Mexico City’s Alameda Central is back and better than ever. If you’ve been to Mexico City, you probably noticed that a city of this length is better enjoyed in its public and green areas. Mexico City is one of the world’s capitals that have san amazing capacity to take advantage of its parks; whether it’s through festivals, concerts, screenings, multi-media presentations and recreational activities that entertain as well as educate.
Despite being a jungle of concrete jammed with streets, alleys, avenues, ejes centrales, the city keeps growing; wasted lots are being recovered, gardens and parks are being rehabilitated, etc. The only way to rescue from the kingdom of oblivion public spaces the have been neglected, is precisely renovating them and making them part of the community.
One of the best examples of a green space that the city has successfully rehabilitated is the Alameda Central. Very few people know this, but it’s oldest park in the city. La Alameda has a rectangular polygon shape that covers an area of 88,000 square meters, 24,000 of which are pavement, and 62,500 of gardens. It has approximately 300 trees, 12 fountains, 8 monuments and a kiosk. Its surroundings include Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Santa Veracruz Plaza, the San Hipólito Temple and museums Franz Mayer, Museo Nacional de la Estampa, and the Museum of Tolerance.
The name Alameda comes from the Spanish word “álamos”, Spanish for poplar trees, which were originally planted in the park, and over time, were replaced by ash, chestnut and willow trees; in fact, every central park of every town in the country takes on the name “Alameda”. Throughout the centuries, the Alameda has undergone several transformations based on the demands an aspirational society that always tries to be one step ahead of the game.
The park was created in 1592, when Viceroy Luis de Velasco decided to create a green space here as a public park. The name comes from the Spanish word “álamo”, which means poplar trees that were planted here. This park was part of the viceroy plan to develop what was, at that time, the western edge of the city. Since then, it has survived four centuries of refurbishments. In 2012 concrete sidewalks were replaced by marble, and makeshift vendor stands were kicked out – a renovation that cost about $18.7 million. Instead of a motley patchwork of folding tables and tarps, the newly opened park, anchored by the art nouveau of Palacio de Bellas Artes, is an oasis of greenery and tranquility in the midst of racing traffic.
Things to do in and around Alameda Central
The Alameda Central, a shady and beautifully kept park with many splendid fountains and sculptures, was laid out in 1592 on the site of a once busy Aztec market (it remains a bustling location to this day, especially at Christmas when it is beautifully illuminated and decorated. There’s a lot to see and do in la Alameda. The gardens were replanted with new trees and vegetation. Paths have been repaved and welcome people of all ages. Either by day or night, the Alameda invites strollers at any hour.
During the Second Mexican Empire, la Alameda Central became one of empress Carlota’s favorite places to take a walk, wife of emperor Maximilian from Habsburg. The empress planted roses in the gardens and donated the famous fountain “Venus being led by zephyrs” sculpted by Mathurin Moreau.
The Alameda is different during day than at night; by day you can stroll around its paved pathways, take pictures, enjoy the greenery; when by night the atmosphere is bubbly around the eight newly renovated fountains, plus four new ones installed in each corner of the park. The jets of water rising and falling, spraying the air with ephemeral drops, appeal to the senses, and people have fun trying to escape them. On the west side is the fountain of Mercury fountain (the Roman God of financial gain, commerce, communication and travelers…); the parabolic water jets and dance of lights emerging from the foot of the mythological Roman are even more stunning under the moon light of CDMX. La Primavera is the largest fountain of the park, and is right at the center of Alameda.
Dr. Mora Street is ideal for taking a stroll and enjoys the Jacarandas trees (when in season). If you keep walking you will come across a breathtaking replica of Diego Rivera’s mural: “A dream of a Sunday afternoon in the Alameda”. In the mural hundreds of figures from 400 years of historical personages gather for a stroll through Mexico City’s largest park. Perhaps the most striking grouping is a central quartet featuring Rivera, the artist Frida Kahlo, the printmaker and draughtsman José Guadalupe Posada, and La Catrina. “Catrina” was a nickname in the early twentieth century for an elegant, upper-class woman who dressed in European clothing. In the spirit of Surrealism, this is a complex dream. After you finish looking at Diego Rivera’s masterpiece, you can head to the enigmatic Kiosk that dates back to the 19th century.
On 2010, Mexico celebrated both the 200th anniversary of its Independence and 100th anniversary of its Revolution, The entire year was proclaimed by President Felipe Calderón as “Year of the Nation, and the Alameda hosted the festivities at the Hemiciclo a Juárez: an amazing monument made with marble from Carrara that dates back to 1910, in honor of President Benito Juárez.
