One of the most populous cities in the world has many attractions to interest the world traveler. Although there are difficulties and dangers here, the rewards for the inveterate visitor are many. Here are my choices for the top attractions inside and just outside this fascinating place.
1. Teotihuacan – This ancient Mesoamerican city dates to about 100 BC and was the premier settlement of its age. Little is known about its inhabitants as they vanished mysteriously. The complex is dominated by the Pyramid of the Sun and the Avenue of the Dead. The site was adopted by the Toltecs and then the Aztecs.
2. Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Gaudalupe – This is the most important church in the city and perhaps the most important one in the entire country, which is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. The Virgin of Guadalupe, housed here, is the most significant image in all of Mexico.
3. Catedral Metropolitana – This huge cathedral sits on the Zocalo, the city’s main square. It was built over several centuries so it is a mix of architecture. Some of the artwork inside is considered priceless.
4. Chapultepec Park – One of the largest city parks in the world contains the presidential palace, Los Pinos, and offers numerous activities for all ages, including several museums.
5. Floating Gardens of Xochimilco – Colorful boats take visitors along the numerous canals. There is music playing and vendors offering various items for purchase. There is also an ecology-oriented area.
6. National Palace – Noted perhaps more for the murals by famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera, this mansion was begun in the late 17th century and modified many times over the years. The Mexican president still works here.
7. Templo Mayor (Great Temple) – This archaeological site and museum was discovered on the Zocalo recently (1978). This was the site of a great Aztec Pyramid that greeted the Spanish Conquistadors when they arrived in the capital city. The museum contains artifacts unearthed at the site.
8. Zona Rosa – A major tourist area of the city because of the numerous hotels, restaurants and shops, perhaps the most famous sight in the district is the Monument to the Heroes of Independence, a golden angel on top of a marble column.
9. Excursion to Taxco – The silver capital of Mexico, about 110 miles southwest of the city, still offers crafts and some bargains for people interested in the metal, but it is also on the tourist trail because its wealth allowed the building of great colonial residences which are still on display here. Stroll the Plaza Borda and venture up the steep cobblestone streets to find hidden architectural treasures or just a pleasant walk.
10. Excursion to Puebla – This colonial city has grand architecture — its city center has been recognized as a World Heritage Site. Note the ubiquitous use of painted tiles, a trademark of this area.