In addition to being the city's nerve center and
the place where it began to develop, Mexico City's Historic Center
has been the scene of numerous events in the country's intricate
history, from legendary Tenochtitlan to 20th century Mexico, and
including the viceroyalty and independence, which is why it is extremely
representative of Mexico's cultural and historical identity. In
order words, it was and still is a place where locals and foreigners
coexist : it is "everyone's neighborhood".
The Historic Center was designated as such in april 1980 by presidential
decree in response to the demands to preserve its invaluable patrimony.
That same year, it was declared a "zone of monuments"
and in december 1987, it was recognized by UNESCO as the "artistic
and cultural patrimony of mankind".
Currently home to 190 000 inhabitants in an area of 9.7 square kilometers,
it comprises 669 blocks, approximately 9 000 plots of land and over
1500 heritage buildings classified by the National Institute of
Anthropology and History, 53 museums and 42 parks. In short, it
is the seat of civil and religious power and has the largest concentration
of commerce in Mexico. Must-sees in the Historic Center include
the "Catedral Metropolitana", the "Templo
Mayor", the most important archaeological site in
the city, the "Museo nacional de Arte",
the "ex-colegio de San Ildenfonso", the
"Centro Cultural de España", the architectural
jewel known as "Palacio de Bellas Artes",
the "Palacio de Correos", the "Plaza
Juárez" and the well-known Alameda central.
These are just some of the many reasons why you should take the
opportunity to explore the countless charms of Mexico City's Historic
Zócalo: it is an excellent starting point for visiting the
The Zócalo is the heart of the old city.
The official name of the Zócalo is Place of the Constitution.
It is also the center of activity in the city. The palaces of Moctezuma once stood here. It is known that the conquistadors acquired the
Aztec splendors via a “cheap deal.”
The word zócalo means pedestal. It is used
instead of “place” because a pedestal is used to display
a statue. The project of placing a statue on a pedestal at the center
of the city never went through but the name remains even after the
removing of the pedestal. And the funniest thing is that now, the
main place of most of the Mexican cities is called Zócalo.
Surface wise, the Zócalo of Mexico City is the second agora
to the Red Place in Moscow.
The place is lined by three important monuments: To the North, the Metropolitan Cathedral (open daily 7AM-8PM, guided
visits some days) built on the ruins of the Tenochtitlán
pyramid. Eastward lies the National Palace (Palacio
Nacional) and to the South the "Palacio de Ayuntamiento",
the city hall.
viceroys funded for two hundred fifty years the edification of the
cathedral. It is the biggest church in Latin America. It was constructed
under the orders of Hernán Cortés, then dismantled
and replaced by the actual edifice. It was completed in 1813. Two
towers dated back to the eighteen century dominate the baroque facade.
Note the presence of 5 high altars and 14 chapels. A dark light,
filtered by small stain glass window, lights the incredible Altar
de los Reyes (Kings altar). A golden, churrigueresque altar piece
made of wood took almost twenty years to build. Enormous and overloaded,
it depicts on two panels the Ascension of the Virgen Mary and the
Adoration of the Kings. Columns, moldings, cherubs, personages and
vegetal patterns mix their movements, gilts and vibrating colors
in a baroque craziness. It was built for the Spanish kings who never
came. Maybe the Altar de Perdón, at the end of the nave has
been built in order to forgive them. This altar houses a wonderful
The huge baroque façade of the cathedral,
escorted by three portals, has been decorated with sculptures from
Spanish Manuel Tolsa, sculptures symbolizing the three virtues”
Faith, Hope and Charity. It is topped with two bell towers and towers
drawn by Mexican José Damián Ortiz de Castro in late
eighteen century. A feeling of elegance comes from the three naves,
poorly lit by the contemporary stained glass windows. The naves
are more than 100m (328 feet) long and more than 45 m (148 feet)
wide. In the center, the chancel is isolated by splendid wrought
iron gates from the eighteen century.
Huge restoration work has been completed in 2006, because it was
sinking (8 cm or 3 inches a year) and its facade needed to be renovated.
Some sacred pieces, inside, have been renovated as well. It is a
nice effort from the government, private companies and generous
to the cathedral is the Sagrario church, not anymore
closed to the public since 2008 (7 days a week). It was built in
the middle of the eighteen century and houses the objects of the
cult, the archives and the treasures of the archbishop. It is a
distinct church but associated to its neighbor. Its baroque façade
is adorned with an abundance of sculptures in the round. The church
sunk as a result of an earth quake and now big fissures are located
throughout the structure. The Piedra del Sol, stone Aztec «
calendar », today in the National Museum of Anthropology was
updated in this church yard.
