Essential places in Mexico City

Essential places in Mexico City

With over 21 million inhabitants, the capital of Mexico is a convergence of the Aztec, the colonial, and the modern

Mariana Campos

Published January 2020

The Zócalo

It’s the central point, something like the navel of CDMX. In this spot, the indigenous and the colonial come together and reveal the great mix of styles and cultures the city has. This huge plaza is surrounded by structures like Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, the Palacio Nacional, which was once home to conquistador Hernán Cortés and is now the seat of the Federal Government, the Antiguo Palacio del Ayuntamiento, the Portal de Los Mercaderes, and the Museo del Templo Mayor.

The Zócalo in CDMX, in addition to being the center for political, religious, and economic powers in the country, is the meeting point for millions of Mexicans who come together to celebrate special dates or demonstrate.

Essential places in Mexico City

Metropolitan Cathedral

Essential places in Mexico City

The largest church in Latin America is located in the Zócalo and took three centuries to be constructed. Home to five naves and 16 side chapels, it’s 197 feet [60 m] wide and 420 feet [128 m] long. It also has an impressive Holy Door in its center, which is only opened on special occasions. Access to this temple is free and, inside, you can visit the ruins of great Aztec religious structures: Templo de Tonatiuh, Templo de Quetzalcoatl, Templo de Xochiquetzal, and Templo de Chicomecóatl. The Spanish built this Catholic church in a once-sacred place dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl.

Casa de los Azulejos

On Callejón de la Condesa, between Avenida 5 de Mayo and Avenida Francisco I Madero, you can visit this old palace built for the Spanish viceroy whose façade is completely covered in well-preserved Talavera tiles, making it one of the most beautiful structures in the historic city center.

These days, it’s home to a restaurant where you can appreciate the extraordinary beauty of its internal patio, with a series of fluted columns and wood beams on the corridors, which still maintain the original wrought iron grille.

Essential places in Mexico City

Bosques de Chapultepec

Essential places in Mexico City

It’s a gigantic urban park with 678 hectares. The largest green lung in the Mexican capital, it’s home to several museums (like Museo Nacional de Antropología, Museo Tamayo, and Museo Nacional de Historia).

Stop by the Baths de Moctezuma, a space used by Aztec rulers to relax, breed exotic fish, and store spring water. In addition, Chapultepec is home to several trails, an artificial lake, a skatepark, handicraft stalls, and many restaurants where you can recharge your energy after the walks.

Canales de Xochimilco

Here you’ll discover the city’s spirit and culture. Colorful flat-bottomed boats, built with wood boards waterproofed with chapopote (tar), await tourists. Each can transport 20-25 people, and one of the most interesting and enigmatic tours takes visitors to the so-called Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls). The place is filled with deteriorated, mutilated dolls of different sizes and styles. They are scattered across the island: hanging from trees, among the plants, on the ground. Rumor has it they were put there by Julián Santana, the island’s former owner, to keep ghosts away.

Essential places in Mexico City

Plaza El Ángel

Essential places in Mexico City

Also known as Monumento a la Independencia, it’s one of the city’s most popular landmarks, built between 1900 and 1910 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mexican independence. It’s located on the roundabout that connects Paseo de la Reforma, Río Tiber, and Florencia. It’s one of the city’s most emblematic monuments and also a meeting spot for celebrations and demonstrations. The pedestal has several statues and inscriptions evocative of the independence, serving as a support for a column with a 9.5 feet [2.9 m] diameter, topped with the famous winged sculpture, with an extended right arm holding a laurel wreath. The left arm is down, holding a broken chain of three links, which symbolize the three centuries of Spanish rule in the country.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

On Avenida Juárez, the lovely Palacio de Bellas Artes stands out. Opened in 1934, its façade is made entirely of Carrara marble, making it an icon of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. The four-floor structure is the largest art exhibition center in Mexico and also one of the most important opera houses in the world. For anyone who loves fun facts, it’s the only theater on the planet with a 26.5-ton [24,000 kg] fireproof curtain! The building is also home to the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, where 17 murals by painters like Diego Rivera are permanently on display. There, you’ll also find the Museo Nacional de Arquitectura.

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