One of the world's largest metropolis, Mexico City is also one of the oldest urban centres in the Western Hemisphere, when it was known as Tenochtitlan. Hernan Cortes and his men were awestruck by the imposing temples of the Aztecs. Reporting back to King Carlos V, he was struggling to convey the majesty of what he saw. Imagine the King's surprise at learning that "one of the plazas is twice the size of that at Salamanca" and "the principal pyramid is taller than the tower of the cathedral at Seville".
Nowhere is Mexico's explosive past better depicted than at its central plaza, the Zocalo. Surrounded by some of the finest buildings of the colonial era lie the remnants of one of the Aztecs' principal monuments, the Templo Mayor. Its mysterious shapes stand tribute to the pre-Hispanic civilisation that flourished here long ago. The Zocalo also holds a grand cathedral and the imposing National Palace including Diego River's vivid murals depicting scenes through Mexico's history into the 20th century.
With great museums such as the Anthropology Museum in Chapultepec Park, Frida Kahlo's museum (also called Casa Azul) markets, squares and parks there is much to see and do in Mexico City. In the south, the historic neighbourhood of Coyoacan and San Angel is where visitors can browse art galleries, soak in the buzzing coffee scene, and visit the former homes of Diego Riviera and his wife Kahlo. Don't miss a visit to Xochimilco's floating gardens; where you can glide along the canals in a fancifully decorated "trajinera" (gondola) and if on a weekend - gain an insight into how the local mexicans celebrate their fiestas!
The nearby Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan are not to be missed, with the impressive pre-Aztec pyramids largely intact and providing the perfect introduction to the many historical sites dotted around the country.
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