The Templo Mayor (open daily 9AM-5PM –free on
Sunday) stands in the northeastern part of the Zócalo (Seminario
Street). It houses everything remaining from the most grandiose
of the Pre-Hispanic civilizations of the Aztecs (1325 to 1521 AD).
This huge temple (80mX100m or 263 ftX328ft) ), last vestige of the
religious city of Gran Tenochtitlán was discovered while
working on the subway of Mexico City, in 1978.
The reconstruction lasted until 1982.The pyramid that can be seen
nowadays was topped by two temples (painted in red in the south,
in blue in the north), one dedicated to the God of the rain and
fecundity, Tlaloc, the other one to the God of war and sun, Huitzilopochtli.
Even if the ruins are interesting by themselves, it is in the in
site museum that you could get an idea of the live in Tenochtitlán.
The excavation allowed removing 7000 artifacts : jewel, weapons,
statuettes, usual objects. These restored pieces are exhibited in
the Museo de Templo Mayor. Inaugurated in 1988, this museum offers
full size representations of warriors holding the skulls of their
victims. Among the more beautiful pieces from this collection, is
the monolith of Coyolxauhqui, older daughter of Coatluicue, goddess
of Earth and later, mother of the main Aztec God and God of the
war, Huitzilopochtli. The museum is an elegant building made of
marble and granite. The explanatory material in Spanish is engraved
on glass and the objects are exhibited under a very theatrical blue
light. The museum counts more than 10 very interesting exhibit rooms
and it is open from 9AM to 5PM from Tuesday to Sunday ($57). The
entrance to the temple includes the visit of the museum. For a visit
in English, call the museum: (55) 55 42 49 43.
SOUND & LIGHT from tuesday to friday at 11AM and 4PM.
The Palacio Nacional (open daily 9AM-5PM,
free with I.D, screening mandatory) is the oldest edifice of the
place because the stone come from the demolition of the Aztec palaces. Hernán Cortés,
the conquistador of Mexico took residence
in the part completed in 1529. From 1562, the building became the
official residence of the viceroys. It suffered a lot from the riots
of 1624 and 1692. The years and centuries brought numerous modifications,
especially during the brief reign of emperor Maximilian, then at
the time of Porfirio Diaz,
meaning from 1870 to 1910. The fourth floor of the palace was added
Located on the east side of the Zócalo, this edifice spreads
on more than 200 m (656 feet) with its volcanic rock façade
adorned with nice wrought iron balconies. This is the government
seat. It also houses a museum in memory of Benito
Juárez, the library Miguel Lerdo de Tejada as well as
the national archives. The Liberty Bell overhangs the main entrance.
In 1810, father Miguel
Hidalgo rang it to call the first soldiers of the Independence
war. It was put on the rooftop of the national Palace in 1896.
Every year, on September 15th night, the President of Mexico announces the independence of the country. He shows up at the balcony
of the Palacio Nacional, where he rings the bell and delivers
the « shout » that started the uprising against the
Spaniards. This ritual opens the commemoratives ceremonies .The
joyful gathering crowd answers :« Viva Mexico,
Viva Independencia ! », and the party lasts all night long.
Inside the Palacio Nacional are hidden numerous courtyards
and patios, all as beautiful as the others. You could admire the
Diego Rivera murals painted between 1929 and 1952. The one above
the main stairs tells Mexican History. This historical mural, covering
about 450m2 (4850 sq feet), needed 16 years of work; it has a very
personal vision of Mexican history telling the fight of the country
for liberty and independence. The painter put together Indians,
Spaniards, “mestizos”, heroes of the country, from the
Conquest to the Modern times, in a style that reminds the big allegories
so popular among the socialist countries. In the second floor galleria,
several pictures illustrate the Aztec, tarasc, Zapotec, totonac and huaxtec civilizations. On the walls of the gallerias, scenes
of pre-Hispanic life
attest the deep knowledge of the painter about Indian culture. You
could also note on these walls heads of smiling monkeys with manes;
these monkeys were supposed to be lions but the Indians who built
these sculptures never saw lions and used their imagination. In
order to appreciate this work, ask for a bilingual guide (MXN$55)
at the bottom of the stairwell. (Free visits in Spanish or English
Diego Rivera, from
Indian lineage, had little sympathy for the Spaniards.
represented like a knock kneed « Popeye » with syphilis. His Indian partner,
the Malinche holds a baby with green eyes. Diego Rivera tried
also to predict the future with his brushes in the thirties
but he revealed himself a better painter than prophet, because
he foresaw a country united by Marxism. Diego Rivera (1886-1957),
Trotsky’s friend, was a convinced artiste. He tried
to develop a national symbolism that claimed Indian and pagan
origins mixed with Marxist ideas. His colorful works are treated
with a lyricism inspired by altar pieces from the end of baroque.
