Tackling the Massive City of Mexico

While doing volunteer work at a community center for a week in Mexico City, we also took a few side trips to see some of the main sites of Mexico's largest city.

Wandering the Center of Mexico City

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 5, 2009

One can easily spend days in the center of Mexico City, one of the world's largest metros, and still not see everything. Imagine only having one afternoon to walk past some of the main sites in the center... here are some tips to see the highlights if you only have a few hours.

First, start out in the Zócalo Capitalino. This is the main square in the city, and is the second largest public square in the world after Moscow's Red Square. From the center of this massive area, which is home to large gatherings, demonstrations, exhibitions, and markets throughout the year, one can see the Cathedral, Government House, National Palace and numerous hotels and shops. Take a peak inside the Metropolitan Cathedral, and head next door to take a look at the ruins of the Aztec town buried beneath this modern city. Walk past groups of indigenous Mexican people dressed in traditional costumes and performing spiritual rituals.

Don't miss visiting the Government house to view Diego Rivera's famous murals, and be sure to stop in the jewelry shops that flank the square for an upscale souvenir (or opt for something from a street vendor for a cheaper option).

Next, head west into the heart of the city center, stopping at numerous cafes for a bite to eat before arriving outside the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts, where even a glance at the exterior is worth a stop of its own. The colorful domed roof gives a glance into the beauties that lie inside. Then continue west until you arrive at the beautiful Alemeda Central Park, stopping along the way to admire the many detailed street murals that adorn the walls next to the sidewalk.

In the entrance of the park, stroll through the market vendors selling everything from fruit drinks and fried dough, to used books and paper mache trinkets. Turn back around and walk back east on the street 16 de Septiembre and stop in the Japanese botanical garden open for free just off the sidewalk. Admire the architecture of such buildings as the Torre Latinoamericana before arriving again at the Zocalo.

Mexico City's Central Park

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 5, 2009

As Mexico City is the second largest city in the world, it stands to reason that visitors and residents alike would need a nice place for refuge from the massive crowds in the city streets. Chapultepec Park is such a place. And leave it to one of the world's largest cities to house one of the world's largest parks at over 500 acres.

Approaching the park on foot, you might pass a variety of street wall murals which are a site in themselves. You could even come across the good-sized outdoor market of open stalls selling souvenirs and food, or even happen upon street performers and musicians on the park's perimeter.

Lounge amoung the large shade trees on a bench or near one of the many fountains which you people watch. Picnic, play frisbee, or walk a dog. Then if you're tired of relaxing...head to one of the many attractions within this massive park...including an amusement park, zoo, castle, cemetery, or museums.

One could easily spend a couple of days exploring all the offerings of this area, as it's home to the National Museum of History, Modern Art Museum, world-famous Antropology Museum, and the La Feria Amusement Park. If it's pandas, flowers, rollercoasters, or oil paintings you're looking for...you can find it here.

A great place for refuge, relaxation, excitement or a day of fun, Chapultepec Park is a great stop in a busy city.

Open 5am-5pm daily
Free admission to open park (attractions charge various rates)
Chapultepec Park

Mexico City, Mexico

Must Stop for Coffee Lovers

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 5, 2009

"Where is a good place for coffee?", we asked around when we were visiting the area of Coyocan in the southern end of Mexico City. Over and over we heard the answer, "definitely El Jarocho", the famous, award-winning coffee cafe which opened in 1953.

This place did not disappoint! With cheap offerings of their signature roasts in forms from standard caffe and whip-cream topped sweet cappuchinos, to frozen blended coffees and warm homemade pastries. We ordered a few different items and loved every sip.

There is no indoor seating, and lines of coffee lovers form from the multiple cash registers. There are a few small tables and benches that the lucky few can grab just outside, but otherwise plan on grabbing your coffee to go.

If you love the coffee so much that you must take some home, don't worry...there are plenty of roasts to choose from in take-home bags. The service is friendly and quick, and will give you recommendations if you can't choose.

