By Chris K

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Mexico City is a place where you could start the day without an itinerary, and by the end of the day you will have eaten wonderful food, found unique handmade goods in three or four markets, shared a quick drink (or two) with some locals, and then spent the evening dancing away to music played by some extraordinary musicians.

All you need is a love of the unpredictable.

We’re going to try valiantly (but fail regardless) to capture some of the variety that Mexico City has to offer, on our second day here. Catch up on what we did in just one day in Mexico City.

Photo by Carlos Alvarez, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Carlos Alvarez, Licensed under CC.

Today’s Itinerary

  • we get up early to catch the Cathedral Metropolitana in the early quiet of the morning
  • check out the architectural variety, old and new, of El Zócalo
  • visit the home of a Mexican art superstar
  • throw ourselves into the eclectic neighbourhood that is Coyoacán
  • dive into Mexico City’s nightlife, courtesy of recommendations from a local guide

That’s one way to make a statement

When you’ve conquered a people and devastated a culture, there’s nothing that makes a statement that says ‘we won’ like building a new place of worship right over the top of their old place of worship.

Hernan Cortes, not well-known as history’s most friendly chap, did just this after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán.

The resulting monument is the Catedral Metropolitana, situated in El Zócalo (Plaza de la Constitución), and is where we start our day. The Cathedral imposes itself over the massive square, but the stunning detail of the many chapels inside the Cathedral are well worth exploring.

Photo by Francisco Diez, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Francisco Diez, Licensed under CC.

Back outside the Cathedral, we find ourselves in El Zócalo, an enormous public space and home to a snapshot of Mexican history through the architectural styles of the buildings that surround it. It has been used for concerts, public displays of art, and as the temporary canvas for the naked bodies of 18,000 brave Mexicans.

Photo by Eneas De Troya, Licensed under CC.

Expect to be surprised in Mexico City. Photo by Eneas De Troya, Licensed under CC.

Just doing your job – discover ancient ruins. Bonus time?

Before we leave the central square of Mexico City, we have to pay a visit to the Templo Mayor. Famously, it was found in dribs and drabs over decades, until finally;

On 25 February 1978, workers for the electric company were digging at a place in the city then popularly known as the “island of the dogs.” …[a]t just over two meters down they struck a pre-Hispanic monolith. This stone turned out to be a huge disk…weighing 8.5 metric tons. (source)

Imagine being able to tell that story down at the pub after work.

Visit the home of a Mexican art superstar

Photo by momo, Licensed under CC.

Photo by momo, Licensed under CC.

The Blue House, or more evocatively, the Casa Azul, was the home of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and is now a museum to celebrate her life and work.

It isn’t within walking distance (unless you feel like a long walk) so we take a Metro to a station close by (either Coyoacán‎ or General Anaya‎ will do).

A now internationally recognised artist, whose work is famous for its incredibly strong sense of identity as a Mexican and as a woman, Frida had a life of heartbreaking hardship and struggle, and not until after her death did her art achieve the fame that it deserved.

Her life reflects the turbulence of Mexico’s history in the 21st century and is in and of itself a fascinating story, and well worth our time.

Photo by Maria de Oro, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Maria de Oro, Licensed under CC.

Exploring Coyoacán

Whilst we’re in the neighbourhood, we might as well take a look around the area that Frida Kahlo called home.

Coyoacán is home to an eclectic mix of the past and present, with cafes, galleries, and museums. Wander around the tree-lined streets and see what grabs you.

Photo by Franco Folini, Licensed under CC.

This isn’t actually in Mexico City, but is a nice tribute to Frida and a range of other Mexican Artists, and the artistic style captures Coyoacan’s feel. Photo by Franco Folini, Licensed under CC.

Following on from yesterday’s theme – there’s also plenty of places to grab a taco on the run. The NYTimes recommends SUPER TACOS CHUPACABRAS (Avenida Río Churubusco, near Avenida Coyoacán) – which is hard to argue with. They’re super tacos.

Mexico City Night Life

Everyone is going to have their favourite bar, cantina, or nightclub, and we’re not going to argue with Mexico City’s 8 million local.

Instead, we’re pointing you to nightlife recommendations from a Mexico City local – you can argue with them!

Photo by Rodrigo Huerta, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Rodrigo Huerta, Licensed under CC.

Special Mention: Lucha Libre in Mexico City

We’d love to see one of the famous lucha libre fights in Arena Mexico (where is it? 189 Calle R. Lavista, Colonia Doctores, Mexico City), but these are a Friday night activity. We can still get in on the act, though – there are plenty of stores that sell the kitchy masks all around town – BBC Travel recommend El Hijo Del Santo.

If you’d like to take a closer look at lucha libre, you can watch this video.

What did you think of Mexico City? Tell us in the comments.