For most Canadians, a trip to Mexico means a trip to one of its many (admittedly fantastic) resorts: Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen. While a resort holiday can be a completely valid and relaxing way to spend your vacation, Mexico is far more than simply beachside retreats and tacos. On a recent trip to the country’s capital, we discovered firsthand how true this sentiment is. Here’s five things we learned about our far southern neighbour that just might convince you to shake it up next time.
One thing you’ll find in Mexico on a scale and of a quality you’d be hard-pressed to see matched here in Canada: museums and galleries. Mexico City rivals London as the city with the highest concentration of museums in the world. Possessing over 150 cultural institutions, if you have a thing for art and culture, Mexico’s capital should be near the top of your travel list.
We really cannot stress the quality of these institutions enough! They are absolutely world-class. Our favourites: Museo Soumaya, Museo JUMEX, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Museo de Arte Moderno and, of course (you can’t miss) the Museo Frida Kahlo. While the sheer quantity of museums means it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get to all of them, that’s just all the more reason to visit again!
Earlier this year, the World Design Organization designated Mexico City World Design Capital 2018. Mexico City is the sixth city to be selected since the programme’s inception in 2008, and the first city in the Americas to receive the designation. Walking the streets of neighbourhoods like La Condesa and Polanco, it’s not difficult to see why: with brilliant architecture and treasures of design around nearly every corner.
Indeed, Mexico City is one of Latin America’s most diverse and creative cities. As the fifth largest metropolis in the world, it’s impressive to see how a city so large is dealing with issues like sustainability, overpopulation, regeneration and, situated as it is in an earthquake-prone region, safety. All the more impressive to see it being done so stylishly. For any with an interest in architecture and design, Mexico’s capital has a lot to offer.
Mexican food is a favourite in many Canadian households, but while you really can’t go wrong with a good taco or burrito, there is far more to Mexican cuisine than what you can get out of the local taco truck. For the real deal, you’ve got to go straight to the source.
Mexico City is an absolutely amazing place for food. Mole especially is one dish you cannot leave without trying. Although Montezuma’s revenge is definitely a real thing, so long as you’re careful (avoid fresh-cut fruits and veggies) and bring along plenty of Pepto and Gravol, chances are you’ll find that it is well worth the risk. What’s more, unlike here in Canada, many establishments down there will bring you food for free so long as you’re buying drinks. Buy two drinks, and you can get a whole meal for free…now why don’t they do that here?
Sidenote: forget Corona and Dos Equis; Indio and Victoria are the cervezas of choice down there.
Another thing to know about Mexico City? The place has a lot of history. A trip to the city’s historic centre is just the tip of the iceberg, but one well worth taking. There, next to the Plaza de la Constitucion, you can visit the Museo de Templo Mayor, where the ruins of the Aztec temples of Tenochtitlán are still visible. Beside the museum stand the Sagrario Metropolitano and the Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de México; built from the very same materials that had once formed the great pyramid of Tenochtitlán.
About an hour’s drive northeast of the city stand the pyramids of Teotihuacán, a site that should not be missed. These pyramids are still intact, and a climb, not for the faint of heart, up to the top of the Temple of the Sun will give you a remarkable view over the surrounding countryside. Even with the droves of tourists and cameras, it takes you back in time a bit.
Back in the city, a trip to Chapultepec Castle will provide gorgeous views over the Bosque de Chapultepec (one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere) and insights into the time when the French instilled an Austrian Hapsburg as Emperor of Mexico. The Trotsky Museum is another visit worth making. There you can visit the site where the famous (or infamous) Communist leader and his wife spent their final years, and see their graves.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a trip to the Museo Nacional de Antropología. The largest and most visited museum in Mexico, it contains incredible artifacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian past. You could spend an entire day here soaking in these items from the past.
If there’s anything Mexico and its capital are lacking, its not culture. Many bars and cantinas will have live music, but if you’re looking for mariachi, we recommend La Coyoacana. Though it isn’t cheap by Mexican standards, with great music, food and drinks, and atmosphere, it’s well worth the price.
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is another place worth checking out during your visit. Its walls are decorated with murals by such famous artists as Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo, and today continues in its function as a centre for the performing arts. It’s worth visiting even if you don’t intend to see a show.
Unless you speak Spanish, theatre and cinema are probably out of your reach, but dancing is a universal language, and Mexico City has plenty of it. You should definitely consider buying tickets for the ballet at the Palacio de Bellas Artes; but Mexicans love to dance, and there are plenty of other less formal venues where you can enjoy a performance. Even partake, if you’re feeling brave!
Mexico is a beautiful, vibrant country; with a kind and welcoming people. As with anywhere else in the world, it is not without its dangers; and there are certainly parts of the country and, for that matter, of Mexico City, that you should avoid. Still, Mexico has far more to offer than just the resorts, and if you’re looking for a relatively safe and easy introduction to another side of Mexico, Mexico City definitely fits the bill.
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