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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrMexico City is the capital and hub of Mexico. The fascinating city is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, harboring 16 boroughs and approximately 300 neighborhoods. Located in a deep valley, history shows up everywhere in the city with the modern city layered above; there are over a dozen working archaeological sites with the city limits. There is an estimated 26 million people living in and around the Mexico City region.
HistorySeveral indigenous groups occupied the Mexico City territory from 100 to 900 A.D. During the Aztec period, Mexico City was built over a lake, the Lago De Texcoco . The Aztecs did so by creating an artificial island from soil dumped into a lagoon. The Aztecs (also known as the Mexicas) were unskilled and fierce warriors and continued to expand Mexico City into a fortress even though they were unwelcome by the inhabitants in the valley. Their city became the most powerful city in Pre-Columbian America. They created the city of Teotihuacan in 1325 A.D. after deciding that the region fulfilled ancient prophecies. The Aztecs believed their god would show them a sign in way of a great eagle devouring a serpent while perched gracefully on top of a green cactus (this is the Mexican Flag national emblem used today). Their vision is responsible for the birth of Mexico City. At one time, over 100,000 residents occupied Teotihuacan, “Place of the Gods”.
These indigents were also related to the Toltecas tribe, establishing Tula in around 850 A.D. to become the modern-day state of Hildago. Shortly thereafter, the Toltecas declined in power and the Acolhula, Tepenaca, and Chichimeca culture promptly exercised dominance in the rising Mexico City. The Aztecs were fierce warriors and continued to expand Mexico City into a fortress. Later it would be the Spaniards who would develop a second Mexico City on top of the ruins of Teotihuacan.
During the Mesoamerica era, the Aztecs dominated the area, highly skilled as warriors and making many enemies. Many local Aztec chieftains liberated themselves from Aztec rule by joining forces with the Spanish explorer, Hernán Cortés , in 1519. Cortes made it abundantly clear he intended to conquer the region, and added many Aztec warriors to his army. By this time, Mexico City had grown to over 100,000 people. With amazing temples, fertile gardens, canals, and lakes, it was revered as more beautiful than any European city. The three large causeways met in the ceremonial center at the middle of Emperor Moctezuma II’s palace.
It was during the colonial period of 1535-1821 Mexico City became the most important city of both Americas. The Spanish-dominated city created the Mestizo class, mixed-blood citizens of native Indians and Spanish to become powerful political forces in Mexico City. The Catholic Church also had a deep influence in Mexico City, establishing convents and missions all throughout Mexico. It was at this critical time period the Spanish crown’s power relied on the loyalty and the support of New Spain’s aristocracy, but by the 18th century the Criollo people sparked an independence movement.
Recent HistoryAs Mexico City grew, it was in 1846 after 20 years of peace, the United States invaded Mexico. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico was forced to surrender a wide part of its northern territory to the United States. This makes up the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, California, and parts of Utah and Wyoming. Mexico was also commanded to recognize the independence of the state of Texas. By the 1850s, Mexico rulers tried to control any powers within the Catholic Church. The convents were either destroyed or used for other reasons. There still remains an uneasy relationship between Mexico and the Vatican.
In 1861, all interest payments due to Spain, France, and Britain was suspended by then President Benito Juarez and a combined assault occurred in the city of Veracruz. The French took control of the country with the leadership of French Emperor, Napoleon III. Many presidents would come and go in this territory between 1867 and 1910, all with liberal government policies. Corruption and incompetence dictated the country, leading to assassinations and self-appointments in government positions. Porfirio Diaz appointed himself president in 1876 and kept his presidency for the next 36 years by using violence, repression, and election fraud. His opponents never stood a chance, often being executed by Diaz.
Mexico City grew too fast and the government could barely keep up with provisions of service. The city had lost its’ charm. The city which saw the Summer Olympic Games and the World Soccer Cup had serious problems. Mexico City was choking in pollution and smog by 1982. Then in 1985, an earthquake rocked the city killing over 7,000 people. With homes destroyed and nowhere to go, villagers poured into the city creating huge shantytowns which extended for miles. The housing problem with the compounded rise in crime increased daily.
The distribution of wealth is still extremely uneven in Mexico City with 15 percent of the resident’s living in poverty. Mexico City is the largest metropolitan area in the whole Western Hemisphere.
Highlights of Mexico CityFor the first time visitor to Mexico City, the available local guides to the most-visited tourist attractions may seem a bit overwhelming. Many of these attractions are concentrated in the center of Mexico City.
