We had a great article about Mexico City from Justin a few months ago; here’s another take on the destination. We really liked our trip to there this past May and definitely think it’s worth the visit.
Prasanna, a Washington, D.C.-based photographer from the site, imported from baltimore, visited recently; here are his practical tips for visiting Mexico City if you have 72 hours to spare.
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Mexico City is a great way to spend a long weekend, offering an unique opportunity to experience a confluence of people and history. It’s sometimes undeserved reputation is quickly dispelled when you get a chance to experience the food and culture of one of the Western Hemisphere’s largest city. A quick plane ride away from most American cities – Mexico city is unexpectedly engaging with its unique blend of the modern and the ancient.
Start at the beginning:
The National Anthropology Museum, located in Chapultepec Park, is an excellent introduction into the Mexico’s pre-Columbian and Mesoamerican heritage. Impressive statues and artifacts are carefully represented in context to give the visitor a feel of the people and the land. Visitors should try to spend several hours there to take it in, although one could easily spend a couple days.
The two principal ruins near Mexico City are the Templo Mayor and Teotihuacan.
Teotihuacan is an Mesoamerican city located about 30 miles outside the city proper, easily accessible through a cab ride. This impressive complex spans over 32 square miles, bookended by the Pyramid of the Moon on one side and the Avenue of the Dead on the other. Ancient statues, colorful paintings and intricate complexes will easily capture your imagination all day.
The Pyramid of the Sun, located adjacent to the entrance, is the third largest pyramid of the ancient world. A winding climb to the top offers a wonderful vista over the impressive complex.
The founders and inhabitants of the city remain a mystery to this day.
The Templo Mayor is located adjacent to the Catholic Church of Mexico City, near the Zocalo. It is the remains of the great central temple of Tenochtitlan. It is both an active archeological site and a museum. Visitors can walk around the excavation site, getting a sense of the size and construction of the temple. The museum has various artifacts discovered inside, from the contents of crypts to lavish decorations from religious celebrations.
The Templo Mayor & the National Anthropology Museum are inside the city and are readily accessible by the subway or a quick taxi ride. Entrance fees for all three sites are around $5 USD.
The European influence:
The National Museum of History is located at Chapultepec Castle, in the center of Chapultepec park. All three are a great visit and are only a short walk from the metro. The museum hosts several exhibits about colonization and post-colonization history, tracking from the exploits of Cortes, to the first and second Mexican empires to the founding of the modern government. The complex interplay between native Mesoamerican populations, European powers, the United States and the Roman Catholic Church with the Mexican state are explored in several large and well laid out displays.
The castle has played a number of roles through the years, most notably the Imperial Residence of Maximillian, the emperor of the second Mexican empire.The imperial bedroom, dining room and other offices used by the royal family is on display, giving visitors a glimpse into the opulence and glamor of royal life. The emperor also commissioned an impressive garden which hosts a variety of period art and architecture as well as an impressive view of the city.
The entrance fee of about five dollars gets you into both the castle and the museum.
The entrance to the park bears an important monument, the Altar a la Patria, honoring the Ninos Heroes or the Heroic Cadets. It pays homage to six Mexican teenage military cadets that defended Chapultepec Castle from invading US Marines.The Battle of Chapultepec remains an important part of Mexican history, memorialized in artwork and currency. The altar is comprised of marble semi-circle with six bronze eaglets ringing the outside, symbolizing each of the six cadets who were killed.
El Centro, located next to the Templo Mayor, is a large plaza flanked by a busy shopping district, the business district and Federal buildings. It serves as a hub for the ebb and flow of modern Mexico city. You can get here by metro or by taxi.
The Torre Latinoamericana is a short 15 minute walk and one of Mexico City’s first skyscrapers. It is considered an important historical landmark, being one of the first skyscrapers to be built on active seismic land and survive an earthquake. The 1985 earthquake caused widespread damage, knocking over the Angel of Independence, one of city’s most prominent symbols. A commemorative plaque attests to the feat of surviving a magnitude 8 earthquake. The observation deck, for an entrance fee of about five dollars, is a great place to look out over the whole city.
The shopping district is a great place to stop, sample international cuisine and peruse a variety of traditional shops and international vendors.
The National Museum of Art, located on Calle Tacuba, boasts a large collection spanning from colonial works to the mid 1900’s. It is spread out over 5000 square feet and hosts over 3000 pieces in its permanent collection. It is a great place to take the variety of artwork produced through various historical periods and variety of styles championed by Mexican artists.
Entrance to both the museum and the torre are around five dollars.
Visitors on Friday nights should drop by the Arena Mexico to take a Lucha Libre fight, a type of wrestling popular in Mexico. A three hour treat, fighters in masks perform high flying acrobatics to dramatic story lines.
A variety of fans – young & old, couples & friends can be found on their feet, cheering on their favorite wrestler, with beer and popcorn vendors trying to yell over the crowd.
The cheap seats, which ring the floor, is a great way to take in the night. They are available at the door and are relatively inexpensive for around ten to twenty dollars. There is only general seating, nothing assigned. You can also sit on the floor, but those tickets can range in the hundreds of dollars depending on where you sit. The Arena Mexico is best reached by taxi. The matches get out late at night, so be sure to take an actual registered taxi back home or call your hotel to get you one when the event ends.
The food in Mexico City is simply unrivaled. An entire article can be written on the myriad of places you can visit to take in amazing flavors. The city is a great place to experience the intersection of European, Aztec and international flavors on a budget.
Breaking out of the traditional dining scene and sampling some of the street cart cuisine is highly recommended. These family owned shops serve up authentic cuisine with warm corn tortillas, freshly grilled meat and homemade salsas.
An unlikely source, Mexico City also boasts some of the best Chinese food in the western hemisphere. Immigrants have been arriving on Mexico’s shores for hundreds of years, amplified when the United States passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Some new arrivals would attempt to make the border crossing into the US, while others elected to settle south of the border. A unique combination of flavors, it is not to be missed.
About the Author:
Prasanna Chandrasekhar is a photographer who lives and works out of the Washington, D.C. area. He enjoys exploring new landscapes and capturing vivid images. You can see his work at imported from_baltimore.
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