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Could Mexico City be the Coolest City in the World?

Museo Soumaya
Museo Soumaya (photo: Russ Bowling)

A couple of years back, after a long backpacking trip, I decided that it was time to lay down some roots for a little while. And I knew exactly where I wanted to base myself – the city I felt most connected to in ten months of traveling, Mexico City.

So often, people tell me that they are scared about visiting DF (short for Distrito Federal and what everybody in Mexico calls Mexico City) – that they are worried about the crime levels and finding a place for themselves in such a vast city.

But so much of what people know about Mexico City (and Mexico in general, actually) is a highly one-sided report from news stories that don't take into account how cool Mexico City is.

Here are five reasons why I think Mexico City might be the coolest city in the world.

1. It has an incredible arts culture

But, like, actually one of the best arts scenes in the world, in my opinion.

Of course, there are many well-known Mexican artists from the past, and you can see their artworks up close and in person on a trip to Mexico.

A visit to Frida Kahlo's house should be a priority for any art lover in the city.

Looking at the incredible frescos from her husband, Diego Rivera, on the walls of Bellas Artes will make your jaw drop to the floor.

But DF also has an impressive contemporary arts culture. The Soumaya Museum was constructed by one of the world's richest men, Carlos Slim Helu, to house his amazing private art collection.

2. The street food

Few people visit Mexico City and don't get blown away by the street food culture.

It is impressive, with more variety than you'd expect. DF serves up way more than tacos (although those are delicious too).

Pozole is a bowl of pork and hominy stew found on many of DF's streets and shouldn't be missed.

You might also be able to find chicken or mushroom versions, but pork is the standard. And you can eat it with red, green, or white sauce, depending on your taste.

And although DF comes to life at night, be sure to walk the streets in the morning for tamales served within a crunchy bread roll – a filling and delicious way to begin the day.

Chapultepec Park
Chapultepec Park (photo: Ralf Peter Reimann)

3. Chapultepec Park – the park that has it all

When I was living in Mexico City, I was fortunate to be on the edge of the incredible Chapultepec Park, one of the largest parks in the Western Hemisphere at 1,695 acres.

It's possible to walk around the park for days and never get bored.

It features a beautiful lake with boats that you can rent, the Museum of Anthropology (which, in my opinion, is one of the most impressive museums in the world), a theme park, a castle, and of course, ample green space for walking, jogging, picnicking, and relaxing.

4. Amazing nightlife

If you are a night owl and you love to party, Mexico City is your place.

One cool thing about the city is that it feels like a series of villages situated next to each other, and each has its own culture.

If you want to party with an LGBT crowd and shimmy to some Mexican pop music, you'll have an incredible time in La Zona Rosa.

If you want to find a trendy party populated by art students and people who work in media, head to La Condesa.

The adjacent Roma Norte neighborhood is also a hot spot with many buzzing bars and restaurants. 

Or, if swanky drinks at a cocktail bar are more your style, you'll feel totally at home in Polanco.

And you had better develop a taste for tequila, mezcal, and pulque because those are the local drinks you should be trying on a night out in DF!

Volcano Popocatepetl
Volcano Popocatepetl (photo: Russ Bowling)

5. Volcanoes surround it

For one of the largest cities in the world, Mexico City is in a very precarious place.

It gets hit by earthquakes regularly, it's built on top of the water, and active volcanoes surround it!

But for when you need a bit of a breather and an escape from city life, being surrounded by such incredible nature becomes a beautiful thing.

On my weekends in DF, I would head just outside the city, climb a massive volcano, and reach snow.

This was a fantastic way to do something atypical in a capital city, breathe incredibly fresh air, and feel adventurous.

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