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'Chilangos' pick the top spots to see in Mexico City

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On a recent trip to Mexico City, a La Oferta reporter took an informal survey of what Chilangos (people who live there) think are the top five must-see attractions around this immense city, called the D.F. (Distrito Federal) for short. Here's what our surveyed Chilangos say visitors absolutely shouldn't miss:

The National Museum of Anthropology: By the time you're done wandering around this huge museum's 23 exhibit halls you'll know more about the country's history and heritage than many of the local folks. For instance, you'll learn that the modern day city is built on a giant dried-up lake, the center of which was Tenochtitlan, the island capital of the Aztecs. Among stunning stone sculptures on display is the Aztec Calendar, known as the “Sun Stone.”

The Zocalo: If you like civic centers, you'll love the D.F.'s main plaza. Built right on top of the town square of Tenochtitlan, it's edged on one side by Mexico's National Palace (on a spot where the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma used to live) and on another by the site of the Aztecs' super-temple, the Templo Mayor (the place of big-time sacrifices). Each side of the Zocalo square is nearly as long as three football fields.

Image of the Virgin Mary as it appeared in 1531 is displayed above the Mexican flag at the Basilica of Guadalupe.

  • Chapultepec: Once used by Aztec emperors as a hunting ground, this enormous park was later the

watering hole (literally, the city's water came from there) of Spanish viceroys and the like for 300 years. In the 1860s, Chapultepec's towering castle was the home of Emperor Maximilian and the Empress Carlotta, and after them several Mexican presidents. Today the park is packed with museums (don't miss the Museum of Modern Art) and a famous zoo.

Teotihuacan: It's only an hour's ride from the D.F., but this ancient city of 80 temples – including the towering Temple of the Sun – might as well be on another planet. Spread out over close to 5 square miles, the site was once home to 200,000 people – ranking it as the largest metropolis in the Americas in the world at the time.

The fifth most popular site was a toss-up between two colorful getaways a little outside town, one on the water and the other on cobblestone lanes.

The canals of Xochimilco are filled by colorful barges.Xochimilco: Moctezuma built floating vegetable and flower gardens on canals at the edge ofTenochtitlan, and what's left of them have become a big draw for tourists and Chilangos alike. Families go there for picnics and parties on brightly painted 20-seat barges. For a handful of pesos you can hire floating mariachi or marimba bands to cruise alongside your barge.

Coyoacan: This charming area is a jump back in time to the country's colonial days. The lanes are lined by vintage restaurants, cantinas, art galleries, bookstores, old-time movie theaters and stately mansions. Besides two flower-filled plazas where art shows are held on the weekends, the town is perhaps best known for a block-long museum in the house where legendary artist Frida Kahlo was born. She lived and worked there worked most of her life, sometimes with her famous artist husband Diego Rivera.

Guests at the Camino Real Polanco are welcomed by flowers at the front              desk.

Staying there: Well over four dozen tourist-class hotels are available around the city. Among

recommended properties is the Camino Real Polanco, located in an upscale shopping and dining district. The colorfully decorated hotel has 712 guest rooms and 23 meeting rooms.


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Copyright © 2002 Mary J. Andrade

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