photos: A view of Mexico City, Salad at Pojol, A view of Paxia's dining room, and Frida  Kahlo.
photos L to R: Chef Enrique Olvera, dish at Azul, Azul restaurant, Mexican dish. Paxia and chef Daniel Ovadía. bottom: Chapultepec Park, University Museum of Contemporary Art, Plaza de la República, Catedral Metropolitana, W Mexico City Hotel, Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo.

by David Cohen

There’s nothing like dining at  the best restaurants in the world and seeing some of the most important pieces of art ever created. A visit to Mexico City will reveal some of these treasures, and will give any traveler the opportunity to indulge in epicureium culinary delights.

As one of the world’s most well-rounded destinations for both leisure and business travelers, Mexico City has it all. The capital city of Mexico offers amazing history, cultivating culture, award-winning cuisine, and some of the best facilities and amenities in accommodations, including luxurious spa services. Mexico City boasts more than 3,500 restaurants featuring both traditional Mexican fare as well as a variety of international cuisines, edgy art exhibits, notable museums, colorful bazaars, and fun-filled entertainment, all giving even the most seasoned traveler inspiration.

Visited by 12 million people who spend about 700 million dollars each year cause for city officials to ensure that Mexico City is the safest place to visit in all of Mexico. Police in the city maintain a peaceful atmosphere to ensure the safety of tourists.  It is no wonder that both The Mexican Tourism Board and Aeromexico airlines partnered to deliver a convincing message about the wide range of opportunities available in this large and dynamic city.  

Diego Rivera  is one of the most important and prominent Mexican artists of all time. His large wall murals (A) in fresco––a technique of mural painting––helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement (the promotion of mural painting starting in the 1920s, generally with social and political messages) in Mexican art. Rivera painted numerous murals including those in Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City. However, Diego Rivera's most famous murals and most unusual projects are found in Mexico City.

Between 1950 and 1952, Rivera  created the Tlaloc Fountain, a large and intricate mosaic of Tlaloc, the Aztec rain god. Located in Chapultepec Park, this monument was created during the overhaul of Mexico City's municipal water system. The fountain was built with the intention to merge practical functionality with cultural expression via a single work of art. For more than a decade, the fountain and some of Rivera’s murals have fallen into despair. However, following a long restoration process which kept Rivera’s creative style intact, the park re-opened to the public about a year ago.  

The mosaic stone fountain contains a shallow pool measuring approx. 100 feet long by 100 hundred feet wide. Originally, the fountain served as the ceremonial entry point for water from the Lerma River into the city's main reservoirs. Although the main flow of water has now been diverted into a pipe, Rivera's sculpture of the Aztec rain god Tlaloc is still in the pool.  

The Carcamo House is a giant tank inside a rotunda that is part of the same complex. This was one of Rivera’s most important works entitled Water: Origin of Life. Rivera painted the entire cement tank, including the floor, in elaborate colorful scenes. Until the 1990s, municipal water flowed into the tank, and from here, technicians were able to control the levels in several large reservoirs. The bright and elaborate mural covers the entire cistern and is an allegory of water as the indispensable giver of life, and without it the human existence is impossible. 

Another must see is the large Plaza de la República and its mammoth Art Deco monument commemorating the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910. It was intended to be the chamber of Mexican president Porfirio Díaz, but the Mexican Revolution put an end to Diaz’s plans and his dictatorship. In the 1930s, after the revolutionary turmoil had died down, the dome was finished as a monument and was dedicated to the Mexican Revolution.

The Museo Nacional de la Revolución was built under the monument. The museum describes the tumultuous years from 1867 to 1917 in exhibits of documents, newspaper stories, photographs, drawings, clothing, costumes, uniforms, weapons, and furnishings.  The museum has plans to open a rotating exhibit space in the monument in the future.

The Plaza de la Constitución, also known as the Zócalo, is the center of Mexico City in every respect. It features three not-to-be-missed landmark sights, which together constitute one of the largest and most important public plazas in the world. Museo del Templo Mayor is the remains of the 14th- and 15th-century Aztec empire’s capital called Tenochtitlán. There are over 8,000 objects found here, with the most famous being the basalt Coyolxauhqui Disk representing the goddess of the Moon in a very human way, and the majestic Eagle Warriors.  The Catedral Metropolitana, is the oldest and largest cathedral in all of Latin America. The cathedral was begun in 1567 and finished in 1788 and is a blend of baroque, neoclassic and Mexican churrigueresque architecture. Finally, Diego Rivera's murals at the Palacio Nacional (the federal government building) are not to be missed.

