Mexico City: Aztec stone of the sun. Gentle February sunshine touching the skin. Towering pyramids of amazing indigenous civilizations plus mini-replicas. An Aztec empire of canals peeking from under the city´s main square. World-heritage cuisine. Skyscrapers and brightly painted buildings: sunflower yellow, delicate pink, lime green. A famous blue house. Leafy parts of town with a multicultural ambiance. Bike initiative modelling what Mexican and American cities might do about all that traffic. Just a glimpse of the magnetic pull of Mexico City. Voted by Forbes no1 city to visit in 2016. And so what are these details that make the city worth a visit then?
The Aztec stone of the sun in Mexico City´s Anthropology Museum sits along with other great works of art and history. One of the enigmatic Chacmools, lies on his back, attentive to visitors, yet hiding secrets from the past, secrets from pyramids at Chichen Itza, Tula and Templo Mayor.
The climate is also a draw. It is city of the eternal spring with an average annual temperature at around 22 to 28 degrees Celsius.
Templo Mayor, excavated in the past decade is at the heart of the main square or zocalo. Amazing to think Mexico City´s historic centre is in the unique position of being a city built on top of a city as the Spanish sought to impose their rule over the Aztecs and bury the great Tenochtitlan. Then there´s Teotihuacan on the outskirts of the city and worth the one-hour journey to get there. Take a bus from the main bus station or take a tour which might stop at Basilica de Guadalupe. A the basilica you will see the adoration Mexicans feel for their Virgin of Guadalupe, much cherished by old and young as the protector of the people and recipient of many prayers.
With UNSECO´s stamp of intangible world heritage bestowed upon Mexican cuisine and the cuisine´s variation across so many regions, Mexico City is a place that brings many of these different dishes together, often in beautiful surroundings, as Mexican people have a creative side which also lends itselfeasily to welcoming restaurant interiors, normally colourful of course. I was glad to discover an extensive menu in El Bajio on Paseo de la Reforma. Mezcal is becoming a staple on the menu these days served with generous wedges of (mild) chilli-sprinkled oranges.
Paseo de la Reforma demonstrates some of the modern aspects of the city with its high office and hotel blocks and the well-dressed executives scurrying from one place to the next so the most brightly painted, Mexican style building are to be found in other parts of town, such as the “barrios magicos” (literally awarded the distinction of magical parts of town by the Meixcan government) of San Angel, Coyoacan and Condesa. In Coyoacan visit the blue house, firmly placed on the tourist trail and witness to great historical, artistic and political moments from the 1920s to the 1950s as artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera hosted many international visitors, including Leon Trotsky in his flight from Stalin and were famous for their own art and tumultuous relationship.
In Coyoacan or in any of the other barrios magicos, enjoy the shaded restaurants and cafes or the plazas filled with sellers from pink balloons to orange handmade purses and multi-coloured toothpicks or for a snack, try “chapulines”(grasshoppers) There are delightful markets in so many parts of town and San Angel´s Saturday market is the place for art. The various languages, both indigenous and European that are spoken show the city is indeed multicultural: a rich mix of indigenous, European, American and Asian cultures mostly, (especially cosmopolitan and modern in Polanco and Condesa), embrace the easygoing Mexican lifestyle. Even in such a big city, I did feel the time, energy and kindness people devote to family and to the people around them. As for crime on the streets, take extra precautions with your belongings and avoid unlit areas or lonely streets at night but don´t miss out on a visit!
Bikes are for hire everywhere at only $25 for a year´s use, the Ecobicis, as part of Mexico City´s environmental plan, have shown how environmental initiatives can work, especially in changing attitudes and providing alternatives. Hop on a bike, and enjoy Mexico City! Definitely worth a visit!