Mexico City, the DF or Federal District, as the city citizens say, has been a cultural emporium since pre-Columbian times. It was the capital of the Empire of the Aztecs until 1521 when it became the Viceroyalty of New Spain with the conquest and arrival of the Spanish. It changed its name to Mexico City with the War of Independence in 1821 and its separation from the Spanish Crown. For this reason, its importance in the history of pre-hispanic and colonial culture makes it the great continental capital and hence many of its historical sites were declared cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO.
Mexico City is one of the most populous cities in the world and the largest in all of Mexico, with airs of modernity and at the same time with a great historical richness in each space, where it seems that time has stopped. There are many places to visit, from monuments, civil and religious buildings, markets, gardens to cultural tourism to museums, theaters and concerts. You’ll feel like you’ll be short of time on your travel itinerary if you’re going for the first time because of the number of sights you have to visit. Read on and get to know the best places to visit in Mexico City.
What are the best places to visit in Mexico City?
Pyramids of Teotihuacán
What if we start this tour an hour and a half from the city, less than 50 km from Mexico City, heading to the most important tourist and archaeological destination in the country. Teotihuacán was the city of the ancient Aztec civilization, a commercial and political emporium of the pre-Columbian Mesoamerica region. With well-demarcated social and religious areas, we can find in its bosom the pyramid of the Sun and the pyramid of the Moon; the citadel formed by the great square and the temple to Quetzalcoalt or the feathered serpent, center of the city; the avenue of the dead, a civil structure called The Palace of Quetzálpapaloth lodging of the upper classes; the palace of the jaguars, that of the feathered snails and the Museum of Teotihuacán.
The Zócalo or Plaza del Zócalo
If on the other hand you want to start your itinerary in the heart of the city then you should go to one of the most iconic places such as the Plaza de la Constituciòn also known as El Zòcalo. It is an extensive square, one of the largest on the continent. It is the first place of obligatory visit because it stands as the main place of meeting and of social, political and cultural celebration of the city, in addition to being the center that houses the buildings of public power with the most important civil and religious architecture. In it resides the largest Catholic cathedral on this side of the continent: The Metropolitan Cathedral. With its fourteen chapels, it was built in 1573 with the vestiges of the Aztec temple of Tecnochtitlan replacing the simple church that was erected at the time of the conquest. It has in its interior a valuable artistic legacy and as a curious fact you can see on its floor a pèndulo and a table below that indicates how the structure has sunk in time since the city is built on the old and immense lagoon of Tecnochtitlàn which makes the city very unstable and seismic.
The National Palace
On one side of the Zòcalo is the National Palace, built on the old palace of Montezucma, Hernàn Cortès and the Viceroys. It houses the seat of government since pre-Columbian times. Its façade is crowned by the imposing mural “The History of Mexico” made by one of the most important Mexican muralist painters such as Diego Rivera.
The Templo Mayor
Leaving the Zocalo in one of the corners, between the Cathedral and the National Palace we will find the Templo Mayor, remains of what was the ceremonial center and seat of political and religious power of the ancient capital of Tecnochtitlan of the Aztec empire. It was buried under the new constructions undertaken by the Spaniards in colonial times. With the archaeological discoveries and periodic constructions of recent years it has become a museum that exposes the high cosmogony of the ancient Mexican settlers with pieces, figures and monuments in honor of the lunar goddess Coyolxauhqui, Tlaloc, Mictlanteculhti and Huitzilopochtli.
Neighborhood of Coyoacán
To finish the tour of the plinth you can visit on one side of the square the old portal of merchants whose construction dates from the S. XVI. It is a shopping area, where you get luxurious hotels, shops and restaurants.
Other sites that the City of Mexico has in store for us and a must-visit reference are those located to the south of the city. You’ll find refined neighborhoods or neighborhoods that contrast with the haunting center of the city. Among them we have the Neighborhood of Coyoacán which stands as one of the most bohemian.
Cradle and seat of art personalities who lived in picturesque and ungodly colonial houses converted today into museums, bookstores and markets. Coyoacán continues to be a reference of a great artistic and cultural activity. On its grounds is the Blue House of the magnificent artist Frida Khalo, world-class painter, which she shared with the famous painter Diego Rivera. After his death it was converted into a museum where not only some of his paintings are exhibited but pieces and objects that inform of his creative vitality and at the same time his painful life.
