The National Palace (Palacio Nacional) has served as the seat of the Mexican federal government since the age of the Aztecs. Although it’s a working building with many offices that are off limits to visitors, there’s still plenty to explore and admire, including Diego Rivera’s famous panoramic mural, The History of Mexico.
Located on the eastern side of Mexico City's main square or Zócalo (aka Plaza de la Constitución), the block-long historic building was once occupied by Hernán Cortés, the Spanish explorer who conquered the Aztecs. Cortés destroyed Aztec emperor Moctezuma II’s palace in 1521 and rebuilt the grand structure in Spanish Colonial–style architecture with courtyards and fountains.
Visit the National Palace on a sightseeing or walking tour of Mexico City. View Rivera’s mural, as well as other works of art, which tour guides can help explain.
Things to Know Before You Go
- You’ll need a government-issued photo ID or passport, which will be collected at the door and returned to you when you leave.
- Large bags will need to be checked, too.
- The palace is a must-see stop on many sightseeing tours of Mexico City and is a big draw for art lovers.
How to Get There
Because the National Palace is located in the main plaza, it’s easily accessible by public transportation. It’s best to avoid driving since traffic can be heavy and parking is expensive. You can take the Metro Line 2 to the Zócalo stop, which is located across from the palace. Or, grab a seat on a hop-on hop-off tour bus; the palace is main stop along the most routes.
When to Get There
The National Palace is open to visitors from 9am to 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday, and is closed on Mondays; Sundays draw big crowds. Visit on September 15 (the day before Mexican Independence Day) to catch the president ring the Campana de Dolores, the bell hanging above the main door, to signal the start of the annual celebration. Padre Miguel Hidalgo rang it to proclaim Mexico’s liberation from Spain in 1810.
Diego Rivera’s Mural
Painted between 1929 and 1951, Rivera’s The History of Mexico mural, which splays across the palace’s large stairways and stairwells, depicts Mexico's history from ancient times to the present, including the creation of humankind by Quetzalcóatl (the feathered serpent god), the rise of the Aztecs, and the Spanish conquest. The massive artwork concludes with a look at Mexico's future at the time with communist references and an image of Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo.