10 attractions you must visit in Mexico City
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As you know, Mexico City is a huge city and it sure has numerous attractions to offer to its tourists. In few months I spent there, I visited lots of them and here are, in my opinion, 10 attractions you must visit in Mexico City! Please note, these are very popular touristic attractions. Mexico City has so many excellent places you could visit that are not so popular, but we will talk about those some other time.
Zócalo with the Catedral Metropolitana
Zócalo, officially called Plaza de la Constitución, is Mexico City’s main square and one of the biggest public squares in the world. It is known as a city center since the city is founded in 1325 by the name Tenochtitlán, on whose foundations Mexico City is built. After Spanish colonization of Mexico, conquistador Hernán Cortés arranged the city according to Spanish custom where the square is the center of the city surrounded by the buildings which express colonial power – church and governmental buildings. Because of that here you can find some of the city’s most important buildings – the Cathedral, National Palace, Supreme Court, former City Hall building, etc. One of the things the cathedral is most famous about is that, like lots of other buildings in Mexico City, is slowly sinking. Restoration during 1990-is made the situation little bit better so now it is sinking evenly. Be aware during your visit to this area, it is not the nicest and the safest part of the city, but it is not so bad also. Just take care of your surroundings.
Templo Mayor (Seminario 8, Centro Histórico, Tue – Sun 9 – 5, admission $59 MX) presents the ruins of Aztec’s temple and in the museum, you can see numerous artifacts found in the temple, but also all over Mexico. The temple was undiscovered until 1978 and today it stretches over the whole block in the city center, in the vicinity of the cathedral. The museum is very nice and well organized, with fascinating findings, but the personnel is not really nice and friendly.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Palacio de Bellas Artes (Avenida Juárez y Eje Central s/n, Centro Historico, admission free) is an art museum and performance hall with the stunning façade and beautiful lobby. If you take a tour (check the times) you can see a glass curtain, Rivera’s murals, and art deco interior. Very beautiful and great place for people watching too.
Museo de Arte Popular
Museo de Arte Popular (Revillagigedo 11, Centro Historico, Tue – Sun 10 – 6, Wed 10 – 9, admission $40 MX, free entrance for students with valid ID) is located in a former fire station in art deco style and it shows traditional artefacts, clothes, masks and decorations for Dias de los Muertos from all over Mexico. It is very colorful and it has a great gift shop (but expensive), so it is definitely worth a visit!
Mexico City has lots of markets where you can buy all kinds of things. However, not all of them are safe or in safe neighborhoods, so check that before you go. Two markets I have visited and I loved are Mercado San Juan and La Ciudadela, both located near Alameda Park in Colonia Centro. Mercado San Juan is built on the location of a former Aztec market and it is the most colorful and complete market in the city. Here lot of famous chefs have their stores and it is full of photogenic tropical fruits, vegetables, seafood, and flowers. La Ciudadela is the best place to shop for Mexican handicrafts and souvenirs (like sombreros, clothes, wooden souvenirs) and it has more than 200 stands. Even if the price is stated, always ask for it because they will often offer you a discount. However, try not to look too touristy and ask before taking pictures of stands, or do it in the way the sellers do not see you because many of them do not allow it.
Bosque de Chapultepec
Bosque de Chapultepec is a huge park in the middle of Mexico City with numerous attractions, museums, zoo garden, monuments, green areas and other. It stretches on 4 km2 and it is divided into three sections: (1) Primera (where the ZOO, castle with history museum, Museo de la Antropologia, Museum of Modern Art, Tamayo Museum and lake are located), (2) Segunda with amusement park (La Feria de Chapultepec Mágico), museums like Papalote and Natural History Museum, fountains…) and (3) Tercera which green areas (not so touristic). The first section is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 5 am to 8 pm, and other two sections are always open. I recommend the visit to the History Museum (Museo Nacional de la Historia, Tue – Sun 9 – 5, admission $64 MX, free for students) where you can find murals, carriages, and Mexican history from the colonial era to the beginning of 20th century, and ZOO (Parque Zoologico, Tue – Sun 9 – 4:30, free entrance) with pandas. If you already saw pandas, you are not going to miss much by skipping the ZOO, though.
Museo Nacional de la Antropologia
Anthropology Museum (Paseo de la Reforma, Tue – Sun 9 – 19, admission $64 MX, free entrance for Mexican students only) is one of the biggest museums of that type in the world. It contains numerous artifacts from Mexican antic cultures (Mayas, Aztecs, Olmecs, Golfo, …) but the most valuable exhibits are “Stone of the Sun” and “Monkey Cup” made from black obsidian. On the first floor, there are exhibits from the antics and newer exhibits are on the second floor. For me, the second floor was more interesting because it shows much more about Mexican culture, food, traditions, clothes and so on.
Frida Kahlo Museum in Casa Azul, Coyoacan
Museo de Frida Kahlo (Casa Azul, Londres 247, Col. de Carmen, Tue 10 – 5:45, Wed 11 – 5:45, Thu – Sun 10 – 5:45, admission $80 MX, for students $40 MX) is located in the house where Frida was born and where she died. Here you can learn a lot about her life and struggles she had, see some of her artwork, the way she and Diego lived and the clothes she wore. Museum if the definitely worth of visit, but it can be overcrowded and you could wait in the line to enter. We came on Saturday morning, not long after opening and we waited for 10 minutes maybe. When we were leaving around 12, the line was already pretty big. Come early and be aware you need to pay $60 MX if you want to take the photos inside.
UNAM (Ciudad Universitaria)
Ciudad Universitaria (University City) is the main campus of UNAM. It was built during 1950-is on an ancient solidified lava bed in the southern neighborhood of Coyoacan. It is most known for the Olympic Stadium and the Central Library, which was painted with murals by Juan O’Gorman. In 2007, the campus was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Xochimilco is famous for its canals where you can take a tour in the colorful gondolas (trajineras). The canals are 170 km long and they are the only remains of the former Aztec complex system of canals and lakes that stretched through the valley of Mexico. It is nice to see it, it is very colorful, with mariachi playing and so on, but I expected more. The canals and its surroundings are neglected, trajineras could use some new paint and there is way too many tourists than it should be so the canals are literally like a highway in rush hour. Also, they will probably try to rip you off and pay too much for the ride, so be persistent and do not accept it until they offer reasonable price (for example first they offered us a ride for $700 MX and in the end, we rode for $350 MX).
So, this was my recommendation for 10 attractions you must visit in Mexico City. Which are yours? Did you visit some of those places?
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