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| Spotlight Destination
With over twenty million people Mexico City, capital of the country, has been called the biggest city in the world.
Mexico City is surrounded by impressive mountains and sits at an elevation of 7,400 ft.
In 1325 the Aztecs, with a population of over 100,000, settled in this area. Here they lived in their city, called Tenochtitlan, among their temples, pyramids, and buildings. In 1518 Hernan Cortes began an exploration that landed him on the shores of Veracruz. Over the next several months he made his way to Tenochtitlan, making allies of the Aztec people on his way. In 1521 Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec Empire, wanting to hand it over to the Spanish crown. With the Aztecs sick from disease brought by the Spanish and weakened by war with neighboring tribes they were overcome. What followed was Mexico being plundered for its silver, conversion of natives to Christianity and Spaniards taking over to rule the Aztecs. With the discovery of silver Mexico prospered became known as la ciudad de los palacios (the city of palaces). Eventually, during the 1700s, the mining industry dried up. What followed in the 1800s is a long hard battle for independence, which was achieved in 1821. In 1829 all Spanish troops were ordered out of Mexico. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna seized power and canceled the Constitution of 1824 setting off a series of events that led to a war with the US and the loss of large amounts of Mexican Territory. Between 1863 and 1867 Emperor Maximilian governed Mexico. In 1867 Maximilian was defeated by Benito Juarez, who governed Mexico until his death in 1872. Porfirio Diaz gained power and during hie reign he modernized transportation and education systems. Under several different presidents laws took effect, cities were built, and changes to the education, commerce, agricultural, and labor systems has made Mexico what it is today; the social, economic, and cultural center of Mexico.
The hottest months of the year are April and May when temperatures reach 30 degrees Celsius. December to Februarys average temperature is 14 degrees Celsius making it cold enough to require a jacket or sweater. Nights and mornings are typically chilly all year round and especially so after rain. Rains begin in April and continue occasionally until October, with August being mostly rain free.
With over 25,000 hotel rooms you will be able to find accommodations to match your budget, lifestyle, and taste. You will find everything from bed and breakfasts to quaint inns and motels to luxury resorts and hotels. Most budget accommodations are located in the downtown Historic District while luxury hotels are in the Zona Rosa or Chapultepec Park area. Many of the top end hotels may have restaurants, full business centers, health clubs, gyms, pools, tennis courts, shops and stores, travel agencies, and car rental outlets. Most high-end hotels offer discounts during the weekends. Expect rates to range from US$30 in a budget hotel to US$1,200 for a suite in a luxury hotel.
Mexico City is home to over 15,000 restaurants. You can find family oriented establishments, 5-star gourmet restaurants, fast food diners, and everything in between. Restaurants are generally open until midnight during the week and a little later during the weekend. Some of the high-end restaurants require formal dress and reservations. Many of the best and most expensive restaurants are located in the Chapultepec Park area.
Mexico City has quite a few nightclubs, discos, and dance bars for a loud and rowdy evening. Many of these places feature live salsa, reggae, rock, jazz, blues, and Mexican bands. Other types of music many people groove to are hip-hop, disco, and techno. Cover charges may include an open bar. Closing time is generally between midnight and 5 am. If you prefer a quite evening, take in a ballet, opera, or theater production. Hotel lobby bars may offer live entertainment.
Theres everything from malls and markets to boutiques and stalls in Mexico City. Shopping in Mexico City is sophisticated and exciting. You can even find Gucci, Hermes, Christian Dior, Versace, Cartier, and Burberrys of London. Crafts, cigars, art, jewelery, designer clothing, candy, leather goods, music, books, furniture, and antiques are some of the items you will come across while wandering the shops, stores, markets, and malls.
You can find every type of cuisine in restaurants around Mexico City. French, Greek, Argentine, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Spanish and Vegetarian are just some of the types served. Fresh fruits like papaya, mango, mamey, guayaba, and jicama are widely served and consumed.
Banks: Most banks are open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, with many offering Saturday and Sunday hours. Almost all banks have ATMs and money exchange desks.
Internet: Many hotels have business centers with internet connection. There are several Internet cafes around town and in the resort area. The average cost per hour is US$4.
Transportation: Mexico City has several different types of taxis. From VW bugs which are the cheapest to Turismo taxis which are usually luxury cars and are the safest. The public transportation, buses and the subway, is a cheap, reliable, and fast way to get around town. Make sure you know where you want to go when boarding the subway, as the only maps are located at the entrance. Rental cars are an excellent way to explore the town on your own. There are several outlets in the airport as well as many located around town. To get the best rate book a car before you leave for Mexico City. Mexico City enforces a drive regulation. You will be prohibited from driving on a certain day of the week depending on what color and number a tag is on the license plate is.
San Juan Teotihuacan: The ruins in this area are said to be the most extraordinary in all of Mexico in this area located 30 miles northeast of Mexico City. Over 200,000 people vanished from here in 700 AD. Questions of who they were, where they came from, and where they went are still unanswered.
