How we ended up spending two weeks in Mexico City on this trip I’ll never know, that was far from the original plan when we set out to travel only South America. But am I glad we did it? Yes! Mexico City has edged Buenos Aires as our favourite city in Latin America. It has everything, which isn’t surprising considering it’s home to 20 million people.
The diversity of the people is amazing. When we arrived at our Air B an B, an apartment in a local city centre neighbourhood, we found ourselves locked out waiting for the hosts mum to drop the key off. We ending up spending an hour stood on the street just watching people go by. We saw full Mexican cowboys, with knee high boots and sombreros, followed by business men, followed by punk rockers, followed by families, followed by the coffee and donut man.
It was the coffee and donut man with whom I made my first Mexican purchase, coffee and donuts of course. The cost was the equivalent of 60p, even with our free-falling currency that’s a bargain, and I love a bargain! That set the tone for this city and we had one hell of a time. Here’s my highlights…
I’ve always wanted to go to the Mexican wrestling, I don’t know why, but I just have. We ticked that item of my bucket list with a Sunday evening show at Arena Mexico. We were perfectly set up on row 10 with a Corona and some popcorn but when the first match started it was one of the worst things we’ve ever seen. It looked like they’d pulled a few Mexicans out of the local Cantina, showed them a WWF video, and put them in the ring.
Luckily, the quality got better as did the showmanship which really made the show in the end. The big characters came in for the last two bouts, with bigger entrances and sometimes with small mascots that occasionally gets tossed around in the ring by opposing wrestlers. The quality was a lot higher than the first few bouts and when the crowd got involved it really made it worthwhile. We topped off our evening of culture with McDonald’s before heading back to the apartment.
Pyramids in Mexico city? Not just any but some of the biggest in the world. This ancient site is straight out of an Indiana Jones movie and once we found out about it we realised it couldn’t be missed. We bought a return ticket to the site from the north bus terminal for $100 pesos each and payed $70 pesos each to get in. The tube was $5 pesos each way to the bus station. So That’s $180 pesos each for the day, or around £7.50. That’s an absolute fraction compared to what we’ve payed at other famous sites. At Machu Picchu, entrance alone was around £30 pound each and don’t get me started on train prices to get there. If tourists continue coming here I think the entrance fee will increase tenfold in five years.
The site itself was incredible, and huge! This ancient city predates Aztecs. We were one of the first people in on the day and you can climb the pyramids too which gave us great views of site. The two main pyramids, pyramid of the sun and pyramid of the moon are both spectacular. What more can you ask for when a day trip like this comes in at £7.50 per person.
I mentioned in the intro my first purchase of coffee and donuts, and what a bargain it was. Well later that night we walked round the corner to the local taco stand and had 5 tacos between us. They were small but they did the job. When I asked how much we owe and the lady replied 35 pesos, I nearly shit my pants with excitement. We just ate out for the equivalent £1.40! It was like being back on the streets of Asia.
What followed was copious amounts of street food throughout our first week and all kinds of it. Taco’s were the cheapest but it was all good value. Aimee had made a special list of street foods she wanted it try, and they were all ticked off pretty quick along with some other stuff. Hygiene levels were questionable at times, but neither of us had any major issues. A testament to how far we’ve come since our first few weeks in Ecuador.
In stark contrast to the street bargains I’ve just talked about is the cities cool, hip neighbourhood with edgy cafes and higher prices. We were having such a good time at all the local street food places but it was starting to take it’s toll so we gave this neighbourhood a try
We were actually really surprised at how good Condesa was, and the prices weren’t crazy like the cool neighbourhood of Palermo in Buenos Aires. We ventured into Condesa around 4 times in our two weeks there, sometimes for some food but mainly for drinks or coffee.
There was one pretty cool cafe in the centre where we found ourselves with a hot chocolate playing the Simpsons version of the board game Guess Who, pretty epic. Aimee also found another Aimee, who had decided to open a little cafe. These Aimee’s and their cafes.
ZOCOLO AND THE HISTORIC CENTRE
The historic city of Mexico city has got a lot to offer. This is where you see a real mix of people. The main plaza is impressive and one of the largest we’ve seen but the Aztec ruins just off the square are equally impressive.
There’s just so much happening on streets, especially in the centre. We walked through markets and down backstreets to Bella Artes, the famous building in the first image of this post. We saw so many local coffee houses, food places and little shops that all looked great.
Bella Artes is one of the most famous buildings in the city. So on a recommendation from some friends we went to a traditional cultural dance show there on a Sunday morning. It was impressive to actually go into the building and to see a show take place.
Whilst I appreciated some of the traditional dances and some other things going on in the show, like the harp player, it wasn’t really my thing but it was still a good experience, and completely different to the Lucha Libre we saw!
CHAPULTEPEC PARK AND ZOO
This is the main park in the city, home to the old presidential castle, huge spaces of greenery and much more, including the world famous National Anthropology Museum and The Mexico City Zoo, which is free!
The park itself was a great place to chill, and one afternoon we decided to pay a visit to the free zoo. We weren’t expecting to see much, because it free and in other places that would likely feature a few small goats and a grass snake.
Actually though, it was big surprise. The zoo had all sorts of animals from all over the world, bears, big cats, jungle cats, monkeys, African animals etc.. What these animals are doing locked in a cage in Mexico City I’m not quite sure. Still.. we went in and and stared at them along with everybody else so who I am to say that.
NATIONAL ANTHROPOLOGY MUSEUM
This is a world famous museum we had to go to. It’s where all the amazing things from the Aztec and Mayan civilisations are kept. In particular the ancient hieroglyphic stones and structures that you think of when you think Aztec. There is literally so much on display from so many Meso-American cultures you can’t see everything. We tried to see only the recommended bits and still spent around three hours there.
For me the best bit was actually nothing to do with Mayans or Aztecs. It was the section about the evolution of humans and some of the remains from other species closely related to ours, and species we have evolved from.