Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City Attractions | Things to do in Mexico City
Five Star Hotels in Mexico City | Recommendation: Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Teotihuacan Tour | Editorial: Bullfights in Plaza Mexico
Known in certain circles as the "City of Palaces", Mexico City is full of different colors, aromas, and tastes, featuring a diverse cultural offering and endless entertainment options that cater to the varying tastes of the thousands of people who come to visit the metropolis.
A practical way to explore the city is by different zones: the historic downtown area; the Roma, Condesa, and Zona Rosa neighborhoods; Paseo de la Reforma, Chapultepec, and Polanco; Coyoacan, San Angel and Tlalpan, as well as Xochimilco, to name but a few.
Historic Downtown Area
Classified as a World Heritage Site, this blends the past and the present, featuring plazas, monuments, and palaces built between the 17th and 20th centuries, as well as archeological sites and modern constructions. A practical way to explore it is to take the Turibus tour enabling you to get on and off at the different sites.
The original design of this enormous park was created at the end of the 16th century, and it features typical colonial architecture, with fountains that boast baroque-style details. It is said that the park was originally planted with poplars, which is where its name came from (poplar is "Alamo" in Spanish). It stands out for its fountains, for its bronze, stone, and marble sculptures, and for its bandstands and walkways. The park is surrounded by hotels, book stores, restaurants, bars, theaters, and museums.
Constitution Plaza (El Zocalo)
The Mexican flag stands proud in the center of this immense square. Centuries of pre-Columbian history hide under the heavy blocks of cement that now cover it, flanked by numerous colonial era buildings. It is an iconic spot where an endless array of events are held, including concerts, exhibitions, fairs, political manifestations of all kinds, sports, military, and equestrian parades, as well as artisanal, pictorial, and food displays.
Plaza de Santo Domingo
This plaza's almost-500 years of history make it the second most important square in the historic downtown area. Its three iconic sites: Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Church and Convent), Aduana (Customs Office) and Palacio de la Santa Inquisicion (Holy Inquisition Palace) are great examples of 16th century architecture. The famous Portal de los Evangelistas (Evangelists Gate) is a highlight; it was where scribes used to be hired and where today numerous publishing businesses are located.
The official name of this site is Plaza de Santa Cecilia, however it was named Plaza Garibaldi in honor of Giusseppe Garibaldi (an Italian who formed part of Madero's supporters). It is a popular place known for its party atmosphere and mariachi music, and home to a number of traditional bars, including El Tenampa.
Plaza de las Tres Culturas
This plaza stands out for featuring the architectural styles of three different eras in the city. The pre-Hispanic era is represented by the Tlatelolco archeological site, the colonial era by the Santiago Tlatelolco church and former convent, and the modern day by the Tlatelolco residential compound.
This iconic Christian site is located in the Zocalo square and is an example of viceregal- baroque, neo-Classic, and Renaissance architecture. The first stone was placed by Hernan Cortes in 1524. In its construction, pieces that formed part of the old "Templo Mayor" were used. It is the seat of the Mexican archdiocese, and opens its tombs and bell tower up to visitors at certain times of year.
Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts)
Considered to be the jewel in the crown of the Historic Downtown area, this site's construction was originally planned in 1904 as part of the architectural embellishment of the city at the beginning of the 20th century, but took a total of 30 years to finish, and saw the end of the Porfiriato era and the Mexican Revolution in that time. It was the first museum to be built in the country and features an Art Deco-style interior that houses artworks of Mexican muralists, as well as other temporary exhibitions. The museum stands out for its Tiffany stage curtain (a glass foldable panel created out of nearly a million pieces of iridescent colored glass) and for its enormous crystal lamps. It is the most important showcase of art in Mexico and is run by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Fine Arts Institute). Here is where you can see performances by the National Opera Company, the National Theater Company, and the National Dance Company.
Mexican Revolution Monument
Part of the structure of what would be the Legislative Palace was used to build this monument. Its construction was driven by Porfirio Diaz and the first stone was laid in 1910. Its geometric architecture combines pre-Hispanic and Art Deco styles, while it also has a museum displaying Revolution-related artifacts. The monument has a bronze dome and a lookout point that is accessed by a glass elevator, as well as a museum showing artifacts related to the Revolution. This is where the remains lie of the revolutionary heroes Francisco Villa, Francisco I. Madero, Venustiano Carranza, and Plutarco Elias Calles. The monument is surrounded by Plaza de la Revolucion, where numerous cultural events are held.