El ZocaloOr also called Plaza de la Constitucion, is the main square in Mexico City, it embraces over 13 acres in area. It is the heartbeat of the city, meshing deep history and modern day activity. At the center of this historic district (also called “Centro Historico”) waves the Mexican flag surrounded on the north by the Cathedral Metropolitana, to the east in the National Palace, with government offices on the south and assorted hotels and businesses on the west side. Zocalo is the largest square in Latin America, with the first being Moscow’s Red Square.
The National PalaceLocated on the East side and houses a government building. It is said to have been built on the grounds where Moctezuma's palace had stood. Every year on September 15th at midnight, a bell is rung by the president of Mexico where he shouts “Viva Mexico” and the large crowd yells back “Viva!” Enter the National Palace and view the amazing murals of Diego Rivera who painted them between 1929 and 1952, all illustrating the Mexican history from pre-Hispanic times to the 1930’s workers’ movement.
Metropolitan CathedralOne of the largest cathedrals in the entire Western Hemisphere and featuring beautiful Spanish Baroque style architecture, this mesmerizing cathedral sports a pair of 190 foot tall neoclassical towers that hold 18 bells.
Templo MayorAlso known as the Great Pyramid, Templo Mayor existed as the primary temple in the Teotihuacan Aztec Capital. In 1521, Hérnan Cortés destroyed most of the pyramid during battle; however, some of the ancient temple has been restored.
Palace of Fine ArtsIn this grand building is a great amount of artistic and cultural activities taking place. Famous opera presentations, classical music concerts, and ballet all happen here. The famous “Pegaso” sculptures adorn the entrance. These statues work in delicate contrast against the modern beauty of the neighboring Latin America Tower. The Palace of Fine Arts began in 1904 by Italian architect, Adamo Boari, so there would be a new national theater for celebrations of Mexico's independence.
Plaza GaribladiILocated a few blocks north from the Palace of Fine Arts is the place to listen to live mariachi music.
Frida Kahlo MuseumLa Casa Azul also called the ‘Blue House’ was the birthplace of famous artist, Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). Her legend status came from beautifully tortured self-portraits and paintings of her tumultuous, passionate life with muralist, Diego Rivera. Her home is one of Mexico City’s most popular museums. The house showcases parts of her work, sketches, and inside the virtually untouched home as she had lived in it. By walking through her home, one can get insight into her life as an artist, a lover, and a wife. Even the prosthetic leg she had to wear before her untimely death can be seen.
The Frida Kahlo Museum is located in the Plaza Coyoacan district. Metro Line 2 (Metro General Anaya) and Metro Line 3 (Metros Coyoacan and Metro Viveros) go directly to this museum. There are also many cafes, and inexpensive eats at the massive market nearby as this is a popular spot. After you have explored La Casa Azul walk on over to her former husband’s home of artist Diego Rivera and then on to her lover, Leon Trotsky, a communist revolutionary. Both homes are now museums.
A historical sight available west of the grand historic center of Mexico City is the home of Plaza de la Republica a completely refurbished Revolution Monument and National Museum.
Chapultepec CastleThe Castillo de Chapultepec sits majestically atop Chapultepec Hill, in the middle of the city’s Chapultepec Park and rises 2,240 meter above sea level. This beautiful castle has served many purposes throughout history. Once a presidential palace, the building has also served as a military academy and an observatory. Today it is the National Museum of Anthropology. This museum contains a wide variety of significant anthropological discoveries from across the country. The Aztec calendar (Stone of the Sun) and the 16th-century Aztec statue of Xochipilli, are housed in this building.
The Museo Rufino Tamayo, built in the 17th century contains magnificent pre-Columbian art exhibits.Chapultepec Park is the largest park in the whole city, divided into three sections. Several of the favorite tourist attractions are located here; there is also the Main City Zoo, and an amusement park. Lomas de Chapultepec is the wealthiest district, walled off with numerous grand mansions.
Neighborhoods to ExploreMexico City is rich in cultural and historical neighborhoods known for some of the top tourist attractions. The most popular are Zona Rosa, Roma, Condesa, Coyoacan, San Angel, Polanco, and of course, Xochimilco. Similar to the boroughs of New York, Mexico City is divided into neighborhoods, which is roughly around 16 delegaciones. In order to navigate the city, it is vital to know what ‘colonia’ (neighborhood) you are in. This is essential to getting around Mexico City. Virtually, every ‘colonia’ has its own version of a miniature downtown. The real downtown areas are Central Historico and Zona Rosa, the new entertainment and business district.
