MEXICO CITY — Each year, when I return to this, the city of my birth, I feel like I’m taking a trip through time. From its stately colonial buildings, its massive museums and incredible pre-Hispanic pyramids, my beloved Mexico City is a treasure chest of history and a sight to behold, especially when I arrive at night and the city’s lights sparkle like a billion diamonds on a black canvas.
But there’s so much to do when I go home for a short visit. So much I want to share with my friends.
First stop: The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the city’s massive circular shrine that is a must visit for devote Catholics. It has become the most popular Catholic shrine in the world, welcoming millions of visitors yearly.
Before making my way to the great church, though, I make a quick stop at the nearby flower market, which features many shops that sell beautiful arrangements that are purchased and offered up to Our Lady by the faithful.
Above: The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most popular attractions in Mexico's capital.
The market is also home to delicious food and produce, as well as a colourful array of souvenirs, religious statues and the famous Gorditas de Nata — it’s similar to a mini pancake but undeniably more delicious. It comes wrapped in colourful tissue paper that adds just that extra special touch.
The incredible scent of the pastries, which are made right in front of me, makes my mouth water.
When I reach the church, I’m enveloped by a sense of peacefulness and awestruck by its elaborate decor and magnitude. The alter is covered in flowers purchased at the market. What an incredible sight.
Next stop, the Zocalo, Mexico City’s main square and the historic heart of this gigantic city of 21 million souls. Officially known as Plaza de la Constitucion, locals refer to the handsome square simply as El Zocalo.
This gem has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is surrounded by many national landmarks — the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace and other important federal buildings and, of course, the Templo Mayor, the archeological site that dates back to 1325. It was the main temple of the Mexica People, for whom the country gets its name.
There’s always a buzz of excitement in El Zocalo, which is ringed by high-end designer shops, lots of jewellery stores and souvenir stands selling lots of Mexican kitsch.
As I tour the streets of the downtown core, a must stop for me is always El Palacios de las Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts).
Left: A flower vendor waits for customers. Right: The El Palacio de las Bellas Artes is one of Mexico's best museums.
The impressive white marble UNESCO building is a real eye pleaser and throughout the year hosts well known international performers, ballets and is home to the National Orquesta, Mexico’s national symphony orchestra .
El Palacios also houses some of Diego Rivera’s most impressive artwork, along with paintings and murals contributed by other Mexican artists.
No visit to Mexico City would be complete for me without stopping by El Angel, the city's iconic golden statue officially known as the Angel of Independence.
Situated on one of the busiest and most important streets In Mexico City, Reforma Ave., this monument symbolizes law, war, peace and justice. It is one of Mexico’s most recognized symbols around the world and popular amongst locals as the gathering spot for both celebrations and protests.
El Angel even has a mausoleum where the most important figures in Mexican history are laid to rest. Visiting El Angel during the night when it’s bathed in purple light, or just when the sun begins to set, makes for a memorable photograph.
When I’m finished visiting Mexico City’s wide range of cultural attractions, I seek out its restaurants, bars and clubs. The choice is endless.
If I want to hit the town and enjoy a fun-filled night, I start by taking a stroll on Polanco Ave., where a variety of sophisticated restaurants and posh stores are located. I then head over to La Condesa, the city’s stylish neighbourhood where numerous hip cafés, bistros, bars and trendy clubs are located.
Now let me enlighten you a little bit about the food scene in the capital. Mexico is rich on gastronomy and there are thousands of different dishes, thanks to the country’s diversity. Mexican food, as you’ll quickly discover, is not just tacos and guacamole.
Above: There's plenty of street art, street musicians and street food to be enjoyed in Mexico City.
When I get to Mexico, I can’t wait to devour an authentic quesadillas — the handmade corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, chicharron (pork rind), steak and mushrooms and many other local ingredients.
If your palette is feeling adventurous, I invite you to try one the foot–long quesadillas, but make sure you go on an empty stomach. And we cannot ignore the country’s famous tamales. They consist of corn dough and are stuffed with pork or chicken with mole steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. They’re especially popular at breakfast.
If you have a sweet tooth, like me, you are in for a treat when you get to Mexico City because El Moro, established in 1935, is where I get my fix of churros and hot chocolate. Yum!
Mexican cuisine has been passed down from generation to generation with modern chefs adding their own interpretation — no wonder it’s the world’s most popular food.
My Mexico City is a destination with a remarkable charm. Its people are kind and friendly, its vivacious, multi-coloured landmarks are breathtaking, and the self-indulgent food is something that must be experienced to truly enjoy and appreciate.
If you are planning to visit my hometown, I can assure you that it will leave an everlasting impression in your heart and you’ll have an eagerness to return to enjoy even more of what this incredible city has to offer.