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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.
The wee hours of the day or the night, there is a hustle and bustle in Plaza Garibaldi as bands play Mariechi music or perform gigs on the spot for the tourists seated on the cement benches scattered in the area. This is one of the most renowned place in the city that attracts several tourists all year round. The costumes, dresses and songs talk of the rich culture of Mexico. The vibrant colours of the age-old Salon Tenampa is welcoming. Grab a bite and a couple of drinks, sit back and listen to live Mariechi music being played. The Tenampa through its walls and little art work talks about the history and culture of the place.
Audiorama is one of Mexico City's most unusual spots. Music lovers come to this outdoor space to sit quietly and listen to piped-in classical, jazz, and new age music. Tucked into the base of the hill surmounted by Chapultepec Castle, Audiorama requests silence from its visitors, who wander about the 90-foot wide garden or lounge comfortably on multi-colored metal benches. Lush bushes and flowers surround the listening area and create a sylvan ambiance. Audiorama provides a peaceful retreat from Mexico City's frenzy. Enter Audiorama from the left side of the Monumento al Escuadrón 201, a memorial to Mexico's World War II pilots.
A living testament to the ingenuity of the Aztecs, the canals of Xochimilco, meaning "Land of Flowers," are the last vestiges of a once extensive irrigation and transportation network built by the Aztecs. Artificial islets were created by layering logs, earth, mud and roots tied with vine and planting ahuejote, a native plant whose tough roots bind the walls of the chinampas. Today, Xochimilco has been restored, plied by brightly colored boats that sail down the 14-kilometer (8-mile) stretch of this navigable waterway. Vendors selling handicrafts and local delicacies are joined by mariachi and marimba bands that float by on wooden boats. A whirlwind of colors and sounds, a celebratory air presides over Lake Xochimilco at all times while the weekends are a veritable fiesta with locals heading to the canal to partake of the charms of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are several chinampas along the way, but the most renowned is the Island of the Dolls, instantly recognizable thanks to the numerous dolls strung up in trees.