Formerly Distrito Federal, Ciudad de México has been booming with novel cultural and artistic movements for several years, including a revitalized food scene. The city has been garnering a reputation as a top cosmopolitan destination, with The New York Times calling it the number one place to visit in 2016. It seems everyone has realized the potential of the Mexican capital and, with eyes anew, are able to see it for what it truly is: a beautiful and contrasting metropolis that has reinvented itself over and over to accommodate its 20 million people (this includes the greater metropolitan area, though the city proper has around 9 million people).
The megalopolis can intimidate even the most seasoned travelers, as they attempt to navigate the various neighborhoods, cities themselves, each with a character and architecture of its own. The origins of the historic downtown area date back to 1325, with the birth of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán. History is laced with legend here, which tells that the Mexicas (what Aztecs called themselves) built their homes over Lake Texcoco upon finding an eagle perched on a cactus devouring a serpent, as prophecy had it. Today, sinking under the lake that carried Tenochtitlán over 600 years ago, sits its Colonial replacement: The Zócalo, the city’s central plaza.
El centro, or downtown, introduces us to the most emblematic and contradictory characteristic of Mexico City: orderly chaos. Hundreds of people walk and cross streets in a frenzy that, if you don’t understand, can carry you along, much like a wave. Palaces and churches have replaced the ancient Aztec temples, though some ruins remain, tucked away behind the main Cathedral. Of gothic architecture, the Catedral Metropolitana is the largest in the American continent.
Meanwhile, the Roma or Condesa neighborhoods are buzzing with restaurants and cafés. La Condesa can be distinguished for its Art Deco buildings and cosmopolitan vibe. La Roma is known for its bohemian feel, bursting with art galleries set in mansions from the end of the 19th C, built in the French tradition. In that sense, La Roma feels entirely European, but the taco stands are there to bring your mind (and stomach) back to Mexico.
To the South is Coyoacán, preserved with the charm of a provincial town. People stroll leisurely through the plaza, with its cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings, and there always seems to be children running around the fountains. It was in Coyoacán that such artists and intellectuals as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Leon Trotsky lived, and it’s not hard to understand why.
Mexico City is a palimpsest come to life, where modernity intertwines with vestiges of the Aztec Empire, and a dynamic culture that can be witnessed in the fiber of the everyday. From their innumerable museums to its energetic culinary scene, ranging from the humble pleasures of street food to the most elevated epicurean experiences, this city has it all.