July 13, 2024
Incredible Food And Culture: Why One Time Is Never Enough To Visit This Latin American City

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Whether it’s for tropical vacations or simply to burst out of their bubble, Americans have been flocking to Latin America lately, and it doesn’t really surprise us, considering the unmatched local hospitality, the irresistible Hispanic culture, and, of course, the balmy climate.

Golden Angel Statue In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

Buenos Aires, Medellin, San Juan, Cartagena, Lima, you name it, they have all been teeming with U.S. visitors as of late, but as great and vibrant as each of these metropolises are, they can’t hold a candle to the subcontinent’s long-reigning queen.

Mexico City is the Latin American city tourists most want to return to, no matter how many times they’ve been before, and this is why:

Why Can’t Travelers Mexico City Get Enough Of Mexico City?

palacio de bellas artes in mexico city shot from abovepalacio de bellas artes in mexico city shot from above

The capital of Mexico and a cultural behemoth in its own right, Ciudad de Mexico (which we’ll shorten to CDMX) is the largest conurbation south of the U.S. border, encompassing a metro area over 20 million people call home, and it is the country’s beating heart.

Unlike Brazil’s São Paulo or Costa Rica’s San Jose, however, that in being economic powerhouses in their respective countries, have developed a reputation for being administrative business centers, Mexico City is so much more than just towering high-rises and men in suits.

child riding on bicycle through fountains with skyscrapers in the background in mexico citychild riding on bicycle through fountains with skyscrapers in the background in mexico city

Well, you’re sure to find some in Santa Fe, but Mexico City’s appeal lies in its boundless cultural wealth, the incredible diversity of its barrios—not one district is like the other—and of course, the fact it is a melting pot for culinary masterpieces.

The Kind Of Ancient Appeal Most Of America Is Missing

If you live in the U.S. of A and ancient wonders are not something you come by every day (you know, majestic cathedrals and archaeological sites dating back to times immemorial), then you’re certain to have your mind blown landing in CDMX.

zocalo square, mexico cityzocalo square, mexico city

Stepping out into The Zócalo, or Constitution Square, the main public square in the city, you’ll be instantly greeted with the Metropolitan Cathedral, a concoction of European Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical, and possibly the most beautiful Christian temple in the mainland Americas.

It was built as early as 1573, on top of an older Aztec structure—to give you a bit of perspective, most of the U.S. had not yet been settled, and Europe had just come out of the Middle Ages—and with its twin towers, monumental dome and ornate portals, it’s an icon of the Mexico City skyline.

Metropolitan Cathedral In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin AmericaMetropolitan Cathedral In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

Still on the same square, the 16th-century National Palace is equally eye-catching: it is a Spanish-built Baroque effort now serving as official residence of the President, best known for its stately rooms and Diego Rivera’s magnum opus, a mural chronicling Mexican History.

That’s only the beginning, as the Old World allure of Mexico City extends far beyond Zócalo’s cathedral, its palaces and landmark flagpole:

Every Neighborhood Is Unique

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The old and the new basilica, cityscape of Mexico CityBasilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The old and the new basilica, cityscape of Mexico City

We said it before, and we’ll say it again: every neighborhood in this city is entirely unique in character, and you could literally spend weeks, if not an entire lifetime, peeling off its layers and barely get past the surface.

If you’re a frequent visitor to CDMX, you’re probably familiar with some of these names already, but for those of you who remain skeptical of returning guests, allow us to give you a rundown of some of the most beautiful (and exciting) parts of the city:

Condesa

If it sounds posh and elegant, that’s because it is. Condesa is among the classiest of Mexico City neighborhoods, famous for its leafy avenues lined by dreamy houses, verdant city parks (most notably Parque México), and upscale dining scene, though we’ll get to that in a bit.

La Condesa, An Upscale Neighborhood In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin AmericaLa Condesa, An Upscale Neighborhood In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America
Coyoacán

The colonial district with a small-town feel that has retained much of its historical charm.

We’re talking dozens of winding streets and colorful low houses, plazas with beautiful fountains, and the odd History aficionado out there, the cobalt-blue house in Frida Kahlo was born and grew up.

Zona Rosa

One of the trendiest spots in town, the ‘Pink Zone’ is best known for its myriad of nightclubs, several of which cater to a gay audience and youthful, more liberal atmosphere, in stark contrast with the more traditional historic center.

Zona Rosa, A District In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin AmericaZona Rosa, A District In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America
Polanco

Polanco is yet another affluent former ‘colonia, and a cosmopolitan, luxury shopping hub of the sorts, hosting Presidente Masaryk Avenue, probably the priciest street in all of Mexico, and a number of fine-dining spots and cultural institutions.

