Mexico City might just be one of the most underrated city break destinations. Downtown is laden with grand buildings, and wide avenues. Its pretty tourist free allowing you to see the city in its true groove. It is also a great city to explore on foot and this is my route of choice.
Begin in the Zocalo – the huge square in the centre of downtown, second in the worldwide rankings only to red square in Moscow. Flanked on all sides by dominating buildings, the Palacio Nacional on one side and the cathedral on the other. While the cathedral is best enjoyed from the outside, you really should enter the Palacio Nacional to enjoy the Diego Rivera murals lining the stairs. If you do the walk in reverse try to hit the square for 6pm when the enormous Mexican flag is reeled in. It is quite the ritual.
The Zocalo isnt just the city’s present focal point, but also of cities past. The city was built literally on top of an earlier settlement and when digging around the Zocalo the locals stumbled upon remnants of the city’s earlier existence. The Templo Mayor, still being excavated, is a window into the extraordinary history and cultural treasure to be found all over Mexico., right here in the heart of Mexico City. Follow it up with a trip to the Anthropology Museum.
If you get hungry at this point there are a number of good traditional coffee spots around downtown, else a personal favourite is breakfast at the casa de azul lejos – a beautifully ornate blue tiled building. It is run by a chain restaurant (Sanborns) but the food is good and sitting in the atrium well worth it.
Refueled, stop in at the torre latinamerica which offers wonderful views from the top. Then cross the street to the Palacio Belles Artes – arguably the most beautiful of Mexico City’s buildings. Keep an eye out for the Parisian Belles Artes metro sign (amazing where they crop up isnt it!). End your downtown tour with a stroll through the Almeda Central, a great place to pull up a pew and watch Mexico city go by.
From here I would catch a bus or taxi going towards Chapultepec. Both have the advantage of offering you a trip along Reforma avenue, the main road through the centre of the city which having been spruced up a few years ago is lined with trees, flowers and new art installations. Else take the metro from Hidalgo to Chapultepec – in my experience a safe, fast and cheap way to get around.
Alight in front of the Anthropology museum. Its a world class institution, home to a vast collection of artifacts from through Mexico’s ages. You get the sense that Mexico lives in another time.
Exhausted from all the walking and history, take a rest from the hubbub and cross the street into Chapultepec park. Its an oasis during the week and a flurry of activity at the weekend. Its big so wander aimlessly and marvel at the delights on offer. The mangoes on a stick with chilli make for a rejuvenating afternoon snack.
This post is also available in Spanish.