Just a couple blocks walk from the Frida Kahlo Museo, this is a great snack break for those visiting this area of the city.

Address: Cuauhtémoc 134, Coyoacán
Coffee and Cappuchinos from $4-$7pesos
Pastries around $3pesos
Centenario, 91-B Colonia Del Carmen Coyoacán
Mexico City, Mexico, 04100

A Little Blue at the Frida Kahlo Museo

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 5, 2009

In the southern end of Mexico City, in Coyoacan, is the home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. This was one of my top must-sees in Mexico as I've always been interested in both of them as artists. Actually walking through the gardens and home where they lived from 1929 to 1954 (the year of her death) is amazing.

After entering the house, you head into several rooms of original artwork, by Kahlo and Rivera, as well as other artists' pieces of their personal collection. Be sure to check out the case of hand-written personal letters to Diego Rivera from some of his famous friends, including Albert Einstein and musician John Cage.

Next the tour goes through the actual living area rooms of the house, such as bedrooms, kitchen, diningroom, and library. Seeing their artifacts lying around as they would have been when the couple was alive is quite interesting. The bed with the mirror above head where Frida painted while she was crippled is a must-see before heading back into the courtyard.

Meander among the gardens, watch documentary films in the courtyard every hour, and visit the gift shop or cafe while the blue walls and lush landscaping take you back to an earlier time.

This is a definite stop for artists and non-artists alike!

Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am-6pm
Entrance fee $55pesos
Cafe onsite, Guided Tours available, Gift Shop, Films shown in courtyard
Museo Frida Kahlo
Londres 247 (Colonia del Carmen, Coyoacán)
Mexico City, Mexico, 04400
+52 5 5545999

Exploring Aztec Pyramids Just Outside the City

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 5, 2009

In the afternoon of our first full day in Mexico City, we headed about 30 miles north to the ancient Aztec city of Teotihuacan. Home to the third largest pyramid in the world, this city which began as early as 200bc, was amazing to see and learn a little bit about. We began at the southern end of the site known as the Citadel, where apartment buildings and public gathering spaces once existed. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is in this area and we explored around the grounds trying to understand what it must have been like to be here at the city's pinnacle.

From the southern end we made our way north along the Avenue of the Dead, which was the main thoroughfare and stretched for more than 2.5km. From this street one can see how detailed the layout of the city was, as it was divided in symmetrical sections each corresponding to astrological patterns. Some believe that this was to help with their calendar planning in dealing with seasonal farming.

In the center of the Avenue is the massive structure, the Pyramid of the Sun. It looked big even from a far way off, and kept getting larger and more daunting as we approached. It's hard to capture it in a photo, plus adding to it the heat of that afternoon, and the crazy crowds, it made me laugh (but feel a bit more at ease) to see a permanent paramedic stand just outside the main staircase.

The line to go up wrapped around the front and one side of the structure, as the crowd size is controlled by several guards along the staircase. Finally, when it was our turn, we trekked our way skyward and then hung out on the top for a while to people watch and take in the scenery. The way down was just as harrowing and there was still one more pyramid to go...the Pyramid of the Moon.

On the Avenue of the Dead again, there were many things to explore, as there didn't seem to be any regulations on what you could and couldn't climb on, walk on, or crawl through. We saw several little kids going from one structure to the next crawling through the remains of a system of drainage pipes. Some were definitely only suited for people shorter than 2'...but a couple openings looked like I might just about fit - so I tried it out.

After another climb up and down the final pyramid of the Moon, we walked towards the parking lot past a few more structures that showed the amazing advanced plumbing systems of this ancient culture.

This is a complete must-see stop for anyone visiting the Mexico City area!

Open daily from 8am to 6pm
Entrance Fee $51pesos (about $3 USD)
Parking available
Bring lots of water and sunscreen
Pirámides de Teotihuacan
Carretera México Teotihuacan Km. 46 (zona Arqueológica De Teotihuacan)
San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico, 03010
+52 5 9560052


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