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There's no place in the world like New York — at least that's the general worldwide consensus. But, dare I say, there are cities — ahem, Mexico City — that are starting to feel just as alive, or even better. Gasp. But there’s one thing that Mexico has that the glorious island of Manhattan never will (more on that below). This south of the border destination is infused with the romantic words, screaming colors, and storytelling art of Latin culture.

Mexico City, also as known as Distrito Federal, is the capital of Mexico and one of the most important financial centers in the Americas. It’s overpopulated, busy, and up to its ears in a vibrant culture. The constant juxtapositioning of pre-urbanized days and contemporary times are enough to make even the most ambitious traveler restless. Even if you don't agree with us on this one, take a look at some reason why we think Mexico City a top contender. 

Related From Vivala: A Taco Recipe to End All Taco Recipes

1

Long walks

photo: Antonella Saravia

The things most locals love most and ex-locals miss the most about New York are the walks. But if you can’t get up north often, or don’t want to, Mexico City can give you your fix. For those with limited time but eager feed, your must walks are:

Bosque de Chapultepec: The first thing that needs to say about the Chapultepec Forest or Park is that is has a castle in its midst. Yes, folks, in the middle of the city there is a forest. In this quiet and harmonious maze of greenery, there stands a castle at the top of the a hill. 

Condesa: With its springing parks and stylish barrios, wandering the streets of the capital is a must. The ever-changing trendy neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma are home to trendy mezcal cocktails, quaint cafes, and art galleries.

2

Cuisine

photo: Antonella Saravia

By cuisine, I really mean tacos. By tacos, I really mean homemade tortillas, redonk mole, endless salsas, heavenly guac, and a little bit of that green hot sauce that looks a tad bit dangerous — and sometimes is for those not used to spicy foods. 

Yes, the great cities of the world interpret your favorite cuisine amazingly, but down here, the entire experience comes together so perfectly to taste, look, and feel so  . . . Mexico.

Much like the big city that we praise so often, the city’s street food and small local spots will impress even the snobbiest of foodies.

Azul Histórico: After you’ve tired of the crowds in the capital’s central plaza, Zocalo, and visited El Palacio de Las Bellas Artes and the Cathedral dip into this mole and salsa haven. Tucked away in the busy streets of the Centro Historico is Azul Historico. The latest spot by chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita is set on the open patio of a 17th-century palace. Oh! And if you can pop a bottle, as my friend Laura always says, “You’ll be surprised how well champagne and tacos mix.”

Fisher's: A few tequilas and Luis Miguel songs later, we found ourselves diving into the seafood consommé that we’d been told was a must. A laid back venue, the menu is based on fresh seafood with a Mexican flair as it offers authentic recipes from different regions. Oh and yea, they have the consommé that’ll cure just about anything.

3

Faith

photo: Antonella Saravia
Whatever the reason that gets you to visit a holy place and invites a moment of reflection or silence is worth the journey. The importance of religion in Mexican culture is intrinsically imbued in every moment and every detail. Understanding Mexico requires curiosity about the religious traditions that stand behind its vivid life and colors. Of the places you’ll go, make sure to roam the grounds of special site:

Basílica de Guadeloupe: After the Vatican, it’s said that the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the second most visited holy place in the world. It is a Roman Catholic church, basilica, and National shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The first structure was started as early as 1695 with additions and the modern basilica built only recently in the mid-70s. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites of Catholicism and is located in the north of the capital.

4

Culture

photo: Antonella Saravia

If you appreciate the street art, sounds and style of any city, Mexico won’t disappoint. The deepest and farthest nooks of the city are beyond inspirational. 

Museo Tamayo: Though you’re a little late to take the coolest selfie ever at the museum's display of Yayoi Kusama’s OBSESIÓN INFINITA, Museo Tamayo promises the most original exhibitions of the contemporary art scene. So before you go shopping in Polanco, make sure to swing by this innovative art hub. (For more on current exhibits.)

La Casa Azul: The famous cobalt blue house and art museum, in Coyoacán, exhibits the life and work the wondrous Frida Kahlo. The area around the house invites visitors to roam its streets and indulge in the quieter, more local essence of the barrios. 

Palacio de las Bellas Artes: Bearing a mixture of architectural styles Art Nouveau dominates the facade of this cultural center. In all its splendor, the palace is, "...the scene of some of the most notable events in music, dance, theater, opera, and literature and has hosted important exhibitions of painting, sculpture, and photography."

5

Bizarre art

photo: Antonella Saravia

In addition to the street performers and quirky characters which one encounters, Mexico has a little something to offer those who crave unconventional entertainment and art. Along with its deep colors, religious sites, and pre-Colombian wonders, the city of Mexico also has much to offer to the non-traditionalists of our times. Popular sites include:

Island of the Dolls: Equipped with a creepy legend after the death of a young girl, this bizarre shrine has become a tourist attraction. 

El Chopo: Originally a hippie market, the capital's alternative market has given into recent styles such as punk, heavy metal, and goth. 

El Cuadrilatero: Owned by a Mexican wrestler, this spot is a shrine to Mexico's masked marvels, oh and they also have tortas!


6

Just outside the city . . .

photo: Antonella Saravia

Like many of the great cities of the world, there's so much to discover just outside of them. 

It's true that the mountains and landscapes just outside New York City are quite mesmerizing, but just outside Mexico City are a string of noteworthy attractions you'll want to roam. First on the list, pyramids! Yes, pyramids!

Teotihuacan: Northeast of modern-day Mexico City is the impressive archaeological site commonly referred to as "Teotihuacan Pyramids" or "The City of the Gods." Dated back to Pre-Colombian times, this massive historic location is worth writing home about — or taking a selfie at. At approximately 40 km from the city, which comes out to about an hour drive, it is an easy day trip to make out.  

And for those the stop to the premium outlets on the way back home, "el DF" has got that too. 

Premium Outlet Mall: You might have never imagined yourself heading to an outlet in Mexico, but it's actually not a bad idea. With a variety of brands and the difference in products given the region, the trip out to the shopping center is worth it.  

So, with everything covered, doesn't the intensity, intrigue, and coverage all sound a little familiar to anyone? We thought so! #welovemexico