Mexico City is a vibrant capital with loads of things to do, whether you love art, music, sport or just plain old food. As the first month of 2017 comes to an end, we’ve put together a list of the 20 things you should explore this year in the Mexican capital, from events that are underrated annual treasures to quirky activities and jaunts that tend to elude the average tourist.
Visit some of the most underrated Barrios Mágicos
Mexico is known for its pueblos mágicos tourism scheme, which identifies quaint and historically significant towns as ‘magic towns’. What many people fail to realise is that Mexico City also has a similar scheme, although a lack of funding means it is criminally under-promoted. The most common barrios mágicos of Mexico City are must-sees (think Xochimilco, Roma, and more); however, this year make an effort to stop by the lesser known ones for a rewarding trip off the beaten path – a guide to which can be found here.
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Get tickets to Corona Capital or Vive Latino
As the capital of such a vast country like Mexico, it’s no surprise that Mexico City has plenty of stellar concerts for music enthusiasts and amateur fans to check out. Two of the best and most well-known are Corona Capital and Vive Latino. If you want to attend the latter, make sure you’re in town for mid-March to catch performers like Jake Bugg, Julieta Venegas and Mon Laferte, whereas Corona Capital isn’t until November and the line-up is TBA.
See some indie documentaries at Festival Ambulante
Festival Ambulante, spearheaded by everyone’s favourite Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, is a reputable and renowned documentary festival that tours across the country in the early months of the year. With official dates yet to be announced, keep your eyes peeled to catch as many indie flick screenings as possible. With any luck, you may just run into Gael at one of them. Fingers-crossed.
Hike around the city’s national parks
Mexico City is such an urban sprawl that many forget you don’t have to remain stuck in the concrete jungle. Instead, venture to the outskirts of what is still officially Mexico City and hike in the fresh air of one of its amazing national parks. We recommend heading south for Desierto de los Leones or to the west for Cumbres de Ajusco.
Whether you’re a tourist or a local, celebrating Día de Muertos in Mexico itself should be on your bucket list. If you’re in Mexico City, the best option is to head to the barrio mágico of Mixquic and take part in (or just observe) the highly traditional celebrations that are held there annually. Alternatively, you could stay in the historic centre and watch the James Bond-inspired parade that looks to be an annual event from now on.
Attend some ZONA MACO events
From February 8 to February 12, 2017 you can head down to Mexico City’s coolest – and Latin America’s largest – contemporary art fair, which has grown exponentially in recent years. Known as ZONA MACO, collectors, specialists and galleries are brought together to exhibit, promote and sell pieces of work. If you’re even remotely curious about the contemporary art world, it’s an unmissable event.
Indulge in some Mexican wine
Coffee, tequila and mezcal often steal the beverage limelight here, but few people realise that Mexico is also a wine-producing country. From Coahuila to Querétaro (and even Baja California), there are plenty of vineyards to choose from, but if you’re landlocked and vineyard-free in Mexico City, head to one of the city’s specialist liquor stores or more upmarket bars and treat yourself to a bottle instead. Look for cues in the ambiance: the more upscale it looks, the likelier it is to have Mexican wine.
Try some proper Mexican coffee
We know, we just suggested forgoing Mexican coffee in favour of Mexican wine, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out the local coffee produced here. Avoid Starbucks and instead go to one of the city’s independent cafés, where you’ll probably find your coffee bean options are far more diverse and local in nature.
Mexican markets are one of the greatest things about this country, which everyone must visit. Simply stroll through and soak up the atmosphere of the daily trading and haggling as you indulge in the ultimate people-watching activity. Alternatively, you can stock up on super fresh and extremely cheap fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs. However, in Mexico City, an alternative option – in all senses of the word – is on the table; take a trip to El Chopo, the heart of the city’s punk scene.
El Chopo, Aldama, Cuauhtémoc, Buenavista, Ciudad de México, México +52 55 5546 8490
Run in the Mexico City half marathon
If you’re more into running than underground punk music, then you could run in the city’s half marathon which will take place on July 30, 2017. Inscriptions are open now for anyone who fancies the challenge of running long distance at such a high altitude.