Palacio Nacional (City Hall)
This site is another of the icons in Mexico City. Built on 2,000 square feet of the Zocalo plaza, it is one of the largest government buildings in the world. Emperors, viceregents, and countless heads of state have walked along the patios, walkways, and event space over the years. The old Moctezuma palace was built here, and currently it is the seat of numerous government dependencies, the celebration of the cry of independence, and the military parade of September 16th. The building's architecture includes neo-Classic, Baroque, and neo-Colonial styles, while inside you'll find beautiful murals made by Diego Rivera, as well as a site that pays homage to Benito Juarez.
Palacio de Mineria (Palace of Mining)
Built between 1797 and 1813, this site is a wonderful display of neo-Classic architecture on the American continent. It is part of the cultural and artistic heritage of the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) and houses numerous divisions of the Engineering faculty. Highlights of the site include its rooms, library, and chapel, its stately stairway, and its old murals.
Latin American Tower
This 43 story skyscraper is one of the most iconic sites in the city. It took seven years to build and was finished in 1956; at the time, it was the tallest construction in the whole capital. The tower has a restaurant, a bar, and numerous lookout points on the top floors, offering incredible panoramic views of the city.
The Condesa neighborhood is situated next to the Roma neighborhood, in the area where the Condesa de Miravalle racetrack used to be (hence the name). Its history goes back to the '20s and '30s, when it was inhabited by the middle-upper class and by people of different nationalities, giving the area a cosmopolitan air. It stands out for its parks and large green spaces, its Art Deco constructions, and modern buildings. Here you'll find ice cream stores, cafes, bars, and restaurants, as well as bookshops, boutiques, antique stores, and galleries.
Located in the heart of the Condesa neighborhood, this park stands out for its five columns, and for its impressive size. On the grounds you'll find numerous fountains, ponds, waterfalls, and a lake where you can watch ducks swim.
This famous area was founded during the Porfiriato era, when the upper and middle classes decided to live outside of the city center. It stands out for its elegant Art Noveau style homes and buildings, such as Casa Lamm, the Balmori apartments, and the Rio de Janeiro building, which are just some of the ones that have been classified as Cultural Heritage by the National Fine Arts Institute. The neighborhood's streets are full of stores, boutiques, galleries, cafes, and restaurants.
Templo de la Sagrada Familia (Sacred Family Temple)
This iconic church features an interesting architectural style, blending eclectic and neo-Roman styles, complete with stained-glass windows representing passages from the bible. It was built in the early 19th century.
Avenida Alvaro Obregon
This is the main avenue of the Roma neighborhood and stands out for the dual rows of trees that line it, Parisian style, as well as for its fountains and sculptures.
Plaza Rio de Janeiro
This plaza is known for its lush trees that are more than a hundred years old and for its bronze replica of Michelangelo's David. It is surrounded by '20s constructions like the Rio de Janeiro Building, which is known as the Witches Castle due to the conical shape of its roof, similar to the shape of a witch's hat.
At the end of the 19th century this area was flanked by Paseo de la Reforma, Chapultepec, Insurgentes, and Florencia, and was inhabited by people that chose its great mansions as homes. Little by little major hotels were built and the mansions were transformed into boutiques, nightclubs, art galleries, and elegant restaurants, making it an ideal place for tourists. It is famous for its vibrant nightlife and is very popular with the gay community.
Paseo de la Reforma
Paseo de la Reforma is, without a doubt, the financial, political, and economic epicenter of Mexico City. It was built during the era of the Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico to connect Chapultepec Castle with downtown. Here you'll find iconic sculptures like the Huntress Diana, Caballito, and the Angel of Independence. The Senate seat is also located here, along with a wide variety of business hotels.
