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About city Gallery Where to stay

Mexico City is a real-life museum of the world’s civilisations, home to more than 1,400 architectural and historical monuments, 10 archaeological sites within the city and its surroundings, over 80 museums, dozens of ethnic creative centres and a number of ancient pyramids and monasteries.

The capital of Mexico is located in mountain highlands, about 2,240 m above sea level. It was founded by the Aztecs, who called it Tenochtitlan. As it grew, it soon became the capital of the Aztec Empire, until it was conquered by the Spanish conquistadors. Now Mexico City figures among the largest cities in the world – officially it's home to almost 9 million people, although the actual population is probably even much higher.

In 1521, the conquistador Hernán Cortés, together with Spanish solders and a group of Tlaxcalteca conquered Tenochtitlan, inhabited by around half a million people at the time. Even though Cortés immediately gave an order to destroy the city and its temples, as the government changed hands, the city soon became the Ciudad de México (named after the Aztecan tribe Mexica) – the capital of New Spain.

Air pollution over Mexico City
Photo taken by Fidel Gonzalez / wikimedia.org.  Air pollution over Mexico City

Mexico City, the first Spanish city in the New World, was modelled after a chess board, with the Plaza Armas, called Zocalo by the locals, situated at the centre. Since 1821, Mexico City has been the capital of independent Mexico.

Despite being located on seismically active land (raising the risk of earthquakes, the largest of which happened in 1985), this capital city is one of the most beautiful and expertly planned South American cities with many wide, tree-filled boulevards, lots of luxurious buildings, palaces, restaurants and well-maintained parks.

Mexico’s national character is augmented by melancholic Mexican music ensembles called mariachi, spicy food, tequila and many colourful traditions. Of the latter, foreigners are especially keen on the Day of the Dead, celebrated in early November. On this day, Mexico City becomes one big, colourful parade of singing and dancing mummers.

The National Palace of Mexico
Photo taken by wikimedia.org.  The National Palace of Mexico

Many of the most popular travel guides recommend starting one’s tour around the city in the central square – Zocalo – and the old cathedral, and then continuing to the National Palace, the Belle Arte opera house and the ruins of an Aztecan temple. Make sure to also visit the National Museum of Anthropology – one of the most spectacular museums in all of Latin America.

Those intent on travelling to Mexico City simply have to visit the UNESCO-protected Teotihuacán, also called City of the Gods. During its heyday, this city was the mightiest capital of the American Indians. Located nearby you’ll also find the Pyramid of the Sun (the third highest pyramid in the world), the Pyramid of the Moon and the city of the dead extending beyond them.

Reconstruction of the entrance to the Hochob temple in the National Museum of Anthropology
Photo taken by Wolfgang Saube / wikimedia.org.  Reconstruction of the entrance to the Hochob temple in the National Museum of Anthropology

Hand-made souvenirs and jewellery are the best keepsakes to bring back home from Mexico City. These can be bought in both - specialised souvenir stores for tourists and local markets. The latter, by the way, are also worth visiting for their cultural heritage and fresh local food. The city’s largest and oldest market, called Central de Abasto, is a world all unto itself.

Mexico City has well-developed food, textile, footwear, medical, polygraphy and metalworking industries, and local craftsmen are heavily involved in these trades as well.

Where to stay

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