MEXICO CITY - The Resurgence of a Food and Cultural Mecca! #MexicoCentral

April 11, 2017

With its world-class museums, fascinating architecture and cutting-edge food scene juxtaposed against ancient treasures and old-world traditions, modern day Mexico City is a walking masterpiece of Mexico’s past and present that will seduce you with its magnificence. Open your mind, and discover why this cosmopolitan capital has come into its own and re-emerged as a cultural mecca for in-the-know travellers. 

Above images by Filomena Rosati Fotografia

One of the world’s largest cities, the Mexican capital is home to 22 million people. Mexico City – or DF as locals call it, short for Distrito Federal - is packed and chaotic, guaranteed to invigorate intrepid travellers. And still, if you wander into the city’s inviting colonias (neighbourhoods) there is a quaint intimacy that beckons you to unwind and sip a latte al fresco. Mexico City is a study in contrasts, and a place that will inspire you beyond your imagination. 

Built in the 16th century by the Spanish on the ruins of Tenochtitlan (the old Aztec capital), Mexico City remains one of the most captivating UNESCO World Heritage Cities. Its heart beats in the Zócalo Plaza in the Centro Histórico. This impressive plaza, officially called the Plaza de la Constitución, is flanked by the majestic Metropolitan Cathedral, the Renaissance-style National Palace and the Colonial Arcade. Soak up the scene. The Zócalo is buzzing with life and bystanders watching performers re-enact Aztec history. Each morning and night, ceremoniously, Mexican soldiers install and remove the giant Mexican flag that sits in the centre of the square. Steps away stand the pre-Hispanic ruins of the 14th century Templo Mayor, an Aztec temple where anthropologists continue to unearth ancient relics displayed at the onsite museum.

Discovering the city is a life lesson in purging stereotypes. If you think you know Mexico City based on past media reports, you don’t! Become acquainted with DF’s resurgence by exploring its distinctive colonias, many of which have been gentrified. Start with the bohemian Condesa and Roma districts that will lure you in with their hip bars, trendy restaurants, sidewalk cafes and edgy boutiques. La Condesa features Art-Deco architecture along the tree-lined Avenida Ámsterdam that circles Parque Mexico – the city is filled with these peaceful pockets of nature that provide a welcome change of pace from the chaos.  Its neighbour, Roma, was adopted by artsy Chilangos and is lined with French-style 19th century mansions and an inspiring street-art movement, perfect for Instagram photo-ops. For glamour and high-end fashion head to the swanky Polanco neighbourhood that serves as the playground for the rich and famous, with its main street Avenida Masaryk reminiscent of Rodeo Drive.    

Much of Mexico City’s spectacular architecture is European in flavour. Not only was the former Aztec city rebuilt and redesigned by the Spanish in the 16th century, the country’s former president, Porfirio Díaz, was so enamored with France that he had Europe’s finest architects replicate its beauty throughout. Nowhere is that more evident than along the striking avenue, Paseo de la Reforma, styled after Paris’s famed boulevard, Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Mexico City offers all the history, allure and great culinary experiences of a European getaway, but at a fraction of the cost and travel time. And at an altitude of 7,000 feet above sea level, the climate is perfect for site-seeing!

Mexico City was originally built on a network of canals that were later filled to accommodate its millions of citizens. If you look closely, you will note that many of the buildings appear lopsided because of this. Like Venice, Mexico City is a sinking beauty. A boat trip along the canals of Xochimilco aboard a colourful and traditional trajinera (a pre-hispanic boat) will take you on a journey to what the city was like six centuries ago. Sail along the canals as you eat, drink and take in the sites, while listening to live mariachi play along the waters.

Many are unaware that DF is home to more museums than any other city in the world. There are literally hundreds of galleries and museums to explore. Among its most exciting are the massive National Museum of Anthropology with its remarkable collection of Aztec and Mayan artifacts; the Palacio Nacional with its bold mural from the legendary Diego Rivera depicting the history of Mexico; and Frida Kahlo’s ‘Casa Azul’ (Blue House) that provides an intimate glimpse into the life and times of this artistic icon. Admire Latin America’s largest collection of decorative arts at the Museo Franz Mayer; visit the modern marvel known as Museo Soumaya; the Museo Nacional de Arte is housed in a neoclassical building that is just as impressive as the art; and of course you must visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes which features a variety of exhibits in one of the city’s most iconic buildings.

Mexico City's atmospheric markets are teeming with colour and life. From woven blankets to painted pottery, exotic fruit to produce, herbal remedies to shaman healers, DF’s markets are a lesson in Mexican folk-art and culture. There are over 300 markets to choose from, not including another 1000+ tianguis (open-air markets that pop-up every week on the same day). The standouts include the Mercado Jamaica, La Cuidadela, Sonora Market and La Merced.  

Thirty minutes north of Mexico City you will find the mystic Teotihuacán ("teh-oh-tee-wa-KHAN") Pyramids, known as the ‘Birthplace of the Gods.’ Built in 300 BC, this pre-Aztec site is home to the third largest pyramid in the world and is one of the most impressive archeological sites this side of the Nile. Keep your camera close and climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Moon for an awe-inspiring view over the Valley of the Dead.  

The food scene is reason enough to visit! The capital is bursting with amazing restaurants from a new generation of chefs that take locally sourced ingredients and modern applications to create new versions on Mexican classics. There is also plenty of inexpensive and utterly delicious street food to be enjoyed throughout. (Click here for a list of WHERE TO EAT IN MEXICO CITY!)

Mexico City brings to mind a famous quote by Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Much has been said about this city, but all who visit would agree that this modern metropolis with its warm-hearted people, incredible cuisine and countless cultural riches is having its moment right now. If you haven’t gone, you should!

Images by Travelista73

STAY At Zócalo Central, you book the flight and the hotel’s ‘Experience Planners’ will help you plan the rest. Located in the city’s historical epicentre, the 105 room Zócalo Central is housed in a 400 year old historical building that once belonged to Hernán Cortés, the man who conquered Mexico City from the Aztec.  The hotel’s impressive rooftop restaurant – El Balcon del Zócalo – serves some of the city’s best food and offers breathtaking views over the Zócalo Plaza.  

FLY Aeromexico offers direct and affordable flights into Mexico City.

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