"Chapultepec" means "Grasshopper Hill" in Nahuatl, an indigenous Mexican language. Divided into three sections, it's the largest park in the city. In the first area you'll find the zoo, the lake where you can rent boats, and the Castle, which has seen the passing of different historic eras in the city. The second section is home to the presidential residence Los Pinos, as well as two lakes, two restaurants, and the theme park La Feria de Chapultepec, which features different rides and attractions, including roller coasters. In the third section you can see lush green areas, the Architects College, and the Center of Marine Co-Existence.
Polanco is one of the most exclusive and cosmopolitan areas of the city. It goes back to the '20s, when the area belonging to the Los Morales Hacienda was split into numerous plots of land, many of which were bought by wealthy businessmen, mainly Jews, Lebanese, and Spaniards who wanted to get away from the center of the city. Here you'll find elegant brand-name boutiques, fashionable restaurants and bars, prestigious hotels, and art galleries. The most famous street in this area is Avenida Presidente Mazaryk.
Coyoacan is one of the most picturesque areas of the city and has been classified as a Historic Monuments Zone by UNESCO since 1990 and a "Barrio Magico" (Magical Neighborhood) by the city government since 2011. It was provisionally the capital of New Spain after the conquest, however, during the 20th century it became a colonial-style area boasting colorful mansions, diverse cafes, museums, plazas, and gardens.
This is one of the most iconic sites in Coyoacan, featuring an entrance with a double archway, as well as lush gardens. It also has two fountains, one of which has two coyotes, referencing the name of the neighborhood. It was inaugurated to celebrate 100 years of independence and at the weekend it is home to people selling handicrafts, food, and art, as well as mimes and musicians.
These gardens are a meeting point for visitors and locals of all ages. At its heart there is a bandstand with a glass dome featuring a bronze eagle at the top. There is also a statue of Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, as well as a large flagpole. It is traditional to eat Mexican ice creams, "esquites" (sweetcorn), and candies that are all sold nearby. Another typical sight here is people selling balloons.
San Juan Bautista Church and Former Convent
This was one of the first buildings to be built after the Spanish Conquest, in 1528. It is a wonderful example of colonial architecture that stands out for its stone façade and its bell tower. Inside it you can see arches, large windows, and baroque altarpieces. The monastery is located alongside it, and features a large patio with 16th century murals.
The main campus of the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of the picturesque works of art on its walls. Highlights include the murals of the Central Library created by Jose O'Gorman, those of the Rectory Tower by David Alfaro Siquieros, and those of Diego Rivera, which can be seen in the stadium Estadio Olimpico Mexico '68.
This charming, elegant neighborhood has its beginnings in the colonial era, when the Del Carmen convent was founded. Later on, in the Porfiriato era, wealthy families purchased plots of land in the area and built vacation homes, which is why the region combines French-style mansions with colonial era temples.
San Jacinto Church
This temple has its beginnings in 1535, when a shrine was built to Our Lady of the Rosary. Over time it went through numerous redevelopments before being turned into the San Jacinto Church in honor of a Dominican friar who was canonized in 1596. The church stands out for its exterior cross carved from wood with Christian and Pagan elements, as well as for its modest atrium which contrasts well with the colorful gardens that surround the church.
Del Carmen Former Convent
When the Carmelite monks acquired the land of this site in the 17th century, they never imagined the agricultural prosperity that would result from these lands flanked by the Magdalena River. It was here that they established the convent, whose beautiful architecture includes a Baroque altar and Talavera-ceramic covered domes, as well as valuable oil works from the time.
Cumbres del Ajusco National Park
This beautiful park has a gigantic forest area with an extension of approximately 2,200 acres full of pines, firs, and oaks, as well as squirrels, coyotes, sparrows, and swallows. Known locally as "el Ajusco", it is ideal for people looking to try fun outdoor activities, like trekking, hiking, and mountain biking.
Considered to be one of the "lungs" of the city, this forest spans 625 acres. It is a nature reserve that has been established at the site of the former Loreto y Pena Pobre Paper Factory. The forest has a conservation program that protects native flora and fauna, while numerous eco activities are enjoyed here, such as guided tours of the forest and workshops designed to teach respect for Mother Nature.