Xochimilco

Carrying native Aztec tradition in more than it name, Xochimilco is characterized by its system of waterways and UNESCO-listed, artificial ‘chinampas‘ islands, all dating back to pre-Columbian times (don’t be surprised if you see colorful gondolas navigating around).

Colorful Gondolas In The Canals Of Xochimilco, Mexico City, Mexico, Latin AmericaColorful Gondolas In The Canals Of Xochimilco, Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America
Colonia San Rafael

Often overlooked by visitors, Colonia San Rafael is comparatively quaint, despite being close to the bustling city center, and it’s the place to go for markets and inexpensive street food: the fact that it’s mostly locals who frequent here should give you an indication as to how authentic it is.

Roma

Condesa’s edgier sister, except it boasts a thriving cafe scene and a lively nightlife. On top of that, the ornate architecture, high concentration of contemporary art galleries, and traditional eateries make it both an open-air museum and foodie hotspot, much like the Eternal City it is named after.

Traditional Row Of Buildings In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin AmericaTraditional Row Of Buildings In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

One Of The Best Destination For Foodies In The World

Speaking of food, Mexico City is nothing short of a food Mecca.

Mexican cuisine itself is an immaterial cultural heritage, and without question, the best destination for sampling it is the capital:

We’ve written extensively on the culinary delights of CDMX already, and we just can’t stress it enough: no city in Latin America offers this much flavor, let alone this much variety: from flavorful tacos straight from the tienda, for only a small fraction of U.S. prices, to upscale Michelin-star restaurants, you’re in for the gastronomic journey of your life.

Two women cook street food in Mexico CityTwo women cook street food in Mexico City

According to Condé Nast Traveler, it is the fourth best city to enjoy ‘good food’ in the world, and we’re inclined to agree with our fellow travel experts.

Amazing Street Food & Mind-Blowing Upscale Restaurants

If it’s street food you’re craving, the busy Mercado Medellín, in the very heart of Roma, should be on your list of priorities, with its rows upon rows of stalls serving every Mexican delicacy, from steamy pancetta bowls, to the chunkiest, melt-in-your-mouth quesadillas, to spicy pork tamales.

Other street food hotspots include Mercado de Coyoacán, Mercado de la Merced, and Mercado de San Juan, the latter of which has achieved notoriety for serving edible creepy-crawlies (if you’re adventurous enough to try them).

Mexican Food, MexicoMexican Food, Mexico

We’ll stick to mainstream Mexican cuisine, though, and lucky for us picky eaters, there’s a plethora of five-star restaurants to choose from:

Our Travel Off Path CEO and longtime Mexico City resident, who’s savored her way through the Mexican capital and knows all the hidden spots, has handpicked Fónico, in Roma, a flashy restaurant with exquisite seafood, Pujol, for Mexican cuisine with an haute-cuisine twist, and the local-frequented La Casa de Toño, ‘if, you know, you’re looking for the equally-amazing non-high end alternative‘.

Like Rome, Paris, London and Tokyo, Mexico City is one of those cities with an endless tourist offer:

Latin American Woman Preparing A Taco In Mexico, Latin AmericaLatin American Woman Preparing A Taco In Mexico, Latin America

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll be able to tick off every possible landmark under the sun—Templo Mayor, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Chapultepec Castle, Plaza Garibaldi, Museo Anahuacalli, plus street markets and all those incredible ethnic barrios—all in one go.

We haven’t even touched on the Teotihuacán, the archaeological complex to trump all archaeological complexes, lying just northeast of Mexico City, and known the world over for its long Avenue of the Dead, and imposing temples and pyramids, including the Pyramids of the Moon and Sun.

Aerial View Of The Pyramid Of The Sun In Teotihuacan, Near Mexico City, Mexico, Latin AmericaAerial View Of The Pyramid Of The Sun In Teotihuacan, Near Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

While three to five days is most certainly not enough, one week might be enough to find your footing amid the sprawling urban mess sprinkled with architectural wonders, but even if you’re living here long-term, you could feel as if you’re constantly racing against time.

There’s always a new Belle époque marvel to discover, be it a hidden gallery or courtyard bordered by ornate buildings, an endless list of inviting restaurants, both old and new, that just keeps growing larger every month, and considering the place’s ancientness, you’ll want to leave no stone unturned.

In short, Mexico City is that gift that keeps on giving, and we’re on the side of millions of tourists who keep on coming back for more.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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