Mexico City is a city full of infinite experiences and absolute magic. This ancient city has now developed into a sprawling metroplex lined with history, culture, and romance that would take more than one lifetime to explore. However, if you only had one-day there are a few things you should be sure to experience before you return for more.
On my way to Cancun for a wedding, I had a 17-hour layover in Mexico City. I landed in Mexico at 6 AM . It took me about an hour and a half to get through immigration and another 45 minutes to freshen up and find the lockers where you can store your luggage. I was ready, I got on the subway to meet my first tour guide.
If you thought the trains in NYC were packed you don't ever want to see the ones in Mexico City; I might have been borderline sexually assaulted this morning. The trains are so crowded they designate the first two cars of every train as "women only" cars for safety. So, it took me another 45 minutes to get to my meeting point and I was pretty early so I decided to eat breakfast. I ordered a scrambled egg/chorizo/chipotle concoction, which turned out to be quite amazing.
Finally met my guide, Francisco, and I ended up being the ONLY person on the tour, so I convinced him to take me to all his spots (Lol) after seeing the tourist sites of course. The best place to head for a short day long layover is the main plaza of Mexico City – Zócalo. I visited the imposing Metropolitan Cathedral which dominates the vast expanse of Mexico City’s central square.
The Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana) is not only one of Mexico’s most treasured architectural masterpieces, it is also Latin America’s largest and oldest cathedral. This historic place is a great source of Mexican pride and now houses the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico.
My next stop was The Templo Mayor on the northeast corner of the plaza. Since I'm already in the plaza, we headed over to the Museo del Templo Mayor, one of the best and biggest museums in Mexico City. The museum tells the history of Mexico from the very early tribes to the rise of the great Aztec empire and the eventual conquest by the Spanish. There are thousands of things to see and you can easily spend most of your day in the museum if you are a history fan.
Then, we headed to The Casa de los Azulejos or "House of Tiles" – an 18th-century palace in Mexico City. I suppose it is so iconic and stunning inside. Bit like visiting NYC and going to the Empire State Building or London and seeing the Houses of Parliament. It's a Mexican institution. The building is distinguished by its facade, which is covered on three sides by blue and white tile of Puebla state.
The Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) is another prominent cultural center in Mexico City I visited. It has hosted some of the most notable events in music, dance, theatre, opera and literature and has held important exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography. Consequently, the Palacio de Bellas Artes has been called the "Cathedral of Art in Mexico". Interesting architecture, some decent murals, a few noteworthy paintings make the Palacio worth a visit.
The building is located on the western side of the historic center of Mexico City. Now normally, museums are a bit of a bore and you can blow through them in about an hour (maybe you are dying to escape by the end of it), but museums in Mexico City are completely different.
After the touristy stops, the real fun commenced! We went to eat crickets and some other weird animal. We also took shots of Mezcal at the local market and he took me to get tacos. Yup! I'm in love at this point (Lol). The only acceptable thing to eat for lunch in Mexico City is street food. If you don’t eat the street food in Mexico City, you’re basic.
That tour finishes and Francisco walks me to meet my next guide, Rod. Once again, I'm the ONLY person on the tour, so we make our way to the Teotihuacán Pyramids. I climbed half way up on both the big ones (view from the midway point is amazing). The mysterious Teotihuacán Pyramids were built around 100 BC as the centerpiece of an enormous ancient city. They were inexplicably abandoned centuries before the arrival of the Aztecs, who called the ancient architectural marvel the Birthplace of the Gods.
One very interesting thing he told me is that the pyramids are not necessarily pyramids in the typical sense (like in egypt). There is nothing inside the pyramids in Mexico; instead they climb up to the top of them and use the altars for prayers. They basically use it to be closer to God.
From there we go visit three local families and spend some time with them for a few hours. One of the host families cooked us dinner. I ate cactus, chicken, chorizo, rice and beans and then I had tapioca for dessert. Later had a Victoria beer (coronas rival) to wash down all the goodness, I had a few more shots of some homemade alcohol and now I'm back at the airport.
All in all, Mexico City is a place that offers you unique experiences that you won’t be able to get anywhere else. A mix of poor and rich, new and old, paintings and performances, you are sure to have an unforgettable adventure!