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Centro Histórico

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Courtesy of visitmexico.com

See the Ballet Folklórico de México perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

As one of the largest cities in the world, Mexico City has a rich cultural heritage and much to offer visitors. When touring the city, visitors can see the European and Aztec influences in everything from the food to the architecture. These two cultures have blended together to create a cosmopolitan metropolis that still clings to its native roots and is what makes Mexico City an incredibly unique city. The Centro Historico, or historic district, has a large concentration of important historical sights and ruins, which are easily navigable on foot. These are a selection of some of the most popular sites.


The Zócalo, also known as the Plaza de la Constitucion, is the very heart of the historic center of Mexico City. At approximately 10 acres, it is one of the three largest public squares in the world. During the time of the Aztecs, the Zócalo was the heart of the ancient city of Tenochtitalan and was where the palace of Moctezuma II stood. After the conquest by the Spanish, Hernán Cortés remodeled it to mirror the city centers of his homeland, Spain. Today, the Zócalo is the sight of everything from political protests and religious celebrations to national celebrations and Aztec dancers.

Palacio Nacional

Construction on the Palacio Nacional began in 1692 on top of the palace of the defeated Moctezuma II. The Palacio Nacional became the new home of the conquering Cortés and was the home for subsequent rulers of Mexico. The Palacio Nacional is also the sight of Mexican independence from Spain. Every September 15, a bell hanging over the central door of the Palacio is rung in remembrance of Padre Miguel Hidalgo, who is known for his famous proclamation of rebellion against Spain in 1810. One of Diego Rivera’s most famous murals resides here as well; this mural, which took 25 years to complete, is a stunning depiction of the history of Mexico. Although the president no longer resides here, the office of the president remains. In addition to the President’s offices, the Federal Treasury and National Archives are also located here.

Palacio Nacional
Av. Pino Suárez
Centro Histórico, Mexico City


Templo Mayor

The Templo Mayor is said to be the sight where the Aztecs spotted the prophetic eagle on a cactus clutching a snake. This symbol was said to mark the spot where the Aztec were to begin building the city of Tenochtitlan. The Templo Mayor was built in 1325 and was possibly the most important ceremonial location in all of Mesoamerica. The temple was uncovered in 1978 and, although a large portion of the temple was destroyed by the Spanish Conquest, what remains is mesmerizing. The famous Wall of Skulls, or Tzompantli, is wall of human skulls coated in stucco. This wall is a reminder of the preoccupation the Aztecs had with human sacrifice. Other temples dedicated to the god of war and the god of rain were also excavated. Thousands of pieces that were excavated at the Templo Mayor can be found at the on-site museum. Admission to the ruins and the museum is approximately $3 and is free on Sunday.

Templo Mayor
Seminario 8
Centro Histórico, Mexico C

Catedral Metropolitana

The Catedral Metropolitana was one of the first Catholic Cathedrals anywhere in the Americas. It was built on a classic Latin cross plan and is the seat of Mexico’s Diocese. In an act of symbolic dominance, Hernán Cortés is said to have placed the first stone of the cathedral on a crossing of four cardinal points that marked the spiritual center of Tenochtitlan. Up until the year 2000, the cathedral was on the list of 100 Most Endangered Sights; the cathedral was built on the soft lake bottom of Mexico City, much like Venice, and it has been sinking for hundreds of years. Tours of the bell towers are available for a small donation.

Catedral Metropolitana
Plaza de La Constitución
Centro, Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City


Palacio de Bellas Artes

The Palacio de Bellas Artes’ exterior, or Mexico’s Palace of Fine Arts, is a striking example of early 20th century Art Nouveau. The exterior is made of imported Italian Carrara marble and the interior reflects a more Art Deco style. Construction began in 1904 as part of a centennial celebration of Mexican independence, but construction was halted in 1910 when the Mexican Revolution broke out. Construction on the opera house was concluded in 1934. A point of interest in the Palacio is the infamous 1933 Diego Rivera mural, which was originally commissioned for Rockefeller Center in New York. Because of Rivera’s communist overtones in the mural, Rockefeller had it destroyed and Rivera later recreated it on the third floor of the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Another unique attribute of the Palacio is the Tiffany stained glass curtain, which depicts a Mexican pastoral scene. It is made of hundreds of pieces of Tiffany glass and gives off an iridescent sparkle.

Palacio de Bellas Artes
Ave. Juárez Es. Eje Central,
Centro Histórico Mexico City

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