from $112.50 p/adult
By Yunna Takeuchi
Fascinating, complex, colourful, vibrant, unpredictable, eccentric - if you are visiting Mexico City, or CDMX according to the locals, this is what you can expect. This city is one of those unique destinations that will mark you and leave you wanting to go back again and again. I grew up in Mexico City and lived there until the age of 18 when I moved to live abroad. My deep attachment to the city might be a natural one, but I’ve seen the effect that the city has had on many of my friends from overseas who have taken many repeated trips to Mexico City. I haven’t lived here for many years now so instead of giving you reasons to visit Mexico City from my cherished memories as a teenager, I asked a dozen of my friends that live there to give me the reasons why they think you should visit this incredible city. Here goes!
An obvious one, but food is at the heart of Mexican history and culture and a huge part of life here. If you are traveling to Mexico City then it is mandatory that you immerse yourself in its food culture! Chances are that if you’ve never been to Mexico, you’ll be surprised at the incredible diversity of dishes, exciting flavour combinations and unfamiliar ingredients; the authentic local dishes you’ll find here are a world away from the ‘Mexican’ food you’re probably used to back home. You’re likely to be as equally impressed by a tlacoyo from a street stall as with a dish from a high-end restaurant, and with good reason as street food in particular is a huge part of our culture.
One of my friends quite rightly pointed out that street food brings Chilangos, Mexico City residents, from its full socioeconomic spectrum together as they gather around la senora that has set up on the corner of a busy street to prepare the most delicious quesadillas, sopes and huaraches you’d ever imagined, while an ancient radio fills the air with the latest cumbias. During your next visit to Mexico City be sure to try everything on offer from the thousands of food stalls scattered around the city, from fresh fruit covered in chilli to delicious street corn in cups, foods you probably have never heard of like tlacoyos, birria, camotes, menudo to the good old tacos, of which around 60 types exist! But it is not all street food. Like any good cosmopolitan city, Mexico City offers a world-class selection of restaurants of all cuisines, budgets and styles.
Any Mexico City travel guide will tell you that, if you’re budget conscious then there’s no better city destination than here. The city has everything you’d expect from a megalopolis and more. You can eat like a king on a shoestring budget, drinks are cheap, there are tons of world-class museums (it’s the city with the most museums in the world after Paris) and cultural activities that are free and there’s great shopping at amazing prices. Getting around won’t set you back much either: the metro is efficient and super cheap but if you’d prefer to jump in an uber, they’re convenient and not expensive at all. You can get great hotels and airbnbs at surprisingly affordable rates too, so the whole trip to Mexico City will be budget friendly.
When you do visit Mexico City, pause to appreciate how the old city fuses so seamlessly with the new. Founded by the Aztecs in 1325 on an island in Lake Texcoco, at its height the city had enormous temples and palaces and a huge ceremonial centre which was mostly destroyed by the Spanish, who rebuilt it in their own style. Today, everything from the culture to the architecture and the food to religion, are a fusion of indigenous and Spanish traditions and styles, creating the city’s unique look and charm. When traveling to Mexico City you will notice that even the language spoken today blends Spanish, the official language with words that come from the ancient, native languages and some of the ‘Spanish’ words are only used here in Mexico. And while the official religion might be Catholicism, the ancient gods haven’t been forgotten. The Catholicism practiced here sometimes incorporates aspect of old religions and beliefs, creating a unique version of the religion that you won’t find anywhere else.
With such a rich and diverse culture drawing on Spanish and indigenous influences, it’s no wonder we have so many unique cultural traditions. You will read all about it in any Mexico City travel guide but nothing compares to experiencing it first-hand. There’s never a dull moment and no matter what we’re celebrating, every fiesta is bursting with colour and passion, and the whole city gets involved. From Día de los Muertos, the three day fiesta famed for its sugar skulls, marigolds and incredible costumes to Posadas, the nine day celebration leading up to Christmas where the city is filled with star shaped piñata and glowing candles. Locals take celebrating cultural traditions seriously, so visit Mexico City during one of the festivals or holidays to experience the atmosphere is a must. You’ll find traditions synonymous with the culture all year round though, in everything from religious to musical expression like mariachi, which is a big part of the city’s heritage and defined not only by the music itself but by the costumes and performance space.
Culturally, CDMX might be traditional and the people passionate about celebrating their heritage, but as you traveling through Mexico City you will notice how wonderfully diverse it is. You only have to stroll through the local neighbourhoods to see how diverse the barrios are; from colonial-era splendor to bohemian enclaves, there’s a barrio for every taste. Some, like Escandón are rooted in tradition and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time and to a tiny Mexican town, whilst others like progressive Coyoacán, with its brightly painted houses and intellectual crowds, are bursting with bohemian spirit.
If you are looking for a great place for the kids then a trip to Mexico City is in order! Family life here is at the heart of the entire city’s social structure. Everywhere will welcome your whole family, and you won’t have to worry about your tribe making too much noise, demanding food stops or changing your plans last minute since la familia such an important part of our culture. Mexican families are still relatively traditional, and people see it as their duty to help out family members with everything from finding a job to contributing to buying a house. On Sundays the whole family, from the grandma and the nurse who looks after her down to the newest baby gathers together whether it's for a meal after church or to hang out in the park, especially in suburban neighbourhoods like Del Valle. Families are a little smaller in the city than in other parts of Mexico, but people still tend to have large families so every neighbourhood has a family-oriented vibe and strong sense of community. I might be biased, but the people are known for being super friendly and welcoming, so you’ll feel like part of the extended family in no time too when you visit Mexico City.
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