I didn’t know much about Mexico City before we arrived. The first time I heard about the place was at a quiz night, many years ago. The question was, “Which city has the most amount of taxis per square meter?” and after each table got the answer wrong with answers like “New York,” and “Bombay”, a girl proudly stood up and announced, “Mexico City!” This was before the days of Google being accessed by hidden-under-the-table smart phones, so despite the fact that I was pretty impressed by her knowledge at the time, I’m now doubly so.
Apart from that bit of take-away trivia, I knew very little else about Mexico City, except that it was big (home to over 20 million people) and very, very dangerous. I booked our flights out of the country from the capital so we could experience the mysterious metropolis for ourselves, but as time drew closer, I wondered if I’d done the right thing. What if my last impression of my beloved Mexico was tarnished by the seething pollution machine of the Distrito Federal, its infamous crime-pit of a capital city?
We cautiously booked accommodation in the up-market suburb of Condesa, and I removed my jewellery (as was recommended to me) before we boarded the metro from the airport. Once we had checked into our hostel, we went looking for something to eat and felt under-dressed for many of the classy establishments in the neighbourhood. It seemed as if anyone who was anyone was out wining and dining; dressed to the nines while their shiny Audis were valet-parked along the tree-lined streets. I don’t know why this came as such a surprise to me since I had read that Mexico City was the ‘richest’ city in Latin America, but I was quite taken aback by the show of wealth on display.
Over the course of the next couple of days, I was even more surprised by the capital; all of it pleasantly so. We had an absolute blast exploring its many wonders, keenly aware of how much more we were missing due to our limited time there.
I went from wondering if we should visit Mexico city at all, to wishing we had planned a longer stay – the vibrance, energy and culture of the capital definitely ‘had me at hola’. Please forgive me for telling this story mostly through photos, but we crammed so much in to our three short days, that with my terrible editing skills, this post would be obscenely long if I tried to describe everything we experienced.
So here it is, this lazy (and pretty exhausted) blogger’s highlights of Amazing Mexico City in pictures and a few words:
We ducked into this tiny taqueria after visiting The Zocalo, the main square, for super greasy yet delicious tacos al pastor, in which the meat is cooked on a vertical rotisserie. The friendly owner was very welcoming (obviously) and didn’t mind me taking over his hot plate for a photo.
The metro in Mexico City is super-cheap, at just 3 pesos per journey, no matter what the distance. That’s just 25 cents, and considering how fast and efficient it is, is the best way to get around the city since traffic can be horrendous. We found it very safe, and met some lovely people, including a man from Chiapas who was quite chuffed to meet us since we had just come from there.
Mexico City is one big public art gallery. We saw the most spectacular art everywhere, without stepping foot inside an actual gallery – on the streets, in churches and inside foyers.
These photos of the gargantuan religious artworks adorning the walls of the ancient San Fransisco Church in the center of the city do not do them justice. Despite thinking this would be ‘just-another-church’ these pieces were absolutely awe-inspiring, and remain my most vivid memories of the city.
Another amazing mural, this time on the ceiling of the Chapultepec Castle, a palatial building that was used as a set for Baz Lurhman’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (and a few other historically important things!) The Views
A trip to the top of The Latino Americano Tower provided 360 degree views of the city, and we spent at least an hour up there, gazing out across the sprawling metropolis.
And for the cost of a cup of coffee, we were privy to this beautiful view of the Palacio de Bellas Artes from a cafe on the 7th floor of the Sears department store. We wandered into Sears looking for a bathroom, and luckily had trouble finding one. Whilst doing the ‘pretending to shop whilst looking for a toilet’ thing, we caught a glimpse of this amazing view through the windows, then were chuffed to find an open-aired cafe overlooking the ornate Opera house, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
Despite its reputation for being over-populated and hence extremely polluted, modern-day Mexico City certainly seems to be making an effort to create green spaces in otherwise urban environments.
Cool wall garden in the middle of the city. Squirrels!
These little guys are everywhere in Chapultepec park, near where we stayed in Condesa. They took a shining to Tyrhone, or perhaps it was the other way around… And in the spirit of saving the best till last, my biggest highlight of our time in Mexico City was:
We purchased tickets to a night of Mexican wrestling online then went to the stadium during the day to pick them up, though we could have bought them on the door no problems (again, we were being extra cautious). I had no idea what to expect, apart from Jack Black’s rendition in the film, ‘Nacho Libre’ (which was the sole reason we wanted to see a match).
It was far more entertaining and enjoyable than I ever expected, and we had an absolute ball getting into the cheering and boo-ing with the very vocal crowd, the loudest of which being an eight-year old kid behind us. I wish my Spanish was good enough to understand the taunts he was throwing out at the top of his high-pitched voice, but “Go and cry to your Mother, you big baby!” may have been one of them.
The stunts were ultra athletic, and the comedic inter-play between the characters was highly entertaining. I never ‘got’ choreographed wrestling before, but I now understand the entertainment value of grown men in stretchy pants flinging themselves around a ring.
Unfortunately cameras were not allowed inside the stadium (though weirdly, phones were), so aside from these snaps of the outside of the stadium, we just have phone-pics of the actual match:
Sadly, our time in Mexico had to come to an end. I was so glad that I got to experience the capital of the country I had come to love so much, and fall further in love with the amazingly diverse culture of Mexico.
Mexico City is one of the most wonderful cities I’ve ever visited. It was nothing as I had imagined, and nothing like the horror stories I had heard. We didn’t once feel unsafe or threatened, though we were more cautious with our belongings than normal. I’m sure any city with 20 million people has its fair share of problems and crime, but it also has an intangible energy, radiating history and culture at every street corner.
I’m so glad we got to experience it for ourselves. Hasta luego (see you later) Mexico; not Adios, because we will definitely be back!
Get updates on my upcoming adventures via email by subscribing to Sarah Somewhere