The seat of Mexico's federal government since the age of the Aztecs (at least), the National Palace - or Palacio Nacional - is a working building, and many offices are off limits to visitors. You can, however, pass through the enormous baroque facade dominating the eastern side of the Zócalo and enjoy some of its ample interior.
Though the arcaded courtyards and fountains are fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture, you're here to see artist Diego Rivera's triptych of murals, "Epic of the Mexican People." From the creation of humankind by Quetzalcóatl, the Feathered Serpent god, and subsequent rise of the Aztecs, Rivera plunges you into the horrors of the Spanish Conquest - rape, murder, slavery, and finally, mercy to the defeated survivors. In the final piece, Mexico's resistance to invasions by France, the United States, and corporate robber barons including Vanderbilt, Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, are depicted.
Villa Coyoacan is 29 blocks of one of Mexico City’s most charming districts. Also one of the area’s oldest districts, the area is filled with cobblestone streets, counterculture museums, and small park plazas that date back to Spanish colonial times and have an absolutely charming feel. Independently ranked as one of the best urban places to live, Coyoacan is where Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Leon Trotsky all chose to reside, and museums dedicated to them now fill their old houses. Tranquil on the weekdays, filled with culture and music come the weekend, Coyoacan is more than simply a nice neighborhood – it’s a hotbed of culture and a must-see if in Mexico City.
La Casa Azul, or the Blue House, was the birthplace of iconic artist Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954), whose beautifully tortured self portraits and passionate, tumultuous life with muralist Diego Rivera have elevated her to the status of legend.
Her home, today one of Mexico City's most popular museums, doesn't have an outstanding collection of her own work, though there are several sketches and less famous pieces to see. Instead, the rooms and gardens - still in much the same state as she left them - offer insight into her life as a wife, lover, artist, and hub of the city's (and Latin America's) socialist intellectual scene during the 1920s and 1930s. The tender details, from her brushes and canvasses, the pre-Columbian art collected by her husband, and even the prosthetic leg she wore in the months before her untimely death, will touch even casual visitors to the Museo Frida Kahlo.
Came to Mexico City in search of some adventure? Look no further than Arena Mexico. This hard-hitting lucha libre (Mexican Wrestler) playground is known to wage epic battles of good versus evil in full luchador splendor.
Built in 1968 to hold 16,500 spectators, this was once the largest stadium ever built for professional wrestling – proving what a following the sport has in Mexico City, which is a little different from its American counterpart. In Mexico, the lucha libre match is a fight not just of contestants, but of good vs. evil, and the crowd (of all ages) gets behind the event to cheer for their favorite wrestler in whatever his particular plight might be. Beer is served, the rules are announced (though loosely adhered to), and then all bets are off, so to speak. Truly an event unique to Mexico, if you’re the type of traveler who wants to do how the Romans do, you must attend an event at Arena Mexico and see the tight-masked wrestlers do their thing.
Considered one of the world's most beautiful buildings, the Mexico City Palace of Fine Arts - or Palacio de Bellas Artes - is a harmonious synthesis of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Baroque styles, a style sometimes called "Porfiriano," after architecture-obsessed Mexican President Porfirio Díaz, who commissioned the project.
The exterior, surrounded with gardens, rises in elegant columns and domes above the cool, green Alameda Central. Inside, it is an exceptional art exhibition, filled with a permanent collection of statues, murals, and other outstanding ornamentation. In addition, there are regular world-class art exhibitions open to the public.
In addition to its daytime attractions, you can appreciate the building's acoustic excellence by enjoying a performance at its National Theater. International artists appear regularly, but try to catch Mexico City's own Ballet Folklórico de México Compania Nacional or National Symphonic Orchestra.
The Mexican flag refers to a vision dating to the 13th century, telling Aztec seers to seek an eagle on a cactus, devouring a snake, and build their temples there. The wandering tribe finally found their sign atop an island in Lake Texcoco, and built the mighty city of Tenochtitlán upon it.
Fast forward 7 centuries, to a 1978 electrical problem close to the Zócalo, Spanish Colonial heart of Mexico City. Workers, digging into the soft earth, uncovered a massive, eight-ton stone depicting Coyolxauhqui, Aztec goddess of the moon. Archaeologists who had long suspected that the Templo Mayor, or Great Temple lay beneath this neighborhood, were vindicated. Throughout the 1980s, Spanish buildings were cleared away as excavation revealed an unprecedented wealth of treasures from every corner of the Aztec Empire. The old pyramid was decapitated by the Spanish advance, but much remains: walls of stuccoed skulls and enormous carvings dedicated to Tlaloc, god of storms.
