A visit to Mexico City begins in the Zócalo, the second-largest plaza in the world next to Moscow’s Red Square. While most cities in Mexico have a zócalo, Mexico City’s is the original, and grandest, with the most cultural significance so the word is always capitalized.
The Zócalo, officially known as the Plaza de la Constitución, is ringed with stately, well-preserved colonial buildings, the most famous being the immense 17th-century cathedral and the Palacio Nacional, home to vivid Diego Rivera murals depicting Mexico’s often tortuous history.
Mexico City was built a top the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. You can visit the ruins of the Templo Mayor (which are still being excavated) a short walk from the Zócalo.
Within walking distance of the hotel is the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), an extravagant white-marble building constructed by the French-loving Porfirio Díaz.
The best reason to visit the Palacio, aside from its stunning architecture, is the Ballet Folklórico de México.
Crossing the threshold framed by the magnificent main doors carved in 1659 leads the visitor into a more subtle world, geared towards uplifting the soul with a spirituality that permeates the senses:
magnificent fluted columns which soar upward and return to earth in a display of infinite motion akin to the sounds produced by the monumental organs, exquisitely carved the wooden benches crowned by a lectern, golden galleries of the organs.
Located on Mexico City's main square, the Plaza de la Constitución (El Zócalo) has been a palace for the ruling class of Mexico since the Aztec empire, and much of the current palace's building materials is from the original one that belonged toMoctezuma II.
Outside of the city center Just outside of the city center, the most popular tourist attractions.
A “must see” for every visitor, the Museo Nacional de Antropología, a huge (HUGE!) museum hosts some of the most impressive artifacts from the history of the New World. Few people have the stamina to give this Mexico City institution, one of the leading anthropology museums in the world, the time and attention it deserves. Consider visiting it on two separate days to give your brain a chance to rest.
The museum is located on the fringes of the Bosque de Chapultepec, the city’s largest green space. Inside the park, visit the castle of the Austrian Emperor Maximilian, who briefly ruled Mexico in the 1860s. There’s also an amusement park, a zoo, several lakes with boats for rent, and lots of open recreation spaces.
Mexican art lovers will want to visit Coyoacán, home to Frida Kahlo’s childhood residence, now converted into an eclectic Kahlo museum. The town, which used to be a separate pueblo (before being swallowed up by Mexico City’s endless expansion) is best experienced on the weekends, when its quaint stone plaza is filled with live music and street performers.
When the Aztecs lived here, Mexico City was a “floating” city of intricate canals dug into a huge lake. The floating gardens of Xochimilco are a chance to recreate the Tenochtitlan experience, Mexico City style. Rent one of the hundreds of brightly painted lanchas (gondola-style boats) and take a leisurely ride through the canals of this small town, 20 miles southeast of the city center.
Don’t miss a trip to Teotihuacán, the site of fantastic pyramids north of Mexico City. Tours and transportation are easily arranged. Teotihuacán is surrounded by mystery, but there is no doubt that this is one of the world’s most impressive cultural sites.
Explore this large archeological jewel by walking down the Avenue of the Dead (the site’s main walkway) or climb to the tops of the gigantic Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon to enjoy unparalleled views.