1. The Zócalo
Before Mexico was colonized by the Spanish, the Zócalo was the main ceremonial center of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. It’s now the hub of the modern Mexican capital and one of the most recognizable spots in the city. The Zócalo hosts a large number of events and gatherings throughout the year.
Cathedral in Zocalo Square (2005-09-02) by Adalberto Rios Szalay/Sexto SolGetty Images
The Zócalo is bordered by the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral to the north, the National Palace to the east, the Federal District buildings to the south and the Old Portal de Mercaderes to the west. The Nacional Monte de Piedad building sits on the square’s north-west corner and the Templo Mayor, a site considered the center of the universe by the Aztecs, lies just to the northeast.
2. Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
On the northern side of the Zócalo you’ll find the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. Built between 1573 and 1813, it was consecrated in 1656 and has played an important part in the religious and cultural life of Mexico City ever since.
Inside the cathedral you’ll find 5 naves, 2 bell towers, 5 large, ornate alters, and 16 chapels. There’s also a crypt beneath the cathedral and the building is home to 2 of the largest 18th century organs in the Americas. Take a digital stroll around the cathedral to learn more about its history, construction and cultural significance.
3. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe was built on the site of an early-18th century shrine, close to the spot where the Virgin Mary was supposed to have appeared to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. The saint’s cloak, which is housed in the basilica, is said to contain the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The old 18th century church stands side by side with the new 20th century basilica. This offers a unique snapshot of the history of religion in the region and makes for a fascinating juxtaposition. The shrine is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Catholicism and attracts millions of people every year.
4. Chapultepec Park
Measuring around 1,695 acres, the expansive Chapultepec Park is the second-biggest city park in Latin America. The lungs of Mexico City, it offers residents of the capital a fantastic place to relax, exercise and get close to nature.
The park’s attractions include Chapultepec Zoo, the Museum of Anthropology, the Museo de Arte Moderno, and the Rufino Tamayo Museum. It’s also home to a fantastic choice of walking routes as well as ornamental lakes and gardens, archeological sites and monuments.
Learn about Mexico City before the arrival of the Spanish with a walk around Tenochtitlán. Built on an island in the middle of a shallow lake, Tenochtitlán was the 15th century capital of the Aztec Empire and, at its peak, the largest city in the pre-Colombian Americas.
When the Spanish conquered the city, they set about building over the existing site and so not much remains of the original buildings. However, you can get a glimpse of the Aztec ruins by visiting the Templo Mayor de Tenochtitlán, just to the northeast of the Zócalo.
Recuerdos del Zócalo a la 1 de la tarde (23 de octubre de 1925) by Guillermo KahloFototeca Nacional, INAH