Mexico City, Mexico: Top attractions

Sophisticated and chaotic, but eager to please everyone, Mexico City’s downtown is a synthesis between the ancient and modern Mexican culture. The best place to start off is at the heart of the capital, in Plaza de la Constitución. One of the world’s largest city squares, which also came to be known as Zócalo, meaning “base”. Surrounding the city square are the city government offices to the south, the Palacio Nacional (presidential palace) to the east and the Catedral Metropolitana to the north.

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The grandiose colonial presidential palace offers Diego Rivera murals, which depict Mexican civilization from the arrival of Quetzalcóatl to the post-revolutionary period.

Catedral Metropolitana is a monumental edifice, being the largest cathedral in the Americas and Mexico’s most iconic structure. Construction of the initial church was ordered by Hernán Cortés on the site of the Templo Mayor of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, to consolidate the Spanish rule over the newly conquered domain. In 1544 Spanish authorities ordered the creation of a new cathedral which ended up replacing the old church. The cathedral was built in sections from 1573 to 1813 incorporating a mixture of Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-classic architecture.

Templo Mayor (the Great Temple), or the great pyramid of Tenochtitlan used to be a place of civic and religious events during the Aztec rule. Templo Mayor was dedicated to the god of war Huitzilopochtli, and the god of rain Tlaloc. After the destruction of Tenochtitlan, the temple was taken apart and covered over by the Spanish colonial city. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the old ruins were rediscovered and excavation began. On-site, the Museo del Templo Mayor gives a good overview of Aztec civilizations. The museum has many artifacts from the site and a model of Tenochtitlan.

Between Juarez Avenue and Hidalgo Avenue lies the Parque Alameda, surrounded by istoric churches, museums and the most important cultural center in Mexico, the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). Some of the museums in this area include the Museo Nacional de Arte, Museo Franz Mayer and Museo Mural Diego Rivera.

Other places of interest in the capital include the world-class Museo Nacional de Antropología, Museo Casa de Leon Trotsky, Museo Ciodad de Mexico, Plaza Garibaldi, Basilica de Guadalupe, the Monument to the Revolution and Xochimilco borough.