North America may not be known for its regal royalty or holding court, but Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City—the only palace on the continent—is definitely the real deal. Located more than 7,000 feet above sea level, Chapultepec has housed sovereigns, served as a military academy and was even an observatory. In 1996 the castle was transformed into Capulet Mansion for the movie Romeo and Juliet, too.
Until 1939, Chapultepec Castle served as the presidential residence. Then a new law moved it elsewhere and the castle became home to both the National Museum of History and the National Museum of Cultures instead. A stroll through these halls, followed by a tour of lush castle grounds is a perfect way to spend a Mexico City afternoon.
Chapultepec Park, or Grasshopper Hill, is the largest city park in the world, an awesome expanse of greenery marbled with walking paths that meander between quiet ponds, monumental buildings, and a world-class collection of museums. Visitors could enjoy a quiet afternoon in its embrace, surrounded the sidewalk stands, soccer games, and other amusements, or explore the park for months on end, finding something new every day.
The park was probably set aside as green space in the 1300s, but wasn't officially protected until 1428, by King Nezahualcoyotl. The Spanish and Mexican governments have since maintained most of its natural integrity, though they did add aqueducts, palaces and other public spaces within. The most popular attractions include the massive zoo, also founded in the 1400s; the National Museum of Anthropology; La Feria Chapultepec Mágico, a small amusement park; the Ninos Heroes Monument; and the President's mansion at Los Pinos.
De Paseo de la Reforma is voor Mexico-Stad wat de Champs-Élysées voor Parijs is. Het is niet zo maar een grote straat door de stad, maar een historische ontmoetingsplek, waar de indrukwekkende geschiedenis van Mexico-Stad zichtbaar en voelbaar is.
De straat werd ooit aangelegd in opdracht van de kersverse keizer Maximiliaan. Paseo de la Reforma moest het centrum van de stad verbinden met het keizerlijke kasteel in het park van Chapultepec. Eerst heette de straat ook Keizersavenue, maar na de executie van Maximiliaan en de bevrijding van het Mexicaanse volk werd de straat hernoemd naar Paseo de la Reforma. Vanaf dat moment gold het als toonbeeld van de veerkracht van de Mexicanen.
Tegenwoordig staan de belangrijkste gebouwen van Mexico-Stad langs deze straat. Tijdens het bewind van president Diego werd de straat gewild bij de Mexicaanse elite, waardoor er een aantal huizen in Europese stijl aan de straat verschenen.
International restaurants, popular nightclubs and trendy bars line the shaded streets of Condesa, an up-and-coming district in the Cuauhtemoc Borough of Mexico City. Just west of Zocalo, this youthful neighborhood is known for its attractive residents, fashionable businessmen and innovative artists. Its quiet cafes, unique galleries and stylish boutiques offer an ideal way to spend a leisurely afternoon in the city, and Art Deco architecture dating back to the early 20th Century makes for picturesque strolls.
Stop by the Trolleybus Theater, where abandoned trolleys provide a creative space for inventive theater and art shows, or wander over to the well-known Parque Mexico. Previously a racetrack, this green space has since become the center of the district and is recognized by the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, as an important part of Mexico City’s unique charm.
One of the oldest markets in the city, the San Juan Market (Ernesto Pugibet Market) was established in colonial times and is over 150 years old. One of the most popular places to shop in the city, the market had simple roots, once beginning as people put things out upon blankets on the ground. Perhaps it is for precisely this reason that San Juan Market has excelled where others have failed. Known for its gourmet products and its exotic ingredients, the gathering is what all markets hope to be – unique, genuine and useful.
Look for La Jersey, a famous stall where imported delicacies are sold, such as foie gras, French cheeses and Italian meats. There is also Café Triana where you’ll taste the finest in Mexican organic coffees. Other stalls sell everything from quail to venison to shark.
