Mexico is not described – Mexico is believed in, with passion and passion…. wrote prominent Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes in his monumental novel “Land of Purest Air.” Mexico City is a city-colossus that surprises you with its diversity: Aztec ruins sit side by side with Catholic churches, you can spend days exploring world-unique museums and local markets, all accompanied by the sounds of mariachi guitars. The fascinating city of culture and art is where you can truly have fun and celebrate life.

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Death dances among the fields of prickly pear – Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead in Mexico

Mexico City is especially worth coming to for the Día de los Muertos celebrations . In November, the weather in Mexico City makes for pleasant sightseeing, and resorts such as Acapulco and Cancún are hot enough for beachcombing and swimming. The fiesta at the graves, which takes place at this time, has little in common with the mood of solemnity and reverie with which we associate All Saints’ Day in Poland – in fact, it serves to celebrate life. It is a joyous holiday that combines Christian traditions with elements dating back to Aztec times.

On November 1, Mexicans celebrate Día de los Angelitos, or Angel Day, dedicated to the souls of young children. The actual celebration of Día de los Muertos takes place on November 2. During these days, the streets are colorfully decorated – we can see symbols of death at every turn – figures of skeletons and skulls adorn cafes, stores and the walls of houses. At the same time, many people are preparing private sacrificial altars in memory of loved ones of the deceased.

The most important part of Día de los Muertos celebrations, however, takes place in cemeteries. Mexicans, like Poles, throng to visit the graves of their loved ones. They are fancifully decorated – with flowers, candles, as well as balloons, sugar skulls or cotton candy. Very often parades, family parties and feasts are held at the graves of loved ones, in an atmosphere of merriment. The celebration often resembles a lavish picnic, for which the cemetery provides an unusual setting. Some choose to hire a mariachi band to highlight the special day.

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Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico (photo by MaríaJoséFelgueresPlanells, licensed under CC-By-SA-4.0).

Interesting places to visit while in the Mexican capital

Museo Nacional de Antropología – a unique museum of pre-Columbian cultures

Few people realize that Mexico City far surpasses Paris or New York in terms of the number of museums. Far more important than quantity, however, is the richness of the collection and exhibits. When planning a trip to Mexico, a visit to the Museum of Anthropology(Museo Nacional de Antropología) should undoubtedly be a must. The monumental edifice houses exhibitions on pre-Columbian cultures: Aztec, Olmec, Toltec and Maya. Visitors are impressed by the sheer construction of the building by Pedro Ramíreirez Vásquezea: the huge concrete roof is supported by only one support in the form of a column covered with bas-reliefs, which is also a fountain.

You should plan several hours to see all the collections gathered in the 23 exhibition halls – otherwise it will be difficult to see everything. Among the most important exhibits is certainly the Piedra del Sol – the Stone of the Sun or Aztec calendar in the form of a giant stone disk with carvings, which was discovered in the 18th century near the Templo Mayor temple.

Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City
Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, CC BY 2.0, via WikiMedia Commons

Teotihuacán – the birthplace of the gods

When renting accommodations in Mexico City, you should undoubtedly head to the ancient city of Teotihuacán to see some of the largest pyramids in the world. The site is about an hour’s drive from the Mexican capital. This can be done by purchasing an organized tour (usually offered by hotels, guesthouses and local travel agencies) or by taking public transportation – take the subway to the Terminal Central del Norte bus station (station: and from there buses to Teotihuacán leave every 20 minutes).

In the Nahuatl language, Teotihuacán means the birthplace of the gods. It was here that the earth, moon and sun were to be created; it was here that a belief system was established, which then shaped the consciousness of people throughout Mesoamerica – all the way to the Isthmus of Panama. While in Teotihuacán, it is worth seeing the majestic pyramids, the most famous of which are the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl – a feathered serpent in Aztec mythology believed to be the co-creator of the world.

Teotihuacán Mexico City
Teotihuacán is easily accessible from Mexico City. Photo. AlexSantosBR from Pixabay.