The Hemicycle to Juárez was built during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz to honor the memory of Benito Juárez and beautify the city for the Independence Centenary festivities. To make way for this monument, the Moorish gazebo at the site was moved in 1909 to the Santa María la Ribera Park where it remains today. The monument, inaugurated on September 18, 1910, features a sculptural grouping in which the figure of Benito Juárez appears flanked by two allegories: one corresponds to the Fatherland crowning Juárez with laurels, the other represents the Law. It’s a stunning monument on Avenida Juárez.
A look at the buildings around the Alameda is like letting your eye travel through the Colonial era, to the Porfirian era, to early 20th century buildings and, finally, to those of the present day. The area surrounding the Alameda Central has become pretty trendy. Across from the park, on Dr. Mora No. 9, is the latest hot spot of the Historic Center. “Barrio Alameda”, an Art Deco building that dates back to 1920, was recently remodeled and metamorphosed into a space for art, gastronomy and urban “regeneration”. It’s like no other building in CDMX. Simply cool! To thrill your palate with something different than Mexican food you can eat at Cancino Alameda specializes in traditional Italian gastronomy with original recipes from the nonna (granny); there’s Butcher & Sons with its assortment of pizzas cooked in a wood-fire oven, and gourmet hamburgers, each named after a rock idol: Davis, Morrison, Bowie, Dylan and other music icons. Dessert? Entice your taste buds at Glacé Helados, they make great homemade ice cream; and for authentic Mexican candy check out Art Cakau; whatever you do you must taste the different flavors in marshmallows, such as banana, tequila, chocolate and chamoy (a sweat and sour pickled fruit made with apricot, plum or mango).
On this same street there are two gastronomical spots that have been in the same place for decades. One is, Cafetería Trevi, a small vintage coffee shop that takes you back to 1950; and Tortas Robles; you know “torta” is the Mexican sandwich or baguette made with “bolillo” or “telera” white bread; the bread of breads of Mexico. Tortas Robles was the place where journalists, political figures and television celebrities used to go for lunch. The restaurant is famous for its collection of photographs hanging on the walls, shot by famous Mexican journalists.
The Centro Histórico and its iconic Alameda Central have played a key role in shaping the collective memory of Mexico City. Every detail, every symbol, every statue, every sculpture and every fountain is an open gate or window the history of Mexico. And as former city mayor Marcelo Ebrard recalled when re-opening this park, he said: “when New York hadn’t yet any houses and in other cities around the continent the concept of a public park did not yet even exist, the capital of New Spain was inaugurating its Alameda Park in 1592”.
We wish to thank Pepsi for sponsoring this research and allowing to shared with our readers a little bit of the cultural wealth of CDMXs iconic Alameda Central plaza.
Mexico City is vibrant, vast and very important. Not just in terms of the space it occupies and the stone and brick from it’s made from, but Mexico City greeted more than 30 million visitors last year. That’s more than it’s entire metro-population (though not by much). Let’s look at why they came.
Last year, at about this time, The New York Times had named the city the number one travel destination for 2016. Tourism searches on Google showed Mexico City as not just a Latin American Favorite, but in the top five tourist searches in the world. And of course, people have been asking for the last several years if it wasn’t the Next Paris, or the Next New York or the Next SOMETHING.
The City government set itself to the task of figuring out just why people love coming here. These are the top 15 reasons they came up with, and ultimately they’re the reasons that Mexico City is Latin America’s favorite, and maybe your favorite too!
1) 185 museums, nine archaeological sites and four World Heritage sites? The cultural scene is enormous, rich and varied. There’s something for every kind of cultural traveler.
2) Fairs, festivals, conventions, meetings and extravaganzas cover music, food, movies, books, and trade in every kind of human activity, down to the annual clown convention.
3) Blockbuster events? Last year saw a Formula 1 race, an NFL game or two, the Tour de France, and a free Roger Waters concert in the city center.
4) Chosen for the sixth world C40 Mayors Summit in November of 2016, Mexico City is widely perceived as a world leader in combatting climate change.
5) The Metrobús system, originally based on one running in Bogota, Colombia, is now the biggest in Latin America. Stretching some 125 kms today, in 2017 no less than 90 Alexander Dennis Enviro500 double-decker buses will begin plying the length of Paseo de la Reforma, as Metrobus Line 7 officially opens.
