By Antonia Cundy
Mexico’s capital — the oldest capital city in the Americas — sprawls over some 1,500 square kilometres, 2,240 metres above sea level. Voted the number one travel destination for 2019 by National Geographic, the city has an economic strength, cultural traditions and access to the natural world that are good reasons to move here permanently.
Originally built on an island by Aztecs, the city was the political, administrative and economic centre of the Spanish empire in the Americas. Today, Mexico City has a mix of Aztec, Mayan and European heritage that has created an exciting range of architectural design — from the pyramids at Teotihuacán just north-east of the city to 16th-century Catedral Metropolitana and the modernist murals of Diego Rivera.
Attractions such as the artist Frida Kahlo’s Blue House, now a museum, and the strikingly modern Museo Soumaya appeal to designers across the world, so much so that the city was designated the World Design Capital in 2018.
Internationally reputed food and drink
Traditional Mexican food is one of the few global cuisines to have been declared an “intangible cultural heritage” by Unesco. In Mexico City it is impossible not to eat well — street-food stalls are famed for their tostadas (small toasted tortillas topped with various ingredients), carnitas (little mouthfuls of slow-braised meat) and tubs of fresh mango with chilli.
At local taquerías you are free to pile as many salsas and salads on to soft corn tacos as you can manage. Mexican chocolate is so good that it is even used in savoury mole sauces (traditional chilli sauces).
Then there are the drinks: aguas frescas (fresh fruit waters) by day and tequila, mescal (the spirit of choice among the health conscious) and carajillos (espresso with brandy) by night. Try the tipples at local cantinas — Covadonga in the Roma borough and Cantina Tío Pepe in Centro both have loyal followings.
The IMF predicts Mexico’s economy will grow 2.1 per cent in 2019, following similar growth in 2017 and 2018. Mexico City’s business district, Santa Fe, hosts the majority of the country’s financial services headquarters. The city is also a centre for other industries, such as textiles, steel and iron.
The luxury goods and service sectors are booming. In 2016, across the country they were valued at $3.56bn — a 55 per cent increase from 2011, according to Euromonitor International. Deloitte last year described Mexico as “the most attractive market for luxury brands in Latin America”.
Cultural traditions for all
A diverse range of traditions are celebrated in Mexico over 13 public holidays each year, and the capital’s residents go all out. The Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) parades in the autumn and lucha libre (wrestling) matches are cause for enormously colourful parties.
On a match day, the atmosphere at the Estadio Azteca — the home of Club América and Mexico’s national football team — is infectious. With a capacity of 87,000, the arena is one of only two stadiums in the world that has hosted two World Cup finals.
With 16 boroughs — from the artsy student quarter, Ciudad Universitaria (literally “University City”), to the hipster-posh Condesa, or the dance and food-focused Roma with its famous Mama Rumba salsa club — there is room for everyone to find their niche.
Wildlife on your doorstep
It is unexpectedly easy to find nature in the dense urban environment of Mexico City. The canals of Xochimilco — explore them in a colourful hired wooden boat — cover 170 square kilometres. You might even spot a rare axolotl, a near-extinct four-legged salamander.
Elsewhere, at 686 hectares, the Bosque de Chapultepec is one of the largest city parks in the western hemisphere and home to many of the 60-plus species of hummingbird that live in Mexico City.
Further afield, there are beaches, pine forests, rainforests, deserts and grottos. The snowy volcano at the Nevado de Toluca national park, or the millions of monarch butterflies at the Piedra Herrada Sanctuary are two highlights within two hours of the city centre.
In a region that gets between 11 and 13 hours of daylight a day, with year-round average temperatures of 23C-27C, these natural delights are easily accessible.
Photographs: Dreamstime; Getty Images/500px; Getty Images/iStockphoto; Suriel Ramzal; Marek Poplawski