Ixtapan de la Sal: Located 75 miles southwest of Mexico City Ixtapan de la Sal is known for its traditional spas.
Valle de Bravo: This town, located 95 miles southwest of Mexico City, has been called the "Switzerland of Mexico." Mountains covered in pine trees surround Valle de Bravo. Theres also a man made lake where fishing and water-skiing are popular.
Cuernavaca: Cuernavaca is famous for its spas and spiritual sites. Located 85 km (53 MI) south of Mexico City this town is a popular retreat from Mexico City.
|WHERE TO GO:
The tourist attractions of Mexico City are defined into three areas:
the Zocalo and Alameda Central, Zona Rosa and Bosque de Chapultepe,
and Coyoacan and San Angel.
The Zocala and Alameda Central:
Ayuntamiento: Mexicos city hall was built in 1532, destroyed
in a fire in 1692 and rebuilt in 1722.
Catedral Metropolitana: This oldest and largest church in
Latin America was built in 1573. There are 14 chapels and five altars.
Inside are many altarpieces, statues, and paintings
Monte de Piedad: The Mountain of Pity was built in the late
18th century to aid the poor. It now houses the National Pawn Shop
which sells items like antiques, jewelery, and other objects not
claimed by their owners.
Museo Jose Luis Cuevas: Inside this museum, one of Mexicos
newest, youll find a collection of contemporary art as well as an
8-tonne bronze sculpture.
Palacio Nacional: The National Palace was built in 1693 with
a third floor added in 1926. The first bullfight in New Spain took
place in the courtyards. Murals of Mexicos history, painted by Diego
Rivera, adorn the second floor walls. The liberty bell rung by Padre
Hidalgo in 1810 hangs from the central façade.
Templo Mayor: In 1978 the ruins of the Aztec empire where
discovered accidentally by telephone repairmen. Now these ruins have
been converted into a historically important archaeological museum.
Museo del Templo Mayor: Adjacent to the Templo Mayor, this
museum houses over 3,000 artifacts found in the area and from other
ruins in central Mexico. Artifacts include stone carvings, knives,
skulls from sacrificial victims, and ceramic warriors.
Casa de los Azulejos: (House of Tiles) This palace was built
for the counts of the Valle de Orizaba in the 17th century. The mansion
got its name from the white, blue and yellow tiles installed by
descendant of the family.
Conjunto de San Idelfonso: In the 18th century this building
was originally used as a Jesuit school for wealthy Mexicans. In 1992
it open as a structure showcasing Mexican exhibits. There are works
by David Alfaro Siqueiros, Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera.
Museo Franz Mayer: 16th and 17th century antiques like
paintings, tapestries, and glassware are displayed at this museum.
There are also more than 700 copies of Don Quixote, written by
Museo Nacional de Arte: Inside the National Art Museum you
will find collections of art from painters such as Jose Maria Velasco
and Diego Rivera.
Palacio de Bellas Artes: National and international performances
as well as temporary art exhibits take place in this theater built in
Torre Latinoamericana: This 47-story skyscraper was once the
tallest building in the capital. On the 38th floor you will find a
small aquarium with sharks and crocodiles. On clear days the view
from the observation deck is spectacular.
Zona Rosa and Bosque de Chapultepec:
Monumento a la Indepencia: This monument, the cities most
beautiful, was built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the War
of Independence. An eternal flame burns in honor of the heroes of
the independence movement.
Bosque de Chapultepec: This 1,600-acre park is one of the
oldest in the city. There are three small lakes, a botanical garden,
a cultural center which hosts free plays, events and music, the
residential palace of the president (which is guarded and cant be
visited) an elegant restaurant, the national cemetery, and areas for
families, cyclists, and joggers.
Castillo de Chapultepec: This castle has been put to many
uses over the centuries. It was a Mexica palace, a Spanish retreat,
a gunpowder plant, a military collage, and the residence of Emperor
Maximilian and his wife. In 1940 it became the Museo Nacional de
Historia. There are displays of artwork, religious artifacts, and
Museo de Arte Moderno: The rooms in this museum display works
from painters, lithographers, photographers, and sculptors from around
Museo Nacional de Antropologia: This museum is said to be one of
the finest in the country and one of the best archaeological museums in
the world. There are displays, exhibits and collections from every
geographic region or culture covering 100,000 square feet. Labels are
in English and Spanish but guided tours are available for a fee.
Museo Rufino Tamayo: The majority of paintings and murals are
done by Rufino Tamayo but there are exhibits by contemporary artists
from around the world.
San Angel and Coyoacan:
Casa del Risco: This mansion was built in 1681. With a free-
form fountain sculpture and a museum that houses paintings from the
17th and 18th centuries this mansion is well worth a visit.
Ex-Convento del Carmen: Built between 1615 and 1628 this church
is an interesting example of colonial architecture. The church is still
functional but the convent, turned into a museum, houses a collection
of religious painting from the 16th to 18th centuries as well as twelve
Monumento al General Alvaro Obregon: This monument was erected
in the spot where reformer Obrego was killed in 1928.