This theme park in the south of the city, at the edge of "El Ajusco", offers fun for adults and children alike, featuring mechanical rides that include roller coasters such as the Joker, the Boomerang, Superman, and the Hurricane. The park also features celebrity parades, light shows, and a whole lot more. There are souvenir stores and a food court at the park for your convenience.
One of the most traditional and iconic attractions of the nation's capital is Xochimilco. This place is strongly linked to the pre-Hispanic era, when people sailed to nearby sites in a system of lakes. Nowadays it has numerous connected canals, where you can take a tour onboard a "trajinera" (a type of gondola). Each of these "trajineras" has a large table in the center and chairs around it, allowing you to enjoy the ride in comfort. The area also offers picturesque nurseries that you can visit along the way. A typical image of Xochimilco is the gondolas with musicians or food sellers, who approach the boats to offer their music or goods to visitors.
San Andres Apostle of Tlahuac Temple
Built in the 17th century by Dominican friars, this temple stands out for its Mudejar style and its mortar walls. Inside you'll find sculptures of the Holy Trinity, Saint Peter, and Saint Joachim.
San Andres Apostle of Míxquic Temple and Former Convent
Offering a rich history and great architecture, this site is considered to be part of the group of Historical Monuments of the National Anthropology and History Institute. It was built by Augustine monks in 1537, and on the patio you can find small archeological remains that show the figure of the god Chac Mool, some skulls carved from volcanic stone, and two rings from a Mesoamerican ballgame court.
Desierto de los Leones National Park
This 3,700 acrearea of forest is populated mainly by oyamel, pine, and oak trees, while also featuring springs, canyons, and hills. It is ideal for enjoying a picnic, as it has grill areas, as well as places selling food and handicrafts.
National Anthropology and History Museum
This is probably the most important museum in the whole country. Displayed in its 24 themed galleries it has an invaluable collection of pre-Hispanic pieces and pre-Colombian art from the Aztec, Olmeca, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Mixtec, and Mayan cultures. It also displays relevant information about the indigenous populations throughout the length and breadth of Mexico. It is located in Chapultepec Forest.
Mexico City Museum
This site is housed in an old building from the 17th century in the heart of the Historic Downtown area, which used to be the old house of the Counts of Santiago de Calimaya. It has stone archways inside the building, and a stone snake head on the corner that belonged to the Templo Mayor, as well as a beautiful carved wooden door. It features 27 galleries that display items from the Aztec times to the current day.
National History Museum
Located in Chapultepec Castle, this museum has two main areas with 31 galleries in total, 19 in the section belonging to the fortress, and 12 in what used to be the military school. It displays artifacts from the times of the Conquest, the Viceroyalty, the Independence, Reform, and the Revolution. Some of the highlights here include the murals of Jorge Gonzalez Camarena and Jose Clemente Orozco.
Old College of San Ildefonso Museum
This historic site is a great example of the city's Baroque architecture, and is one of the most important monuments in the Historic Downtown area of the city. Originally built in 1583 and founded by the Jesuits, it was remodeled in the 18th century into its current form. It has three patios and features murals painted by artists that include Jose Clemente Orozco, Fermin Revueltas, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Gabino Barreda. This site displays numerous Mexican and international temporary exhibitions.
Popular Art Museum
This Art Deco style museum is located in what used to be the old fire station, in the Alameda Central area. It takes you on a tour of the different regions of the country through artisanal works.
Templo Mayor Museum
With the excavation of Templo Mayor, this museum was created to specifically hold the findings. Of the eight galleries, four are dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, a god of war, and the other four to Tlaloc, to agriculture, and the use of natural resources. The museum is located in the Historic Downtown area.
National "Charreria" Horsemanship Museum
This site is located in the former Monserrat Convent, which was occupied by Jerome monks and founded by the Benedictine order. It features a collection of cowboy and "China Poblana" suits, as well as accessories, horse saddles, paintings, harnesses, and special artifacts like the saddles of Maximilian of Habsburg and Francisco Villa.
Modern Art Museum
Located on Paseo de la Reforma, this site displays a collection of Mexican and international plastic artwork. Among the people whose pieces are displayed here are famous artists like Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, and Dr. Atl.