Take your own tour of the city’s street art
The walls of Mexico City are overflowing with the artistic endeavours of talentless graffiti artists; however, mixed in amongst the junk, there are some undeniable gems created by legitimate street artists trying to brighten up the often unbearable urbanity of the Mexican capital. From Sofia Castellanos’ pieces in La Roma, to the various works by Axolotl Collective and Mocre, the street art is something everyone in the capital should explore.
Eat some authentic Mexico City snacks
Mexican food in general is great, but Mexico City’s cuisine has some truly unique culinary experiences that locals love to both indulge in and brag about. One of those is the rather odd, carb-on-carb concept of the guajalota, otherwise known as a torta de tamal (tamale sandwich). You might think your tamal was dense and doughy enough already – just imagine what delight awaits when you try it served in a bread roll. In all fairness though, it does make for a delicious and authentic snack.
Branch out beyond Mexican food
Alternatively, you could make the most of the capital’s culinary smorgasbord of flavours and cuisines, most notably the Asian influences coming in from Korea and Japan. For Korean treats, Zona Rosa is the place to be, whereas excellent and authentic Japanese food can be found in more varied locations across the city. If you’d prefer something more Middle Eastern in flavour, Narvarte is leader of the pack for Lebanese cuisine.
Celebrate Gay Pride in the Zona Rosa
The Zona Rosa is known as the gay heart of the city, and even for heterosexuals, it’s still the place to be if you’re looking for a sex shop. With that in mind, it’s understandable that during the annual Gay Pride celebrations, this is where all the action happens. This year, the massive street party is expected to take place sometime in June.
Ride on the metro outside of rush hour
The metro is a part of daily life for residents and visitors in Mexico City, and while it may not be as crazy as the NYC Subway it can get just as cramped, if not more so. Instead of always squeezing in with the rest of the workers at rush hour, plan your day so you can be a bit more leisurely about your metro experience, and soak up the sights and sounds of this mode of transport. You’re guaranteed to come away with some great anecdotes.
Try the lesser-known Mexican beverage, Pulque
Pulque, due to its temperamental nature, is not a drink that can be exported. Therefore, it literally must be tried when in Mexico and luckily Mexico City is one of the places in which it’s produced. Known for its strange viscosity and odd texture, you can try it ‘natural’ or as a curado, with an added flavour like mango or pine nut to take the edge off. As a bonus, it has some unexpected health benefits.
Hop on the bandwagon and drink some Mezcal
If the sound of a viscose, slimy Mesoamerican drink doesn’t quite thrill you, then you can always go for a straightforward mezcal instead. The smokier, edgier younger brother of tequila, it’s in the midst of a national and global renaissance, so finding somewhere decent to try it won’t be an issue.
Pick up your groceries at a traditional tianguis
We’ve already mentioned the punk rock urban heartland that is the tianguis del Chopo, but it’s worth mentioning tianguis in their own right. The Mexican word for a roaming street market, they are the place to pick up the freshest fruit and vegetables, at bargain prices to boot. In addition, you can often find meat, fish, honey, tortillas and plenty of artisanal produce to give your dinner an edge.
Ride your bike down Reforma on Sundays
A weekly extravaganza, each Sunday (apart from the final one of the month) sees Mexico City close off one of its principal and most beautiful avenues to traffic, so that the general public can participate in the early morning bike ride instead. This is one of those events that when you actually bother to do it, you’re hooked – it will seem absurd that you never tried before.
Enjoy some caguamas with friends
Finally, the last thing you absolutely must do in Mexico City this year is drink some ice cold caguamas with your nearest and dearest. Caguamas are the giant 1.2 litre beer bottles that you can find in any corner shop around the city, and drinking a few in the company of friends is a classic weekend activity of many locals. Invest in a handful and take them back to your accommodation rather than spending tenfold for the same thing in a bar.
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