The Alameda Central
Other places of interest to visit in Coyoacán, are the Parish of San Juan, the house of León Trotsky, the Market of the Mexican antojitos, the Municipal House, the Centennial Garden, the Plaza de la Conchita and the house of Hernán Cortés. The truth is that Coyoacán is summarized in a tourist attraction full of art, history and gastronomy. Other colonies of interest to visit are San Ángel with its striking civil and religious architecture in addition to its craft exhibitions in the Plaza San Jacinto and Plaza del Carmen.
It also stands out the gastronomic exhibitions in Kioskos and restaurants of the tasty quezadillas and the fresh waters of the typical Mexican food. Other spaces to mention in the area are the squares of the graduates and the archangels and the Casa Estudio Diego Rivera. Other neighborhoods are Condesa and Polanco, colonies that stand out for their great commercial and gastronomic dynamism.
The Alameda Central is reached by following Madero Avenue. It is a very spacious green park that promises a single walk between sculpture fountains and gardens.
The Palace of Fine Arts
At the end of it stands out The Palace of Fine Arts, an auditorium or majestic amphitheater home to shows and lyrical presentations, with a façade richly ornamented with sculptures, prolific inside with murals by prominent Mexican artists. We can also find the Franz Mayer Museum and the grandiose Mural by Diego Rivera “Dream of a Sunday afternoon in Alameda Central”.
The Basilica of the Virgin of Santa Maria de Guadalupe
The Basilica of the Virgin of Santa Maria de Guadalupe is one of the most visited buildings in honor of the Virgin on the planet. It represents the genuine devotion that Mexicans have for the brunette virgin. This center is made up of several buildings, the Chapel of cerrito stands out, enthroned for being the place where the virgin first appeared. Adorned with fresco paintings that recall its appearance, they make it the most revered and sacred site of the place. The Cemetery of Tepeyac, the old convent of the Capuchins, the old and the new Basilica of Guadalupe and the chapel of Pocito crown this architectural complex.
The Paseo de la reforma and the Chapultepec Forest
The Paseo de la Reforma is the most important avenue of the capital, on its way we can find imposing skyscrapers example of modern Mexican architecture. Advancing in it we will find the Chapultepec Forest and the National Museum of Anthropology. It is the most important museum in the city for the anthropological and cultural legacy it exhibits of mexican aboriginal cultures and Amerindian civilizations on this side of the continent. It has an invaluable archaeological and ethnographic collection. The Forest of Chapultepec is a must and it will take you a day to tour it. It is an attractive place because it is surrounded by an aura of magic that makes it unique as well as being the green lung of the city. In its bosom coexist trails and several lakes where you can take boat trips, the zoo with its exhibition of various species and the Castle of Chapultepec that shelters the National Museum of History.
The area of Xochimilco is a spectacular place to visit especially on weekends where the locals liven up their parties and the mariachis give their recitals. Its lake offers the possibilities of enjoying the islands artificially arranged by man, the chinampas, in colorful barges adorned with flowers called trajineras, which offer walks through the different channels of lake Xochimilco. Its flower gardens and crops were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You can also visit the Dolores Olmedo Museum which exhibits works by Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo.
Latin American Tower
A very attractive walk for tourists is to enter the vicinity of the Latin American Tower. It is the tallest skyscraper and is accessed from the Zócalo by the pedestrian street Madero. From the 36th to the 44th floor you will find a museum, exhibitions, restaurants, coffee, souvenir sales, bar and a terrace with a spectacular viewpoint towards the city.
To close a good night in the style of typical Mexico, you can not miss going to the Plaza Garibaldi located in the heart of mexico city. It is the night owly area par excellence of the city where mariachi music is combined with the popular festival. It is the best place to listen to traditional Mexican music. There are terraces where you can sit and enjoy the music. You can also visit the Tequila and Mezcal museum, as well as the mariachi museum.
Without a doubt that Mexico City offers infinite possibilities to connect with the most picturesque and traditional mexican culture, in addition to providing you with the opportunity to make a cultural tourism for the infinity of museums it offers as well as the variety of monuments, historical and archaeological sites full of a great ancestral worldview. Its dichotomy and contrast of the ancient with the modern is attractive to those who visit it for the first time.