Is it a good time to visit Mexico City?
Updated: Jul 9, 2019
Absolutely. And here is why.
It had been over twelve years since the last time I was in Mexico City, now with a new acronym ‘CDMX’, which stands for Ciudad de Mexico, and no more Distrito Federal, ‘DF’. When I lived in Mexico I used to visit this city at least once a month and it was a chaotic, contrasting and unstoppable city.
Last July I visited and the city had changed, however, its essence is still the same. In theory the city doesn’t make sense, founded by the Aztecs during their peregrination looking for the promised land by the gods to settle in Central Mexico. They finally spotted the place, a lake with an island in the middle of it, on the island there was an eagle eating a snake while on top of a cactus, that was the sign. And that sign still shows in the middle of the Mexican flag these days.
It was an island, on a lake, in the middle of a valley, surrounded by volcanoes and the highest peaks of Mexico’s Sierra Madre. The Popocatepetl and the Pico de Orizaba witness the city’s life from high above reminding its citizens that they are only visitors in their land from thousands of years ago.
With all that, who would have thought that a city would prevail in this territory? Anyone else would have left, but not the Aztecs and later on the Spaniards were deeply impressed by the organization and sophisticated lifestyle that the natives lived on this floating city.
At the same time its complex topography makes it prone to high impact earthquakes, mostly coming from the Cocos plate off the southeast shore of the Pacific. That was exactly what happened last September with two earthquakes shaking the city to its core.
But back in July it was the middle of Summer time in CDMX and it was vibrant. We don’t really get to see the cool and chic side of Mexico on the news, TV, or even on social media. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find it fascinating. Defenos, as the locals are called from the former official name of the city Distrito Federal (or Federal District) have a quirky, trendy and cool way to live life. There are so many trends happening here, not being replaced by globalization but instead incorporated into an authentic Mexican style.
During my visit, specifically to the neighborhoods of Coyoacan, Roma and Condesa I enjoyed some very cool and interesting spots that made me feel back in a magical, colorful, chic and trendy city:
Frida Kahlo Home and Museum — When Coyoacan used to be a sleepy part of town, Frida and her family grew up here. I’m impressed how it’s been conserved as authentic as possible with the architecture, the colors and the gardens just the same as back in the day when Frida used to live here and later on with husband Diego Rivera. It’s like walking in a friend’s garden, going through the bedrooms, kitchen and all the rooms that Frida loved so much. History, love and inspiration can be found here. Buy tickets in advance to avoid lines and keep in mind that museums in Mexico are usually closed on Mondays.
Centro Historico — Or downtown. It dates back to the beginning of the establishment of the Aztecs back in pre-hispanic times. When Spaniards conquered the city they built on top of the existing buildings, including the temples that still exist today buried under ground. There are tours to see these. Then in the late 1800s and early 1900s Mexican rulers wanted to make the city as sophisticated as Paris and many architects and designers were brought to the city to build magnificent buildings. One of the most representative samples of this architecture is the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) which has the largest Tiffany’s curtain ever made for a theatre. Because of the building’s weight, like some other buildings, it sinks into the ground every year about 1–2 centimeters. Walk around this area and witness the lapse of time with its architecture throughout centuries of Aztec, Spanish and French influences.
It was a quick weekend for me there with so much to see and do. I spent most of my time in La Condesa and La Roma, neighborhoods that represent the authentic free spirit, sophisticated and complex history of the city. Unfortunately, this last September these neighborhoods were impacted by the earthquake and several buildings were either damaged or collapsed. However, I have no doubt that the city will reemerge from this catastrophe just like it has done before for centuries.
When you visit don’t be surprised with the food scene and the party that never ends. Some of my favorite places include Contramar, Paramon and Zaranda . Popular places where you can mingle with the locals and even maybe spot some celebrities. The night scene never ends and just like that we have El Departamento which literally like its name depicts, it is a real apartment turned into bar/club and you feel like you’re partying at some friend’s place with other dozens of strangers. I was happily surprised to get invited to a speakeasy bar, hidden in the back of a humble taqueria in La Juarez, Hanky Panky. I can’t disclose its location as this is by invitation only and you can’t even mention the place in social media. Sorry millennials, no hashtags or Instas.
The other night I was being asked by someone why I think Mexico city is so cool. Honestly, I had a hard time explaining it because like its culture the city is also so complex, there’s no city in the world like this one. With many complexities that entails having a city in this location, one of the largest cities in the globe, with so much history, great food and bars that seem to never close. Its people makes this place the best, with a passion for life, inventing and creating trends here, sophisticated, humble, friendly and welcoming. Not to mention all the history that you can learn here, dating back to the splendor of Tenochtitlan A.D. 1325 -1521.
This is why we must travel and experience all this, Mexico City will come back and will come back as energetic as ever because that’s how Mexicans recover from catastrophes. With more passion, more appreciation for life and ways to reinvent life.