The Distrito Federal of Mexico is one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world. Known colloquially as D.F., the Federal District is a good point to start on a journey of discovery of the Mexican Republic.
Mexico City overflows with interesting sites to see, from pre-Columbian to modern and cosmopolitan. Visitors are enchanted by the vibrant culture, unique cuisine, internationally renowned art, mariachis, traditional handicrafts, architecture and the ubiquitous fiesta. Shopping, urban trekking, breathtaking views, interesting museums, theaters and entertainment from dusk to dawn are also an inherent part of the city's activities.
The Zona Rosa is an area near the center of the city that is bustling with activity and entertainment. Known for its array of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops, it is an ideal place to relax with a drink or a bite to eat while people-watching. Stop in at the
Down Paseo de la Reforma, across Avenida Juárez is the historic part of the city. The
Down the tree-lined Avenida Insurgentes, dotted with shops and entertainment, is the colonial neighborhood of San Ángel. Here, you will find the
You could easily dedicate a full day to meander the cobblestone and unpaved streets around the city's most attractive area, Coyoacán. Coyoacán is a traditional colonial district filled with churches, parks, gardens, plazas, museums and book shops. From the 1920s to the 1950s it was a haven for such bohemians and intellectuals as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Salvador Novo, and has retained that aura up to present day. Because of its past residents and interesting history, this is where you will find such interesting places to visit as the
Food is more than simple sustenance in Mexico; it is a way of life, an essential ingredient in the vibrant culture of this country, through which family, friends and lovers come together. In a city this big, it is not surprising that there are many different areas in which to seek out good restaurants, although some in particular stand out.
The areas of Chapultepec and Polanco have a wide array of dining options in a pleasant part of town. Visitors to the area can start their day with a spectacular view of the Bosque de Chapultepec. Mi Viejo Pueblito serves up amazing traditional Mexican foods like tacos, and parrilladas. If you're not in the mood for a whole meal, but still want the authentic Mexican atmosphere, María Bonita is a fun bar with a large variety of snacks. If you're more the type to wing it, along the Avenida Mazaryk in Polanco there is an upbeat atmosphere with sidewalk tables and a younger crowd in places like Area Bar and Terrace.
For those who prefer a quiet, cosmopolitan atmosphere, the Zona Rosa area is the best choice for a drink and light entertainment. La Marinera serves up traditional Mexican seafood in a lively atmosphere. Focolare offers a great experience combining live music with delicious, traditional specialties in the heart of Zona Rosa. And when you're done eating, stop in at Bar Frida, the Frida Kahlo themed bar that's almost more of a gallery than a watering hole.
Head to the Centro Histórico for a taste of the city's heritage and have a bite to eat in the famous Restaurante Bar Café Tacuba on the street of the same name. La Casa de las Sirenas offers a wide variety of cuisine served alongside musical entertainment to make for a fun dining experience. Or if you're in the mood for something a little fancier, Los Girasoles will provide you with haute Mexican cuisine next door to the Mexican Senate, so you may spot some very powerful people dining alongside you. L'Heritage offers international cuisine in a beautiful, historic building. The Casa de los Azulejos, part of the Sanborn's chain of restaurants is also found here.
The beautiful, cobblestone streets and romantic plazas of San Angel are home to some of the best restaurants in the city. The restaurant at the San Angel Inn has been serving delicious local cuisine for many years, and the added bonus of wandering musicians makes this an unforgettable dining experience. Brasserie Q offers up amazing French food in an authentic atmosphere. Stop by Tasca Manolo for dishes from all over Spain served up in an ancient mansion. Pardiños serves up fresh seafood from the Mexican state of Veracruz while Mauna Loa specializes in Chinese food with Hawaiian and Polynesian decor and entertainment after 9p.
Spend the day in the colonial neighborhood of Coyoacán enjoying great food and mingling with writers, intellectuals and artists who flock here, as did the painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in their time. Flor y Canto offers up all things traditional, from the haute cuisine to the decor and atmosphere, while Bistro Voilá offers French food in a relaxed, bistro atmosphere. El Hábito serves up superb food along with an entertaining cabaret show, all in the historic home of a well known Mexican writer. For something a little more exotic, Fun Lom offers diners what some consider to be the very best Peking Duck along with other delectable Chinese dishes.
