The largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere, the only city in Latin America so far to host the Olympic games and the home of the biggest Latin music festival Vive Latino: Mexico City goes far beyond the typical Mexican stereotypes of tacos, sombreros and tequila shots. Featuring a hub of museums and art galleries, this wondrous city has a lot more to offer than meets the eye.
Although a visit to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s house in Coyoacan is a must for art lovers, the true Mexican experience is not found in any kind of tourist attraction; it’s in the streets. Just a few blocks down from the famous blue house is the lively square of Jardin Centenario. Street artists, food stands and artisan shops cover every inch of the area, as crowds of all ages and ethnicities explore in full and colourful spirits and even fuller stomachs.
Sundays may be siesta days for most, yet in Mexico City the maracas are still shaking. If someone suggested going to the city’s biggest avenue on a Sunday, you’d probably think they were insane on account of the capital’s infamous traffic problems. Yet to everyone’s surprise, Paseo de la Reforma is closed to vehicles on Sundays, allowing the public to roam the streets. From Zumba enthusiasts to cyclists, dog-walkers and family outings, la Reforma becomes filled with people from all walks of life. It is truly impressive to see how the community still has the opportunity to come together and spend a day away from the pandemonium of Mexico City’s car population.
For those wanting to avoid the horrid traffic jams, venturing on to the metro offers a cosmos of opportunities. The largest metro in Latin America is no ordinary experience; it goes far beyond the simple means of transport you would expect. Overlooking the tetris of bodies, it is a cultural awakening. Besides the ridiculously cheap ticket prices (around 20p), the metro provides a variety of merchandise, CDs, films and delicious food, acting as an underground voyage through Mexico’s taste palette.
The surprises do not end there. Who said only Italy offers a city on water? Mexico City has its own little Venice. Xochimilco, located in the south of the capital, is often referred to as the Floating Gardens of Mexico City and demonstrates how Mexico was before Spanish colonisation. There are a host of activities to explore, each displaying a different view of Mexico City just outside the centre. Hundreds of boats (trajineras) fill the canals of the lake on which the city was built on and Xochimilco is also home to the rare axolotl (a Mexican salamander); without a doubt an area of the City not to be missed.
The list of secret wonders in Latin America’s vibrant home of Aztec culture is endless. New York City is not only city that never sleeps – Mexico City is awake and alive, ready to share its beating passion with the world. Be adventurous, put down your margarita and discover the vibrant spirit of the Mexican capital.
Images courtesy of Jiuguang Wang and ‘Alejandro’ via Flickr and Eleni Philippou.