For the almost 5 months, I have been living in Mexico’s capital as an exchange student at the university of La Salle, this post is going to cover my experience of travelling to Mexico for the first time and the very best of what you should see as a tourist. First of all, Mexico City is enormous with a total population doubling Scotland’s. Mexico City has a lot to other and I have a lot to talk about so I may make other posts about Mexico.
It all started with a cold Monday January morning, I had everything packed in two bags and my dad drove me to the airport. After a layover in Amsterdam I had to endure a 10 hour flight and once I arrived I got through immigration and customs within 20 minutes. I didn’t think through how I would get to my accommodation, little did I know that getting a taxi only costs a tenner and can be organised quickly. I took the metro which was not the best idea at night, what you must now about the metro is that in order to use it, you have to buy a card which can only be paid for and topped up with cash.
Every time you use the metro it costs $5 which is about 20p. On the metro I discovered that I stick out like a sore thumb, I do not look Mexican at all. Mexico is often mistaken for being poorer than it actually is and a common thing you will experience here is that people will try to sell you stuff, even coming up to you when you’re sitting in a restaurant. While riding the metro I saw a man with one arm cleaning the floor and collecting coins from passengers, this was nothing like anything I had seen in my life.
The first place in Mexico City I’d like to talk about is the Museo Soumaya, which is an art museum near the Polanco neighbourhood. The building itself is an eyesore, however the museum is huge and has a very impressive collection of art from all over the world. I’m pretty sure the admission is free so I recommend taking a look if you’re interestet in art.
In the area near Polanco there is monument known as the Ángel de la Independencia, it is one of the most iconic sites in the city and stands as a monument to commemorate the independence of Mexico, the construction of this monument was ordered by the infamous dictator Porfirio Diaz and was finally built in 1910.
In the northern area of the city is the Basilica de Guadalupe which is an iconic cathedral which is extremely relevant to the history of Mexico. You can take some stairs up to a point where you can see the roof of the church which looks like gold and you can get some views of the rest of the city which will make you realise that this city is huge. Keep in mind that this is a very sacred religious site, so make sure you are respectful when you visit.
What can be said about this city is that it is home to some incredible museums and as a student in a Mexican uni, I can go to most of them for free. One of the most famous museums next to Chapultepec is the Museo Nacional de Antropología which is the biggest and most-visited museum in Mexico. In the museum, you can see a lot of aspects from pre-Hispanic societies and artefacts. The most breathtaking one is the Aztec Sun Stone, which was created in the 1500s.
One of my favourite experiences in Mexico City was Xochimilco in the south of the city, to explain this place is that it’s more or less a network of canals and you pay a guy to take you on a wooden boat around while enjoying drinks and music. The vibes this place has are crazy as you can literally see mariachi bands on boats and drink a beer as you go down the canal. I’d say it takes a good 3 hours to experience the canals and the boat ride can’t cost more than a tenner. I recommend taking an Uber to get here and although the neighbourhood feels a bit rough, I can’t say it’s dangerous.
Next, I must go onto talk about the Historical Centre, which you can take the metro to the Zócalo station and when you come outside, you are greeted with La Plaza de la Constitución which is a large open area with a huge flagpole. As this place is where the main government offices are, the square has a lot of activists around, but also as it’s the most touristy part of the city, there are a lot of people around selling tourist tat. This plaza also has the Metropolitan Cathedral, a gothic style catholic church which was built in 1656.
About a 5 minute walk from the plaza is one of the most iconic buildings in Mexico, the Palacio de Bellas Artes is an incredible museum full of art. The building itself is incredible and the art inside is from artists of all types, most notably Diego Riviera. With my student card, the admission was free and normal price is only about £3, this is a bargain considering it’s probably one of the greatest museums in North America.
A stone’s throw away is the Torre Latino, which is worth visiting to get some views around the historical centre, entry is only $160 or about £6 which is a fair price and I’d say that makes it worth it. The building itself is nothing special, however, with the views you get at the top, you can see Mexico city and the surrounding mountains.
The final place I will talk about in this post is the Bosque de Chapultepec, which is a huge park in the middle of the city. Within the park, there are stalls of people selling stuff and food, it has its own lake and a monument in commemoration of Mexico’s victory against France. The place even has a castle which used to be the residence of the emperor of Mexico and feels very much in the style of a European castle. Furthermore, the views from the castle are incredible as you can see the Ángel de la independencia and the rest of Chapultepec.
To end this post, I have to say that Mexico city is huge and I have so much more to write about this place. It’s definitely a place I’d recommend visiting for maybe a few days. Mexico has been falsely painted with so much negativity, however it’s a fantastic country with fantastic people. It’s a very affordable destination and if Mexican culture interests you, then I have to recommend visiting.