Over the past decade, Mexico City has cleaned up its act considerably, moving away from its reputation for grime, crime and smog to become a bustling centre of cultural and social activities.
Today, the smog may still remain, but behind the inevitable pollution created by one of the world’s busiest cities, you will find a city that is simultaneously cosmopolitan, laid-back and enthralling. Situated in a mountain bowl, more than 2,400 metres above sea level, Mexico’s capital tells a story of the country’s past, the architecture providing fantastic examples of pre-Hispanic life, magnificent colonial styles and forward-moving contemporary structures. The exquisite juxtaposition of old and new, the natural and the manmade and a plethora of cultural influences make Mexico City mesmerising; the edgy yet relaxed vibe must be experienced to be believed. Once you dive under the skin of this hidden gem, you will be reluctant to leave.
Direct flights to Mexico City will bring you to Mexico City International Airport (MEX), 3 miles from downtown.
Mexico City enjoys a subtropical climate but is warmest between April and June, although in June you will need to be prepared for rain. If you are looking for cheap flights to Mexico City, plan your trip outside of school holidays: a visit in late April/ early May will see temperatures in the high twenties to low thirties; perfect for sightseeing and relaxing in the sun.
Mexico City is nestled in the Basin of Mexico, surrounded by volcanoes and mountains. Due to the city’s subtropical climate and location, the area is home to an abundance of flora and fauna. There are a few large parks in and around the city where you can encounter local animals, including armadillos, prairie moles and porcupines, as well as a range if indigenous birds. In the heart of Mexico City, you will find Los Dinamos National Park, 2,429 hectares of forest containing a network of winding paths. Los Dinamos is much more than your average park, for here you will discover fantastic hiking, rock climbing, fishing and horse riding, as well as a zip line and even a camp site. There is no better way to escape from one of the busiest cities in the world than a night under the stars in lush green forest. Alameda Central is Mexico City’s oldest park and its current appearance has evolved from influences derived from centuries of rulers. Originally an Aztec marketplace, then an execution site during the Spanish Inquisition, the park was formalised in the 16th Century by the order of Viceroy Luis de Velasco. When the Viceroy ceased to rule, the park became neglected and was used for grazing horses. During Phillip V’s reign, fountains were erected to emulate the gardens of Versailles, and in the late 18th Century, Viceroy Carlos Francisco de la Croix extended the walkways to take on a rectangular shape, adding new walkways and fountains. The park is so much more than a piece of green space: it is a living museum, giving testimony of bygone eras. As you walk through the park you can see the direct results of centuries of influences, melding together seamlessly to form something that is simultaneously familiar and unique.
Whilst Mexico City was originally established by the Aztecs in the 14th Century, most traces of Aztec life were destroyed after the Spanish Occupation. Its incredible architecture is representative of the city’s considerable growth over the last two centuries and offers a delightful combination of heritage and contemporary structures. On your trip to Mexico City you will be faced with a vast number of wonderful buildings: whether you choose to walk by and admire them or spend more time taking in the sights depends on your priorities and timescale. The Palace of Fine Arts can be found adjacent to the Alameda Central Park. The stunning building is incredible to behold for its scale and beauty, both inside and out. The palace took 30 years to complete, and opened its doors in 1934. Today, it houses a theatre, concert hall, museum and vast galleries displaying art through the ages, including huge murals by Mexican artists including Jose Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. One of the few remaining elements of Mexico City’s pre-Hispanic roots is Templo Mayor (the Great Temple), the original site of significant Aztec Temples. The site was discovered in Zocalo, beneath the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, in 1978, and excavation started immediately. When you visit the site, you will see the remains of two temples, dedicated to the god of war and the god of rain, as well as the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan, various shrines and carvings of serpents. The site is still an active one, and archaeologists continue to make exciting discoveries which give valuable insights into Aztec culture. A trip to Mexico City wouldn’t be complete without seeing the National Palace (Palacio National). The site, which occupies the entire eastern ridge of the central plaza, was the official seat of the Aztec rulers in 1325 and has housed the Mexican government ever since. It is also home to the Federal Treasury, the president’s offices and the National Archives, making it the hub of Mexican politics. Whilst a tour of the palace’s interior is advisable, its façade is simply stunning: a combination of temple and fortress that seems to stretch endlessly from north to south.
Mexican food is available in most Western countries, so many people taking a trip to Mexico City tend to think they know what to expect. However, the Mexican food you get in Europe is a far cry from the delicious, fresh food you will find in Mexico City. In Mexico City, you will discover typical Mexican cuisine from all regions of Mexico, featuring fresh local produce with a spicy, Spanish twist. Most dishes feature corn in some form; the humble crop is transformed into myriad delicious guises, such as tacos and tortillas, as well as featuring in sauces and stews. Tacos are a must, as are sopes – a classic dish of tortillas with stew, and tortas, the Mexican take on a sandwich. In the unlikely event that you tire of Mexico City’s innumerable street stalls, restaurants, cafes and bars, there is a broad choice of international restaurants to choose from, but as always, it is generally best to stick to the local favourites if you are looking for freshness, authenticity and quality. So many people consider Mexico City to be a passing point on the way to the beaches. The fact is that the buzzing city offers an experience in its own right, and is worth at least a couple of days’ exploration. Be warned, however: once you fall in love with Mexico City, you may never want to leave! If you are planning a dream trip, let Travangelo help you to find cheap flights to Mexico City.