Imagine the largest city in the world, and then picture the sheer diversity of choices for entertainment and sightseeing. From the very ancient to ultra-modern, Mexico City offers all that and more.
Mexico City is home to over 150 museums, the most of any city in the world, so to visit them all would be quite challenging. However, there are various museums in the city that are not to be missed. The Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Anthropology Museum is one of the most renowned anthropology museums in the world, and houses extensive collections of artifacts from Mesoamerica, including the famous Aztec Sun Stone. The Museo Arqueológico de Xochimilco (Archaeological Museum of Xochimilco) is a recreation of what life was like in Xochimilco in pre-Hispanic times. The museum houses objects that date as far back as to the Olmec culture, or around 9000 BCE. The Museo Nacional de Historia (National History Museum) is located in the Castillo de Chapultepec and features exhibits about the social and political history of Mexico. The museum also features murals by some of Mexico's most famous artists. The Museo del Templo Mayor is a modern building constructed on the site of the Aztec Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan. Here you can view artifacts from the temple, including the original stone depiction of the goddess Coyolxauhqui. Mexico City has also been home to many famous artists, and there is certainly no shortage of museums dedicated to them. The Frida Kahlo Museum is located in the artist's former home, and in addition to her own works, you can view other personal possessions of hers as well as works by other Mexican painters. Another artist who has several museums dedicated to him is Diego Rivera. The Museo Estudio Diego Rivera (Diego Rivera Studio Museum) is the artist's former studio which has been basically left alone since the day he died, so you can see the studio as it was. The Museo de Arte Moderno (Museum of Modern Art) features works from many different painters of the Mexican school of painting.
Mexico City is home to many theaters and many theater productions of all kinds. Among the best-known theaters for live drama or comedy are the Centro Teatral Manolo Fábregas and the Teatro Insurgentes. Teatro Sergio Magaña in Santa María La Ribera presents mainly comedies featuring television actors and actresses. Teatro Benito Juárez puts on Greek plays as well as other internationally famous works for incredibly affordable prices.
Being one of the world's largest cities, Mexico City often hosts some of the world's biggest names and concerts in music. The Estadio Azteca hosts many of these blockbuster events. The Palacio de Bellas Artes, along with being one of the city's most beautiful landmarks, also plays host to classical concerts, opera, and some theater as well. Among those who perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes is the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, who perform both classical and contemporary works. The Orquesta de Cámara de Bellas Artes puts on classical, chamber music and choir performances throughout the year while the Orquesta Filarmónica de la Ciudad de México frequently hosts guest musicians and composers at the Ollín Yoliztli Cultural Center.
Mexico City is full of parks and other opportunities to spend time outdoors. The 1600 acre Bosque de Chapultepec is a large park just east of the center of the city which is home to numerous attractions, including a lake, where you can hire a boat and paddle around. The Bosque de Chapultepec makes for a fun day out, whether you are taking a bike ride, a walk or just lying in the grass. Another of the city's main parks is the Alameda Central, where visitors will find a number of statues and monuments among the greenery and fountains. The Alameda Central is also a historic site in the city, as it dates back to the 16th Century. One of the oldest attractions in Mexico City are the ancient canals, or chinampas of Xochimilco, which means “land of the flowers” in Nahuatl. These canals are lined with flowers and vendors, while visitors can cruise the 14 kilometers (8.5 miles) of canals in wooden boats decorated with flowers. There are several good outdoor retreats just outside the city as well. The Bosque Nacional del Desierto de los Leones (National Forest of the Lion's Desert is a 200 hectare retreat of greenery where people go to escape the city by bicycling, jogging, and doing other outdoor activities. The Cerro de la Estrella (Hill of the Star) is located next to Lake Texcoco, and is the ancient site of Aztec sun renewal ceremonies. Aside from visiting the hill itself, visitors can go to the museum to learn more about the history of this special place.
Family & Kids
Being that Mexico City is one of the largest in the world, there is no shortage of family and kid friendly activities. For something a little educational that the whole family will find interesting, visit the Papalote Museo del Niño (Children's Kite Museum), with its interactive exhibits and IMAX theater. Another museum the kids will enjoy is Ripley's Ciudad de México, where you will be immersed in a world of stuff that's almost too hard to believe, like shrunken heads and human hair dresses. Mexico City is also home to a number of amusement parks, like Six Flags México and Funny Land. As it gets very hot here during certain times of year, there are also a number of water parks like Parque Acuático El Rollo. Here in the city, you will also find a number of zoos, like the Parque Zoológico de Chapultepec, located in the Bosque de Chapultepec, the Zoológico de Zacango, located just about 30 minutes outside the city, and the Zoológico Los Coyotes.
