Immaculate sheens of pink, ochre and white dress the walls of Mexico City's houses, under the clear blue sky. Mexico City is an infinite palette of vibrant colours, with narrow streets, twisting canals and open boulevards that beg to be strolled.
The discovery starts with the Zocalo, circled with key monuments in the country's history: the ruins of Templo Mayor, the ultimate witness of the old Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan; Palacio Nacional, seat of the presidency and the immense metropolitan cathedral (16th century), flanked by the beautiful baroque church of El Sagrario.
Behind that, you will have to stroll around Plaza Santo Domingo with its public letter-writers and the old San Ildefonso Jesuit school with its walls covered with frescoes painted by the great Mexican mural painters (Clemente Orozco, David Siqueiros, Diego Rivera). For a 360° view of the capital city, make your way (preferably at sunset) to the panoramic viewpoint (41st floor) of Torre Latina Americana, opposite the Fine Arts Palace. The National Museum of Anthropology, a master-piece of contemporary architecture, is rightly considered one of the world's most fabulous museums. Its priceless collections, covering 30 centuries of Meso-American history, are the essential introduction to the discovery of Mexico and its pre-Hispanic sites.
The most typical districts are still left to be explored: la colonia de la Zona Rosa, very lively after nightfall; Barrio Polanco and its wide, tree-lined avenues, bordered with embassies, posh restaurants, luxury boutiques and hotels ; the Xochimilco water gardens where you can board a trajinera - a long, brightly coloured boat, to have some lunch to the rhythm of the mariachis' music ; Coyoacán et San Angel's colonias and their picturesque cobbled streets, lined with convents and elegant colonial residences from the 16th and 17th century... In the neighbourhood, you should also see the archaeological sites of Teotihuacán and Tula as well as Tepotzotlán and Acolman monasteries.
One of the finest examples of the city's architecture is the Palace of Fine Arts, a splendid white-marble building that functions as a concert hall and arts centre. The interior is dominated by immense murals painted by world-famous Mexican artists, most notably Diego Rivera. The Bellas Artes theatre is, in itself, a masterpiece, with a stained-glass curtain assembled by New York's Tiffany & Co from almost a million pieces of coloured glass. In addition, the palace stages outstanding temporary art exhibitions, a seasonal programme of operas and symphony performances, and the Ballet Folklórico de México.
Rumoured to be the exact spot where Aztecs saw the eagle perching on a cactus with a snake in its beak - the symbol of Mexico - the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlán was the centre of the Aztec universe before conquistador Cortes demolished it. Luckily, in 1978 electricity workers stumbled upon an 8-tonne stone carving of an Aztec goddess and the city decided to demolish the colonial buildings that had been built over it and excavate the temple.
Many come to Mexico for its vibrant, sociable and inviting culture. Mexico City abounds in energy and colour, when the streets come to life year-round to celebrate the nation's biggest festivals. Día de los Muertos, a festival to celebrate the lives of ancestors that is now celebrated in various locations all over the world, is a magnificent display of colourful costumes, extravagant offerings and, of course, an explosive fiesta.
As the capital, Mexico City offers the full range of national cuisine, where delicacies from every region are available. Whether it's fine dining or street carts, the capital offers Oaxacan tamales, pambazos from Yucatan or traditional Mexican tacos. And with countless varieties of indigenous peppers, you can expect the dishes to range from hot to extra spicy, no room for mildness.
One of four Grupo Habita properties in Mexico City, the Downtown ...