Mexico City - Mexico's capital is a giant in size, culture and history. Among its cultural wonders, colonial-era mansions, ancient pyramids and world-renowned museums compete for your attention. Given the city's bloody history, I like to begin at its heart, El Zócalo, the main square, second-largest in the world. It was built from the rubble of Tenochtitlán, the 14th-century Aztec capital. After they defeated the Aztecs, the Spanish forced them to dismantle their city and build a new one with the same stones.
The quickest way to get around Mexico City is by subway. The first-rate metro system is clean, inexpensive, safe, quiet and fast. A ride costs 20 cents regardless of how far you go. Make sure you know exactly where you're going, since the distance between stops is usually 10 to 20 blocks. If you see an image of a series of squares with odd symbols inside them, that's a subway map.
The year-round spring-like climate, with temperatures hovering around 25°C, makes Mexico City ideal for walking, and it's always buzzing with activity - exhilarating, bewildering and boldly alive. Thousands of vendors selling everything from sexy underwear to hardware items fill the streets and can make sticking to your course difficult.
To relax, I like to go to Alameda Park or Chapultepec Park (except on weekends), with their shaded benches, fountains and statues. The Alameda is next to the elegant Palacio de Bellas Artes, which contains an impressive art collection, and close to Torre Latinoamericana (Mexico City's second-tallest building). You can enjoy a great view of the city from its observation deck for $4.50.
Chapultepec is Mexico City's Central Park. It has 400 hectares of greenery and is also the site of the National Museum of Anthropology, which has a vast and rich collection of artifacts relating to Mexico's prehispanic peoples (e.g., the Mayans and Olmecs).
If photography is your passion, you have to check out Centro de la Imagen, located close to the Baldera metro stop. It shows works of past masters and contemporary up-and-comers. Museo Frida Kahlo, the former home of the artist, is a must for admirer of the painter; her creativity can be seen in everything from the art to the decor. Since you're in the neighbourhood, you could drop by Trotsky's former house, which has less flair than Frida's but is equally tragic.
For an abrupt change from the haute culture of art galleries and museums, I love the down-and-dirty world of lucha libre (Mexican wrestling). This phenomenon has been captured in films, comics and magazines recounting the real and imagined lives of its heroes and villains.
The stars have even become politicized over the years, often publicly challenging politicians to a bout in the ring. Their colourful masks and capes can make this quite the psychedelic experience. B-movie fans can see Mexico's most famous wrestler, El Santo (the Saint), in films like Santo Vs. The Daughter Of Frankenstein.
The quintessential symbol of Mexico has to be the traditional musical ensemble called the mariachi, and Plaza Garibaldi is like a mariachi convention.
Any night of the week, you'll see many groups serenading people at the bars surrounding the plaza or waiting to be hired for a party. Things pick up at about 8 pm and start to slow down after midnight.
But I know that no visit to Mexico City is complete without a day trip to the pyramids of Teotihuacán. Very little is known about the people who built this city that co-existed with ancient Rome and had an estimated population of 200,000.
Climbing to the top of the great pyramids, I'm awestruck by the orderly and massive scale of this ancient and sacred city. If New York is the Big Apple, Mexico City and its environs is a Behemoth Enchilada. There's too much to bite into for one visit, but a week should leave you full.