Mexico City is one of the most vibrant and culturally diverse cities in the world, full of incredible sights and activities. We enlisted Mike Shubic of MikesRoadTrip.com to share some of his favorite things to do when visiting Mexico City.
A relic of the past. The face of Mexican modernity. Home to Mexico’s masses. Mexico City is the center of the universe and a universe unto itself. Not for the timid or agoraphobic, Mexico’s capital is vibrant, brilliant, and teeming with vendors, office workers, tourists and students. It’s a city that refuses to be defined or even to sit still long enough to be observed and yet, deep under the streets an ancient Aztec heart still beats, and up above on the surface, Spanish colonial mansions sit alongside gleaming skyscrapers. If you want to get a grasp on this incredible metropolis, here are a few not-to-be-missed experiences.
Floating Among the Chinampas
Once upon a time, an entire empire was fed from the floating island farms of Mexico City’s southern canals. Bucolic and rural, the chinampas are not what visitors expect in a city of 20 million plus, but this ancient agricultural system is vital to the city’s existence and an enchanting part of its landscape. Take a trip beyond the tourist section of the Xochimilco canals—where there are no marimba players, and no women in canoes selling Corona beer—and listen to the hum of bees pollinating the upcoming harvest as local farmers till their island fields.
Exploring La Merced
Markets are Mexico’s most essential experience. Labyrinths of color, smell and sound—from tiny neighborhood markets to the monstrous Central de Abastos—each has a unique ambiance, palpable the moment you set foot inside. The city’s oldest bulk market, La Merced, is the size of eight football fields and is an explosion of the senses. Aisles of food stalls soak the air with the heavenly aromas of tripe soup and grilling tacos. Mountains of citrus, heaping piles of nopal cactus, and hundreds of folded banana leaves await the city’s cooks and street food vendors. This maze of goods and food leaves the head spinning and the wallet empty.
Sunset in the Torre Latinoamericana
The drinks are overpriced and the service is mediocre, but the Torre Latinoamericana bar and restaurant remains one of the most breathtaking places to take in the full scope of Mexico’s capital. Only as the lights begin to twinkle at dusk and the city expands to meet the distant mountains, can Mexico City’s full breadth and size be understood, and even then it’s completely overwhelming. The restaurant’s fishbowl dining room, with 360-degree views of the Valley of Mexico puts you in the center of the cityscape, a sensation you will remember long after the last taste of tacos has gone from your mouth.
Eating Street Food
There is no gastronomic thrill quite like eating on the street in Mexico City. Part of the city’s social fabric, class and status all disappear over salsa and cilantro, as CEOs, housewives and street sweepers enjoy the finest cuisine in the city. There are daytime stands and nighttime stands, bike peddlers and weekend barbacoa tents, all promising delicious treats al fresco. Explore on your own, go on a guided tour, or convince a local to show you his favorite spot—but do not leave without eating on the street.
Climbing the World’s Third Largest Pyramid
Thousands of years ago, the stones of Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Sun were placed 30 miles from what would become the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City. No ropes keep you from this monument to architecture and religious faith, no security guards warn you not to touch it. Instead, you climb the over 240 stairs to the top of the pyramid one altitude-busting breath at a time and reach its peak greeted by the same sun that the Aztecs believed was forged on that very spot almost a millennia ago. For an extra jolt, join the thousands of pilgrims who flock here annually on the Spring Equinox to “recharge” at the top of the pyramid.
Each visit to Mexico City will draw you in a little more until the city has circumvented your heart and you are suddenly addicted to it. There’s no fear of boredom here—there are endless neighborhoods to explore and unlimited experiences to have in Mexico’s capital. Get ready to be enchanted.
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