...museum of its kind in all the America's, Mexico's Museo de Antropologia e Historia is simply stunning. First there's the building itself - the huge stone roof supported by a single slim pillar is an architectural tour de force - but the real glory is the the magnificent collection contained within. All pre-Hispanic Mexico is here. Pre-classical and Teotihuacan. Olmec, Toltec, Zapotec,and Mixtec,. Mexica and Maya. Your eye will be dazzled and your head left reeling with all you will see and read as you make your way through the museum.
So, what to do to make the best of it? This is always the dilemma, especially when you know you may never return to a place. If you've come with some background knowledge and understanding of pre-Colombian Meso-American history, you won't find it so bewildering but we don't always come so prepared, do we? You could choose to go for an overall impression - a guide would be useful - most of the signage is in Spanish. There are free tours in Spanish, those in English, French and German come at a small fee. You can also hire English language audio-guides. Another option might be to have a general look through and then focus on a particular area or three. You certainly should spend time in the galleries that relate to the cultures that made this particular region their home - the Teotihuacan and the Aztec - you're on their turf after all. You might want to look at the galleries about other places you are going to in Mexico - or you might prefer to leave those to local museums and look at what you will not be seeing elsewhere on your travels. Whatever way you approach it, you'll be left wanting more time ... and a good foot rub. The restaurant makes a good place to take a break along the way. You'll need it
Sadly, the fabulous feathered head-dress in the Mexica gallery is a reproduction. The original, worn by Moctezuma and given to Cortes, is in Vienna. There are currently strong moves being made to see it returned to Mexico.
Second only to St Peter's in Rome for its importance as a Catholic place of pilgrimage, the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is undoubtedly the most visited place in not only of Mexico City but in all the Americas. Watching the faithful come here, many of them making the final part opf their journey on their knees in the humblest supplication -a laborious progression around and across the vast courtyard in front of the basilca - is a moving experience. When you make your visit here you do need to be aware of the reverence in which this place is held and to dress and behave with suitable decorum.
The story of how the Virgin appeared to a poor Indian boy is known and loved by all devout Mexicans and they have come in their millions in the 470 years since then to see the cloak, miraculously imprinted with the Virgin's image, that confims the miracle and to pray at the shrine -When the original church, begun in 1521 and constantly added to and aggrandised over the succeeding centuries, became both too small and too unsafe ( subsidence is part of the problem as it is at the Metropolitan Cathedral) to be used so hard, the precious image was moved to a striking new church that can accommodate 10,000. Juan Diego's cloak is positioned high on a wall where it can be seen from all points of the basilica. For a closer look, you must join the queue on a moving walkway that carries a constant stream of people along in a never-ending procession of the faithful and the curious.
A staircase in the hillside behind the old Basilica will bring you to the chapel that marks the place where Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego.
The Plaza de las Tres Culturas at Tlatelolco is a quiet corner of the huge city where three great eras of Mexico City's history and its often bloody past come together. The foundations of the Aztec pyramids here are the last remnants of what was once a seperate island-city in the great basin of the Valle de Mexico, the site of the valley's biggest market in pre-Colombian times. Cortes' victory here over the Aztecs marked the beginning of Spanish rule - they left behind the 17th century Templo de Santiago. Modern Mexico is represented by the monolithic block of the government buildings that mark the southern boundary of the square.
The square has seen death and destruction in more recent times too - a massacre took place here as recently as 1968 when political protestors clashed with government troops and several hundred people were killed. A monument near the church commemorates the dead of that black day. More random destruction occured in 1985's massive earthquake when the area suffered some of the city's worst damage and hundreds more lost their lives.
It's easy to get caught up in the colour and excitement that Mexico City exudes - a little pilgrimage to this quiet, sad place gives you a chance to reflect on the losses of the past.
The life and works of two artists tower over all others in Mexico - Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. The stories of their turbulent lives - seperately and together - are legendary.
Rivera's murals of Mexico are as easily accessible, both literally and figuratively, today as they have always been to anyone who is interested. Kahlo's work is far more problematical with its raw pain and confronting imagery. If you've only ever seen her work in reproduction, you may well be surprised by the real thing - many of the works are very small with a surprisingly delicate quality and very refined brushwork; they seem nowhere near as confronting whilst losing nothing of their intensity.
Afficionados of either or both artists can pay homage to them at several places in Mexico City. - If Rivera is your main interest you could choose make the pilgrimage to the pair of houses within the one garden they shared - a pink one for him , a blue one for her - in San Angel where Rivera lived and worked until he died, but it is Frida's house, in Coyacan, where she was born and died, that is the place that speaks most eloquently of her , with its collection of her works, her clothes ( in later years she always dressed in traditional costume) and the pre-Hispanic and folk art artifacts she collected around her.
The paintings on show in the house are mostly minor works - to see some of the more famous works you will need to go to the Museo de Arte Moderno in the Bosque de Chapultepec.
If you know little about Frida Kahlo and you're heading for Mexico City, you could do worse than watch the biopic "Frida" - it looks stunning, Alfred Molina is brilliant as Rivera and Selma Hayek makes a sufficiently credible Frida for the film to be both enjoyable and informative.
Torre Mayor is the newest skysraper in Mexico city.
At the top floor you wil find this excelent view of the city, October is the best month to visit it, as it's windy you will enjoy the view.
At the front desk you will be able to know what's the distance around the city you will visualize.
Since the city is so huge, I decided to hop on the red tourist bus that circulates around the city. You can hop on and off at any point along the way for a single one-day fare. This gives you a good overview of the city, and if you sit on the open-air upper level, you can take pictures from above the fray.
