Mexico City’s Canals: Calzada de la Viga | MXCity (2023)

Above: one of Mexico City’s most storied canals, the Calzada de la Viga in the early 19th Century.

All images in this article are courtesy of

Visitors to Mexico City often learn, via a trip to Xochimilco, that the city was once criss-crossed by canals and surrounded by lakes. Very few of them can be seen outside of today’s Xochimilco, but in many cases the names of these canals still grace the names of our current city streets.

The Calzada de la Viga, one such canal, was once one of the most important canals in old Mexico-Tenochtitlan. Later, during the colonial period, the lakes within the Valley of Mexico were further and further dissected, and the canal was extended to the south of the city to join the communities of Chalco and Xochimilco.

Used mainly for transporting agricultural products from the surrounding towns into the capital, an estimated 4,000 canoes made the journey each year. They were received at the city’s sentry boxes, a system to control the goods coming into the city.

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Eventually the canal became a meeting place with walkways on either side and it became one of the central thoroughfares leading into Mexico City. Its route crossed Iztacalco, Culhuacán, Iztapalapa, Xochimilco and Chalco over a span of some 30 kilometers.

In 1850, the first steamboat sailed the canal and by 1877, a contract was signed for the first steam powered canal boat to ply the waters. The heights of the bridges needed to increased and the length of the journey dropped from four hours to just one.

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Mexico City’s Canals: Calzada de la Viga | MXCity (3)

The canal, lined with trees on either side, remained a path from the country in what was by the early 20th century an increasingly urban environment. The Jamaica Flower Market of today was then a popular resting spot where travelers going one way or another could eat on the grass.

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(Video) La Ciudad de México en el Tiempo: La Viga

By 1921, in the wake of the revolution, the city government chose to pave over the canal with cement and asphalt and eventually tramlines were laid in to follow the path once cut by the canal.

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With more visitors than any place else in the region, Mexico City is Latin America’s Favorite for good reason.

Here are just 15 of them!

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.

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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 searchesin 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!

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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 Summitin November of 2016, Mexico City is widely perceived as a world leader in combatting climate change.

(Video) El Canal De La viga En ( 1906 ) 😱😱😱

5) The Metrobús system, originally based on one running in Bogota, Colombia, is now the biggest in Latin America. Stretching some 125 kmstoday, 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.

Mexico City’s Canals: Calzada de la Viga | MXCity (8)

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 Históricois 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.

Mexico City’s Canals: Calzada de la Viga | MXCity (9)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 programputs 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.

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(Video) LOCAL. Calzada De La Viga

Source: CDMX government, with information from International CDMX and the 4th Governmental Report CDMX, 2016.

Some of Mexico City’s Best Wine Shops are still not backing Mexican Wines. These ones are…

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 theirown – 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.


Mexico City’s Canals: Calzada de la Viga | MXCity (11)

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

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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
Website | Facebook

Á de Acento

Mexico City’s Canals: Calzada de la Viga | MXCity (13)

(Video) Canal de la viga

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.

Address: Cuernavaca # 85, Colonia Condesa
Telephone:5260 4721
Website | Facebook


Mexico City’s Canals: Calzada de la Viga | MXCity (14)

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!

Address: General Prim # 95, Col. Juárez
Telephone: 5592 5571
Website | Facebook

La Europea

Mexico City’s Canals: Calzada de la Viga | MXCity (15)

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

Mexico City’s Canals: Calzada de la Viga | MXCity (16)

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 isafter 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.

Address: Zacatecas # 126, Colonia Roma Norte
Telephone:1866 9030

Main Photo Above: Aborigen Valle Seco,Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Courtesy of La Contra


What happened to the canals in Mexico City? ›

By the 20th century, the lakes had shrunk to a system of canals that still connected Xochimilco with the center of Mexico City. However, with the pumping of underground aquifers since the early 20th century, water tables have dropped, drying canals, and all that are left are the ones in Xochimilco.

What are the canals in Mexico City called? ›

The Xochimilco canals are on the southern edge of Mexico City, 23 km from the city centre and getting there does involve a long journey. By public transport, the entire journey takes an hour and a half (including the walk from the station).

Why is Mexico City famous? ›

Mexico City is the beautiful capital of Mexico, and it's been known for having some of the most critical events in Latin America. Many Americans moved to the city during the pandemic due to the lower cost of apartments and housing. The town continued its growth with events like Zona Maco.

Who built the canals of Xochimilco? ›

The Aztecs built aqueducts to bring water from Chapultepec; the Spanish further depleted underground springs, and now, Mexico City residents use 65,000 liters of water per second, much of which comes from the canals of Xochimilco.


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