6. The tourist program Sonrisas por tu ciudad, literally “Smiles for your city,” organized by the Secretary for Tourism, has benefited more than 200,000 people.
7. Mexico City’s Central de Abasto (pictured below), after more than 30 years sells 30,000 tons of merchandise (mostly food) and sells to about 30,000 people every day. It’s the largest shopping area in the world.
8. Mexico City was the first Latin American city to join the Rainbow Cities Network, which coordinates city-level actions to protect LGBTI citizens and residents.
9. Mexico City was chosen as the World Capital of Design for 2018, by the World Design Organization.
10. The Centro Histórico is the largest historical city center in Latin America, with 1,500 buildings designated as having historical, cultural, artistic or architectural value. That’s more than most tour guides can handle, but it’s also home the continent’s biggest Metropolitan Cathedral.
11. Mexico City’s first ever Day of the Dead parade was celebrated by more than 250,000 marchers, band members, onlookers and, yes, zombies.
12. The city’s El Médico en tu Casa program puts a “Doctor in Your Home.” It’s already recognized in America, Asia, and Europe, for bringing health services closer to people who can’t easily visit hospitals or clinics.
13. Mexico City also began the first Specialized Center for the Management of Diabetes anywhere in Latin America.
14. The Ecobici system (pictured below) is the biggest public bike system in Latin America, with 452 cycle stations and about 35 million trips made by 200,ooo riders every year.
15. And finally, the good old underground Metro network is the biggest in Latin America, too. With 12 lines 226 km in total length, about 5 million people ride it every day.
Source: CDMX government, with information from International CDMX and the 4th Governmental Report CDMX, 2016.
Casa Madero may have been the first winery in the Americas, founded way back in 1597, and way up in Coahuila. But Mexico’s predominant “beer culture” has always given wine producers something of a long shadow to grow up in. Aguascalientes, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Chihuahua all produce respectable wines, but it’s been the environs of Ensenada (the Guadalupe Valley, the Santo Tomas Valley, and the Ojos Negros Valley) that have really busted the Mexican wine scene out onto international lists of “respectability.” Some parts Coahuila (the Valley Of Parras, and Cuatro Ciénagas in particular) still hold their own – but most wine enthusiasts agree, Baja’s got the wine to beat.
Mexico exports wine around the world. According to the Mexican Wine Council, about 400 brands of wine are currently being produced in the country, and these increasingly appear on the international lists as being wines to watch (and to taste). But those lists aren’t everything. Even the most sophisticated drinkers know today that plenty is coming each year from Mexican wineries that’s worth taking note of.
Yes, you can still find plenty of good Mexican vintages mixed in with the international offerings on the shelves at Liverpool. But the wine shops below are pretty active at pushing good wines, from Mexico, onto more Mexican tables.
Vinoteca has three locations in and around the city and carries a wide range of Mexican wines, and still more around the country. They do a fair internet trade in wines too, but stopping in lets you pick the brains of their knowledgeable staff.
La Contra, also with shops all over the country, is one of the city’s leading advocates for the Mexican wine industry. With a capital location in Roma, it’s an easy and relaxed place to pick up recommendations, or indeed, to sample some of the best bottles coming in.
Address: Álvaro Obregón 130, local # 10, Colonia Roma Norte
Telephone: 5564 0966
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Á de Acento offers a very well-regarded restaurant, but the gourmet shop offers plenty that’s pure Mexican and well worth a bottle or two. In fact, prices are very reasonable, but there’s also usually something special hidden away in the shelves that inquiring customers will be very pleased to find.
Another in the list of combo restaurant and gourmet shops, Amaya has made a big splash with their list of “vinos raros.” Far from weird, many of them are fabulous. They’re also generally available in the shop, no reservation necessary and many of the best are, in fact, domestically produced!
Don’t expect friendly service. La Europea is still trying to figure out in which decade they’re doing business. But for all the wood-boxed bacalao these people sling during the holidays, they’ve always got a ton of good wine, too. With a good number of branches in and around the city, calling them one of the best wine shops in Mexico might be a stretch, but they do a lot of business, and for that, they always offer a ton of good Mexican wines too.
Si Mon is run by the chefs at Broka Bistrot, practically next door. And the emphasis is on local, good, and even inspiring wines. One of the best things about shopping at a wine bar is after all, that there is usually a bottle open. And for that, including Si Mon in a list of the best wine shops is practically a given.
Main Photo Above: Aborigen Valle Seco, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Courtesy of La Contra