Jardin Centenario: This large park is surrounded by outdoor
cafes. One of the first churches built in New Spain is located at
the far end.
Museo de Frida Kahlo: Feminist artist Frida Kahlo was born in
this house in 1907. Frida Kahlo was married to Diego Rivera twice and
had an affair with Leon Trotsky and several women. Kahlo has been
hailed as a cult figure because of her paintings, lifestyle, and
WHERE TO EAT:
The choice of restaurants and cuisine in Mexico City is limitless, from
Mexican and Yucatecan, Spanish and Greek, Chinese and French, the
possibilities are endless. Restaurants can be elegant and sophisticated,
or fun and lively, the choice is yours. At the more high-end restaurants
formal dress and reservations are usually required. You will find that
Mexicans partake in the lunch meal at 3:00pm and normally dine for dinner
no earlier than 9:00pm. Generally the most expensive and best restaurants
are located around the Colonia Polanco and Chapultepec Park. Since its
opening in 1992, Chez Wok has been the most popular restaurant for
Chinese food. Prices may seem a little high but the amount of food per
dish can easily feed two to three people. The Fonda Santa Clara is said
to serve the best traditional Mexican dishes such as sartenada ranchera,
grilled meats with salsa, avacado, and onion; chilies en nogada, chilies
stuffed with meat; and manchamantel, a sauce made with pears, apples,
bananas, apricots and chilies served over meats, usually chicken or pork.
For a laid back, casually relaxing meal head to Nautilus, where you can
dine on seafood and international dishes while sitting at a sidewalk table.
In the Hotel Zone, The Cicero Centenario, located in a restored 17th century
mansion, is one of the most popular eateries in the country. Authentic
colonial dishes, superb décor as well as folk singers give this restaurant
an air of sophistication and romance. Another local favorite is the
Restaurant Passy. French dishes such as chicken cordon bleu, Peking
duck, and Oysters Rockefeller are on the menu. The Fonda El Refugio,
which opened in 1954, serves notable dishes from every region in the
country. The menu changes regularly but you will always find something
delicious and appealing. This restaurant has won several culinary awards.
In the Centro Historico area you will find another branch of the Cicero
Centenario restaurant. The menu is the same except you will find a
regional delicacy, gusano de maguey (worms from a maguey leaf) served
in April and May. This restaurant occupies an 18th century mansion.
One of the oldest restaurants in the city, the Hosteria de Santo Domingo,
opened in 1860 and occupies a 19th century town house. Large portions
of food, homemade Mexican desserts, and an eclectic décor keep this
restaurant packed, especially at lunchtime. Since its opening in 1912,
the Café de Tacuba has remained a popular place to dine. The items on
the menu, such as pozole, mole poblano, tamales and enchiladas, are
distinctly traditional Mexican. If you dont mind heights, try Bellinis
located on the 45th floor of the World Trade Tower. While the name
implies Italian, you will find more Mexican and international dishes
on the menu such. You will find many American based franchises here
such as Dennys, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and
|WHAT TO DO:
Golf: The Bella Vista Golf Club offers an 18-hole course.
Spa: Both the Four Seasons Hotel and the Calinda Quality Geneve
have full sap facilities which include facials, manicures, massages,
Tours: Several agencies can arrange city tours of Mexico and the
|WHERE TO SHOP:
As in any other city of this size and population, you can find
anything and everything in Mexico Citys shops, stores, stands,
boutiques, markets, and malls. In the Zona Rosa area, there is a
large cluster of art galleries, boutiques, leather shops, jewelry
and antique stores. Sanborns, a chain of mini-department stores,
has approximately 65 branches and outlets in Mexico City. The
majority of these branches have a coffee shop or restaurant inside as
well as pharmacies, ATMs and English bookstores. The Santa Fe mall,
with over 285 stores, also has a movie theater and several eating
establishments. At the Bazar Sabado, held every Saturday, vendors
sell glassware, pottery, embroidered clothing, wooden masks, beads,
jewelry, and other assorted souvenirs, crafts, and gifts. This
bazaar is said to be a must for every shopper, bargain hunter, or
browser. At the Mercado Insurgentes 222 stands and stalls you will
find every type of crafts available, such as pottery, baskets, ponchos,
fossils, onyx, Mexican dresses and costumes as well as items made from
pewter. One of the largest markets in the city, the Merced Market, is
composed of several buildings. There is a separate building for fruits
and vegetables, and in the other buildings you can expect to find house
wares, spices, crafts and gifts, clothes and shoes, all at exceptionally
good deals. There are several shops and stores that sell exceptionally
beautiful pieces of jewelry. At Las Castillo, a branch of the Taxco
silversmith family, you can find exquisite jewelry as well as ceramics
inlaid with silver and porcelain bowls with silver figures. For some
of the best silver items found in Mexico, such as flatware, platters,
frames, and jewelry, head to Tane. You can also find a branch of this
store at the airport as well as in the Hotel Presidente Inter-
Continental. Mexico City is a treasure trove of any shoppers
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