The Diego Rivera Anahuacalli Museum, commonly just referred to as the Anahuacalli Museum, can be tricky to find in Mexico City, but it is worth the extra effort to visit. Diego Rivera was a famous painter who was known for his cubist style and murals. He lived in Mexico City for most of his life and was married to the artist Frida Kahlo. The Anahuacalli Museum is designed by him and houses ancient artifacts he amassed during his lifetime as well as some of his own works of art. The museum was opened in 1964, after Rivera’s death, though the layout and design of Anahuacalli was planned out by the artist prior to his passing. The pyramid-shaped building made of volcanic stone is impressive in and of itself to see, but the real allure of the museum is inside where 2,000 artifacts from his massive Pre-Columbian art collection is housed. A tour through the museum will teach you about the history of Mexico’s ancient civilizations, a subject Rivera was especially passionate about.
The streets of Mexico City come alive with music, performance and mariachi at Plaza Garibaldi. This historic square is the destination for live local music in the capital city. Visitors can cozy up to the bar at one of the numerous tequila joints that line the streets of Plaza Garibaldi, or settle in to an outdoor table and enjoy the hustle of urban life while mariachi bands weave between patrons while playing traditional tunes. The nearby Museum of Tequila and Mezcal, just behind the Agave Garden, is a perfect stop to learn more about Mexico’s most famous spirit and solo musicians frequently perform in the upstairs bar and tasting room. While some argue the plaza’s high prices and petty crime make it a true tourist trap, good drink deals are easy to find and increased security has improved the look, feel and safety of this popular destination.
Perhaps the most popular (and most recognizable) amusement park in the world, Six Flags is a rollercoaster theme park filled with comic, cartoon, and mythological characters and never fails to impress both the young and the young-at-heart. Packed with rides that thrill and delight, Six Flags Mexico has a total of 48 rides from which to choose, eight of them mind-bending, exhilarating roller coasters with two of them being water rides that soak and surprise.
Located on the southern edge of Mexico City, Six Flags Mexico is the only Six Flags operating in Latin America, and has a huge draw. Known for its comic and cartoon themes, Six Flags Mexico City is laid out like a minor city. Stroll with your family through Pueblo Mexicano (Mexican Village), Pueblo Frances (French Village), Pueblo Polinesio (Polynesian Village), Hollywood, Pueblo Suizo (Swiss Village), Pueblo Vaquero (Cowboy Town) and El Circo de Bugs Bunny (The Bugs Bunny Circus).
One of Mexico City’s main tourist draws are the markets that you’ll find here. Everything from farmer’s markets selling local produce to craft markets where local artisans bring their skilled handiwork – the markets of Mexico City are legendary. And La Merced Market is the king of them all. Located on the eastern edge of the historic center of Mexico, La Merced is the largest retail traditional food market in the city and spans an area of four city blocks and then some.
Established in colonial times, La Merced has always had the corner on the market, so to speak. Once the main marketplace for the entire city, today you’ll find a labyrinthine maze of stalls that sell every type of Mexican foodstuff that you can imagine. Surely a place for the photobook and a sample or two, in the La Merced Market you can find anchos, pasillas, guajillos; fruits, vegetables, chilis, pork, poultry, beef, candy – you get the idea.
San Juan Bautista Parish is a church located in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City that is one of the oldest churches in Mexico City. San Juan Bautista is a Catholic church known for its blend of baroque and colonial architecture. It is a focal point of the historic square Plaza Hidalgo, which attracts many visitors of the city. In 1934, the church became a National Monument of Mexico.
San Juan Bautista church dates back to the late 1500s, when it was constructed during the Franciscan order. The whitewashed and stone exterior still dates back to the 16th century. Inside, however, not much from its early days remain, though a recent reconstruction was done that strived to stay true to the church’s original aesthetics. The renovation has returned the church to a glorious splendor of art and decoration. As you walk down the long nave, you’ll do so under a spectacular carved ceiling that has relief designs sculpted into it.
Located in the Coyoacan borough of Mexico City sits a well-known monument in honor of a government dissenter. The Trotsky Museum honors the famous Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, known for his participation in the Bolshevik Revolution, his distaste for the rich and his adamant disapproval of then-Russian leader Stalin. Trotsky and his family fled to Mexico following a death warrant being issued for him in 1939.
It was here, in this house-turned-museum, that Trotsky spent his final days and survived one assassination attempt before succumbing to a second. Bullet holes from the first attempt are still embedded in the walls, and the rest of the museum also keeps the look and feel of the era when Trosky and his family lived here in exile. The museum includes the house, a garden area and outer walls with a guard tower. The complex was declared a historic monument in 1982, and in 1990, on the 50th anniversary of Trotsky’s assassination.
