Mexico, officially known as the United Mexican States, is a country in North America. The capital city of Mexico is also called Mexico, which is also a state within the country. There are 32 Federal Entities that make up Mexico, including the state of Mexico City.
The history of Mexico City extends back to 1325, when it was known as Teotihuacan and served as the capital of the Aztec empire. Located on a small island in Lake Texcoco, the Aztecs chose the site based on a prophecy that foretold of finding an eagle perched on a cactus eating a snake. When they saw this sign on the island, they took it as a sign to build their great city there.
At its height, Teotihuacan covered around 8 square miles and had a population of over 125,000 people, making it the largest city in the pre-Colombian Americas. The city was home to two monumental pyramids (the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon), as well as residential facilities, the Avenue of the Dead, and many murals that have survived to this day.
Today, Teotihuacan is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is located about 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, and the well-preserved archeological site is a must-see on any visit to the country's capital. Visitors can explore the ancient ruins and learn more about the fascinating history of the Aztec empire.
Mexico City has a population of 8.78 million people, according to official statistics. However, the population of the metropolitan area surrounding the city is over 21 million. With that staggering number, Mexico City has the largest metropolitan area in the Americas, the second largest in the Western Hemisphere, and is considered the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world.
Over the centuries, and especially due to urbanization, people from around the country have migrated to Mexico City in search of work, safety, amenities, and opportunities that are becoming less and less available in rural areas. The city is also home to many expatriates and immigrants, including the largest number of people from the United States living outside of their birth country.
This influx of people has made it difficult to accurately calculate the population of Mexico City, but it has also contributed to the city's wealth of art, culture, and unique neighborhoods.
Mexico City is a place where the rich historical heritage of Mexico sits alongside modernity. Evidence of pre-Columbian roots can be found among some of the city's most significant colonial sites. A striking representation of this contrast is the Historic Center, where 1,400 buildings from the 16th and 19th centuries tower above the ancient ruins of the Templo Mayor.
In addition to its historical and cultural depth, Mexico City also boasts world-class examples of modern architecture. The Torre Latinoamericana and the World Trade Center reflect an International Style and serve as reminders that you are in a bustling 21st century city.
But while these reminders of the present are never far away, the city also has slow-paced neighborhoods that are reminiscent of rural towns and still reflect that way of life. Here, you can find supermarkets next to traditional markets, where you can purchase the comforts of home before haggling for handmade tortillas and live chickens.
For a closer look at the cultural offerings of Mexico City and Mexico as a whole, there are over 151 officially-recognized museums to choose from. Only London has more museums than Mexico City, and you can visit everything from the Museo Casa Frida Kahlo to the National Museum of Anthropology, the most visited museum in the country. Mexico City is also home to many art galleries, where you can see some of the most famous murals of the Mexican muralist movement. In the Palace of Fine Arts, you can find works by famous muralists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera. For a deeper look at the lesser-known muralist gems and the history behind them, you can take a guided mural tour.
Mexico City is in the Valley of Mexico, surrounded by mountains that makeup a fragment of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. At an altitude of 7,350 feet, it enjoys average seasonal temperatures of 63F.
The large city is a conglomeration of many former municipalities. Some new and styled with glassy high-rises, others with deeper roots that can be seen in both the homes and the parks surrounding them, most of which can be accessed by the efficient and affordable Metro system running both above and below the city.
No trip to Mexico City is complete without visiting the Historic Center (Centro Historico). Here, the largest main square in Latin America – El Zocalo – is surrounded by two of the cities most important sites.
The Metropolitan Cathedral is among the largest cathedrals in the Western Hemisphere, with 190-foot neoclassical towers housing 18 bells. Beside the cathedral is the Templo Mayor, the main temple of the Aztec capital, with pieces restored for an exquisite example of how pre-Colombian history met modernity in this ancient city.
For more history, head to the Castle Chapultepec, built upon a hill of the same name and surrounded by the beautiful Chapultepec Park. Perched on top of the city, this historical building has served as presidential residence, a military academy, and now as a museum with unparalleled views of the city. It’s also a great place to take in more of Mexico’s famous murals.
A night out on the town calls for a visit to one of Mexico City’s more lively neighborhoods. A visit to Parque Mexico by day will take you into Condesa, but it's the boutique shops and colorful restaurants that will keep you there for a night of fun.
If you’re feeling more hipster than classy and upscale, Roma sits right next to Condesa and is quickly gaining a reputation as the cooler place to be. You’ll find art galleries, cafes, and plenty of nightlife in this recently restored neighborhood.
To get a little closer to what life is really like in Mexico City, visit Coyoacan. An amalgamation of almost 100 different, smaller neighborhoods, this a great place to spend a Sunday in the square. This is also where you’ll find the Frida Kahlo Museum and some of the city’s most bohemian vibes.
Xochimilico is another piece of the city’s ancient history. A series of canals built through an ancient lake, tourists and locals alike can spend the day floating on trajineras – gondola-like lanchas decorated in colorful paints and flowers that traverse the canals. Bring your own food and drink, or purchase from one of the many food vendors floating alongside other artisans and even mariachi bands.
If you’re ever asked, “what’s the capital of Mexico?” you can give an answer with some knowledge of its historical roots and its contemporary culture and landscapes. The oldest continuously inhabited capital in the Americas is now the largest metropolitan area in that same geographic region. It boasts a vibrant mix of cultures from within and without Mexico, contemporary and traditional ways of living, and a host of attractions that will keep your every day filled with fun.But, a city this large and ancient can’t be described in a few paragraphs; it’s a place that must be experienced to be truly understood and appreciated. For that, Lokal offers a number of tours both within the city limits and just outside. Explore all available Lokal tours in Mexico to start planning.