Zona Rosa is known as Reforma District because it contains “Paseo de la Reforma Avenue”, an important business and entertainment district. Zona Rosa is home to “Little Seoul”, center of Mexico City’s Korean immigrant population.
PolancoOne of the wealthiest residential areas, second to Chapultepec with very expensive designer boutique stores. This section of the city is filled with embassies, upscale restaurants, night clubs and hotels.
CoyoacanAn artsy place which is home to the Frida Kahlo Museum. Santa Fe is upscale with the inclusion of the Bosques de las Lomas area.
Condesa and Roma saw a recent rebirth after decades of oblivion. Now this district is brimming with the city's trendiest restaurants, bistros, clubs, pubs and shops. The neighborhoods are on opposite sides and close to Avenida Insurgentes, near Parque Mexico and España.
San Angelis a small but trendy neighborhood know for the cobblestone streets, upscale boutiques and cool restaurants. It is a wealthy residential area known for its arts markets.
XochimilcoAlso known as Mexico’s Little Venice, Xochimilco is home to lovely parks surrounded by an extended series of canals. These canals are all that exists of the ancient Lake Xochimilco. Colorful trajineras covered in flowers establish Xochimilco as a romantic destination.
People have been taking these boats in the valley of Mexico for many centuries. The basin in the valley had no outlet, so several lakes formed, and attracting inhabitants to their shores. The floating gardens are here in Xochimilco, existing for seven centuries, created in the time of the Aztecs. History buffs will find the remaining examples of an ancient Aztec city in the southern borough of Mexico City.
The neighborhood is also home to Isla de las Muñecas, or Island of the Dolls, a rather macabre island dedicated to the soul of an unfortunate girl who came to an untimely end.
Santa Fe consists of a modern, redeveloped business district at the western tip of Mexico City consists mainly of high rise buildings, and is surrounded a large shopping mall.
Juarez is an up and coming destination in Mexico City; located in the Cuauhtémoc area. Since the beginning of the neighborhood it has had an intellectual and cosmopolitan reputation. However, the area suffered deterioration from the 1985 earthquake. There have been consistent efforts to return the district’s former prestige as well build tourism and conservation in areas close to the Paseo de la Reforma
Tlalpan and Pedregal are the largest of the boroughs. Tlalpan is home of a volcanic mountain peak called Ajusco, a National Park, and one of the highest mountains near Mexico City.
La Villa de Guadalupe is on the outside of Mexico City, but it is worthy of mention. Located in the northern part of the city, the borough of Gustavo A. Madero, it is home to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is recognized as the holiest Catholic site in the Americas, and draws true devotees from around the world every day.
Other Things to See and Do in Mexico CityMexico City's night life is relative to the whole city, huge. an enormous selection of venues are available from clubs, local flavor bars, and restaurants or cafes, There is undeniable variation of action, from the luxurious modern lounges in Santa Fe, to centuries-old dance halls in Centro and Roma. Every neighborhood offers its own cultural influence. Before going out, always check the date, since this will be an important indicator of how full places will generally be and how long you might have to wait to get in. Salaries are usually paid twice per month: the 30th/31st-1st and the 14th-15th. Around these dates is when the city residents will go out, especially if payday coincides with a weekend. Sports stadiums Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and Estadio Azteca provide a different kind of action for those wanting sports and activities of a Mexican nature.
AccommodationsCamino Real Polanco is super-old-school, from its design to its service. You can walk to Reforma, to Chapultepec Park, and the museums. Plus the bathrooms are huge.
Four Seasons is located near Chapultepec Park and offers suburb weekend rates, making the hotel very competitive with lesser properties.
Casa Gonzales is much understated, a good bargain, and repeated guest list. It has a beautiful courtyard, close to several restaurants and in a peaceful and safe area of town. Starbucks is at the end of the block and a supermarket is only 3 blocks away. Casa Gonzales also includes a 16 menu item delicious breakfast.
Red Tree House is interested in art, dance, and other people with creative interests. And the hotel organizes beautiful trips to Xochimilco.
In the Centro Historico district:
Hotel Majestic the Zocalo can be noisy, yet it is the vital center of the city and is surrounded by several must see sites such as the Cathedral, the Templo Mayor and the National Palace with its beautiful Rivera murals.
Districto Capital It’s on a hill, so from the top floors you can see all of Santa Fe and Mexico City in the background.
Sheraton Historico is nice, and within walking distance to the Plaza Mayor (though a bit of a long walk), Bazar Sabado. is also in the area, requiring a bit longer walk. The Sheraton Centro Historico seems to be enjoying popularity right now. The hotel is located across from Bellas Artes, near the Alameda.
