Mexico City is the capital of Mexico, and was the capital of the Aztec society as well. Its location 7300 feet above sea level and surrounded my mountains make it an ideal center of power, for ancient civilizations as well as modern urban-dwelling Mexicans. Its 22 million inhabitants find common ground at the symbolic Plaza of Three Cultures, which are symbolized by structures which line the plaza:
- An ancient Aztex pyramid
- A Colonial-era Spanish-style church
- A shiny new offer tower
In fact, there are architectural examples of all three of these great influences on Mexican culture throughout the city, which is why some call it the City of Palaces. Downtown reflects the colonial era, resembling a European city with wide boulevards, public parks, fancy detailed cornices on buildings, and public gardens. And, like Rome, Mexico City pays tribute to its roots, by preserving and protecting ancient ruins, even if they happen to lie right in the middle of the bustling modern capital city. There are partially excavated Aztec ruins in Mexico City, reminding the traveler of certain parts of Rome, Italy where careful digging has exposed ancient civilization.
22 million inhabitants co-existing in one city during times of economic downturn has resulted in lots of petty crime in Mexico City in past decades, making this city a less desirable travel destination, but travelers will be happy to learn that the trend is being reversed by progressive tactics and tourist-friendly programs. Similar to what New York City did recently, Mexico City has placed more and more police on the streets and initiated safety programs that make tourists feel more secure. There has been a campaign against corruption, which includes hiring a certain ex NYC mayor expert in attracting tourists to a city with a bad reputation. It’s working, because crime is now half of what it was in 1994.
Mexico City’s other nemesis: pollution, has begun to recede as well. With new environmental awareness and action, the city has made great strides in reducing city driving, closing polluting factories, and making use of fuel-efficient low-emission public buses and taxis. There is still quite a bit of pollution, so you’ll want to consider these tips:
- Minimize your exposure to fumes
- Don’t take city walks during rush hour
- Walk around on Sunday, when there is less traffic
- Stay away if you have respiratory problems. Remember: Mexico City is also at high elevation, making matters worse.
- Go out at night
Here’s a list of some of the best things to see & do while travelling in Mexico City:
- Museo Frida Kahlo
- Palacio Nacional & the Diego Rivera Murals
- Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe
- Museo del Templo Mayor
- Casa de los Azulejos
- Museo Nacional de Antropologia
- Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico
- Palacio de Bellas Artes
- Monumento a los Heroes de la Independencia
- Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico
- Museo de arte Moderno
- Many more museums
- Plaza de las Tres Culturas
- Plaza de Santo Domingo
- Floating Gardens of Xochimilco
- Trip to Teotihuacan Archaeological site
- Palacio de Bellas Artes
- National Auditorium for Ballet and other shows
- Centro Hisotrico downtown district
Floyd Davis is an avid traveler and enjoys writing about fare away places and travel adventures. You can read can see more of his work on his snorkeling blog.