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Visiting Mexico City: Part One

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Aztec display in Mexico City's Zocalo
Credit: Tash Creative | Bigstock

Visiting Mexico City: Part One is the first installment of my experiences and recommendations based on my recent long weekend in Mexico’s capital city and other trips I’ve made. In my last blog, I gave you just a taste of my trip, but today and in several more blogs I’ll focus on specific areas of the city I think you should see.

As I mentioned last time, I have been to Mexico City many times, for both work and play, and each time I visit I not only make new and wonderful discoveries but also happily revisit old favorites. The museums, the restaurants, the parks, the history and the people all help make Mexico City one of my favorite cities in the world.

Today, we’ll explore the historic center, or Centro Historico, which is my favorite part of the city. I am a huge history buff and the downtown area of Mexico City has so many museums and historical artifacts that it is impossible to name them all. It is also an area rich with culture: The Museum of Bellas Artes offers art exhibits, both permanent and temporary; performances by the National Symphony are relatively inexpensive and simply wonderful; and, the famous Ballet Folklorico of Mexico is something everyone must see. The National Symphony, when in season, has a Sunday matinee at noon and the best seat in the house will set you back just $200 pesos! After the concert, walk through the Alameda and enjoy Sunday in the park.

You can visit the National Palace, the Supreme Court, the National Cathedral and Principal Plaza all in the same block. The home of Emperor Agustin Iturbide is situated on Calle Francisco I. Madero and houses temporary art exhibits throughout the year, which are free. The Templo Mayor, also downtown, shows the ruins of the Aztec capital as well as other artifacts that were discovered when the city was excavating a new line for its subway system. Don’t forget the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, the murals in the Secretary of Public Education building and, if you are so inclined, the torture and inquisition exhibit in the old Medical School building, which is intriguing.

I love just walking through the streets and watching the people. Pop into a cantina for a cold beer and tacos or head up to one of several rooftop restaurants that overlook the Zocalo for afternoon refreshment and some of the best views in the city. The Grand Hotel and the Historic Zocalo are two of the best. For dinner, the restaurant Azul Historico is located on Isabel la Catolica #30, in an old Viceroy Palace. The food is authentically Mexican and the open-air plaza is delightful. Before sitting down to dinner, walk through the boutiques and galleries located on the second floor of the palace and after dinner, take the elevator up to the rooftop bar where beards and man-buns abound in this hipster part of the Hotel Downtown.

I have stayed at a number of hotels in this part of Mexico City. The old Hotel Isabel is popular with European travelers and although it is spare, it is clean and perfectly located and quite a bargain. The newly remodeled Historic Centro and the Hotel Downtown are my favorites, both again well-located and with beautiful rooms and amenities.

Important note: The Centro Historico area can be crowded and difficult to get to and from. That’s why I like staying downtown, when I want to explore downtown. Because many government offices and Mexico’s Congress are located here, there are often demonstrations and other events that cause the closing of streets. And did I mention you will find lots of people in Centro Historico? Christmastime is probably the busiest time of year as people come to shop and see the decorations in the main plaza.

Next time, we’ll visit Chapultepec, Polanco, Zona Rosa and colonias Condesa and Roma.

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