This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.
Mexico’s capital, one of the world’s most populated, is a seemingly unconquerable maze of modernity and tradition. Most visitors spend most of their time around Colonia Centro, which covers the 34-block area of the city’s historic center, built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. The entire area is a mismatch of landmarks and sites from different eras. Chief among these are the remains of the Aztecs’ Templo Mayor, the breathtaking Metropolitan Cathedral—which took about 300 years to build—and the National Palace, home to the famous murals that depict the history of Mexico up to the Mexican Revolution. This is also the site of the largest square in the Americas, the Plaza de la Constitucion—also known as El Zocalo—a massive place with a Mexican flag flapping in its center that hosts concerts and gatherings throughout the year, including the annual Festival de Mexico. Here, too, are many museums covering everything from Aztec artifacts to beer.
Over in the Bosque de Chapultepec, the capital’s largest park, is the Chapultepec Castle, the former residence of Spanish viceroys and Emperor Maximilian that now houses a museum, as well as two interconnected lakes with paddleboats. Here, you’ll also find the National Museum of Anthropology and the National Museum of Modern Art, two of Mexico’s finest repositories, and, spilling over into Colonia Polanco, one of the city’s coolest hotels, the Camino Real Polanco, which has hosted dignitaries from around the world. Another necessary experience in Mexico City is a visit to Xochimilco, which has a good souvenir market and where folks line up to traverse the area’s canals aboard colorful trajineras, with the tunes of nearby music boats floating by. Visitors will also need to step outside of the city for a day and go to the vast archaeological site of Teotihuacan, home to the iconic pyramids of the Sun and Moon.
- Best time to go:
Year-round; it might get chillier during the winter months, especially in Mexico City, but it’s nothing a jacket won’t fix
- Fun fact:
Mariachi music and traditional Mexican cuisine now form part of UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Getting there:
Delta flies from Atlanta and Salt Lake City to Mexico City
- Entry documents:
- Must-try local food:
A few of the hundreds of varieties of thick moles; on the Pacific side, pescado zarandeado (grilled fish in a tangy tomato sauce); in Monterrey, try the cabrito a las brasas, barbecued kid goat
- Best buys:
Silver, indigenous original artwork, tequila—some of the best brands are not sold in the U.S.
- Information please:
Mexico Tourism Board’s website—visitmexico.com