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This Vibrant Cultural City Is One Of The Most Visited Destinations In Latin America

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Mexico is the go-to spot for American travelers keen on soaking up some culture, and getting out of their comfort zone in a foreign environment.

It monopolized the conversation surrounding cultural tourism last year, what with its accumulated centuries of a fascinating History and numerous world-renowned landmarks, but there is one city in particular that seems to have won everyone's hearts:

Mexico City, or CDMX in its Spanish acronym, was the most visited in its own country in 2023 according to data from the CDMX Tourism Secretariat.

Aerial View Of The Main Colonial Square In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

Mexico as a whole is the unchallenged King of Tourism in Latin America, trumping all others when it comes to arrival figures, so it could be said CDMX is one of the most popular in the wider subcontinent as well.

But what do visitors, and Americans in particular, love about Mexico City, and how big of a destination it actually is?

Is CDMX The Largest Cultural Hotspot In Latin America?

Mexico City is one of the largest cities south of the border and a global hub of the first order.

With its sea of towering skyscrapers, complex urban ecosystem, and business districts, it is the beating heart of Mexico and the country's leading economic powerhouse.

Central Alameda Park With A View Of The Historical Palacio De Bellas Artes In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

For that reason, it's easy for beach-loving tourists to quickly dismiss CDMX as a mere financial center, especially when it serves as the nation's administrative capital, and they could instead be basking in the sunt over in Yucatán, but in reality, it is so much more than that.

It may not offer access to the turquoise Caribbean Sea, as Cancun does, or have Tulum's endless rows of all-inclusive resorts, but if you're looking to immerse yourself in Mexican culture, and experience city life in a vibrant metropolis of the Global South, CDMX is where you should be headed.

CDMX may look like any sprawling capital at first, but it only takes a short stroll around its central district, or as we like to call it, the colonial core, to learn it is made up of many intriguing layers.

Traditional Row Of Buildings In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

For starters, it is one of the oldest cities in North America, having been founded as early as the 14th century by an ancient civilization known as the Aztecs, who baptized it Tenochtitlán.

A Tale Of Two Empires

Tenochtitlán was traversed by wide and navigable avenues, with temples and pyramids rising to the skies, as well as several other large structures.

Over the centuries, the cityscape and its demographics would change dramatically as a result of colonization efforts during the Spanish Empire, when much of the European city-building and subsequent industrialization was set in motion.

Colorful Gondolas In The Canals Of Xochimilco, Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

This may seem irrelevant to the odd visitor who's merely passing by, but modern-day Mexico City was established by Spanish settlers on the exact site where Tenochtitlán once stood, and its circular layout, and some of the surviving canals and chinampas can still be seen around town.

Xochimilco is one of such demarcaciones territoriales where the glorious Aztec past has not been forgotten, best known for its extensive canal system – you may have an idea where these come from, now – its colorful gondolas, and beautiful waterfront buildings.

Other parts of Mexico City tell other stories pertaining to different periods, including Roma, a Bohemian district where the social scene is at its liveliest, and pedestrianized zones are lined by European-inspired, Art Deco gems, reflective of migration trends in the 19th century.

Traditional Building In Roma, A Neighborhood In Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

In Polanco, a ‘Californian colonial' construction boom taking place in the 1940s transformed the formerly casual residential area into one of the poshest areas in town, with the introduction of baroque porches, ornate architecture, and high-end restaurants and boutique shops.

Centro, on the other hand, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site concentrating all of the most iconic symbols of the chilanga skyline, with the Metropolitan Cathedral, built on Aztec soil, the 500-year-old National Palace, and a striking Art Nouveau Palacio de Bellas Artes to name a few.

A 40-minute drive from Mexico City, the most sought-after day trip is the archaeological zone of Teotihuacán, an ancient Mesoamerican city partially preserved, featuring towering monuments, most famously the Pyramids of the Moon and Sun, and a mystical Avenue of the Dead.

A Crowd Of Tourists Walking Up To The Pyramid Of The Sun In Teotihuacan, Close To Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

As you might have realized, Mexico City is the fascinating tale of two erstwhile empires that have somehow converged to form a single polity, and there are several facets of it to be discovered.

You could spend a lifetime in this vast metropolis and still feel like you've barely scraped the surface.

A World-Class Foodie Hotspot

Cultural immersions are also about food, how it relates to a country's historical background, and how its different ethnic groups express themselves and their traditions.

In Mexico's case, the local cuisine carries elements of native Amerindian diet, as well as Spanish, and it truly requires no introduction.

mexican tacos on a restaurant terrace in Mexico

When it comes to CDMX itself, it is a highly-reputed food mecca, boasting the greatest culinary diversity in Mexico and being a mandatory pit stop on every foodie's gastronomic roadmap.

From popular snacks like tacos, enchiladas and quesadillas, widely commercialized in street markets, to high-end eateries serving exotic dishes, as well as more mainstream global cuisine, you could truly never exhaust your options eating your way through Mexico City.

It can also be incredibly affordable by most standards, especially when compared to other hugely historical cities in the same rank, like Paris, London, Rome and Athens: according to Budget Your Trip, a budget-conscious traveler is expected to spend $513 for the week in Mexico City.

Zocalo, Mexico City, Mexico, Latin America

As the President of Mexico's National Chamber of Commerce, Services, and Tourism has revealed, Mexico City is the number one city destination in the country currently, and to an extent, one of the most visited in the Latin American world.

In Mexico alone, it accounts for roughly 20 percent of nationwide room occupancy throughout 2023, whereas it claims the status for most visited capital in Latin America.

As colonial tourism solidifies itself as an official niche, and renewned interest for culture-based trips to Mexico begins changing the way Americans view, and travel their southern neighbor, we can expect CDMX to continue dwarfing its nearest competitors with far less impressive performances.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

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