Visiting the great world cities is a challenge: there’s so much to see and do in each one. That’s why Fotolia has been speaking to our offices in great cities around the globe, asking them what they, as residents, would choose to go and see.

So far we’ve looked at ParisLondonBerlinNew YorkMadridSeoulRome, Tokyo, Cape Town, and Brussels. But today South America makes its first appearance in our guides, as we look at mighty Mexico City.

With a population of over 21 million people, Mexico City, better known as DF (for Distrito Federal), is the capital of the country, based in the Valley of Mexico, in the middle of the country. Take it away, Mexico!

Mexico City: Thank you, Fotolia!  Mexico City here!


To really understand Mexcio City needs a brief introduction to its history.

Founded in 1325, it was originally built by the Aztecs and named Tenochtitlan. Tenochtitlan was founded according to a prophecy which told them to build where they saw a sign from the gods: an eagle perched atop a prickly pear cactus with a snake in its beak.

This not only marked the foundation of the city’s construction, but also is also at the root of the Mexican symbol, now part of the flag.

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City.Centuries later, after the Spanish conquest in 1521, most of Tenochtitlan was destroyed and numerous Spanish style buildings were raised on the top of the ancient Aztec ruins. You can still see parts of these ruins in downtown Mexico City today, in an area called “Templo Mayor” (Major Temple), which has been excavated and converted into a museum, just near the “Zócalo” (Main Square) and the Metropolitan Cathedral (the largest landmark of Colonial architecture in the Americas).

Some experts believe there is a lot more to discover, but this would involve digging up all of the downtown area – a hard decision to take as this area is itself is now a colonial jewel.

pyramide du soleilBut not all the ancient ruins were lost: 20 minutes from the Zocalo are some fantastic examples of magnificent ruins, such as Teotihuacan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the site where the gods were created) is a place full of mysticism even for the Aztecs.

Vast monuments line the Avenue of the Dead, such as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Moon and the Sun (the third largest pyramid in the World after the Great pyramid of Cholula and the Giza Pyramid). Yes, it may be 20 minutes outside the city but there are few other places around the world where such a huge store of beautifully preserved, ancient historical architecture can be appreciated,

If you prefer to stay within the city itself then there are a host of exciting things to do.

Mexico City is a cosmopolitan metropolis, full of activities, museums of all kinds, galleries, restaurants, theaters, and parks. One of the best of these is Xochimilco, The Mexican Venice – an absolute must see for everyone visiting Mexico City. Xochimilco is a floating garden full of intertwining canals and beautiful gardens, where you can just hop into one of the many brightly colored boats, better known as the Trajineras, which can carry up to a dozen passengers and explore via the water.

There are always plenty of vendors (in smaller canoes) with food, drink and souvenirs to tempt you whilst some entertain passengers with live music  (the floating mariachi band is truly brilliant!). Choose between an hourly ride, or – if you feel there’s more exploring to be done – a four hour ride which will take you through a labyrinth of canals.

Mariachi band in front of cathedral

The remaining canals and their surrounding ecosystem were declared a World Heritage Site in 2012, with the purpose of saving them. There are a magnificent variety of plants, flowers, and water birds to be found, as well as the nearly extinct Axolotl, a unique and intriguing creature which lives only in this area and is of real interest to scientists due to its ability to regenerate limbs and other body parts.

And last, but not by means least, comes one of the most recognizable sites in Mexico City: the main square of Garibaldi, best known as the home of mariachi music, where hundred of bands gather to perform Mexican music all day long. This is the place to go for a dance, or, if the mood suits, you can request a tearful tune.

And finally, whatever you choose to see, you must accompany it with a good Tequila or Mezcal for a truly Mexican experience!

For more visions of this colorful and energetic city check out our dedicated Mexico City gallery.