If you are a fan of archaeology, prehistory, a vibrant, colourful culture, Mexico is the place to be. My time in Mexico was limited, where I spent five days in Mexico City followed by 24 hours in Mérida to visit the archaeological sites of Uxmal and Kabah. I was quite pleasantly surprised by what Mexico City has to offer and took in every moment.
Mexico City (pronounced Meshico the “x” sounds like “Sh”) is a cosmopolitan city with lots of museums (barely touched the surface), lost of police, and poverty. Did you know that during the Aztec era, Mexico City was built on Lago de Texcoco and the city is sinking at a rate of 2 inches per year? It was obvious to see with the Metropolitan church in the center of downtown Zocalo, also known as Plaza de la Constitucion. I opted to stay in this area as it was convenient for the next morning; I was ready at 6:50 am for a tour of Teotihuacan.
Teotihuacan is the impressive archaeological complex that was once the largest MesoAmerican city. Situated in northeast Mexico City, I opted for an early morning tour with an Archaeologist who provided an informative narrative throughout. A must and will see is the well preserved painted jaguar fresco. I loved the early morning start and the small group, which gave us time to enjoy the quietness before the flock of people showed up. (Cost about £27 with Get Your Guide’s early access with Archaeologist starting at 6:30 am and lasting 9 hours) Afterwards, we sampled some local tequila, mezcal, and pulque; had the option to shop, and enjoyed a fabulous buffet lunch with live performers.
Zocalo was the ceremonial center of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The Colonial architecture and Church in the main square is stunning and has a strong presence of Mexico’s conquest by the Spanish. People are friendly and at the same time, don’t bother you — relief for women travelling alone. Downtown is vibrant at night. I was blown away by an operatic performance that resonated through me. There were also locals performing sage cleansing.
If you like Mexican food, then you are in the right place. Don’t forget an abundance of guacamole and lime, which is more common than lemons. An important thing to remember when travelling to any region of Mexico and South America is to not to drink tap water or have any beverage with ice. The best practice is bottled drinks. While I am not a fan of mass-produced soda, you might notice that Coca Cola is Mexico’s coffee and the beverage that the majority drinks.
Temple Mayor Museum is in the center of historic downtown Zocalo. Highly recommended visit as you meander through the famous main temple, now surrounded by Colonial buildings, of what was once the Aztec empire city of Tenochtitlan. There are also remnants of painted frescoes to be admired and a reclining figure known as Chacmool. Find Tiqets online or purchase at Temple Mayor (MX$70, that’s under £3! Open 9:00 am -5:00 pm)
Frida Khalo Museum, also know as the Blue House, is an intimate visit to where Frida Khalo worked and loved with Diego Rivera. I highly recommend buying your Tiqets online and in advance as there will be a long line which is organized by time slots. A plus is that you can take photos inside Frida’s studio home but will need to purchase a permit on location for a small fee. (The main entrance fee is MX$230, that’s £9! Open 10:00 am -5:30 pm) After exploring the world of Frida, wander the district of Coyoacan and explore the colourful homes and cobblestone streets. Plaza de la Conchita is a relaxing spot to relax, enjoy the scenery, and has a Spanish church dating back to when the Spanish conquistadors settled the area in the early 1500s.
National Museum of Anthropology is an in-depth and the largest museum in Mexico showcasing Mexican art from the Teotihuacan, Aztec, Oaxaca, Mexica and Maya periods; to name a few. It is easy to spend half a day here admiring some of the most amazing prehistoric Mexican art in once place. Purchase Tiqets online or at the museum. (MX$75.00 pesos, that’s about £3! Open 9:00 am – 7 pm, closed on Monday)
Palacio National is home to the Diego Rivera mural. A must-see depicting the tumultuous history of Mexico from prehistory, to the Conquistadors, and revolutionary periods. This massively epic mural has three sections and portrayed with vivid colours; representing the beauty of Mexico’s indigenous people. Best bet is to show up around 10 am. Most websites will say the Palacio National opens early but not to tourists. You will need to bring identification to enter, free of charge.
Soumaya Museum is a free private non-profit museum showcasing over 60,000 sculpture and paintings from Mexican and European artists spanning from the 1400s to present day. The building itself is a modern marvel of a masterpiece. Suggestion when visiting the museum is to take the lift/elevator to the top and spiral your way down. (Free and open every day from 10:30 am – 6:30pm)
Ciudadela Market is the place to be if you are looking to buy or just browse traditional Mexican handicrafts and folk art. You can easily spend a couple of hours here wandering around. There is also a restaurant in the center if you are hungry (Open 10 am – 7 pm)
I did not expect Mexico City to be what it was. I think the country as a whole is unfairly tainted. If you want to be pleasantly surprised and see a thriving Latin city that meshes the love for its culture, history, guacamole, delicious hot chocolate, and fantastic museums, then I highly recommend adding Mexico City to your list.