The cost of $100 pesos [$10 USD) plus a $15 pesos supplement on weekends includes a headset that you plug into the audio system in the back of the seat ahead of you. You can choose from among eight languages to listen to the recorded commentary.
Travel time around the 24-stop circuit is about two-and-a-half or three hours. It seemed a bit quicker for me since it was Sunday and traffic was light. Great value for money.
The massive domed monument that dominates the Plaza de la Republica didn't start out to be a monument at all - it was intended to be a senatorial chamber, in which case it probably wou;ld have looked rather different from the edifice it is today. Events overtook the senators' building, revolution rolled over Mexico for a decade and when it was all over the nation, needing a memorial to its heroes, decided this was the place. The building was modified and it became the burial place of Pancho Villa and some of his fellow revolutionaries. The burial chambers aren't open to the public and, much as they would like to, little boys aren't allowed to climb on the engine used by Villa and his men that is parked beside the monument. There's a small museum about the Revolution here.
The lights decorating it as the Mexican flag are not a permanent fixture - usually it is somewhat less gaudy - more suitably monchrome for the monument it is.
While the most obvious choice might be the impressive Bosque de Chapultepec, if you find yourself in the city center and need a break, consider spending some time at the Alameda Central.
This is a lovely area with trees, fountains, and people strolling the pathways. It is also full of history--this open area was the site of the former Aztec market, and later it was used as an execution grounds for heretics who were burned at the stake during the Spanish Inquistion. If you are in town over a weekend, the area will be filled with market and food stalls, and sometimes a mariachi band.
This is our Cathedral, in the heart of the town.... An interesting (and sad) info you might like to know about it is that it's sinking because of the irregular soil it is built on. Mexico City was settled where a lake used to be a few centuries ago, and therefore some of our buildings are sinking because the ground isn't firm.... sad, isn't it? :-( The Bellas Artes Palace has the same problem...
However, the Cathedral has been reinforced and refurbished and it looks really beautiful now, both in & outside... A very complicate and impressive underground work was done here to prevent the Cathedral from sinking yet more and it looks like they did a good job in repairing this great building which took 300 years to be built (and was finished about 2 centuries ago). The refurbishment works took about 10 years to be finished...
NEW!!! Now you can climb up the towers of the Cathedral and walk on the roof top... the view of the city isn't very good (but you may get lucky and see a bit of it on a clear day) but it's a cool experience. It costs $12 Mexican Pesos to go up (a bit more than a US Dollar) and they don't have fixed schedules to take people upstairs (a guide must take the whole group to make the tour), they rather wait to have a group of 6-8 people and then they let you go up.
Colonia roughly translates as district or neighborhood or borough or quartier or quarter....
The real problem is which one to chose for a wander-through. You can save travel time by strolling through one near the museum you plan to visit. Here are a few options:
Zona Rosa with its streets named after European cities on one side of Avenida de la Reforma and after rivers on the other side...
San Angel with its cobbled streets and colonial atmosphere. If you're in town on a Saturday, check out the handicraft and antiques market...
Polanco with the rococo ornamentation of the facades of its houses, the sophistocated commerce...
Cayoacan, like a town within the city, boasts trendy bookstores, eateries, coffeehouses, and museums...
Tabacalera with its monuments to Columbus, the Revolution, Cuauhtémoc...
Our hotel room at the Majestic Hotel fronted the Zocalo, the largest city plaza in the Western Hemisphere. My husband and I had a night out on the town and then looked forward to sleeping in late the next morning.
Alas, it was not to be...
At around 6am, we were awakened by the sounds of a marching band. It got louder and louder as it approached the Zocalo. What the heck was this, a parade at 6am? Who has a parade at that ungodly hour?
We looked out the window, but could see nothing - the fog was as thick as pea soup.
Later that morning, we saw what all the ruckus was about. In the center of the Zocalo is a very high flag pole with bearing the Mexican flag - the largest flag I have ever seen in my life.
Our question was answered - Mexico City has a parade at dawn every morning near the Zocalo to raise the flag. Beware if you are a light sleeper and staying near the Zocalo.
This beautiful building is in downtown (Centro) next to the Bellas Artes Building.
It is still the main Postal office of Mexico city and was just re-constructed couple of years ago.
The golden interiors are beautiful, as well as the metal work in the stairs, marbel floor and columns.
Mexico City has an extensive Metro system. There will be a Metro stop near just about anywhere you will want to go in the city. Study the map and plan out your stops so that you make the most of each journey.
Besides being the best alternative for getting around the city, another great reason to use the Metro is that the stations are so attractive. There are murals painted on the walls of some stations, and one (Pino Suarez) features an authentic Aztec temple that was accidently discovered during construction of the tunnel. I think it's a "must see" to use the Metro just to visit the stations!
Look for more details about riding the Metro in the relevant Transportation Tip.
If you are a museum freak, you'll find no shortage of museums to whet your appetite in Mexico City, especially in the historic center.
Examples of a few of the many museums within walking distance of the Zocalo are
Great Temple Museum
Coegio de San Ildefonso (modern and contemporary art)
National Museum of Art
Here I am - trying to choose. Decisions, decisions.
The challenge is trying to pick and choose if you are there for a limited duration.
Honestly, you can just admire it for any other point, it doesn't desirve an extra attention. The monument was held to inmortilized the independence athors and fighters.
The interesting and nice thing of the monument is that you can admire it from the outside.
If you are there over the weekend, do forget to check-out the rate. We paid about US$165 excl tax...more
This hotel is usually preferred by businessmen traveling to Mexico City and also by high-profile...more
We wanted to be close to the historic center and the Hilton Reforma met our needs. We were right...more