Built on the site of the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, the Centro Histórico is both the historical heart and the modern epicenter of Mexico City. Centered on the grand Zócalo—Plaza de la Constitución—the sprawling district is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is full of historic monuments, museums, parks, and hotels.
There are numerous ways to discover the sights of Mexico City. Stroll around the Zócalo and along Paseo de la Reforma on a walking tour; zip around the city on a Segway or bike tour; admire the illuminated streets on a night tour; or tuck into tacos on a food tour. Notable landmarks include the magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral, the Palacio de las Bellas Artes, the skyscraper Torre Latinoamericana, and Tenochtitlán’s Templo Mayor.
Things to Know Before You Go
- As in most major cities, pickpockets are common around the main tourist areas, so keep an eye on your belongings and only carry the essentials.
- Most museums in the Centro Histórico are closed on Mondays.
- Many Centro Histórico attractions are wheelchair accessible, but some of the neighborhood’s narrow, uneven lanes are difficult for wheelchairs to navigate.
How to Get There
It’s easy to reach most of the attractions in the Centro Histórico on foot from the Zócalo, but the area is also well served by public transport. The main metro station is Zócalo (Line 2), and numerous buses also pass by the square.
When to Get There
The most popular time to explore Mexico City is between March and May, when the warm, dry weather is ideal for sightseeing. The Zócalo is the center of many of the city’s festivals and events, including the annual Independence Day celebrations (September 16), the Alebrije Parade (late October), and the Day of the Dead parade (November 1–2).
Mexico City’s Aztec History
Founded in 1325 as an Aztec capital, ancient Tenochtitlán was built on an island on Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico, and the enormous Zócalo was its spiritual, political, and ceremonial center. According to Aztec legend, a vision instructed the wandering Aztec tribe to build a city on the spot where an eagle, perched on a cactus, was devouring a serpent—an image that now adorns the Mexican flag. When the Spanish conquered the city in the 16th century, they drained the lake and destroyed many Aztec palaces and temples, rebuilding their new city around the Zócalo.