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One City, Five Hours: Mexico City

Author Peter Koch Illustration Oliver Jeffers

1 Get your bearings among the craft purveyors, indigenous dancers and gawking tourists in the sprawling Zócalo. Step out of the madness and into the Palacio Nacional (El Zócalo, Centro) for a free look at Diego Rivera’s richly detailed mural masterpiece, Epic of the Mexican People in Their Struggle for Freedom and Independence. ( 0:35 )

2 Sample cantina culture at La Mascota (Calle Mesones 20, Centro), where small plates of homecooked staples such as carnitas (braised pork) and meatballs in chili sauce come free with drinks. Pick a tequila from the dozens of choices and have just one-you’ve got a long way to go. ( 1:20 )

3 Stroll down the shaded pathways of the Alameda Central, the city’s poplar-lined downtown park, on your way to the Latin American Tower (Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 2, Centro; www.ociopuro.org/torre). Climb to the 44th-floor terrace and soak up a panoramic view of the sprawling megalopolis. And you thought L.A. was big. ( 1:50 )

4 Flag a taxi, and hold tight for a wild ride to Mercado San Juan (Calle Ayuntamiento, Centro). Once there, buy a steaming cup of atole champurrado (hot chocolate and masa) to slurp as you browse the stalls of this huge market for art, textiles, aromatic herbs, chilis and edible grasshoppers. ( 2:50 )

5 Walk a couple of blocks and step into the ring at El Cuadrilátero (Calle Luis Moya 73, Centro), a sandwich shop opened by pro wrestler Super Astro. If you can powerslam the massive 2.5-pound Torta Gladiator in 15 minutes, it’s yours for free. ( 3:20 )

6 Now sprint, if your stomach will allow it, through the Museo de Arte Popular (Calle Revillagigedo 11, Centro; www.map.df.gob.mx), a folk art museum with a massive collection gathered from Mexico’s 31 states. The giant papier-mâché sculptures are stunning. But they’re not piñatas-don’t rip them open. ( 3:55 )

7 Gulp down a postmuseum pick-me-up at Café La Habana (Calle Morelos 62, Zona Rosa), the joint where Che Guevara and Fidel Castro allegedly met to plot the Cuban Revolution. On your way out, snag a few crunchy churros, proof that fried dough is best in stick form. ( 4:25 )

8 Finally, take a cab to Arena Mexico (Calle Doctor Lavista 189, los Doctores; www.arenamexico.com.mx), where high-flying masked wrestlers pummel each other with the most over-the-top choreography this side of the Palace of Fine Arts. Cheer on the técnico (good guy) as he pins the rudo (bad guy), and see why Mexican wrestling is so much better than its American counterpart. (It’s the masks.) ( 5:00 )

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