
You’ve done high art, now go low. Bazar del Sábado (Plaza de San Jacinto, San Ángel) is a Saturday flea market where locals and tourists alike go to haggle for deals on handicrafts (blankets, baskets, jewelry) and chat with street artists. Pick up a glittery, kitschy Our Lady of Guadalupe box shrine (about 155 pesos) and don’t miss the adjacent flower market, a dank but fascinating rabbit warren of cement stalls displaying over-the-top arrangements like a lion’s head made out of yellow spider mums.
7) OUR LADY FRIDA
Homage must be paid to Frida Kahlo, the seemingly ubiquitous unibrowed painter and wife of the muralist Diego Rivera. Most visitors head to her former home, now Museo Frida Kahlo (Londres 247, Coyoacan; 52-55-5554-5999; www.museofridakahlo.org.mx). In the former home of a socialite art collector, the Museo Dolores Olmedo is a less touristy gem (Avenida Mexico 5843, Xochimilco; 52-55-5555-1221; museodoloresolmedo.org.mx) where some of Kahlo’s famous canvases hang. Look for the self-portrait depicting her spine as a broken stone column.
8 ) PARADE, FLOAT
Get in touch with your inner Aztec with a visit to the nearby “floating gardens” of Xochimilco (www.xochimilco.df.gob.mx). This network of shallow canals, where early settlers farmed on artificial islands, is a remnant of the lake that once covered part of the valley where Mexico City rests. Locals arrive on weekends for raucous fiestas on trajineras, wooden boats painted in wild colors that can seat as many as 20 people. Hire your own boat for about 160 pesos an hour . Other boats sell food (tacos, circles of jicama on a stick) and beer. Feel like joining the party? Hire a mariachi band (prices vary) to sail with you.
9) GASTRONOMIC GLITZ
Rejoin the 21st century at Distrito Capital (Juan Salvador Agraz 37; 52-55-5257-1300; hoteldistritocapital.com), a sleek restaurant that opened last year in a skyscraper in the ritzy Santa Fe business district. The chef Enrique Olvera — the force behind Pujol, one of the city’s fanciest restaurants — serves up a more casual menu here of surf (sea bass marinated with guajillo peppers and garlic in a pineapple sauce, 195 pesos) and turf (New York steak with guacamole and prickly pears, 250 pesos). If it’s a clear night, the hotel offers spectacular views of the volcanoes beyond the city.
10) IT’S (NOT) A DRAG
The Ballet Folklórico? That’s for wimps. Downtown — still a shady area at night, so leave the jewelry behind — is a cabaret show that is as outlandish and bizarre as it is exhilarating. At itty-bitty La Perla (República de Cuba 44, Centro; 52-55-1997-7695), drag queens bedazzled within an inch of their lives entertain a multigenerational crowd of (mostly heterosexual) locals. Couples dance salsa between shows; the cover is 120 pesos. Have your picture taken with the impersonator Lupita D’Alessio, the Liza Minnelli of Mexico.
11) FREE RIDE
After a busy Saturday, unwind on a bicycle: the government lends them free (with helmet) from kiosks along the Paseo de la Reforma, although you may want to skip the line and rent one from vendors set up in front of the National Museum of Anthropology (Paseo de la Reforma at Gandhi; 52-55-5553-6381; mna.inah.gob.mx). The Paseo de la Reforma, modeled in part on the Champs-Élysées, is closed to cars on Sundays until early afternoon to accommodate bicyclists. It’s liberating to zoom through the circular plaza marking the Mexican War of Independence — and not only because it is usually choked with traffic. A good pit stop is the entrance to the Bosque de Chapultepec, the city’s largest park, where vendors sell freshly peeled, spice-covered oranges for a few pesos.
12) CACAO MEXICAN STYLE
Reward yourself with Mexican chocolates from Princesse Cacao (Fernando Montes de Oca 81, Condesa; 52-55-5211-0276). The newish chocolatier specializes in artisanal candy from Tabasco and Chiapas, the two southern Mexican states where some historians say chocolate was invented, or at least refined (about 13 pesos apiece). Fabuloso!
Continental, Delta and AeroMexico fly to Mexico City from New York, starting at $434, according to a recent online search. For safety reasons, avoid hailing a cab when you arrive at the airport. Rather, arrange for a pickup from your hotel ahead of time. If you forget, hire a licensed taxi from inside the airport.
The Four Seasons (Paseo de la Reforma 500; 52-55-5230-1818; fourseasons.com/mexico) is the roost of choice for luxury travelers. Aside from its well-coordinated car service, the hotel is known for its azalea- and myrtle-filled central courtyard. Special weekend rates start at about 2,125 pesos, or about $170 at 12.5 pesos to the dollar.
The hipper-than-thou Condesa DF (Avenida Veracruz, N. 102; 52-55-5241-2600; condesadf.com) opened five years ago and is still ground zero for urban cool and celebrities, who flock to its atrium bar. Bring earplugs. Rooms start at 2,066 pesos.
***Also if you need a 1, 2 or 3 room apartment at Polanco, Lomas de Chapultepec, Tecamachalco or Zona Rosa, you could stay with us. Check our webpage www.khsuites.com *** (Info added by the editor of this blog, but it could suit your needs.)
Article take from: NY Times Also more info here.
