The largest city in North America and the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world, Mexico City is one of the world’s most impressive metropolises. As ground zero for the Aztec takeover of Latin America, Mexico City was built on the remains of Tenochtitlan and has grown into a sprawling urban centre. An increasingly popular tourism destination in recent years, the city is the country’s cultural and economic centre, known for its impressive architectural heritage, as epitomised by buildings such as the Metropolitan Cathedral and sites such as the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco.
A great place to start your discovery of MexicoCity is the Centro Historico, which is actually the place where the city of Mexico City was founded. Three of our top ten sites can be found here .This area contains the large central plaza which is called El Zocalo and several blocks around this area, and it almost reaches the Alameda Central Park to the west. This location is jam packed with historic sites and buildings which trace the history of Mexico City from the Aztec’s, through to colonial times, and the present day.
Whilst you can soak up the history of Mexico City just by walking around the Centro Historico, you really shouldn’t miss a visit to any of the museums housed within this area. The museums are free on Sundays, which is also a great day to explore the Centro Historico because the crowds are a (little) thinner than other days and the area takes on a more relaxed vibe.
Here are our Top Ten sites.
1. Metropolitan Cathedral: Construction of this monumental building in the Zocalo was started by Cortez in the early 16th century soon after the Spanish Conquest of Mexico . It was built on the ruins of the Aztec temple here, the Temple Mayor. The stone from the temple was even used in its construction .
2. Temple Mayor: A fascinating museum has been built the famous former temple of the Aztecs. Foundations of the complex can still be seen.
3. National Palace: Another featured buiilding on the Zocalo is the historic home of the Mexican presidency .The building is a centre of Mexican Independence Day celebrations when a replica of the bell rung by revolutionary priest Hidalgo in the early 19th century ,which set off a Revolution ,is rung by the Mexican President .Inside palace walls have been adorned with giant murals by Mexico’s most famous artist Diego Rivera celebrating the Mexican story.
4. The National Anthropology Museum
The Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Anthropology Museum) is a highlight of Mexico City, and should be on any tourists ‘to do’ list. It showcases Mexico’s rich and complex pre Hispanic civilisations including great sculptures and works of art of the Olmecs , Toltecs, Mayans and Aztecs The museum stands in the Bosque de Chapultepec, which is the biggest and best park in the city. The museum charts Mexico culture from prehistoric times, right through to modern indigenous life. There are many different sections of the museum, and it may be wise to select a few areas to tackle, to avoid the exhaustion of trying to cover the whole 26 exhibition halls in the one visit! Some of the highlights are the Teotihuacan exhibit, and the Tolteca, Mexica, Oaxaca and Maya exhibits.
Admission to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia is 25MX (less for senior citizens, children and students), but entrance to the museum is free on Sundays.
Av. Paseo de la Reforma y Calzada Gandhi s/nCol. Chapultepec Polanco
5. Frida Kahlo Museum – thus deeply personal museum is situated in the home of one of the world’s most famous women artists , known for her poignant self portraits.Also nearby the adjoining red and blue houses where Frida and her husband Diego Rivera lived for a time. Their studios and living quarters have been preserved .
6. Teotihuacan – take a day trip to to this spectacular ancient pre Aztec city built hundreds of years before the Aztecs came to power . The giant pyramids of Sun and Moon rivalled those of ancient Egypt in size.
7. Diego Riviera Museum – Mexico’s most famous painter and muralist drew on pre Hispanic themes and amassed a massive collection of pre Hispanic art and scullpure on display here .
8. Museum of the Revolution – fascinating insights into the bloody Revolution of the early 20th century which still defines Mexico today . Mexican revolutionary heroes- Zapata, Villa, Carranza and Obregón are honoured here
9. Chapultepec Palace: A former palace of Mexican dictator, Diaz , and before him the doomed Emperor Maximillian., imported from Austria in the 1860s. A museum, now housed here, offers a fascinating insight into Mexican history – in particular the bloody 19th century which encapsulated an independence war, wars with the United States and Spain and a devastating Civil War.. The hero then Juarez is celebrated and the living quarters of Diaz and Maximillian ,who Juarez ordered shot by firing squad, can be viewed .The palace was the site of a last stand by young Mexican soldier cadets – now also heroes- who fought off the invading US Army in the war of 1848, and sacrificed their lives in a doomed defence .
10. Coyacan: this shady, treelined historic colonial district on the fringes of Mexico City offers a peaceful escape from the rigours of the city. Rivera and Kahlo museums and homes and both home and museum of Russian revolutionary exile Leo Tolstoy who was assassinated here , are among the attractions.
Destination – Mexico