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Introducing Mexico City

On a crisp October evening, families crowd the Zócalo to look at tombstones. Rows of these mock monuments stand on a carpet of colored sawdust strewn with marigolds and painted skulls.

French poet André Breton famously called Mexico the surrealist country par excellence, and the capital seems to revel in its strangeness. The world’s third largest urban area (by some estimates) fills a highland basin 2240m above sea level, so you might already feel a bit light-headed upon arrival. Often described as a malevolent maelstrom of unbreathable air and rampant crime, the city nevertheless impresses visitors as a wonderfully weird and welcoming world, and captivates them with its year-round springlike climate, bubbling street life and abundant cultural offerings.

Like any great metropolis, Mexico City presents a mosaic of scenes. One moment you’re knocking back tequila at a grand old cantina, the next you’re grooving to world-class DJs on a rooftop terrace. Breakfast on tamales and atole (a drink made from corn) from a street corner vendor, dine on fusion cuisine by one of Polanco’s acclaimed chefs. After an afternoon spent sharing the anguish of artist Frida Kahlo, watch masked wrestlers inflict pain on one another at the lucha libre (wrestling) arena downtown. To be sure pollution and crime remain real concerns for Chilangos, but since the turn of the millennium, there’s been a palpable sense that the capital has turned a page. Rather than heading for the apocalypse, it now seems destined for a renaissance.

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