Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mexico City : Must Do List

In a strange, unexpected way, Mexico City reminded me a lot of Tokyo. One huge sprawled out metropolis with too many people and too many places too see.

mexico city header

The first time I visited Mexico City in 2011 I felt confused by this sprawling metropolis. There was just so much to do in such little time. Even stranger, I had never really heard anything good about Mexico City. No one had really ever recommended this amazing city to me. I debated whether I should make 2 entries for this beast of a post, but I think I can fit it in one. That being said, there is just so much to do here. With a population of 23 million people, this city reaches into far corners to bring together an amazing mix of food, culture, architecture and experiences. Is it safe? Everything I have ever heard about Mexico City, or Mexico in general was that it is such a dangerous country. But never had I ever felt in danger here. Of course, the usual precautions should be taken when travelling to any country but by all accounts, Mexico City is a very safe place.

So, here are my favourite things I saw and did in Mexico City these past eight days. This is by no accounts a complete list of things to do here - it really is a big, big city:


#01 | TAKE A STROLL AROUND POLANCO


Polanco is an upscale neighbourhood littered with plenty of shops and museums. A number of upscale shopping complexes reside here - my favourite is the Antara Polanco, a large open air shopping centre with luxury shops and many lovely gourmet eateries. Polanco is also within walking distance to many of the important museums in the city, such as the Museum of Anthropology and Chapultepec Castle. Across the road from the Antara is the Museo Soumaya, a museum owned by the richest man in the world - Carlos Slim. The pieces in this museum are part of his personal collection. The first thing that caught my eye was its luminous silver exterior. The collection inside is just as impressive. This museum is the most visited in Mexico so its a must do (plus, its free!). Everytime we visit Mexico City we stay in Polanco - its just so convenient and easy to get around from here, plus there is so much to do in this district. 

antara polanco inside
museo soumaya


#02 | BUY SOME SOUVENIRS AT THE ARTESIAN MARKET LA CIUDADELA


This place is a real gem. I can say without a doubt this is the best artesian market I have ever visited. If you are into art or handicrafts, this place is paradise. This place has everything. There are handicrafts from all the different regions of Mexico, arts, clothes, candy jewellery, ornaments, food, the list goes on. And even better- everything is extremely cheap. It is conveniently located close to the city centre and we spent a total of 3 hours strolling here- it is enormous. The first picture below is an example of Alebrije, folk art from Oaxaca. It is colourful painted wood of mythical creatures. The second picture is bead art by the Huichol people of Jalisco. They make ornaments such as skulls, masks, jewellery and animals, but they are also highly influenced by religious themes too.

Alebrije sculpture from artesian market la ciudadela
bead art sculpture from artesian market la ciudadela


#03 | VISIT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY


This museum features the best archaeological finds in Mexico. The entry fee is very affordable, and it took us half a day to cover it top to bottom. Each area of the museum is dedicated to a different region of Mexican culture, from the Aztecs to Mayans to the Olmecs. The collection is very impressive and is friendly to both Spanish and English speaking visitors. Even if you are not a history buff this museum is unmissable. The outside grounds are also wonderful to walk around as there are reconstructions of archaeological finds from all around Mexico. Without a doubt, one of the best places in Mexico City.

national museum of anthropology mexico city
national museum of anthropology mexico city


#04 | STAND IN AWE OF THE ZOCALO


The Zocalo is located in the heart of Mexico City. Surrounding the main square lies the National Palace, the Main Cathedral and the Federal Buildings. This overwhelmingly huge square frequently features exhibitions and shows throughout the year because of its ideal location and expansive space - there is always plenty going on to keep people entertained. Just outside the square are the shopping districts with lots of little cafes and restaurants which are convenient. If you wake up early enough you can even see the raising of the Mexican flag which lies in the centre of the square every morning. Just don't forget to visit the Cathedral and National Palace before you leave.

zocalo mexico city


#05 | SEE A SHOW AT THE PALACE OF BEAUTIFUL ARTS


Probably the "prettiest" building in the city is the Palace of Beautiful Arts. Not just a concert hall, we were able to go inside and see a few free exhibitions. One of the interesting features of this structure is that its completely made of marble. Because it is so heavy, the building is actually sinking into the ground - since it was built 100 years ago it has sunk 7 meters. When you get up close you can see the areas which have sunk. Nonetheless, this majestic building is the centre of cultural activities in Mexico, from folklore dance to holding frequent exhibitions and housing international stars such as Pavarotti. Even if you don't want to see the ballet just step inside for a quick peek.

Palace of Beautiful Arts mexico city
Palace of Beautiful Arts interior


#06 | TAKE AN EVENING STROLL DOWN PASEO DE LA REFORMA


Paseo De La Reforma is the widest avenues in Mexico, splitting the city diagonally, home to countless embassies, restaurants, art exhibitions and tourist attractions. This avenue spills with the history of the city, blending local and tourists alike together. This is the happening place for action in the city. We stumbled across the Angel of Independence, a mausoleum dedicated to war heroes of the Mexican Independence. The Angel is easily one of the most recognisable landmarks of Mexico City.

Paseo De La Reforma angel and concert


#07 | GET LOST IN THE CITY CENTRE


The city centre of Mexico is really quite majestic. Long streets with tall sandstone buildings and ultra wide avenues paired with narrow cobblestone streets. We spent quite a bit of time walking around the city centre - sometimes getting to know a city isn't just about seeing the big landmarks but also seeing how the locals spend time shopping and eating.

mexico city streets
mexico city streets
mexico city streets


#08 | TAKE A DAY TRIP TO TEOTIHUACAN


Teotihuacan is an archaeological site about an hour drive from Mexico City. The pyramids and city was estimated to be built around 2000 years ago. In the second picture you can see me walking down the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Sun. This pyramid is the third largest pyramid in the world. The Pyramid of the Moon which you can see in the first picture is a slightly smaller pyramid. You can climb up both pyramids, but trust me, its not easy! It is believed that both pyramids were used as sacrificial altars to the ancient gods. There is also a museum and parts of the ancient city that remain intact. Simply amazing is all I can say. Set one day aside and do not miss the great pyramids of Mexico.

teotihuacan
teotihuacan and me

Image attribution:
"Palacio de Bellas Artes" by Enrique Grandos Salas // CC BY-SA 3.0 * ; "Museo Soumaya" by Lars Plougmann // CC BY-SA 2.0 * ; "Zocalo" by User:SElefant // CC BY-SA 3.0 * ; "Mexico City Bicentennial" by Spot Us // CC BY-SA 2.0 * ; "Teotihuacán" by Herbert Spencer // CC BY-SA 2.0 *
* changes were made to the original materials

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