I was blown away by its size and the very rich diversity that makes it such a fascinating place to explore and absorb. Fortunately my mere four days were during Semana Santa, Easter Week, when many of the residents head to the beaches and I was able to get around faster and see more, although I certainly didn’t cover everything and would’ve appreciated additional days to sight see.
The neighborhoods I visited are all so different and offer varying insights into Mexico City, the people, food and traditions that I’ve decided to cover each separately.
Mexico City Neighborhoods
Centro Historico (Downtown)
The massive (12 acre) main square, or Zocalo, in the Centro district is the historical heart of the city and where the Aztec, Spanish and Mexican influences that shape Mexico City converge.
The Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana) is the largest in Latin America and sits majestically on one side of the square and unbelievably atop a portion of Templo Mayor, the Aztec temple to the Sun which was razed by the Spanish. Archaeologist digs as recent as 1978 have uncovered artifacts now on display in the museum that reveal much about how the Aztecs lived. The Spanish were actually in awe over their sophistication. It’s amazing that pieces of a temple built in the 1300s sit in the middle of the city among the hustle and bustle of modern life. Visitors can explore the ruins of the Aztec temple pyramid that remain next to the Cathedral.
The Cathedral which took over 200 years to build is enormous and stunning both inside and out. Outside of the Cathedral is mayhem: hordes of locals and tourists, Indian dancing and chanting, Shaman, incense burning, and food, arts and crafts hawkers of all types. It’s amazing to walk around and soak it all in.
The Church and many of the buildings surrounding it are slowly sinking due the clay subsoil on which they’re built. You can actually see sloping roof lines on some of the buildings, which unfortunately my camera skills couldn’t capture.
Catty-corner to the Cathedral is the National Palace (Palacio Nacional) which has served as the government seat from the Aztec Empire to present day. Each year on September 15th, the night before Independence Day, the President gives the cry to independence from the Palace and the tower bell is rung just as it was by Hidalgo in 1810 to rally for their fight to independence. This year the Zocalo is guaranteed to be a wild scene as they celebrate their 200th anniversary of independence from the Spanish.
Inside the palace are intricately detailed murals by the master Diego Rivera which depict the history of Mexico.
The historical treasures and beautiful landmarks keep going, around and outside the Zocalo. Two other downtown buildings that I found intriguing were the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the performing arts center, and the Old Post Office, both just unbelievably gorgeous in art deco style.
There’s just so much to share that I need to tell you about my amazing four days in two parts. Check back tomorrow for Part 2 to hear about nightlife, cuisine and fun adventures in four additional neighborhoods: Coyoacan, Condesa, Polanco and San Angel.