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Pyramids
of
Teotihuacan

 

 While it is of course a fast moving metropolis, Mexico City still has its share of charming hideaways that are ideal for leisurely strolls and getting swept up by the rhythms of its people and the proud displays of its past.

 Let's start at Madero Avenue: This avenue was the promenade for Mexican society during the colonial period and continued to be so throughout the 19th and well into the 20th century. It is now on every itinerary of Mexico City's Historic center, which was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1987.
Though in the 16th century the avenue bore the name San Francisco, after the monastery that graced it, in the 1800´s it became Plateros (silversmiths) due to the fact that many of the city's silversmiths set up shop there. To this day, the avenue has a great number of jewelry showrooms. Finally, in the last century, it was given the Francisco I. Madero, in honor of the man who started the Mexican revolution.
 
mexico city zocalo
 

mexico city

mexico city castillo de chapultepec
 
 If you want to discover Mexico City on your own without taking a tour with us, we suggest a walk along Madero Avenue, beginning at the corner of the Eje Central (formerly San Juan de Letrán Avenue) and heading towards the Zócalo, or Main Square. We would like to point out some landmarks visitors should be sure to see in addition to the many shop windows and nooks and crannies that they will surely discover on their own.
 For many years the Latin American Tower, built in 1956, was the tallest building in Mexico (47 floors and 182 meters high), and since the city is in a seismic zone, a hydraulic foundation system compensates the effects of telluric movements. The observation decks on floors 43 and 44 offer an excellent view of the city and the valley (a former lake) in which it lies.
 Casa de los Azulejos - The Tile House (built in 1737) - originally the palace of the counts of the Valle de Orizaba - it now houses the oldest branch of the Sanborns store and restaurant chain. Though the building was recently restored, the garden-like décor in the main room preserves its 19th century ambiance. For years this was a favorite breakfast spot for Mexico's political and industrial elite. The entire façade is done in blue and white mosaic tiles from Puebla and lends this historic structure its name, and a mural by José Clemente Orozco covers the wall of the main staircase landing.

 The San Francisco Church and Former Monastery (1525) was at one time an enormous religious and administrative complex spreading over more than 30 hectares, and its atrium was said to hold up to 60,000 standing individuals. Nowadays the little that remains of that great splendor includes the church, once one of the chapels, and the baroque frontispiece of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which opens onto Madero Avenue. The ancient chapel of the Purísima Concepción and a fragment of the cloister also remain. The latter currently houses the Holy Trinity Methodist Church, with its entrance on Gante Street.
It is interesting to stop at the contiguous doorways of the baroque San Francisco and neo-gothic San Felipe de Jesús (1895) churches and observe the contrasting styles of the façades. Madero and Gante: The High Life building, designed by architect Silvio Contri, stands at the corner of these two streets. It is an example of the commercial elegance of the beginning of the 20th century, created here by a stylistic combination typical of the period's eclectic bent.
Palacio de Iturbide (1785): Once the house of the Marquis of Jaral de Berrio, Count of San Mateo de Valparaíso, since 1966 it has been owned by Banamex (one of Mexico's most important banking institutions). The building's marvelous façade contains both organic and geometric motifs sculpted in the volcanic and quarry rock. Note the double-tailed mermaids adorning the pilasters at the entrance and the atlas figures or staff-bearers over the door.
 
mexico city cathedral

mexico city cathedral

mexico city palacio de bellas artes
   The Borda House: The mansion belonged to miner José de la Borda, but only the façade remains. It features a balcony, which its owner had built so that he could walk around the block without having to go down to street level. The Serfin Museum occupying the interior of the building is dedicated to Mexican clothing, and exhibits both indigenous and colonial costumes.
The Hotel Ritz houses a restaurant, which boasts a mural by Miguel Covarrubias. This work parodies the famous Diego Rivera mural "Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda.
La Profesa Church (remodeled in 1720). In 1802, Manuel Tolsá transformed the baroque (with gothic touches) interior décor into a neoclassical one. The finest example of this transformation is the High Altar. In contrast, the Isabel la Católica Avenue façade is one of the most valuable pieces of Mexican baroque art. Adjacent to the church is a vice regal art museum. In recent years, La Profesa has become a popular place for wedding ceremonies, with the receptions held in the nearby Casino Español.

 Entering Mexico City's main square, or Zócalo, from Madero Avenue is like emerging onto a large lake from a narrow gorge. Space opens up, and the heavy ornamentation from the colonial period and 19th century gives way to Pre-Hispanic geometric patterns. Although colonial buildings surround the main square, none, with the exception of the entrance to the Cathedral Sacrarium, display the baroque seen on the La Profesa and the Virgin of Guadalupe Chapel façades. To one side stand the ruins of the Aztec High Temple. The area is dominated by an enormous empty square, above which waves a huge Mexican flag, which lends light and color to the spot that has been the heart of Mexico for over 600 years.
 
mexico city palacio de bellas artes

mexico city zocalo

mexico city palacio de bellas artes

mexico city
 
The Historic center has much to offer in the way of food: everything from luxurious restaurants to street stands. Outstanding among them, however, are the Spanish restaurants, with their longstanding culinary tradition.
With the waves of Spanish immigration during the first half of the 20th century, came restaurants offering regional specialties from all over the Iberian Peninsula. These places have become time-honored establishments where one can order the fixed menu, which may consist of six or seven courses. Among the best-known of these restaurants are:
- Casino Español (Isabel La Católica 31)
- Centro Castellano (República de Uruguay 16)
- El Danubio (República de Uruguay 3)
- Círculo Vasco Español (16 de Septiembre 51)
- El Hórreo (Dr. Mora 11)
- Mesón del Cid (Humboldt 61)

 Among the clientele's favorite dishes are caracoles a la bordelesa (snails Bordelaise), jamón bellotero (acorn ham), chistorra and morcilla (thin chorizo and blood sausage), paella valenciana, fabada (navy bean stew), cocido madrileño (chick pea and meta stew)) solomillo sirloin and zarzuela de mariscos (shellfish stew), and for dessert, custard creams and puddings. These wonderful dishes can be washed down with a delicious bottle of La Rioja or Ribera de Duero wine or a couple of glasses of good Mexican beer.

Check our hotels offer in Mexico City D.F.

(Part of the text thanks to Mirta Ripol, editor and writer)


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