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A leafy enclave in Coyoacán preserves behind vivid blue walls the legacy of one of Mexico's most iconic artists, Frida Kahlo. Known as the iconic Casa Azul, or Blue House, the Museo Frida Kahlo was the birthplace of the enigmatic painter Frida Kahlo, who also occasionally lived here with her husband Diego Rivera. One of Mexico city's most recognized attractions, the house contains everything from her personal belongings such as jewelry, and unfinished canvases propped on easels, to her traditional tehuana dresses. The museum is lavishly divided into ten rooms, each a splendid glimpse into the artist's extraordinary work and life. Each room takes one on a riveting journey of Kahlo's life that she shared with her artist husband Diego Riviera, from rooms that once rung with animated soirées hosted for their artist friends, to rooms that still hold regional handicrafts that adorned their home. Other exhibits include paper maché skeletons of Judas and pre-Hispanic objects, as well as Kahlo's wheelchair, on display in the studio where she once regularly painted. The house museum spills into a sun-drenched courtyard lined with trees, burning bright with an inspiring legacy left behind by one of the country's brightest and most creative minds.
A treasure chest of pre-Columbian history and Mexico’s cultural heritage, the National Museum of Anthropology is a defining historical landmark of the country. Located on the bustling thoroughfare of Paseo de la Reforma, the museum complex is one of the most architecturally evolved in the city. Dotted with gardens and ponds, the monumental umbrella-like structure forms the centerpiece of the complex. Home to some of the most precious relics from Mexican history, the 23 rooms along with outdoor gardens display insightful artifacts from even other parts of the world. The monolith Aztec Sun Stone and carved stone statues of Aztec deities are the most visited exhibits in the museum. Accurate replicas of tombs and temples from Mayan civilizations are indisputably some of the most breathtaking displays. The largest and one of the most elaborate museums in the country, the National Museum of Anthropology is considered a national symbol.
A rich Art Nouveau facade offset by an opulent Art Deco interior characterizes the grandeur of one of Mexico City's most notable cultural landmarks, the Palace of Fine Arts. Radiant in its Carrara marble facade that glints under the sun, the building's resplendent dome is its zenith, a crystal-hewn structure that dazzles in ombre shades of yellow and orange. The building, built partly by architects Adamo Boari and Federico Mariscal, was envisioned as a celebratory landmark to commemorate the centenary of the Mexican War of Independence. Though plans for the building were laid as early as 1904, its construction ceased abruptly in 1913, owing to political and structural impediments. The building's construction was suspended for 20 years, only to begin again in 1932. This time, Federico Mariscal undertook the task and completed the building's construction in 1934. Since then, this revered landmark has been Mexico City's cultural nerve, having hosted everything from opera and dance to music, literature and art events in its seasoned span. Its mural-clad walls are home to the National Theater, the National Museum of Architecture and the National Institute of Fine Arts.
The Plaza de la Constitución is one of the world's largest city squares and is the main plaza of Mexico's Federal District. Paved by Cortés is the 1520s, the expansive plaza lies at the site of the ceremonial center of the Aztec Tenochtitlán. For a time, the plaza was taken over by a labyrinth of stalls, until General Santa Anna cleared the square and laid the foundations of a monument to independence at its core. His plans were never realized, however, and the base of the proposed monument was eventually buried. What remains, is the name Zócalo, meaning "plinth," a moniker popularly used to refer to the Plaza de la Constitución as well as the main squares of several other Mexican cities. Here, Aztec dancers perform daily to the beat of drums, beneath the massive Mexican flag fluttering in the breeze, hoisted each morning by soldiers at 8a and lowered again at 6p. The grand historic facades of the Palacio Nacional and Catedral Metropolitana fringe the square; a place where the pulse of the city beats the strongest. The Plaza de la Constitución also hosts concerts, festivals and protests amid its sprawling embrace.
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.
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.
One of the most revered shrines of the Virgin Mary, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is visited by thousands each year. The site of the Basilica at Tepeyac Hill is believed to be where the Virgin Mary appeared before Juan Diego, a Christian convert in 1531. All doubts about the veracity of his claims were laid to rest when the image of the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared on his cloak. The original shrine at the site was replaced by what is now known as the Antigua Basilica, completed in 1709. The stunning edifice of this historic church is richly inlaid with vivid sculptures, topped by a yellow dome and flanked by four towers. As word of the miraculous cloak spread, the basilica came to be a much-revered place of pilgrimage demanding the construction of a larger church in 1976 to accommodate the growing flock. The Nueva Basilica was built next door upon a spectacular, circular plan of mammoth proportions, topped by a tent-like roof, the altar a showcase for the miraculous cloak that has been carefully preserved to this day. Nearby, the modest chapel marks the site where Juan Diego first sighted the apparition of the Virgin Mary alongside a garden with babbling waterfalls and sculptural depiction of the event. The Antigua Basilica now houses a museum with a fine collection of colonial artwork.
The Bosque de Chapultepec, or the Chapultepec Forest, is one of Mexico City's favorite attractions. Counted among Western Hemisphere's largest urban parks, it covers close to 686 hectares (1,695 acres). It is a verdant oasis of the city that delineates tales of the Aztec era through its Montezuma cypress trees and several Mesoamerican artifacts that are preserved in the on-site museum. The park is also home to the magnificent Chapultepec Castle which is a memory of the region's Spanish rulers. Apart from the castle, the Monument to the Ninos Heroes, the Carcamo, the Tlaloc's fountain and the baths of Moctezuma are some of the park's notable attractions.
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.
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.