There are a number of tourists who have an image of Mexico City as a sprawling metropolis shrouded by haze and pollution, deafening in its noise and monstrous in its traffic, vehicular and otherwise. That Mexico City is a sprawling metropolis is indeed true, but no matter what impressions some tourists may have about the largest city in the country of Mexico, and one of the biggest cities in the world, one thing that cannot be denied is that the city is rich in culture and history. The richness of the history and culture of Mexico City is already one great reason why visitors all over the world should not miss an opportunity to visit it when it comes.
Mexico City lies in the valley that was once the capital of the Aztec Empire. Even now, remnants of this vast and ancient empire can still be seen in parts of the city, most notably in Chapultapec Park. Alongside the ruins of the Aztec Empire stand old historic buildings that once served the purposes of Mexico’s Spanish conquerors.
What things should you do to make the most of your visit to Mexico City?
Here are five suggestions.
1. Go the round of museums. Mexico City has probably the largest number of museums among the cities of the world – 160 of them, not including the art galleries. Among the most important museums of Mexico City are the National Museum of Anthropology, the Palace of the Fine Arts and the Museo Frida Kahlo.
The National Museum of Anthropology can be perhaps compared to the Louvre in Paris in that it can take days to fully see all the collections housed in it. The museum has the biggest collection of Mesoamerican art and relics in the world.
The Palace of the Fine Arts is primarily a theater for classical music, opera and dance, though it boasts of artwork made by the Mexican masters such as Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
The Museo Frida Kahlo, more known as La Casa Azul, was the home of one of Mexico’s premier artists, Frida Kahlo. The museum contains the urn of her ashes, some of her artwork and her personal belongings, as well as those of her husband Diego Rivera.
2. Visit the historic places of the city. As mentioned above, Mexico City is a city rich in history, built upon the ruins of the capital of the Aztec Empire and established as the capital of the Spanish conquerors. Places to go would be Castle of Chapultepec, the National Palace and the Templo Mayor.
The Castle of Chapultepec stands on the highest point of Chapultepec Park. This is the only European-style castle in North America that served as the residence of European royalty, namely Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico and his wife Carlota.
The castle is connected by the Paseo de la Reforma to the Palacio Nacional, the seat of Mexico’s national government. Aside from being the center of power in Mexico, the Palacio Nacional is also renowned for Diego Rivera’s murals on the history of Mexico. It is said that the palace was built on the ruins of the palace of Moctezuma.
The Templo Mayor is the more popular name of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan; Tenochtitlan was the Aztec name for the city on which Mexico City now stands. The Templo Mayor is a pyramid of twin temples dedicated to the Aztec god of war and sun and the god of rain and fertility.
3. Go to church. There are two churches that must be visited on a trip to Mexico City – the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Basilicas of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the largest Catholic churches in the Western Hemisphere and is a beautiful example of the Spanish Baroque style.
The Basilicas, on the other hand, are two churches dedicated to the Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of Mexico City. These two basilicas are the second most important pilgrimage venues in the Catholic faith, next only to the Vatican.
4. Spend a day at Chapultepec Park. If you are going to Chapultepec Castle, you might as well spend the whole day at Chapultepec Park, the grounds that the castle overlooks. The 1,800-acre park contains ancient forests, small lakes, an amusement park, the Chapultepec Zoo, various museums including the National Museum of Anthropology, and the official residence of the president of Mexico.
5. Wander about the gardens. Mexico City also has many gardens, the most notable of which are the gardens of Xochimilco and the botanical gardens of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
The floating gardens of Xochimilco are noted for their canals, which were remnants of the old Lake Xochimilco. Here, visitors can ride boats through the canals and be serenaded by the famous mariachi of Mexico.
The botanical gardens of UNAM are well-known for two things: their impressive collection of flora and cacti indigenous to Mexico as well as the flora of the temperate regions; and for being a getaway from the urban jungle that is Mexico City. The gardens of UNAM are a quiet sanctuary from the noise of the city.
Enjoy Mexico City for the beauty of its art and the bounty of its culture and history. Allow yourself to be immersed in the richness that is Mexico City.
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