The Plaza de la Constitución is the main square of Mexico's Federal District and the epicenter for events, festivals and protests. The plaza is more commonly known as the Zócalo. At one time destined as a monument to independence—planned but never built—the word has become synonymous with main plazas throughout Mexico. The Spaniards erected their main institutions, between the 16th and 18th Centuries, around the plaza, built on the former ceremonial site of Tenochtitlán. Daily flag ceremonies take place at 6a and 6p.
In 1531, a man named Juan Diego claimed he saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. The local bishop Friar Juan de Zumárraga was skeptical and asked for proof. Diego had a second vision; this time the image of the Virgin was emblazoned on a cape with which he had gathered some roses. The bishop needed no further convincing and immediately ordered a church to be built on the site of the holy visitation, atop Mount Tepeyac. Over the centuries, the devout continued to congregate here, so much so that the original 16th-century church had to be replaced by a basilica, designed by Pedro RamÍrez Vasquez. The cape itself is behind the altar encased in glass. Check website for further details in Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe or the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe).
Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico, built this government palace on the site of Moctezuma's residence. The Palacio Nacional that we see today dates back to 1693, although a floor was added in the 1920s. Inside there is a wonderful collection of murals by Diego Rivera. The most famous one is the "Epic of the Mexican People" where two thousand years of history are condensed into the space of an enormous wall. The palace also houses a small museum dedicated to Benito Juárez and the Mexican Congress.
Known for being home to various film stars in the Golden Age of cinema in the 1940s, this charming neighborhood features art deco and modern architecture, lush parks and hip cafes, restaurants and boutiques. This urbanized and trendy area of the city is popular amongst musicians, young professionals and families. A weekend must visit.
Opened in 1968, Museo Nacional de Antropología is one of the best of its kind. A gigantic statue of the water god Tláloc, weighing approximately 200 tons, is poised near the entrance. Archaeological finds are exhibited throughout 11 halls depicting the different American cultures that flourished in this region of Mesoamerica. Ranging from the prehistoric until the Mexicas period, the civilizations highlighted include the Golfo, Teotihuacan, Maya and Tolteca. The cafeteria is worthwhile, and musicians often give performances here using replicas of prehistoric instruments.
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.