MEXICO CITY (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore Mexico City? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a short visit in the Mexican capital.
4 p.m. - Head straight for the huge Zocalo square in the Centro Historico, Mexico City’s spiritual and historic heart. It’s dominated by a giant Mexican flag and the Metropolitan Cathedral, which is slowly sinking into the ground through subsidence. You’ll see dancers in feathered headdresses stamping their shell-adorned feet to Aztec drum rhythms.
Pop into the Palacio Nacional and be wowed by dramatic larger-than-life murals by Diego Rivera depicting scenes from Mexico’s history. If you’re feeling brave, get lost in the labyrinth of streets behind the Cathedral.
6 p.m. - Feeling thirsty? Stop for tequila and guacamole in La Opera Bar (Ave Cinco de Mayo 10), an ornate early 20th century watering hole with velvet-cushioned wooden booths and a bullet hole in the ceiling left by revolutionary Pancho Villa.
8 p.m. - Now for something completely different. Grab a taxi to the nearby Arena Mexico (Dr Rio de la Loza) to see Mexico’s famed masked wrestlers. Get a ringside seat for a good view of the outrageous costumes and raucous action. Get a beer in a paper cup and yell out politically incorrect insults along with everyone else. You can buy your own mask outside for a few dollars.
10 p.m. - You’ll be starving by now, so whiz back to the Zocalo and head to La Casa de las Sirenas (Guatemala, 32, till 11 p.m.), a beautiful colonial house with a rooftop terrace that overlooks the Cathedral. The sopa de cilantro (cream of coriander soup) is mouthwateringly good, as are the various mole sauces. And they serve nearly 150 types of tequila.
12 p.m. - In the unlikely event you are still standing, get down to Mama Rumba’s (Queretaro 230) where the sizzling Cuban band will be starting and the salsa-dancing hotting up.
9 a.m. - Start the day by looking for a fresh fruit seller in the street. It’s cheap and the melon and mango chunks will be infinitely tastier than in your hotel.
For a funky Mexican breakfast in a classy setting, head for Casa Lamm (Alvaro Obregon, www.casalamm.com.mx) in Colonia Roma, a partly open-air eatery in a pretty colonial cultural center.
11 a.m. - To digest breakfast, hop on the open-decked Turibus (it stops at Casa Lamm) (www.turibus.com.mx) which for $14 will take you past all the city’s main sights, including the Angel Monument, the Palacio de Bellas Artes and Chapultepec Park.
1 p.m. - If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Metro, otherwise take a taxi, and head for Coyoacan and San Angel, adjoining cobbled-street neighborhoods in the south of the city.
In San Angel, you can visit the studio where Diego Rivera worked and his and Frida Kahlo’s adjoined houses. There is also a covered Saturday Bazaar selling high-quality arts & crafts.
Coyoacan has a bustling central square with market stalls and buskers. And if you’re feeling peckish, the covered market serves delicious pozole soup.
4 p.m. - It should feel like siesta time now, and rather than waste it in your hotel, grab a taxi to Xochimilco, further south, and chill out in one of the gondola-like “trajinera” boats punted along the canals. Mariachi bands will be making a racket and the water is dirtier than in Venice, but it’s still relaxing.
8 p.m. - To start the evening gently, La Bodega, an old colonial house in the trendy Condesa district (Calle Amsterdam) (www.labodega.com.mx) is off the tourist track and a pleasant place to dine as a resident band of elderly men plays unhurried Cuban and Latin music.
10 p.m. - It’s time to experience the Plaza Garibaldi, a large square in the Centro which fills after dark with dozens of mariachi bands producing a cacophony of ranchera, jarocho and norteno ballads. Cielito Lindo never sounded so authentic, but check the price before you agree to pay for a song.
Watch out for the men who will approach you clicking a pair of electrodes attached to a portable battery. They’re selling the chance for a ‘Mexican standoff’ using electric shocks, considered by some to be the ultimate buzz. Locals will love you for trying it and may join in.
12 p.m. - Still up for more? One of the city’s more offbeat nightspots is La Perla (Republica de Cuba) — a small sweaty club with red walls and a giant clamshell for a DJ booth. The music is 70s, Latin and salsa, and there are two brief shows each night where fabulously voluptuous transvestites and male dancers in sailor suits perform song and dance routines.
10 a.m. - For a posh but not overpriced breakfast, try Hotel Condesa DF (Calle Veracruz), a hip boutique hotel.
11 a.m. - Spend an hour or two in the world-famous National Museum of Anthropology (Reforma). Check out the Voladores outside — Totonac Indians who perform a slow-motion spinning bungee jump from the top of a pole to eerie whistle and drum music.
1 p.m. - At La Ciudadela artisanal market in Colonia Roma you can stock up on dyed sarapes, lacquer ware boxes, skeleton figurines, Huichol beaded masks and giant sombreros for next to nothing. In the park outside, a large group of people will be dancing danzon with timeless elegance.
2.30 p.m. - To finish up, you could head back to the Zocalo and undergo an Aztec cleansing ritual, which involves being whacked with bunches of herbs and wafted with incense smoke.
Alternatively, if you’re acquiring a taste for decadence, head to Calle Bolivar in the Centro Historico where three rowdy old-style cantinas — Dos Naciones, La Mascota and Salon Corona — serve tequila and good Mexican food all day.
Reporting by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Patricia Reaney