Located just south of La Merced Market, the Sonora Market was established to rival the La Merced Market for handicrafts instead of foodstuffs. Here, in the Sonora Market, you’ll find all kinds of handmade goods – perfect for specialty goods like pottery, herbal medicine, religious items, and even live animals. A local and tourist favorite, Sonora Market is also known for its Day of the Dead memorabilia. Keep an eye out for sugar skulls, papel picado, witches, ghosts, and alebrijes – locally made figurines that have received international notoriety from the art world. Over 500 vendors all vie for attention, and so this market, like many in Mexico, is best taken with a guide in tow.
A much loved neighborhood in the southwestern corner of Mexico City, San Angel is known for its narrow cobblestone streets, its small town feel, and its authentic Mexican food, crafts, and culture. People come to San Angel to experience the Mexico City that existed in colonial times. Café culture is popular here, and many choose to spend the day sipping on a café con leche and watching the craftsmen peddle their wares in the public market or during the popular Saturday Bazaar. Colonial architecture marks the town, small taquerias line the zocalo (town square), and the boutique shops that dot the cobblestoned streets are perfect for exploring.
Head to the park for a pleasant stroll under the shade of the gum trees, and enjoy life’s passing parade as the locals here do (typically with an agua fresca). San Angel is known as one of Mexico City’s most beautiful neighborhoods, and any of the city’s wealthy elite struck up residence here decades ago.
Inbursa Aquarium (Acuario Inbursa) opened its doors in June 2014 and is not only the largest aquarium in Mexico, but one of the largest in the world. With 11,500 square feet, the aquarium houses more than 5,000 marine mammals in a multi-level complex that is mostly underground and cost a reported $19 million to complete. The nearly 230 species of animals include piranhas, sharks, turtles, jellyfish and crocodiles.
Visitors to Inbursa enter at street level and then descend several floors underground to moody lit tanks designed to mimic the varying ocean depths. There are five fish tanks with a total volume of 1.6 million gallons of water, all brought in from the Mexican state of Veracruz, while the sand was brought in from Florida. Exhibits are themed and based on various ecosystems and ocean depths. The lowest level has brightly colored fish swimming with rays and sharks, while the Sunken Ship exhibit contains black tip sharks.
Astonishing humans, amazing animals, shocking science and more in Ripley’s Believe it or Not! This staple of the bizarre, unbelievable, yet true collection of history’s great oddities is the most successful franchise museum of its kind, and is one opportunity you shouldn’t miss out on while in Mexico City. Shaped like a medieval castle and boasting over 14 different exhibits that will shock and amaze (like the mirror maze, swivel tunnel, and oddity museum), Ripley’s Believe it or Not! is known as a fantastic adventure into the surreal, unnatural, and even famous (there’s a wax sculpture museum to explore). If you or your loved ones would like to come face-to-face with nature and mankind’s greatest head-scratchers, this is your chance.
Ex-Convento del Carmen is a former monastery that now houses a museum. It was built in the 17th century and features a simple colonial church style of architecture that has a serene quality when walking through it with a peaceful courtyard.
The museum at Ex-Convento del Carmen is home to a variety of religious artwork, most notably paintings from the 16th century through the 18th century. Another interesting – and possibly eerie depending on your outlook – aspect of a visit to Ex-Convento del Carmen is found in the crypt. Down there, you’ll encounter a collection of remarkably well-preserved mummies. These 12 mummified human corpses are a highlight of most people’s visit to Ex-Convento del Carmen so be sure to travel downstairs to the crypt to find them before departing. The mummies also make Ex-Convento del Carmen a more kid-friendly site to visit as children will be enthralled by the real-life mummies.
Opened in 1986 to house, display, and curate Mexico’s largest collection of colonial art, this amazing display of artistic wealth is located in a 16th-century Spanish hospital, charming in its own right.
This museum is a delight for antique lovers, history buffs, and art aficionados alike. Presented as a select collection of quality historic pieces that tell the story of Mexico City before Mexico City became what it is today, the Franz Mayer Museum tells its history through decorative items of the period, letting you get a visceral experience of what life was like in colonial Mexico. Located on the other side of the Museum of Bellas Artes in the Zocalo, the Franz Mayer Museum transports you to a different era and offers an accessible and interesting experience with exhibits from southeast Asia, Europe, England, and Latin America. Be sure to see the pottery, the silver, and the tapestries from Franz Mayer’s own collection.