Forget Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Acapulco. The soul of Mexico is found far away from the ocean. In a city that surprises. All the time. You never know what to expect behind the next corner. Mouthwatering street food. Street exhibitions. A hidden rooftop bar. If you like the vibe in Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro, you will fall in love with Mexico City.
Mexico City is the city of contrast. From the decadent street life in the older parts to the Tesla driving club goers of Polanco. If you like street life, historic buildings and lots of character stay in the Historic Center (pronounced “Centro Historico” to get the cab driver to understand). If you’re more into upscale restaurants, shopping and high-end clubbing opt for a hotel in Polanco.
A majority of the people in Mexico eat on the street once a week. I understand why. The alternatives seem never ending. Tamales, burritos, carnitas, tortas, tacos, quesadillas, tostadas…you get the idea.
Polanco is the most safe area and you can wander around freely at night without worries. It’s a bit like Camps Bay in Cape Town, an oasis within the city. It’s the opposite to the hectic street life in the Historic Center. People walk their dogs on street with names like Oscar Wilde, Alexandre Dumas, and Aristoteles. Then they go for croque-monsieur and a double espresso.
Palacio de Bellas Artes is the Trip Advisor bestseller of the city and a prime example of the art deco found throughout Mexico City. The internal roof is as much art deco there can be. Once you noticed it you will see the architecture style everywhere. So walk around. Be a flaneur!
Uber is a great way to get around in Mexico City. It takes you exactly where you want to be and you don’t have to walk some shady area. Downloaded the app yet? Perfect. Let’s go!
An even more fascinating building is found just across the street from Palacio de Bellas Artes, away from the tourists and hidden behind a rather trivial facade. It’s the imperial Palacio Postal with golden chandeliers and a bonanza of Art Nouveau ornaments. Built over a hundred years ago, you can still go there and send a postcard to your grandmother. The old fashioned way.
If you want to see something unique, head to the Biblioteca Vasconcelos. Of all the spectacular libraries in the world, I can guarantee you have never seen anything like it before. It’s referred to as a “megalibrary” and big it is. Built in a warehous style, books are stored to the ceiling on enormous shelves constructed as floors and balconies. Just don’t get lost!
Inject your weekly dose of modern art at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo or MUAC to use a New York style acronym. It’s packed with interactive art and serve lunch in a light therapeutic atrium restaurant.
Hungry after a day of sightseeing? Vegamo MX is a top class organic restaurant close to the Historical Center serving fresh smoothies, tasty wraps, and vegetarian hamburgers. It’s one of those gems you won’t find if you don’t hear about them.
Or how about a restaurant, book store and rainforest all in one? Head to Cafebreria El Pendulo for a different experience. The restaurant gets less formal for each floor – table dining on the ground floor, sofas for coffee and reading on the first floor, and drinks in the bar on the second floor.
The majority of people visiting Mexico go to the Chichen Itza pyramid west of Cancun. It’s known as one of the “new seven wonders of the world”, which of course doesn’t say anything about the true value of visiting. On the contrary, these so called wonders of the world often get crammed with tourists which can ruin the experience. Do you wanna hear the good news? There’s an even more interesting pyramid complex just outside of Mexico City.
It takes about one hour to reach the Teotihuacan pyramids with car from the city center. So close, but still so far away. The Aztecs thought Teotihuacan was the center of the universe. It was the largest temple city of the world but mysteriously abandoned. Built with perfect symmetry in accordance to the movements of the planets, the gods were summoned here to meet humanity.
I walked the avenue of the dead to the Pyramid of the Moon. Steep steps took me all the way to the top. What was going on here? A ritual. People were pushing their thumbs to the absolute center of the pyramid’s top.
From the top of the Pyramid of the Moon you will see its big brother. The Pyramid of the Sun is one of the largest ancient pyramids in the world. Climb it and the ancient city Teotihuacan will reappear in front of you with just a tiny bit of imagination. It’s truly a magnificent view. Say hello to gods from me.
All images © 2020 Erik Ekberger.
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