As Mexico City is such an old, historic city, the numbers of historic attractions in and near the city are endless. Probably the most popular attraction is the ancient city of Teotihuacan, with its grand pyramids of the sun and moon, along with 156 square kilometers (60 square miles) of temples, altars and other fascinating objects. The Arbol de la Noche Triste (Tree of the Sad Night) is the tree under which the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés is said to have cried during his troops retreat from the city of Tenochtitlan. Another historic sight pertaining to Cortés is the Casa de la Malinche, the house where his Aztec lover and interpreter once lived. The Plaza de la Constitución / El Zócalo was constructed on top of the ceremonial site of Tenochtitlan beginning in the 16th Century, and today serves as the city's primary plaza. Another Spanish building built on top of a sacred Aztec site is the Palacio Nacional, built by Cortés on top of the kind Moctezuma's royal residence. The Palacio contains several murals by Mexico's most famous painter, Diego Rivera. The historic Castillo de Chapultepec, located in the Bosque de Chapultepec was once home to the Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlotta during the French occupation of Mexico. Since 1939, the castle has been the home of the National History Museum. The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe) is built on the famed spot where an indigenous man named Juan Diego had a vision of the Virgin Mary. After Juan Diego told the bishop, he was skeptical and demanded proof, and Juan Diego had another vision, the image of the virgin appeared in a cape with which Diego was carrying roses. The bishop immediately ordered a church built on the site of these visions. Today, visitors can see the miraculous cape in a case behind the altar. Mexico City also has its fair share of monuments, commemorating the many wars, struggles and heroes throughout the city and country's history. Probably the city's most famous monument is the Monumento a la Independencia, also known as El Ángel (the angel). El Ángel was built to commemorate the centennial of Mexico’s war of independence, and it was erected in 1910, after being commissioned by President Porfirio Díaz in 1902. The monument also includes a mausoleum at its base which holds the remains of 12 heroes of Mexican independence. Also commissioned by Porfirio Díaz is the Monumento a la Revolución, which stands in the Plaza de la República next to the Museo Nacional de la Revolución, and is home to the remains of two Mexican presidents. Another monument to Mexico's heroes is the Monumento a los Niños Héroes (Monument to the Boy Heroes), was built in honor of the six teenage cadets who died defending the Chapultepec Castle from United States forces in 1847, and the niños heroes are honored in various ways all over Mexico City and the entire country.
Mexico City has boundless opportunities for any visitor or local, no matter what you may be in the mood to do, from historical sights to ultra-modern museums. Here are a few options for touring around this dynamic city.
Start at the Hidalgo underground station and take the green exit leading to the Alameda Central, one of the city's main parks, where you can visit any of the numerous statues here or the monument to Beethoven. Nearby, discover the Museo Alameda, where Diego Rivera's most famous mural is housed. Painted in 1948, his Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Central Alameda) was brought here after the 1985 earthquake, was rescued from the rubble of the Hotel Prado. This mural reflects Rivera's view of Mexican history and his childhood memories within the framework of a typical Sunday stroll in the city's central park. At the far end of Alameda Central, the Plaza de la Santa Veracruz is where the Iglesia de San Juan de Dios is found, displaying its wonderful facade—the oldest in the city. Next door, the Museo Franz Mayer houses an interesting collection of Mexican applied arts and the Museo de la Estampa (Print Museum) exhibits a series of José Guadalupe Posada's engravings of the Calavera Catrina. To one side, the Iglesia de la Santa Veracruz, the plaza's namesake, is one of the most important baroque buildings in the capital, for its architecture and for the brotherhood Hernán Cortés established here in gratitude for his safe arrival in the Mexican port. The remains of the Spanish sculptor, Manuel Tolsá are buried here. The nearby palatial white marble wonder of the Palacio de Bellas Artes housing several museums, includes the Museo Nacional de Arquitectura and boasts murals by Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros and Tamayo. The Palacio Nacional is in the vicinity, as are other Federal District governmental buildings. The Café Tacuba awaits the hungry, with Mexican food, mariachis and the rhythm of rondallas (street musicians) to finish off the day.
