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Best Local History & Culture in Mexico City

By: Cityseeker
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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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Recinto Homenaje a Benito Juárez

Here in the Patio Mariano of the National Palace, one can explore the life of Benemérito de las Américas. The display shows the different aspects of the environment that Benito Juárez lived and worked in. His office and living quarters (which he shared with Margarita Maza de Juárez his wife) transport the visitor back to the nineteenth century; and through specific objects and decorations, the visitor is given an intriguing insight into the private and public life of this Mexican President.

Mexico, Mexico
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Museo del Templo Mayor

Situated on the site of Templo Mayor, the 4-story museum is dedicated to showcase the artifacts discovered from the archaeological site, both in and around the shrine. At the entrance of the museum lies the Tzompantli (translated as 'wall of skulls') that gives you a glimpse of the temple of Tenochtitlan prior to the arrival of Spanish rulers. Among the prized possession of the museum includes a sacrificial stone that is carved with the relief of Coyolxauhqui - the moon goddess. Besides, you can also find various artifacts, and sacrificial remains dedicated to various gods such as the God of war - Huitzilopochtli, the rain God - Tláloc and the God of fire - Xiuhtecutli. This state-of-the-art museum complex was built by Pedro Ramírez Vázque and was opened to public on October 12, 1987. Visit their website to know more.

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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Leon Trotsky House and Museum

This large old house was a safe haven for the Russian leader Leon Trotsky and became his final resting-place. Expelled from the Soviet Union in 1929, he found refuge in Mexico in 1937, thanks to support from Diego Rivera. In 1940 the Spanish communist Ramon Mercader assassinated him in this very house. The political leader's original furnishings and his remains, buried beneath a modest monument in the garden, add intrigue to the museum. There are guided tours available.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

This home, designed by Juan O'Gorman in 1933, was the birthplace of many of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's projects. Rivera's studio remains virtually untouched from the day on which the muralist died. Among the many personal objects on view he also left unfinished canvases on over-sized easels, pre-Hispanic pieces, photographs and his collection of Judas figures. These bearded demons are traditionally made of carton, filled with firecrackers and are set off on the Saturday of Glory before Easter Sunday. For over two decades, Rivera and Kahlo shared this space in the pursuit of their artistic visions. Frida's studio, an individual house within the complex, hosts temporary exhibitions.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Diego Rivera-Anahuacalli Museum

Inspired by pre-Hispanic lines and architecture and using volcanic rock, Diego Rivera conceived and designed Anahuacalli (house in the valley), which opened in 1964. Thousands of objects are exhibited, many of them pottery or colored stone figures symbolizing water and air deities of these civilizations. The objects formed part of Rivera's personal collection of pre-Columbian art that he donated to the Mexican people. Every November an altar is erected here during Latin America's largest alms to the dead.

Mexico City, Mexico
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Museo Dolores Olmedo

One of the most important private collections in Mexico, this museum is found surrounded by the outer structure of what was once the Hacienda La Noria, a 17th Century construction which became famous in 1913, when it was occupied by revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata's troops. Here is one of the most important collections by painter and muralist Diego Rivera (approximately 140 pieces) together with twenty-five paintings by sometime-companion and contemporary artist Frida Kahlo, and a considerable number of works by Russian illustrator and printmaker Angelina Beloff. There are examples of pre-Hispanic and popular (Mexican traditional) art, along with a large collection of furniture and other objects from the colonial period. The museum is located in Xochimilco, one of the few sectors of this colossal city that still maintains a provincial air about it.

Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico
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