Mexico City's University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC), is well worth a visit.  Opened to the public in November 2008, MUAC is located in the middle of the University of Mexico’s campus.  This unique and minimalistic glass building offers a unique experience to all visitors.  Designed by Mexican architect Teodoro González de León, who was influenced by both the New York Metropolitan Museum, with an immense, sloping window out front, and London’s Tate Modern with its minimalist presentation style. This style of architecture sets a new paradigm for artistic creation and construction by providing a framework for discussion and experimentation. The museum’s mission is the displaying, preservation and study of current art (from 1952 on), and its main goal is to make art available to all students and people in general. MUAC promotes interdisciplinary works with dynamic, cutting-edge exhibits composed of both national and international artists. MUAC has built a first-class space for the enjoyment of a wide variety of art forms.

As one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Mexico City, San Ángel has retained its colonial architecture and charm, reminiscent of its esteemed culture and history. Narrow cobble stone streets, tree-lined plazas, and sprawling haciendas still make up the center of San Ángel. This wonderful neighborhood is well  known for being the summer residence to many of Mexico’s aristocracy in the late 1800 and early 1900’s, including Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s residence which is now a museum. Today, the haciendas of San Ángel play host to the Saturday Art Show and Bazaar with many craft vendors, restaurants and coffee shops. 

Mexico City stands out for its varied cuisine and fine restaurants that offer something for everyone. The numerous restaurants offer a range of prices to fit any budget, thus offering no reason not to enjoy the many international cuisines and flavors. 

Named as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world by Restaurant Magazine, Pujol offers gourmet traditional Mexican cuisine with a modern twist. Executive Chef and owner Enrique Olvera offers his personal touch to deliver scrumptious Mexican delights from fresh ingredients that are always purchased at the local market. The traditional dishes are turned into contemporary delights by providing unique flavors and beautiful presentation, making dinning at Pujol a memorable experience.

Azul Histórico should be on any foodie’s ‘must try’ list. Centro Historico district in downtown Mexico City, renowned chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita’s food is any food enthusiast’s dream come true. In line with the delicious food, Azul Histórico also delivers excellent service and a relaxing atmosphere on their colonial patio for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be sure to try the classic huevos motuleños­­––two fried eggs on tortillas with black beans, ham, and peas, all bathed in Mexican mole sauce. Another must-try dish is the chilaquiles rojos con arrachera––a fried tortilla tenderly cooked with delicious grilled slices of steak. Don’t hesitate to recommend this high-level Mexican dining option to any traveler. It is a great stop for a relaxing lunch.

Located in Polanco, one of the most chic and trendy neighborhood in Mexico City, Solea, is the signature restaurant of the W Mexico City Hotel. Under the direction of executive chef Mauricio León, Solea offers an innovative steak & seafood menu that will satisfy every hungry soul. Each dish is prepared with a contemporary design and served on modern textured surfaces such as compact discs, marble, or glass to emphasizing a clever interpretation of traditional Mexican flavors and dishes.

Set in the traditional colonial neighborhood of San Ángel, Paxia is a multi-award winning restaurant and my favorite place to dine in Mexico City. Meaning peace in Nahuatl,  the language of the Aztecs that is still spoken by about 1.5 million people in Mexico, this sophisticated restaurant offered  offered the most innovative dining experience I had while visiting Mexico City. With impeccable service and a casual but elegant atmosphere, the young executive chef Daniel Ovadía delivers perfect Mexican dishes cooked to perfection. All of this combined makes Paxia one of the most popular restaurants in San  Ángel. Every dish I tried held an explosion of flavor centered around a beautiful presentation. Every course was matched with a fine spirit, making my lunch at Paxia one of the best experiences I have ever had. The food, decor and excellent service should be an inspiration to any aspiring chef.  Some of Paxia’s specialties include the chicharron lasagna––a ground pork dish, and the Aztec Budin––a masterful dish of foie gras with truffles which won the Top Main Dish Award in Mexico City in 2008. Paxia offers an extensive menu of local boutique beers, Mexican wines, and fine cocktails

With vibrant gay culture clubs and booming nightlife, Mexico City was the first city in Latin America to legalize gay civil unions.  Mexico City has dedicated resources to make sure it remains one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the world, making your trip to the city of ”lights” and to “the city that never sleeps” the one you will forever remember.