Posted on 2024-03-22

A taste of Mexico City

Mexico City / Ciudad de México / CDMX

In February 2024, we went on a weekend trip to Mexico City. We wanted to experience the city's lively atmosphere and see if it would draw us back again. Here's a look at our trip through the heart of one of the largest cities in the world.

The city

We got our first impressions while driving from the airport to our hotel in the city center. The first neighborhoods we passed through were on the east side of the city. They featured chaotic architecture with many buildings in poor condition, but the streets were clean and full of people.

As we neared the city center, the environment started to shift. Approaching Zócalo, the city's main square, the architecture became more structured. Makeshift stalls and markets give way to larger and more elegant storefronts and the crowd looks more middle class.

Further west, in the business heart of the city around La Reforma, large avenues are lined with modern skyscrapers and high-end malls that feature luxury brands. Mexico City is clearly a place of contrasts.

The history

When planning trips, I usually take one of two approaches. Sometimes I thoroughly research the destination to build anticipation for what I'll see. Other times, I prefer to arrive unprepared, allowing the place itself to offer surprises and inspiration. My visit to Mexico City beautifully combined both strategies!

Diego Rivera

In preparation for the trip, I immersed myself in the world of Diego Rivera, the renowned Mexican muralist known for his vivid artwork, flamboyant personality, and his marriage to Frida Kahlo. I read his biography, rewatched the movie "Frida" (featuring Alfred Molina as Rivera), and studied his paintings.

This background enriched my experience significantly when we visited the Diego Rivera Museum and saw his murals at the Palacio De Bellas Artes. This prior knowledge not only heightened my appreciation for Rivera's art but also deepened my understanding of other muralists like Siqueiros and Orozco, and even the street graffiti around the city.

Templo Mayor

In contrast, before arriving in Mexico, I knew very little about the Spanish conquest. I heard of Hernán Cortés and Montezuma but lacked detailed historical context. I even confused Teotihuacan, a site with large pyramids located outside the city, with Tenochtitlan, the former Aztec capital upon which modern Mexico City is built.

During our visit, we went to see ruins of the Aztec temple - the Templo Mayor - that are right next to the hotel we stayed in. Typically, ruins are not the most cativating places, but being the good tourist I am, I walked around the place, listened to our guide and carefully read the labels on the exhibits.

That could be the end of the story, but two weeks after we got back from Mexico City, I noticed that my favourite podcast did a series of episodes on of the Spanish conquest of Mexico. As I listened, the story of Templo Mayor — which previously has seemed just a collection of stones and relics — came to life. I realized that these ruins have seen some of the wildest, tragic and most surreal events in the entire human history!

The Art Scene

On our final day, we shifted our focus from historical landmarks to the active contemporary art scene of Mexico City. Looking not only into the past, but also exploring the present is a great way to enrich any travel experience and I try to add an element like that to all my trips.

Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, we ventured into the San Rafael neighborhood to explore its art community.

Galería Hilario Galguera

Our first stop was Galería Hilario Galguera. Victor Mendoza, the gallery's director, enthusiastically showed us through the exhibition spaces which at that time was presenting to strongly erotic work on Daniel Lezama.

Victor was also very excited about an upcoming exhibition featuring British artist Damien Hirst. I was not familiar with Hirst's art initially, but since that visit, I've delved deeper into that topic. As I learned about his art and career and my appreciation for Victor's excitement has significantly increased.

Studio Visit: Chavis Marmol

Next, we visited the studio of Chavis Marmol, a sculptor and performance artist. Chavis, with his timid and humble attitude, spoke about his art in a relaxed and straightforward manner, and we enjoyed his company.

His latest performance, which took place sometime after our meeting, involved using a 3-ton Olmec statue to smash a Tesla. Brilliant!

The food and the drinks

I went to Mexico expecting excellent food, given how spoiled I am by all the Mexican cuisine available in LA. I'm happy to report that Mexico City delivered!

On the first evening, we went bar hopping around La Condesa. With narrow streets lined up with trees, beautiful houses and villas, bars and restaurants on every corner, La Condesa is the place to be on a Friday night!

We started at Caiman with a tasting of Mexican natural wines. The wines were predominantly from Valle de Guadalupe, a region just south of Tijuana near the US border.

After the wine tasting, we headed to another bar, NIV, where we switched gears to mezcal, tequila, and a spirit I'd never encountered before called "pulque." The spirits were paired with delicious tapas and fantastic lamb chops. I'm not a Mezcal drinker, so things got a bit hazy towards at the end. That evening was a lot of fun!

For the next two days, we indulged in a variety of local foods. We tried tlacoyos, thick tortilla buns, and sopes, sandwiches filled with fried cheese and meat. However, the most popular dish in the city's bars is the taco al pastor. Al pastor features meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, similar to the Turkish "döner kebab". This method was brought to Mexico by Middle Eastern immigrants. Unlike the döner, al pastor is made of pork instead of lamb and is seasoned with a distinctive blend of local spices, giving it a unique marinated flavor.

On the high-end cuisine side, Caracol Del Mar offered a fantastic fusion of Mexican and Peruvian-inspired dishes, including delicious ceviche and tamales. We also enjoyed an extravagant dining experience at the chic Balcon De Zocalo. Lastly, the breakfasts at our hotel had a truly Mexican vibe and were consistently amazing!

Whether it was dinner or breakfast, street food or fine dining, most dishes had one thing in common: tortillas. In one way or another, tortillas make their way into every Mexcian meal, always enhancing the flavors with great results!

A brief weekend in the bustling capital city of 20 million people barely scratches the surface, providing just a glimpse and a few impressions. Yet, that was enough for Mexico City to evolve from a mere spot on the map to a destination I want to explore further!

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Everyday3D is a blog by Bartek Drozdz

I started Everyday3d in 2007 with a focus web development. Over the years, I wrote about technology, graphics programming, Virtual Reality and 360 photography. In 2016, I co-founded Kuula - a virtual tour software and I work on it ever since.

Recently, I post about climate, travel, art and other topics that I am curious about.