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Best Historic Locations in Mexico City

By: Cityseeker
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Museo de la Ciudad de México

The 27 halls comprising this 18th Century colonial palace offer an insight into the urban development of the city of Mexico through maps, paintings and photographs on exhibit. The room on the upper level displays murals painted by the Mexican painter Joaquín Claussel. Among the many highlights found here is a large wooden door of intricate carved detail, including the coat of arms belonging to the Counts of Santiago de Calimaya. A presumably pre-Hispanic serpent's head, fashioned in a large stone, juts out from the building towards the corner of República del Salvador.

Mexico City, Mexico
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National Palace

A rambling, majestic structure built from earth-hued tezontle rock, dominates the expanse of El Zócalo in the heart of Mexico City. Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico, built this government palace in 1693 on the very same site where the legendary Moctezuma II's residence once stood. The Palacio Nacional that we see today is almost an identical twin of its old self except for the building's ornately-decorated topmost floor that was added in the late 1920s. The structure's interiors are even more impressive; housing a spectacular selection of vivid and figurative murals by Diego Rivera. While his collection of murals is enormous, the "Epic of the Mexican People" mural is by far the Palacio's centerpiece which manages to artistically condense nearly two thousand years worth of history onto the space of an enormous wall. The palace also houses a small museum dedicated to Benito Juárez and the Mexican Congress and is also where the National Archives and Federal Treasury offices are located.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Historic Center of Mexico City

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.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Templo Mayor

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 Huitzilopochtli and the other to the rain god Tláloc. Today, one can still see the temple's pyramidal base, enlarged seven times in 200 years. To one side of the site is the Casa de Caballeros Aguila, or the 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 architect Pedro Ramírez Vázque and comprises of artifacts such as the stone disk of Coyolxauhqui, urns, musical instruments and knives.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Metropolitan Cathedral

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 Neoclassicism, along with a Baroque touch to the sandstone roof. The cathedral's five aisles are adorned with ornate altars and elaborate engravings, and its floors are made of marble. Visitors to Mexico City must not miss this transcendental symbol of Mexican art, history and heritage.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Plaza de las Tres Culturas

Inaugurated in the year 1966 and designed by well-respected urbanist Mario Pani, the Plaza de las Tres Culturas sits in the heart of the Tlatelolco locale of Mexico City. The name of this plaza is derived from the fusion of Mexico's three main cultural epochs: pre-Hispanic, colonial, and present-day, and it offers elements taken from all three historical periods. The first is represented by the ruins of an Aztec ceremonial site, while the second one was the Santiago Tlatelolco Church built in 1609. Last but certainly not least, the modern age is personified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was constructed in 1970. The plaza's southern end also houses a stone monument that was erected in honor of the victims of the Tttaleoloco Massacre that occurred on the 2nd of October 1968. Together, all of these monuments symbolize the vagaries of time and help preserve the culture and history of the city.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Monumento a los Niños Héroes

Situated at the main entrance to the Bosque de Chapultepec, this monument was designed as a semicircle of six columns, each representing the brave young cadets who died during the invasion of U.S. troops in 1847. The youthful cadets were stationed at the Castillo de Chapultepec, which served at that time as the national military academy and died in one of the most tragic and emotional moments in Mexican history.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Castillo de Chapultepec

Castillo de Chapultepec was built between 1780 and 1790, constructed on top of an Aztec fortress with panoramic views of the city. The gardens surrounding the palace were designed by Empress Carlota during the French occupation and offer a beautiful stroll. It once served as the Colegio Militar (Military Academy) and was also the official presidential residence until 1939, when President Cárdenas converted the palace into the Museo Nacional de Historia. Restoration efforts have significantly enhanced the construction as well as the design of the interiors.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Coyoacán

Coyoacán is famous for being one of the oldest boroughs in the ever sprawling Mexico City. Dating back to the 1500s when it was the capital of the Conquistadors (Spanish conquerors), this region still features some of the original 16th Century architectural wonders, quaint cobblestone streets and tiny plazas from the Colonial era. It is estimated that an influx of over 70,000 people flock to this historic district on weekends for the multifarious events and festivals that take place throughout the year. It is also famous for a market selling local arts and crafts.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Cerro de la Estrella

At the end of each period of Xiuhmolpilli, every 52 years, the Aztecs celebrated the ritual of Fuego Nuevo or "New Fire", a sun renewal ceremony on the peak of Cerro de la Estrella. On the flanks of these rocky slopes, overlooking Lake Texococo, the city of Iztapalapa was founded. However, long before the Aztec colonization of the Valley of Mexico, the hill attracted other groups. The first agricultural communities date back to 1000 BCE, and around 900 BCE the first constructions of Teotihuacana influence appeared. The Chichmecan founded the capital of the Culhacán kingdom, which was finally swallowed by the Aztec empire. Since 1998, this fascinating archaeological area has been graced by an equally interesting museum and the Cerro de la Estrella is now classified as a National Park.

Mexico City, Mexico
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San Ángel

Recently named a barrio magico (magic neighborhood) by the secretary of tourism, San Ángel is located southwest of the city center. Populated by historic cobblestone streets, fragrant gardens and grand estates this neighborhood is flush with Colonial history. Many of the city's popular attractions are located near the San Ángel neighborhood including the Bellas Artes Palace, Templo Mayor and many art galleries, markets, open-air restaurants, boutiques and more.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Museo Arqueológico Cuicuilco

Located between the two main arteries of the city (the ring-road and the Avenida de los Insurgentes), are these remains of the Cuicuilco culture, now converted into an on-site museum. This was considered to be one of the most important societies of ancient Mexico, thanks to the geographic and cultural development achieved by its people. The site includes a round pyramid of more than 23 meters (75 feet) in height, with what is left of an altar on its summit. Visitors can also see the remnants of irrigation canals, a technological leap for the societies at that time, but are advised to first tour the exhibition gallery to fully appreciate and understand the significance of the main exhibits. A visit to this museum also offers a few botanical surprises, with species of native flora to the Pedregal de San Ángel sector of the Mexican capital.

Mexico City, Mexico
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