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A First-Timer's Guide to Mexico City: On the Canals of Xochimilco

March 20, 2013 at 11:32 AM | by | Comments (0)

We don't hear too much about Mexico City these days, even though it's a totally doable flight and an easy trip from most major US Cities. So this week we're changing that, and clueing you in to the must-dos for a first timer's trip to La Ciudad de los Palacios (The City of Palaces), AKA Mexico City.

Mexico City is dotted with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but we want to talk about Xochimilco, one of the last remaining remnants from when Mexico City was an island. This district of canals is a popular place for locals to hang out on weekends and, naturally, the way to see the canals of Xochimilco is by boat.

The traditional small, brightly colored boats of Xochimilco all bear the names of women (Brenda, Rosita, Carolina) and can be rented by the hour. Adding to the female-friendly vibe is the fact that women are traditionally given rose corsages when they board. While on the water, other boats glide by and hawk their wares, selling everything from spicy corn on the cob to silver jewelry to beer and soda. If youíre interested, simply signal and the boat will attach itself to yours long enough for the purchase to be finalized.

Because Xochimilco isn't the easiest are to reach—there is public transit, but itíll take you at least an hour from the center of city and involve switching from the metro to light rail or a local bus—itís not a bad idea to shop around with some of the tour companies offering daytrips. Look for one that also includes a tour of Coyoacan, the neighborhood made famous by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Speaking of Coyoacan, the most famous sight is Casa Azul, aka the Blue House, Frida Kahloís home which is now a museum. Give yourself at least two hours here, especially if youíre a big fan, since this attraction is almost always crowded. You will have to pay an extra fee in addition to your ticket if you wish to take pictures at the museum; after forking the 60 pesos photo fee, youíll get a sticker which must be displayed on your camera (or on your person, if the cameraís too small) at all times. A new highlight is an exhibit of Fridaís clothes, as well as designer clothes which were inspired by her style, all on display in partnership with Mexican Vogue.

Once youíve finished up at the museum, stop for coffee at one of the many local shops, then stroll through Jardin Hidalgo, the pretty main plaza of the neighborhood. From there, itís a short walk to Casa de Cortes, named for the Spanish conquistador who led the destruction of the native peoples. Though Cortes did live in Coyoacan, he never lived in this building, which is purely used for local government.

If youíre not museumed out by now, itís also worth visiting the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares (National Museum of Popular Culture), which has exhibits on everything from Day of the Dead artwork to Lucha Libre wrestling.

Tomorrow: Getting lost in Chapultepec

[Photos: orkybash & germeister]

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