Mexico has always intrigued me due to the ancient civilisations and beautiful, white, sandy beaches. Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin America and the country caters to all kinds of visitors, from those seeking luxury in the resorts along the Riviera Maya to the backpackers having a slice of the beach at Cancun to the bustling cities of Mexico City and Guadalajara. You can indulge in hole-in-the-wall tacos to gourmet fusion food at chic restaurants. From the highlands to the beaches and rich ancient ruins, Mexico offers the myriad for anyone. Even the locals are astounded when they travel to another state for domestic tourism.
During my recent trip, I only had time to explore the capital, Mexico City, during my 5 days stopover in the city. Despite being the largest city in North America, I did not feel the crowds because the city is so sprawling. I was amazed by the accessible subway line which connects the city from north to south, east to west with close to 200 stations! Talking about transport, Mexico City also has eco-friendly bicitaxis plying the old town. They are a hybrid between a bicycle rickshaw and a taxi, which does not contribute to air pollution.
From public spaces to the culinary scene in Mexico City, there is an omnipresent cultural renaissance that is flourishing. Furthermore, it has been largely successful in curbing the drug war which is a much-needed measure to draw back the tourist crowds and make the capital city a safe haven for all again. Did I mention that the metro system is efficient and cheap, at only $0.30 a ride regardless of distance travelled! Here are my top 10 things to do or visit in Mexico City!
1. Palace of Fine Arts
My first stop is the “Palacio de Bellas Artes”, a huge art nouveau style building that greeted me as I stepped out of the metro station. It has immense murals by world-famous Mexican artists that dominate the top floors of this splendid white-marble palace, a concert hall and an arts centre.
2. Visit the Historical City
Zocalo is one of the largest public squares in the world which sits in the middle of the city’s central district and and is only a stone throw to many of the area’s top sites, such as the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral), the Templo Mayor (Major Temple) and the Palacio Nacional (National Palace). With the huge Mexican flag swaying in the background, it is definitely worth a visit to gaze at the huge square and take a break from the congestion surrounding the huge square.
3. Pedestrain street Madero
While Singapore is home to the famous Orchard Road and Paris has the Champs Elysees, the equivalent in Mexico City is Madero. Known for its museums, landmarks, branded shops and busy markets, the area is now drawing more youthful crowds, thanks to shopping and nightlife on its pedestrian streets. Going there at any time of the day makes you feel like you are living the high life.
4. Casa de los Azulejos
A historic building in the city, it used to be built for the Condes (Counts) del Valle de Orizaba, but nobody was willing to claim it.
5. Plaza Garibaldi
Next we proceed to the Plaza Garibaldi. This is a good venue to experience Mexico City at night in all its rambunctious glory. This is where the night comes alive in this part of Mexico City. Admire the illuminated monuments of the Zocalo, one of the largest city plazas in the world, before reveling in the festivities of Plaza Garibaldi. Listen to mariachi bands, dance to live music, watch a folkloric show and witness a traditional cockfight in the square.
6. Immerse in the green spaces
Mexico City may have one of the world’s worst traffic congestion, but it serves as the city’s green lungs in this ecological space. The equivalent of Central Park in New York, the Parque (park) Mexico is home to the Bosque de Chapultapec and the Chapultapec Castle. This 1,600-acre bucolic park has enough activities to fill days at a time and is particularly popular among families with children. The Chapultapec Castle sits atop a hill and offers some amazing views of the city.
7. National Museum of Anthropology
Of all of the museums in the vicinity of Parque Mexico, the most famous is the National Museum of Anthropology, considered to be one of the greatest archeological museums in the world. The museum has several antecedents beginning from the colonial period, with sections devoted to each of the major pre-Hispanic civilizations in Mexico including the Aztec, Maya, Toltec and Olmec. It offers an insight into the various civilisations and Mexican culture in different regions and their evolution over the years.
8. Soumaya museum
Another museum to check out would be Soumaya museum, with its unique shiny ethereal exterior that extends six storeys into the skyline. It contains 66,000 pieces of art (mainly Central American and European), donated by one of the world’s richest men.
9. Mercado San Juan food market
The market is one of the oldest and most traditional markets in Mexico City. The market runs the gamut, from the freshest seafood to meat to vegetables from different regions of Mexico or imported from elsewhere, offering an insight into the world of Mexican culinary delights. Even if you do not plan to buy anything, a visit to this market will wow your senses. It provides a social atmosphere where you can talk to vendors and sample their wares.
10. Post office palace
Golden jewel of the Historical Centre of Mexico City, the Post Office Palace (Palacio de Correos) is one the most brilliant examples of the eclectic architecture of several different traditions. It was damaged in the 1985 earthquake, but restoration work has been carried out to bring it back to its original state.
Transport around Mexico city
– Take the metro to explore Mexico City. At 5 pesos ($0.30) per ride, it is one of the most affordable metro systems in the world! There are some subway stations that turn into an exhibition, providing informative stuff to the commuter, be it in the form of ancient artefacts or showcasing statistics about various metro systems around the world. (Even the Singapore metro is featured here, but unfortunately the information dates back to 2002.)
The metro system (www.metro.df.gob.mx) offers the quickest way to get around Mexico City. Used by around 4.4 million passengers on an average weekday, it has 195 stations and more than 226km of track on 12 lines. Trains arrive every two to three minutes during rush hours.
– Mexico City has several classes of taxi. Cheapest are the cruising pink-and-white ones. If you must hail a cab off the street, check that it has actual taxi license plates. Alternatively if you have mobile data, book an Uber so you would not be scammed on the taxi fare.
– In the Centro Historico, there are futuristic looking BiciTaxis. These essentially three-wheeled bicycles has space for the driver and two-passenger rear seat covered by an aerodynamic, bright green plastic frame. Agree on the fare before you board. It’s an eco-friendly and fun way to get around Mexico City’s historic downtown.
– As with any huge metropolis, bicycles are slowly gaining in popularity. Mexico City is surprisingly friendly for cyclists, with dedicated bike lanes and bicycle-only areas make for safe travel conditions in many of the most tourist-popular parts of the city. EcoBici allows you to rent a bicycle and return it at another location within 45 minutes.
Stay tuned to my next post to find out some day trips that you can take outside of Mexico City!
What are your impressions of Mexico City? Let me know in the comments below.