Mexico City – the most interesting sights in and around Zócalo Square

Plaza Zócalo, as locals call it, or Plaza de la Constitución – the Plaza of the Constitution – is Mexico’s largest square, second only to Red Square in Moscow and Tian’anmen in Beijing in terms of area (4,6800 m²). It is also a place with an impressive history dating back to pre-Columbian times, when the Zócalo was the main market of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec state. It featured the homes of the richest residents, Montezuma’s palace, as well as temples and sacred buildings dedicated to the gods of the Aztec pantheon. Centuries ago, Tenochtitlán was located on an island surrounded by the shallow waters of Lake Texcoco.

Today, the landscape at the site looks very different. The lake dried up and was built over. Only the ruins of the Templo Mayor, a temple where bloody rituals from humans took place, have survived to this day. Near them is the historic Catedral Metropolitana cathedral. On the site of Montezuma’s former palace stood the Palacio Nacional, where Hernán Cortés resided. It currently houses the president’s office. The interior of the building is worth a look – it is decorated with monumental frescoes by Diego Riveira, depicting the history of Mexico. The inquisitive can try to find Frida Kahlo and Karl Marx in the paintings.

Mexico City Palacio de Bellas Artes
Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City photo. Walkerssk

Casa Azul – Frida Kahlo’s home in Mexico City

The home of the famous Mexican painter is located in Coyoacán – in the “coyote district,” an elegant green suburb where wealthier residents own their properties. This is the place where Frida Kahlo was born, spent her childhood and youth, including very difficult periods when she was bedridden with polio and recovering from a car accident (which she never fully succeeded in doing). Here many of the artist’s works were created and here the woman died, leaving behind her last work depicting watermelons with her motto “Viva la vida!”.

The simple but elegant colonial-style house is intriguing at first glance with its deep blue hue. However, it did not always look that way. The building was designed by Frida’s father, German-Mexican photographer Guillermo Kahlo, for a large family. It has been rebuilt several times over the years. A major reconstruction took place in 1937, when the painter’s lover and mentor, Lev Trotsky, was hiding here. The most distinctive elements – brightly colored walls, large glass windows or a miniature pyramid in the garden – appeared when Frida Kahlo and Diego Riveira – already divorced and remarried – decided to adapt the place to their characters.

After Frida Kahlo’s death, Casa Azul Riveira donated the house to the state. A museum was organized in it, where you can now see memorabilia of the famous painter. To this day there are scattered dirty paintbrushes and unfinished canvases.

Paseo de la Reforma

Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico’s main street, stretches for more than 15 kilometers. Along it are located the most luxurious buildings stores and boutiques in the city; the tallest skyscrapers and prestigious office buildings, embassies of more than a dozen countries; numerous tourist attractions, museums, the zoo. The most prominent landmark of the Paseo de la Reforma is the Column of the Angel of Independence with its gilded statue of the Winged Victory.

Chapultepec Park – the largest and oldest park in all of Latin America

Chapultepec Park(Bosque de Chapultepec), the largest and oldest park in all of Latin America is sometimes called the “lungs” of the Mexican capital. It is not only an oasis of greenery and an interesting recreational area spread over 686 hectares, but also an area full of historical sites, interesting museums and other attractions for the whole family. It’s a place where you can be transported to different eras of Mexican history. Chapultepec Park already served the Aztecs as a popular vacation spot. In colonial times, the monumental Chapultepec Castle was built on its grounds and served as the seat of the head of state until 1934. The park is divided into four sections, the oldest and most visited of which is the first. It is here that the famous Museum of Anthropology, the Rufino Tamayo Museum housing collections of contemporary art or the Zoo are located.

Garibaldi Square in Mexico City

Located in Mexico’s historic center, Garibaldi Square is considered one of the most magical neighborhoods in Mexico City. Its name comes from the hero of the Mexican Revolution Lt. Col. Peppino Garibaldi. It’s the perfect place for a night out with friends or your other half. Today, Garibaldi Square is primarily famous as a mariachi music square. Around the clock, you can find bands that are either just playing or looking for volunteers for private performances and concerts. In recent years, Garibaldi Square has been undergoing revitalization to prevent its deterioration.

