Mexico City

Shutterstock/52199494/Atanas Bozhikov - atanas.dkMexico City is a formidable beast - a sprawling chaos of humanity where life and death are played out in a shifting mosaic of some 22 million lives. Its streets, thronging with noise and movement, are coloured by an endless parade of extraordinary scenes. Aztec dancers stamp out crazed retinues with shimmering, resplendent headdresses. Crowds of protestors run wild at the latest government scandal. Volkswagen Beetles roar wildly through four lanes of traffic. And vociferous street vendors inundate the metro with loud speakers strapped to their backs. A universe unto itself, it would take several lifetimes to explore the multitude of settings and characters harboured by this behemoth destination. Inspirational, alluring, startling and grotesque, it's no wonder Mexico City has inspired generations of writers and artists.

Among its attractions are a wealth of architectural wonders, world-class museums, cultural centres, art galleries, scintillating night clubs and fantastic restaurants. From the grand opulence of shaded colonial plazas to the shivering sprawl of ramshackle shanty towns, this is a city of teeming, insatiable energy.

It is also a city of death and transformation, continually reborn from the ashes of conquest, revolution and natural disasters. Its incarnations - and its scars - are many: Aztec city of Tenochtitlán, colonial heart of New Spain, and federal capital of an independent, post-revolutionary Mexico.

Today, Mexico City, also known as Distrito Federal, or DF, is a vast 21st-century megapolis sprawling up the mountain sides, and sinking, slowly, inexorably, under the weight of its own enormity. Throughout its diverse and rambling neighbourhoods hangs a strangely poetic stench of toil and dirt, sweat and industry, bustle, smog, madness and murder. Like all great imperial capitals, Mexico City possesses style and intrigue in abundance. Expect the unexpected.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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