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Centro Histórico is a heritage quarter in Mexico City and home to some of its finest architecture. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was once the power center of both the Aztec Empire and New Spain and preserves their unique architectural legacies. 1550 structures in this neighborhood have historical value and exhibit architectural styles such as Art Deco, Beaux-Arts, Italiante and Baroque. A walk through the streets reveals diverse buildings dating from the 16th to 20th Centuries and a plethora of museums. Famous structures here include the Palacio Nacional and the Catedral Metropolitana. This locality also encompasses the Zócalo or the Plaza de la Constitución, Latin America's largest city square. It is the perfect place for those looking to soak in old-world Mexican culture. The best time to visit the Centro Histórico is during the Festival del Centro Histórico, a celebration of culture.
Facing Plaza de la Constitución, also known as the Zócalo, the Ayuntamiento, (Town Hall) is comprised of two buildings. The west building was originally built in 1532, but destroyed by fire in 1692, was rebuilt in 1722. The outer walls are decorated with ceramic tiles depicting the conquistadors. The east building was built in 1935, commissioned by the local authorities for needed space. The newer building, inspired by the older construction, was designed and built to harmonise with the historic architecture of the plaza.
Legend has it that the Palace of Axayácatl, where Moctezuma II once gave shelter to Hernán Cortés and his captains, once stood here. However, over the course of time, the Monte de Piedad Nacional was constructed on the spot. This building dates back to 1775. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a new floor was added, making it larger, but not affecting its elegant appearance. Visitors today will find a huge shop here that sells second-hand objects.
The Metropolitan Cathedral or Catedral Metropolitana is one of the most important historical buildings in Mexico City. Construction was started at the beginning of the 18th Century and continued throughout the next 300 years. This is why different influences can be detected in the architectural style, dominated by Spanish Renaissance and French Neo-Classicism, along with a Baroque touch to the rose sandstone roof. The cathedral's five aisles are adorned with ornate altars and elaborate engravings, and its floors are made of marble. Don't miss this transcendental symbol of the Mexican people's faith and devotion.
In 1519, when the first Spaniards marched into the city of Tenochtitlán, it was the heart of the Aztec Empire. Founded on a lake island in 1325, the city was the nerve center of political and economic control of an extensive area of the Americas. More than 200,000 people lived in an urban area measuring almost 15 square kilometers (5 square miles), which included approximately 80 civil and religious buildings. The most important of these was the Templo Mayor, or Main Temple, on the crest of which were found two shrines; one dedicated to the god of war Huizilopochtli, and the other to the rain god Tláloc. Today, you can still see the temple's pyramidal base, enlarged seven times in 200 years. To one side of the site is the Casa de los Caballeros Aguila, House of the Men-Eagle, which once housed an ancient order of elite warriors. A museum, called Museo del Templo Mayor, dedicated to the temple was set up in 1987 to preserve and showcase the findings from archaeological sites of the shrine and around the main square. The four story building inside the complex was designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázque and comprises of artifacts such as the stone disk of Coyolxauhqui, urns, musical instruments and knives.
Pasaje Catedral is located at behind the Metropolitan Cathedral. The incense aroma of this passage will make you think you are in a chapel and it is more or less a religious place. You will find objects and books relating to Catholicism at the various small stalls. From idols to candles, Bibles to rosaries and vestments. There are also herbal stores which are run by herbalists.
The Iglesia de Santa Teresa la Antigua visible today, dates back to the 17th century and was part of the convent of the same name. Built between 1678 and 1684, its Baroque-influenced façade follows the style of well-known Spanish architect Jose de Churriguera. The church's most striking feature is its massive eight-sided dome topped with a slender tambour, which was once famed for being the highest in the New World. However, the one seen today was reconstructed in 1859, after an earthquake destroyed the original. This church forms part of the Museo Ex-Teresa Arte Actual, which presents some of the most avant-garde exhibitions of Mexican and international visual art today.
A collection of anonymous oils from the 18th and 19th centuries is housed in La Enseñanza, a convent built in 1754 in a beautiful Baroque style. The original choral stands are practically still intact, with the latticed windows that allowed the resident nuns to see without being seen. This, in fact, was quite a rare attribute in a Mexican convent. To visit the art gallery and choral stands, just ask for permission to do so on Sundays after mass, at around 1pm.