Can’t Miss Moments in Mexico City

The Mexico City metropolitan area has a population coming in at about 21 million, and as of today, ranks as the fourth most populous city in the world. The city has a collection of over 150 art museums, 25 parks, innumerable restaurants, and a host of various historic buildings and cathedrals. The city is divided into eight different regions, each with a distinct flavor. The history is rich, the food is amazing, and the city is quickly developing a booming art scene. In short, Mexico City is an impressive place. It would be utterly impossible for me to cover it all in this blog, so I’m only going to touch on the fundamentals.

If you can only see a few things….

Museo Nacional de Antropolgia is downright incredible. It takes what you learned in your history books and brings it to life before your eyes. People reading this blog have by now realized that I have a thing for museums, and while that is certainly true, I cannot emphasize enough how much there is to be learned and experienced at this particular one. Their ground floor starts with an introduction to Anthropology, and moves through each section of Mexico, displaying and explaining the artifacts of each cultural subtype. The Upper Floor covers the Ethnography of the corresponding regions on the lower floor. One of the museums’ crowning achievements is the sheer depth of each exhibit- they cover pre-Hispanic cultures in detail, and pay tribute to everything from the Deer Dance of the Seris and Papagos to the fertility rites of the tribes living within the Chiapas jungles.
Cost: 70 pesos per person in March (adult price)
Word of Warning: At the time of our visit, admission was free on Sundays and official state holidays. Just pay admission and go on another day.
Hours: Closed Monday. Open Tuesday-Sunday 0900-1900.
Guided Tours: Tuesday to Saturday, 0930-1730 in Spanish, English, and French. Special groups by appointment – e-mail for details.
Disabled individuals: Special activities are available by appointment. Call (55) 4040 5300.
Address: Avenue Paseo de la Reforma y Calzada Gandhi s/n, Col. Chapultepec Polanco, C.P. 11560, Ciudad de Mexico.

Los Ninos Heroes Monument, Chapultepec Park
This monument stands in memory of the six children who died during the Mexican-American war and is a must-see. The background story is this: Chapultepec Castle was utilized as a military training academy for young cadets in the 1840’s. As a result, when one of the final battles of the War reached the steps of Castle Hill, all of the young cadets were told to evacuate. As the battle progressed and it became more and more obvious that the American forces were prevailing, the general ordered a total evacuation of all of his men. Six young men ignored the order and stayed to defend the Castle. One of the cadets wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and jumped to his death before the invaders entered the Castle walls, preventing them from capturing their country’s flag. It was an incredible sacrifice- just think about the sheer amount of courage it would’ve taken to remain in place knowing your death was imminent, knowing you had the ability to save yourself but could not when your country was in peril. The monument deserves to be visited, no matter what country you’re from, because bravery like that is not found often. It’s an amazing monument to stand in front of and deserves a moment of silence.

Chapultepec Castle
Chapultepec Castle, situated on the sacred Chapultepec Hill of the Aztecs, is the previous home to the monarchs of Mexico and boasts an incredible view of the surrounding area. The castle was abandoned briefly in the early 1800’s before becoming a military training ground and then the residence of Emperor Maxmilian and Empress Carlota in 1864. It is now the site of the Museum of National History and is divided into two large sections- the first depicting murals and art, following the military conquests and history of Mexico, and the second dedicated to the furniture and sculptures of the Emperor and Empress. The heart-wrenching mural depicting the sacrifice of Juan Escutia (the young cadet who jumped to his death wrapped in the Mexican flag during the Battle of Chapultepec on Sept. 3, 1847) is inside Chapultepec Castle as well.
Cost: 70 pesos per person (adult price)
Word of Warning: The castle gets extremely busy in the mid-afternoon
Hours: Closed Monday. Open Tuesday-Sunday 0900-1700.
Address: Bosque de Chapultepec, Primera Sección , Col. Polanco V Sección, Miguel Hidalgo, C.P. 11560, México, Ciudad de México
Website: Chapultepec Castle – Website is in Spanish only

Paseo de la Reforma
The golden goddess of victory gracing the head of this Angel of Independence monument is worth an extra trip. To sweeten the deal, you’ll find a huge variety of restaurants and shopping available in the surrounding area. Just try not to get hit crossing the road to get there- this is not the time to wear heels. There are always folks around the monument who will offer to give you a short tour for a few pesos explaining more of the history behind the monument.
Address: Paseo de la Reforma y Eje 2 PTE, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, Ciudad de México, México

Plaza Garibaldi
This is the penultimate place to experience traditional live mariachi music while sipping on tequila and although we walked through it we never got to actually stop. It’s on our list for next time! Be wary at night (which is, ironically, when you have the best chance to actually see live music) and go with a group. The Plaza is not quite as friendly as it used to be, and although every guidebook and blog in the world recommends it, you need to go in with eyes wide open. This is also where the Tequila Museum (I kid you not) is located, and of course, taste tests are part of the offering.
Website for Tequila Museum: Link for Plaza Garibaldi
Address for Plaza Garibaldi: Plaza Garibaldi, Calle Caminito s/n, Cuauhtémoc, Centro, Ciudad de México, México

This Square used to be on an island in the center of Lake Texcoco, and can be traced back to 1325 when the Aztecs inhabited the region. Its buildings are rich with history and the Templo Mayor is only a few steps away from the center. The square remained at the heart of the city no matter who controlled the region and was never destroyed by foreign invaders. The weight of its age is felt in every step you take through it. It’s extremely easy to get to (there is a subway station underneath the square and those renting a car can often drive around it) and there is always an event of some type happening – an antique car show and concert were on the agenda for our weekend in March. The National Palace, the Cathedral, government buildings, and shopping/commercial buildings border the square along with a spattering of hotels and high-end restaurants. Walking down the adjoining lanes through Mexico City’s history district is an experience all in itself, and you can find food from almost every country as well as some killer traditional Mexican food in the streets surrounding the square. Aspiring musical groups set up on the streets, living statues and street performers entertain for a few pesos, and boutique stores compete with ice cream shops and churro stands for your business. There are a couple of very lovely churches here as well. We spent an entire day exploring the Square, Cathedral, and surrounding ruins.

Templo Mayor Ruins and Museum
This museum is dedicated to what used to be the main temple of the Mexica peoples. The temple, dedicated to the god of war and the god of rain, was built in 1325, re-built 6 times, and razed by the Spaniards for a cathedral in the early 1500’s. There isn’t much left of it, but the ruins are fascinating. The museum itself is divided into 8 floors, covering everything from the goddesses of Coatlicue and Coyalxauhqui and the sacrificial rituals of the Mexican peoples to the chinampas and agriculture of the Aztecs.

Address: 8 Seminario St., Cuauhtemoc, Mexico City
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 0900-1700
Cost of Entry: 70 Pesos
Free Entry if: You are younger than 13, have a valid student ID, or are a teacher

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
This is the largest cathedral in all of Latin America and is truly stunning. Much of the original stone is from Aztec temples that were torn down when the Spaniards converted the Aztecs, and the temple you see today took over 200 years to build. The cathedral is built in the churrigueresque style, and the Sagrario beside it is a good example of Mexican baroque architecture. It’s a truly incredible place. The Cathedral is located in Zocalo.

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