Tamayo Contemporary Art Museum
Also known as the Rufino Tamayo Museum, this place offers a permanentdisplay of this Mexican artist's works. It is located on Avenida Paseo de la Reforma.
Mexico City Environmental Culture and Natural History Museum
Located in the second section of Chapultepec, this museum has nine galleries showing exhibitions related to ecology, biology, evolution, and the origin of the earth and the universe. It has a Diego Rivera mural that displays the importance of water in the cycle of life. The museum also has an insect collection, as well as replicas of dinosaurs.
Frida Kahlo Casa Azul
This site is located in the heart of Coyoacan, in what used to be the house of this famous Mexican artist, who lived and died here. It opened its doors in 1958, four years after her death, and shows a collection of Frida Kahlo's furniture, personal effects, and artwork.
Anahuacalli Museum (Diego Rivera)
Inaugurated in 1864, this museum was created by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to leave a historic and cultural legacy. This is where the 50,000 pre-Hispanic artifacts that Diego collected throughout his life are displayed. The original idea was to convert it into a City of Arts that would integrate dance, theater, handicrafts, and music, which is why it has a central plaza that acts as an outdoor theater and that provides access to the art gallery. It is surrounded by 12 acres of land that is home to local flora and fauna.
Dolores Olmedo Museum
Situated in the former La Noria mansion in Xochimilco, which was built in the 17th century, this museum displays the collections of Dolores Olmedo Patino. Highlights here include New Spanish and pre-Hispanic artwork, as well as works by the artists Angelina Beloff, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera. It is surrounded by lush gardens inhabited by peacocks and Xoloitzcuintles (Mexican hairless dogs).
Leon Trotsky House and Museum
Located in Coyoacan, this museum offers a collection of the controversial Russian exile Leon Trotsky's clothing, furnishings, books, photographs, documents, oil paintings, and personal artifacts. You can see the house's original windows and doors that were armored for Trotsky's safety; however he was assassinated here in 1940.
National Museum of Popular Cultures
Located in Coyoacan and inaugurated in 1982, this museum is a showcase for the different textures, shapes, and colors of the handicrafts from all corners of the country. One of the museum's objectives is to encourage the cultural creativity of different ethnicities, respecting their customs and uses. It is a great place to buy beautiful handmade pieces.
Situated in the Juarez neighborhood in the heart of the city, in a former mansion that was built in 1904, this museum offers 14 themed galleries with figures that represent famous people from political, cultural, artistic and sports circles both from Mexico and abroad.
This museum displays a unique collection of rare objects like small human skulls and a bottle of rat wine, property of the American caricaturist Robert L. Ripley. It has 12 galleries, among which there is one dedicated to Space.
This cultural institution dedicates itself to the conservation, research, and display of art works from Mexico and abroad, mainly from Europe. Some of the highlights of the museum include the South American and New Spanish art exhibitions, as well as the Old European Masters display, which shows works from the 15th to 18th centuries. You'll also find pieces by iconic artists like Picasso, Dali, Tamayo, Siqueiros and Rivera. The museum is housed in a modern building in the San Angel neighborhood.
Papalote Children's Museum
This children's museum in the second section of Chapultepec Forest is an interactive place where learning is encouraged through games and fun activities that awaken the curiosity and interest of children.
La Villa de Guadalupe
This Catholic sanctuary is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a title of the Virgin Mary. It was built on the Tepeyac Hill and was consecrated in 1976, by Pope Paul VI. It is one of the most visited Marian sites in the world. It is traditional to sing to the Virgin at the December 11 vigil that is held to celebrate the anniversary of her appearance. It stands out for its image of "La Morenita", which was created during the time of San Juan Diego.
Teotihuacan, which means "birthplace of the gods" in Nahuatl, is an impressive archeological site located just 30 miles from the city. Today the origins of the real founders of Teotihuacan are unknown, as traces of numerous different cultures have been found in its buildings, including the Zapotecans, Mixtecans, and Mayans. The highlights of this fascinating place include the impressive Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, as well as the main axis of the city, which is known as Avenue of the Dead, along which you'll find the most important buildings of this pre-Hispanic metropolis. This amazing ceremonial site is most popular during the Spring Equinox on March 21st.
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