Pre-Columbian traditions met Spanish culture. Then, they melted with the culture of immigrants coming from all over the world. It sounds like a simple enough beginning, but these encounters are behind one of the world’s best cuisines and magical art. Are you ready to trail these relationships and discover Mexican culture?
One of the best places to discover Mexican culture is the country's capital, Mexico City. Your journey should start at Zócalo, home to the National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Templo Mayor. Before the Spanish colonial rule, Zócalo was the central plaza and market of Tenochtitlan, an Aztec city-state.
The National Palace (Palacio Nacional) is like a small crash course in Mexican history itself. The palace exists at least since the Aztec empire and it still preserves some of its original materials. Inside, you can also see Diego Rivera’s mural “The History of Mexico”, which depicts the several struggles of the Mexican people from 1521 to 1930.
Rivera was one of the greatest names of Mexican muralism and the husband of painter Frida Kahlo. Known for her emotional self portraits and intense use of color, she is one of Mexico’s most beloved icons. ‘La Casa Azul’, the house where she lived, is now a museum and another of the highlights of the city.
And if you’re up to visiting famous houses, you should not forget Luis Barragán House and Studio. The former residence of the Mexican architect is a reflection of his design style and one of the best examples of modern Mexican architecture.
While in Mexico City you should also visit the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes), the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), the House of Tiles (Casa de los Azulejos) and the Soumaya Museum (Museo Soumaya).
Mérida is the largest city in Yucatán. It’s also one of Mexico’s cities with the highest percentage of Mayan population (60%), which makes it the perfect place to discover Mayan culture.
Mayan architecture can be seen throughout the city. Mayan traditions are still followed and the popular skulls during the Día de Los Muertos, now a staple of Mexican culture, originally came from here. The cuisine is also somewhat different, because tropical fruits are used. But the true Mayan speciality are the Papadzules, one of Mexico’s most ancient dishes. And just 62km outside of Mérida, explore Uxmal, an ancient Mayan city.
Just 48km outside of Mexico city, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas and one of largest cities in the world around AD 450. To this day, there is a debate regarding its origins, but it is certain that Teotihuacan influenced many of the civilizations in Mesoamerica. You will be able to see the pyramids, the residential compounds and murals of a town estimated to have been the home of over 125,000 people.
Oaxaca de Juárez.
The state of Oaxaca is a must-visit for all those who love Mexican cuisine. Mezcal is the local alcoholic beverage of choice: "Para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien, también." (For every evil, mezcal, and for every good too). Apart from mezcal, Horchata and cups of chocolate are safer non-alcoholic choices and should not be ignored. And if you’re adventurous, don’t miss out on authentic street food!
Puebla is one of the most important colonial cities in Mexico and a must-see if you want to understand Mexico’s colonial history and Mexican culture. Although the city does display a typical Spanish design, its buildings display a wide range of styles from Renaissance architecture to Mexican Baroque. While at Puebla, try the mole poblano, chiles en nogada and a cemita.