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Mexicans are among the very religious peoples, their faith, however, can be astonishing to Europeans. It is characterized by religious syncretism – Catholicism at every turn is mixed here with traditions still originating from Aztec and Mayan cultures. Mexico is home to one of the largest Marian shrines in the world – the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which can accommodate 50,000 people. It was built in the 1970s. In the 1970s, not far from the hill where, according to legends, Our Lady of Guadeloupe is said to have appeared to St. John. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. A statue of John Paul II stands in the square in front of the basilica.

Three Cultures Square

In Three Cultures Square, the past intermingles with the present in an unusual way. Here, buildings representing completely different historical eras stand in one place – the foundations of a pyramid, which is a remnant of the Aztec city of Tlatelolco; the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. There is a colonial-era St. James Church and a modern University Cultural Center with a distinctive tower.

In 1521, a battle took place in Tletalolco between the Spaniards of Cortes and the Aztecs of Cuauhtemoc. Today, however, the world associates Tletalolco primarily with the tragic events that took place here more than 400 years later. In 1968, Three Cultures Square was the site of demonstrations by students who opposed the monoparty rule of the Revolutionary-Institutional Party. On October 2, the protests were violently suppressed by order of President Ordaz. Heavy weapons were fired at the demonstrators. It is estimated that 200-300 people lost their lives in the events known as the Tletalolco massacre.

The floating gardens of Xochimilco

Those tired of the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, the omnipresent roar of horns and the noise of cars, should relax in the oasis of green that is Xochimilco. It’s a system of water canals still built by the Aztecs, near which chinampas cultivation plots were established near the shore, which still allow the cultivation of many crops such as beans, corn, avocados and guavas. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is full of colorful gondola-like boats. They transport tourists and local families eager for fun, food vendors, artisans and mariachi bands. The weekend celebration with lavish tables and music is a tradition.

An interesting place in the Xochimilco district is the Isla de las Muñecas, or island of dolls, shrouded in darkness. Here, around 1950, the caretaker was said to have seen a drowning girl whom he failed to save. From the water he managed to pull only a doll, which he later hung from a tree. Today, the island is home to hundreds of old, deteriorating dolls that have been hung from trees to commemorate the incident. It creates an atmosphere like that of a horror movie.

Xochimilco Mexico City
Xochimilco in Mexico City photo. Dezalb from Pixabay

Mexican cuisine – what to eat while in Mexico City?

Mexico City is a true paradise for lovers of good food. While the general perception is that a visit to this city may bring to mind a few dishes known in Poland as rather tex-mex, in reality authentic Mexican cuisine is very rich and varied. Importantly, you’ll experience this both in fancy restaurants and when buying food from street stalls or markets.

One of the most popular Mexican dishes are tacos al pastor, usually filled with pork meat roasted on a skewer similar to the one used to prepare kebabs. Ingredients such as tortilla, beans, guacamole, peppers and fresh cilantro are also used in many other dishes, such as tostadas, quesadillas and enchiladas. Without a doubt, moles, or Mexican sauces, are delicious. The most famous of these is mole poblano, which is a sauce with chocolate and various types of peppers, served with chicken or turkey. The brave can try chapulines, or fried grasshoppers, which are a popular snack.

Travel to Mexico – safety

Visitors to Mexico are unlikely to fear for their safety. Although the city is associated with drug cartel infighting, this situation usually does not hit tourists, who are treated very friendly by the locals – tourism is one of the main sources of income for the country. However, when navigating in Mexico, it is wise to be sensible and follow a few basic rules: consciously choose the places you visit, checking in advance the announcements of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American hazard map; watch out for pickpockets and make sure that documents, money and valuables are always secured; do not get drunk to the point of unconsciousness or intoxicated in unfamiliar establishments in the company of strangers.

UDOSTĘPNIJ

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