Mexico City’s sheer size calls for mariachi-style enthusiasm, with a foot-stomping selection of activities and attractions – including unique diversions found here and only here. In fact, the New York Times crowned the city a “metropolis that has it all”. We couldn’t agree more. She may be called La Ciudad de los Palacios (the City of Palaces), but she’s certainly no square – especially with our guide to her alternative corners, from the creepy Isla de las Muñecas to the weird Mercado de Sonora.
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Bookworms taking in the sights of the capital should make a stop at the Biblioteca Vasconcelos, next to the Buenavista train station, north of the city center. The “mega library” was inaugurated in 2006 by then-president Vicente Fox Quesada, with 600,000 books classified through the Dewey Decimal System. The architecture – a modern mix of marble, granite, steel and glass by Mexican architect Alberto Kalach – is worth seeking out for its sleek design alone.
Non-bookworms, take note: there’s also a large garden showcasing 60,000 species of trees and shrubs – the perfect inner-city oasis to catch your breath and plot your next move.
Obligatory for those with an inquisitive nature and a taste for the occult, the Mercado de Sonora is a huge market in the Merced Balbuena neighborhood. Ditch a traditional shopping list and pore over some of the strangest items on offer in the capital. Obscurity is the name of the game here, so the locals don’t bat an eyelid when bartering for love potions, magic soaps or anything connected with voodoo. They also sell a vast range of food and dried reptiles, if that’s your thing. Take a whole afternoon to explore the weird, the wonderful and the downright creepy.
Additional reporting by Jo Varley