Cuisine“If the hand that cooks loves, the theory goes, the mouth that eats will too.” –Aramburo, Mexico City Artisan Chef
There is a woman who lives and cooks in the center of Mexico City. She is a culinary artist of the ancients; the Aztec techniques are felt in every bite of her food. Asked to describe why Mexican food is so distinctively better, her answer is she is “painting with the ingredients of Mexico”. Her cooking is inspired more by history, art, and passion than any trendy ingredients. She smiles and says “corn…taste like the sun”. This is the essence of Mexican food.
Mexican food has not changed in a thousand years; it overlaps in all ancient civilizations of Aztecs, Maya, and Zapotecs. Take a quick ride to the Venice-inspired neighborhood of Xochimilco to the market and there are tortillas of every kind, and various dead birds still bearing feet. Blue corn flour grinded in a mortar known as a ‘molcajete’ magically evolves into tamales. Cactus leaves, fresh cheeses, frog legs, and carp are all delectable cooked by an artisan hand.
In San Martin Xochinahuac, Barbacoa is a dish done either with pork or lamb and is indescribably soothing and rich in spices. It is the ‘comfort food’ of Mexico City. The meat is wrapped in maguey leaves and then left to slow roast under hot rocks for up to sixteen hours. Served up with a homemade deep-flavored corn tortilla and intense sauces, this is probably the best the mouth has ever tasted.
For fresh shrimp smothered in tomato and chili, or chicken blanketed in a brick-red salsa, then Coyoacan market is the place. Once the favorite place of Frida Kahlo, this market offers a succulent lime-cilantro ceviche and a Yucatan spicy pulled pork. The traditional drink for Mexico City in called “aqua de frutas” which is any kind of fruit water made from whatever is the fruit of the day.
In the middle of the historic centre of Mexico City is the hub for fresh seafood. It is easy to find deep-fried fresh fish, shrimp tostadas and a eye-popping selection of different sorts of ceviches. The fish salads are usually a mixture of fish, squid, and crab, marinated in lime and vinegar. From there, each cook adds their ‘special touches’ to personalize their recipe. Try ceviche at Calle Ayuntamiento near Lopez, a few blocks south of the Alameda.
El Huequito has been in business since 1959 in the historic centre. The most traditional food available here is reflective of the capital is called ‘tacos al pastor’. The tacos are a variation of middle eastern Shawarma but instead the roasted pork is swathed in chili sauce and onion and rolled up in a hand tossed warm tortilla. The best part of this dish other than the lingering flavors is the price at 12 pesos.
Condesa has a hidden little place the Mexican residents and Condesa hipsters just rave about. Taqueria El Guero-Hola is a standing room only Taqueria serving delectable vegetarian Guisados (saucy stews) like quelites which are cooked leafy greens. The idea is to order one at a time, save your plate, and order more.
The torta is Mexico City’s version of the fast food sandwich. Inside an odd pasaje (indoor passage) at Republica Del Salvador 152 (a few blocks east of the Zocalo Centro) past the stores selling folkloric Mexican costume is the place to try a traditional torta. Pick from roast pork leg, chicken, or smoked turkey. In between layers of meat, sour cream, avocado, and chili combine to make the mouth dance. This fast food is a blend of European and Mexican cultures invented by Sr. Armando, an Italian immigrant.
In the old Colonia Roma Neighborhood, Campeche 106, there are a few tables spilling out on to the streets serving up the most succulent carnitas in all of Mexico City. Carnitas are little tender shredded bits from all parts of the pig, and they are eaten as tacos. Heaped on a huge plate with different reds and green salsas, the dish is immaculately topped with coriander, onions, and lime. Maciza is the carnitas version without the fatty bits. The roasted aroma of this dish spills down the street welcoming people to indulge.
Known as Cacahuazintle in Mexico, Pozole is the ultimate comfort food. The hearty meat soup is laced with chili and tons of hominy. The broth is served with delicious offerings of tostadas, avocado, onions, lime, radishes and sprinkling spices. The best Pozole Mexico City has to offer happens to be right next door to the Museo de San Ildefonso in Zocalo. It is a great stop after visiting the museum.
Mexico City serves up the best of the best in popular late night street food too. Grilled meat smokes from the open coals, salsas are homemade. Anything you want is available from the street vendors. It is a perfect ending to a good Mexico City day, devouring succulent char-roasted bites off a stick while downing one of the many cervazas and listening to the music of fiestas. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Where to Get a Good MealMexico City offers an unbelievable palette of different food; from traditional Mexican cuisine to high-end international fare, The city is known for offering fantastic street snacks, such as inexpensive local favorites like tacos, sopas, tamales and giant fruit cups can be found all over town.