By Geri Smith
Eclectic, Unusual Architecture
Visitors to Mexico City are often surprised by its breadth of architectural styles, from 16th century churches to oddly shaped skyscrapers of the past decade. The result: an eclectic collection of unusual buildings, including a few that architecture professor José Maria Nava of the Iberoamerican University called “vedette buildings”—movie-star structures that stand apart and aloof from their surroundings. The latest addition will be the 183,000 square-foot Soumaya Museum, shown above, designed to house the art collection of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. The stretched, twisted aluminum cube is due to be inaugurated before the end of 2010. Here, take a virtual tour of some of Mexico City’s other architectural head-turners.
Conjunto Arcos Bosques
Architects: Teodoro González de León, Francisco Serrano, Carlos Tejeda
When the first, twin-legged tower of the Arcos Bosques office complex was inaugurated in 1996, it immediately became known as the Torre del Pantalón—the Trousers Building. In 2008, the complex got a second building, which has two separate towers linked by a dagger-like central walkway. In keeping with Mexico’s wacky zoning, they’re smack in the middle of one of Mexico City’s most upscale residential neighborhoods, Bosques de las Lomas.
Architect: Agustín Hernández Navarro
Officially named Calakmul, after an important pre-Hispanic Mayan civilization, the building is known locally as the Washing Machine. The structure, inaugurated in 1997, is also at the center of the capital’s newest and wealthiest neighborhoods, Santa Fé. The area originally was a strip-mining zone and later a major garbage dump before being reclaimed by the city government.
Hoteles Fiesta Inn y Fiesta Americana Santa Fe
Architect: Picciotto Arquitectos
As one U.S. architectural engineer who has worked in Mexico says, “Mexicans are capable of building anything—just draw a design on a napkin, and they’ll build it for you.” That appears to be the case with this unusual hotel complex in the Santa Fé area of Mexico City, completed in 2006. One tower is a conventional glass-and-steel tower. But the second could be a corrugated steel barrel resting on its side.
Architect: Bernardo Gómez-Pimienta and Enrique Norten
This boutique hotel, remodeled in 2000, had been a derelict, five-story apartment building from the 1950s. It was redesigned by a pair of Mexico’s leading architects when they were partners in TEN Arquitectos. Located in Polanco, one of Mexico City’s traditional residential and commercial neighborhoods, this minimalist building has won several international awards, including the BusinessWeek/Architectural Record award in 2003.
Fire Station “Phoenix Bird”
Architect: Bernardo Gómez-Pimienta, Julio Amezcua, Francisco Pardo, and Hugo Sánchez
The work of architects from at. 103 and bgp arquitectos, this 2006 structure houses a fire station and a separate section for the general public to learn about firefighting. By day the station’s aluminum facade reflects the sky. By night it’s accented by a vertical pattern of internal lights and the red-flashing lights of emergency vehicles. Inside, fire-engine-red transparent walls and classic fireman’s poles remind visitors of the building’s main mission.
Architect: Zeidler Partnership Architects and Adamson Associates Architects
The tallest building in Latin America, Torre Mayor rises 738 feet above Mexico City’s most important avenue, Paseo de la Reforma. Built by Toronto developer Paul Reichmann and inaugurated in 2003, it was downtown Mexico City’s first important skyscraper since the devastating 1985 earthquake. The green-glass and stone tower features 98 mammoth shock absorbers to protect the structure from a temblor of up to 8.5 on the Richter scale.
Architect: Ricardo Legorreta
Some of Mexico City’s best-loved buildings are decades old. Case in point: the Camino Real, which opened in 1968, just in time for the Olympics Games hosted by Mexico. Designed by renowned Mexican architect Legorreta, now 78, the 712-room, five-star hotel is one of the best examples of Mexican modern architecture. Legorreta is known for his use of bright colors—pink, purple, yellow, blue—the interplay of light and shadow, and bold geometric shapes.
Monterrey Institute of Technology & Higher Education Santa Fé Campus
Architect: Legorreta + Legorreta
The Santa Fé campus in Mexico City of the Tec de Monterrey was designed by Legorreta + Legorreta, the father-son team of Ricardo and Victor Legorreta. It was completed in 2001, nearly four decades after Legorreta senior founded his architecture practice in 1963.
Plaza Juarez Complex
Architect: Legorreta + Legorreta
This complex filled in a site that had been badly damaged by Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake. It includes two midrise office towers for the government’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and Superior Court. They form a modern backdrop for the restored, colonial-era Corpus Christi church. The most eye-catching piece may be a “water mirror” containing more than 1,000 partially submerged pyramids made of red concrete.
Architect: Rogers, Stirk Harbour Partners, and Legorreta + Legorreta
Legorreta also has had a hand in designing this 50-story tower, which will be located near the Torre Mayor building on Paseo de la Reforma and Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park. The high-rise, to be completed in 2013, will boast gardens on every ninth floor and will serve as the new headquarters of BBVA Bancomer, Mexico’s largest commercial bank, which is owned by Spain’s BBVA.
Architect: Fernando Romero
Scheduled to open by year-end, the Soumaya Museum will house Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s fast-growing collection of 66,000 art objects. Designed by Slim’s 38-year-old son-in-law, the building is part of an office-residential-cultural complex in a former industrial zone of Mexico City. The building’s facade will be covered with more than 16,000 hexagonal plates made of shiny aluminum.
Information taken from BusinessWeek