In my humble opinion, Mexico City is one of the most fascinating capital cities in the world. Rising out of the ashes of the Aztec city Tenochtitlan, only to be influenced with the cultures of the Spanish and over time thrusted forward into the contemporary world, this city of over 20 million inhabitants is a true melting pot of wonder. Its history is unmatched to any other city, its culture is exquisite and its chaos is addictive, but where should you go in this magnificent city to experience it in its full wonder?
30 miles north-east of the city (and a metro ride away) lies Teotihuacan; what’s left of a significant Aztec city established around 100 BC. The remains are stunning and include the avenue of the dead, and the pyramids of the sun and the moon. These pyramids are said to be the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the time before the Spanish crossed over to Mexico, and if you wish to do so, you can climb the steps to the tops of the pyramids. It is truly breathtaking when you reach the top and marvel in the magnificence of what was once a bustling city.
This is a little bit of a cheat but…the historic centre is next on the list. There is just too much in the centre of the city to single out one or two things you have to see; perhaps the best way to experience this part of the city is just to walk down the streets and see where you end up, soaking up the architecture, culture and street acts. Home to the Angel of Independence (El Ángel de la Independencia), the ruins of the Templo Mayor, and the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María, the largest theatre in the Americas), there are so many places to uncover.
Chapultepec! Also known as Chapultepec forest, this is one of the city’s largest parks and honestly, once you’re nestled amongst all the greenery it’s hard to believe that all around you is the megalopolis that is Mexico City. Not only is Chapultepec a green haven in the midst of the city, but it is home to a castle, a zoo and the museum of anthropology amongst other things, giving visitors much to explore. Alongside all of this you will often find street performances of local music or Aztec dancing, all in the company of not just tourists, but native city dwellers too.
One unexpected, but delightful, place to get to know the culture of the city better is in its markets. There are regular markets within many parks, buildings and districts that give you a taste of the true Mexico. You can find arts markets selling handmade wares nestled next to food stalls selling an abundance of cheap delicious food including churros, tacos and burritos. The two best markets I experienced in the city were found 1) In an area called Coyoacán where there is a consistent market building, and 2) In the park next to the Palacio De Bellas Artes. Whether you want to buy or look, the markets are truly fascinating and it’s incredibly easy to get talking with the locals here and to get under the skin of what it’s truly like to call this crazy beautiful city ‘home’.
These only begin to scratch the surface of what Mexico City holds, and my one piece of advice if you visit is to just be open minded and go where the wind takes you. Go and explore the capital city of one of the most vibrant cultures on Earth.
Bethan Newman is an English girl trundling through life and jaunting to places the world over.