Pujol is a dining destination for locals and tourists thanks to the most highly-regarded chef, Enrique Olvera. His fearless creativity combines the best of traditional Mexican ingredients and techniques. Pujol has been featured as one of the world’s 50 best restaurants list since the year 2010.
Maximo Bistrot is located in the hip Roma neighborhood serving a seasonal menu which changes daily. It offers a sophisticated yet approachable menu. All the inside furnishing, right down to the dishware and napkins has been made by local artisans.
El Cardenal is old-school Mexico dining, and offers four different locations in Mexico City. The downtown one is set in a charming historic building. The restaurant is famous for its hearty breakfast with specialties like scrambled eggs in clay pots or Michoacán-style enchiladas
Azuly Oro known to locals for their fantastic Tortilla soup, flavored with a guajillo-chile paste, tangy cream, and pasilla chile strips.
Café Tacuba has become a tourist spot due to the art which lines the entire wall. Located in the middle of the historic city center, the restaurant sits inside what used to be an 18th century convent.
La Hacienda de los Morales is an iconic Polanco district restaurant, and bar. The hacienda was established in 1526 as a silkworm factory. It exudes Spanish colonial architecture, with its huge arches and cracked plaster walls.
Náos is a highly modern restaurant inside the base of a glass skyscraper also located in Polanco. Mexico City’s trendy set can be seen eating from the outside as the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
Taqueria El Califa this place serves up some of the best Mexican comfort food. This is the place to go for winning tacos al pastor or old-fashioned frijoles.
How to Get ThereFlights arrive in Mexico City directly with some flights from USA and Canada diverting to other places first such as Monterrey, Guadalajara, Leon, Aguascalientes, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Morelia, Los Cabos and Acapulco.
Flight times to and from US-Cities to Mexico's capital vary from 2-6 hours, depending on how far north you are traveling from. Flight times to Cancun are 4-8 hours; Flight times to Puerto Vallarta and Baja take around 1-4 hours.
For some years now, private jets haven't been permitted to land at Mexico City's airport, due to air traffic congestion. They must instead land at nearby Toluca.
Around the AreaMexico City is surrounded by deep historical significance, the Mayan World, home to one of the most sophisticated cultures known. The Mayans were great observers to the stars, detailed architects, talented artists and rigorous mathematicians. Their influence and wisdom can be seen in Mexico’s southeastern region in the states of Campeche, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Chiapas and Tabasco.
The well known and restored Yucatan Maya archaeological site, Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was named one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.” The ruins at Chichen Itza cover are 2.5 square miles and can be toured in a day. Chichen Itza exists with two distinct historical architectural zones. The central zone was built by the Toltecs in the 10th century and has a unique blend of central Mexico architectural styles. In this area, impressive structures like the Juego de Pelota (Ball Court) showcase the intensity of the Mayan culture. There are several temples as well as the El Castillo (Pyramid of Kukulkan), a gigantic 25 meter stone of the Mayan calendar. At the top of El Castillo in the doorways, there are splendid carvings of the Toltec warriors. The southern zone is dates back to the 7th century building constructed by the Puuc, a Mayan style representative of the Yucatan region.
Interesting Facts about Mexico City• Mexico City’s great seal represents a noble heritage (the castle) swept by forces of the Spanish empire (lions on both sides of the castle). The lions are standing on bridges that cover the lagoon upon which the city was built. Around the seal are cactus leaves, signifying the cactus fields surrounding Mexico City.
• In 2005, Greater Mexico City had a population of 19.2 million, making it the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and the second largest in the world after Tokyo.
• Today, Mexico’s Cathedral is sinking at an alarming rate of 15-20 inches per year due to Mexico City being built over a lake in the Aztec Period. Aztecs built an artificial island by dumping soil into the lagoon. Later, the Spaniards erected a second Mexico City atop the ruins of Tenochtitlan.
• The Hoy No Circula program (known in English as One Day without a Car) mandates that only vehicles with certain end numbers on their license plates are allowed to drive on certain days in an attempt to cut down on pollution and traffic congestion. However, many locals avoid this law by buying multiple license plates.
• Mexico City is home to the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Established in 1551, UNAM is one of Mexico’s oldest, most prestigious and largest public universities bringing in students from all over the world.
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Author: bluvahalla. Last updated: Apr 21, 2016