High Expectations: What To See In Mexico City

Once maligned and overlooked, Mexico City has enjoyed something of a spectacular revival in recent years. Its down and out quarters have had more than just a lick of paint applied to their crumbling streets, and now color, culture, and creativity spring from practically every corner of this capital city. Mexico City’s revival should come as no surprise; just fifty years ago, the city was viewed as the Paris of Middle America, offering a lifestyle and architecture that was head and shoulders above the rest. Now things are very much back on track for the city, and any visit paid to the place in the coming months is bound to be a trip well taken.

With architectural neighborhoods booming and the foodie scene thriving, you might feel seriously spoiled for choice in this New World city. Heading to some of Mexico City’s most important quarters will show you just what this city has to offer, so make sure you’re taking notes.

While there might be any number of places in which to begin your whistle stop tour, you would be well suited by taking in the natural attractions that Mexico City has to offer. Although the towering concrete masses dotted around the city might have you thinking otherwise, the Mexican capital does have its calmer spots in which moments of pure zen can be found. Taking a boat ride on the waters of Xochimilco will help you get well acquainted with all things natural in the area, bringing you up close and personal with the canal system. Guided excursions will take you to a set of floating islands, in which you can feast your eyes on a prime crop of fresh fruit and vegetables.

If you prefer to roll up your sleeves a little more in your activities, enrolling yourself in any of the city’s stellar cooking classes will serve you well. Former restaurant owner Ruth Alegria hosts some of the best out there, taking influence from her own experience in the industry. In her cooking business, Alegria offers a range of experiences, leading you through some of the best fresh food markets and sharing her cookery skills in in-depth culinary lessons. Don’t expect just a taste of something great, either: Alegria is passionate about all aspects of Mexican life, incorporating local culture and customs in her tutorials.

Museums are hardly short on the ground in New Mexico, but if you’re eager to take a glance at something you’ve never seen before, you should set your sights on the Dolores Olmedo Museum. Working as a muse and collector amongst the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Olmedo lived in a stunning estate in Xochimilco, housing a huge number of her fine art pieces there. Later in her life, Olmedo converted her home into a museum, using the space as a way of showing off her pre-Hispanic sculptures, paintings by Kahlo, and drawings by Rivera. Now the museum still stands, acting as one of the world’s finest dedications to art from the period.

There is food aplenty in Mexico City, and now it might be one of the finest culinary spots in the entire world. While there are numerous places from which to choose, you would do well to go traditional with your selection and opt for a cooking style that might be difficult to find elsewhere. Such is the case with the treats of Taquería Los Parados. With standing room only, the restaurant might not be high up on your list, but you shouldn’t let the eating style put you off. Los Parados’ smoky rib, pork chops, and chorizo are cooked to perfection and have people pouring in from all across the city.

Fonda Fina, on the other hand, has all the makings of a family business, serving up its finest plates in a bistro setting. With chef Juan Cabrera replicating his choice of classic Mexican dishes, you can be sure to get better acquainted with local styles and eating habits. Battered and stuffed quesadillas are served up with a pumpkin sauce, while tender slices of tongue accompany wild mushroom sauté. This is comfort food as you’ve never seen it before.

Mexico City is a place on the rise, undergoing changes every moment of every day. With culture, custom, and cooking very much on the menu, the place is bursting back into life, reviving itself as a central hub of the New World once more.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.