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Mexico city

Mexico City

story by: Tom Ricketts

The sprawling metropolis of Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world with over 20,000,000 people. Founded in 1325, it’s the oldest populated city in the America’s. Its UNESCO World Heritage listed city centre features Aztec, Spanish Colonial and modern Mexican architecture. It’s the largest Spanish speaking city in the world, and has hosted numerous international events including the Olympic Games. Needless to say, there is plenty to see and do in Mexico City.

Start you exploration in Centro at Zocalo, the city’s central square. One of the largest in the world, Zocalo can hold up to 100,000 people. It was first built by the Aztec in the 1300’s as the centre of their city of Tenochtitlan. At that time, the city was on an island in the centre of a lake.

When the Spanish conquered the city, they rebuilt Mexico City right over top of the ancient Aztec city. It wasn’t rediscovered until construction workers uncovered ancient Aztec artefacts in the early 20
th century. The few remains of Tenochtitlan can still be seen in the square and is today called Templo Mayor. Just next to Templo Mayor is the impressive Mexico City Cathedral, one of the largest in the world. Across the square is the Palacio Nacional, where the President offices are located. On days of national importance, the President will address huge crowds of people in the square, not unlike the Pope in the Vatican or the Queen in London. The rest of the UNESCO World Heritage listed city centre occupies 668 blocks with over 9,000 buildings, so there’s a good lot of walking and sightseeing to be done here.

Heading southeast of Centro is the Paseo de la Reforma which would essentially be the ‘main street’ if Mexico City were to have just one. The grand tree lined avenue is the location of a great many of the city’s highrises, and therefore it’s the base for many national and international companies, as well as hotels. The avenue leads to Polanco, the main shopping district in the city. Here you’ll find more upscale clothing boutiques, galleries and high end homeware stores. Nearby Zona Rosa where the city’s nightlife resides, but also has a collection of more alternative clothing stores aimed at the younger crowd. Midway down the avenue is the iconic El Angel de la Independencia.

Being the capital city, Mexico City is of course home to many galleries and museums. Conveniently, several of the best are all located close to each other in Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park), midway along the Paseo de la Reforma. The most notable is easily the National Museum of Anthropology which showcases Aztec and Mayan artefacts. There’s some truly stunning pieces such as reliefs recovered from pyramids and the world famous Stone of the Sun. Nearby is the Castillo de Chapultepec which holds the National History Museum. This is the perfect place to visit next as it focuses on later times when the Spanish were in control and the Mexican struggle for Independence. Also located in the park is the city zoo, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

To the north of Centro is perhaps Mexico City’s most visited attraction, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As the name suggests, the basilica holds the Our Lady of Guadalupe painting, said to be the third most visited sacred site in the world! The cathedral itself has a very noticeable tilt, evidence of the structure slowly sinking into the lakebed the city is built on. Further north on the outskirts of the city is another major attraction, the Aztec city of Teotihuacan. This site is far more preserved than Templo Mayor and several large pyramids still exist. Best of all, the pyramids can still be climbed (albeit daringly) and the views from the top are amazing.

This is but a fraction of the sights in Mexico City, so if planning a trip here, be sure to give yourself a good few days to try see it all.

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