Bosque de Chapultepec
One of the few remaining "lungs" of the city, the green expansiveness of the Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Woods) is a popular place, particularly on Sundays. It is divided into three sections by large avenues with lakes, museums and other sites of interest for outdoor fun. Near the underground station Chapultepec, is the first section of the woods where it is easy to get around on foot. Upon exiting the underground, stands the Monumento a los Niños Héroes. Dating from 1952, this semi-circle of six columns stands tall commemorating six young soldiers who died defending the Castillo de Chapultepec upon the invasion of the United States in 1847. At that time the castle served as the Colegio Militar. From here, follow the signs to the Castillo and at the foot of the hill a small red brick, Germanic-style building from the 19th-century houses the Casa de los Espejos (House of Mirrors)—for a bit of distorted, playful fun. Part of the Castillo itself dates from 1785, home to the Viceroy of Nueva España and in 1843, it became the Colegio Militar. Later, Maximilian of Hapsburg and his wife Carlotta arrived in Mexico in 1864, refurbishing it for use as their private residence. The original furnishings remain on view in some of its halls, as remnants of their occupants. It currently serves as the Museo Nacional de Historia and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Visit the lake, zoo or the expansive Museo Nacional de Antropología. Finish the tour off with a bite to eat at any of the restaurants in or near the park, like Adonis, which offers up Lebanese food in nearby Polanco.
Zócalo/ Plaza de la Constitución
Mexico City has always been cosmopolitan, revealing centuries of history hidden in its streets and buildings. Take the underground to the Zócalo / Plaza de la Constitución station where the Palacio Nacional and the Catedral Metropolitana are situated. Take Calle Guatemala behind the Cathedral to the alleyway called Pasaje Seminario, where the journey begins into the origins of the history of Mexico at the Templo Mayor. These ruins of the ancient Aztec ceremonial city of Tenochtitlán date back to around 1325 and underwent seven stages of construction. The Temple's museum houses a monumental sculpture of Coyolxauhqui and the Caballero Águila (Eagle Knight). Moving on, the Catedral Metropolitana and Sagrario Metropolitano exemplify the church's influence in Mexico. The Calle República de Brasil leads to the Plaza de Santo Domingo where the Museo de la Medicina stands, dedicated to all things related to medicine, in the same location where once the Palacio de la Inquisición served the purposes of the Inquisition. Traveling down Calle Argentina the Colegio de San Ildefonso with its 19th-century facade was once the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria until 1978, when it became a cultural center. Inside there are numerous murals by three renowned revolutionary muralists: Orozco, Siqueiros and Rivera. It is said that the painter Frida Kahlo first met Diego Rivera here. If you are in the area in autumn, you're in luck. September and October are the season for the traditional chiles en nogada (Stuffed Poblano Chile Peppers) to be savored at the Hostería de Santo Domingo on the corner of Calle Palma, upon crossing the plaza. Created especially for the Emperor Agustín de Iturbide, who played a crucial role towards Mexican independence, this delicacy reflects the three colors of the national flag. Finish the walking tour at Calle Madero where the Torre Latinoamericana stands, along with the mansion of the Conde del Valle de Orizaba, known as the Casa de los Azulejos, dating back to 1737. The revolutionary Emiliano Zapata and his men had breakfast here upon entering the capital, and later José Clemente Orozco embellished it with his mural Ominsciencia ("Omniscience"), which is now a delicious restaurant for you to refuel after your tour.
Mexico's popular traditions, customs and natural reserves are found further south, including Tlalpan and Xochimilco where delightful trajineras (small covered boats) take the traveler through the legendary Aztec canals known as chinampas. Nearby, San Angel and Altavista are, without a doubt, two commercial districts that command tourist attention for their shops, sites of interest, restaurants and nightclubs such as Rioja, Casa de los Cántaros and Bar Mezzanote. Located just south of the city, the cultural, entertainment and recreational options are countless. The Casa de la Cultura San Angel and the Ex-Convento del Carmen are two worthwhile sites to see for those interested in art in its various forms of expression. A few steps away, the Museo Carrillo Gil is situated.
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