The most beautiful productions of Diego Rivera are in Mexico City.
You could admire some of them in the Palace of Fine Arts or you
could visit the workshop that the artiste owned in San Angel, in
the southern side of the city. Rivera adorned also the agricultural
school Chapingo of Texcoco, 48 km (30 miles) east of Mexico City. In the palace of Fine Arts, Diego Rivera re-painted one fresco
commissioned for New York’s Rockefeller Center. This fresco,
showing Lenin as the savior of Humanity was destroyed by John D.Rockfeller
in 1934 after having paid the bill! This fresco is called : «
Man at the crossroads ».
to the Palacio nacional, the Museo Nacional de
las Culturas (open 9AM-5PM Tue-Sun, free entrance) occupies
an old hotel of Money built in the eighteen century. It gathers
a group of art works, clothes and crafts from everywhere in the
street southern is the Suprema Corte de Justicia (open 9AM-5:30PM Mon-Fri) where you could admire the Justicia, mural
from José Clemente Orozco, at the top of the main stairs.
On the south side of the place, the Palacio del Ayuntamiento (City Hall) presents an exterior tiled wall showing the weapons
of Mexico City, Coyoacán,
Christopher Columbus and Hernán
south, two buildings deserve a visit : the first one is the Museo
de la Ciudad de Mexico (open 10AM-6PM Tue-Sun, $35), at
20, Calle Pino Suárez. Part of an Aztec sculpture is used
as a cornerstone for this splendid house dating from 1528, which
was the seat of the Counts of Santiago de Calimaya. The structure
of the building, with the fountain at the center of the patio and
its endless corridors leading to innumerable rooms, allows having
an idea of what was an urban noble house. The evolution of Mexico
City from the Mexicas to nowadays is traced in the 27 rooms.
A huge place is given to the 300 years of Spanish domination. The
museum proposes activities like : concerts, conferences, workgroups
and exhibits. A room is completely painted by Joaquin Clausell,
attorney opposed to Porfirio
Diaz and self taught painter : the walls are covered with stories
from his personal journal (early twentieth century).
In front of the museum, the Hospital of Jésus
is the first hospital of the New World. It was built by Hernán
Cortés on the place he first met Moctezuma. The conquistador lays here (he died in Sevilla in 1547, but its remains were transferred
to Mexico City in 1556). The church is part of
the hospital. The vaulting of the chapel is covered with an impressing
fresco where Clémente Orozco represented scenes of Apocalypse.
A tablet indicates that Hernán
Cortés’s ashes were brought there too.
the West side of the Zócalo, calle 16 de Septiembre 82, you
could have a pick at the entrance of the Gran
Hotel , with an architecture of late twenty century; look at the
hall with wrought iron stairs and balconies, the elevator, the sun
lounge and the birds coops.
the West side of the Zócalo, there is also a majestic colonial
building, unique in its kind in Mexico : the Monte
de Piedad (open 8:30AM-6PM, Mon-Fri, until 1PM Sat, free
entrance), founded in 1775 by Don Pedro Romero de Terreros, rich
owner of silver mines. It is an institution created with friends.
The Mont-de-piété keeps playing an important role
in the life of the capital. It is an institution that lends money
in exchange of deposit of antiques (these antiques will be sold).
main street in the Historic Center is the calle Francisco Madero.
It was once the street of the « goldsmiths and silversmiths
»; it is, since the colonial time, a street with elegant stores.
It is mainly walking, lined with fascinating buildings, which are
an excellent introduction to the architectural eclecticism of Mexico City. Also visit the Museo del Estanquillo, corner
Madero/Isabel #26 inaugurated in 2006 with the funds and collection
of Carlos Monsivals, writer. The history is retraced by engravings,
illustrations and objects (open 10AM to 6PM, wed-mon, free entrance)
the corner of the Calle Madero and Calle 5 de Mayo, the Iglesia
de la Profesa, built at the sixteen century, hosted secret
meetings of pro-Independence. The inside decoration was devastated
by a fire.
little further on Madero Street, the Palacio de Iturbide,
founded in the thirteen century, is an old aristocratic house from
the viceroy time. It was occupied a few years by the «emperor»
Agustín de Iturbide, who gave it his name before his exile
in 1823. Now, it is an agency of the Banamex Bank and also a Palace
of Culture. It is open to the public for temporary exhibits of its
art collections (free entrance) from July to September from 10AM
16 September Street and Madero street, the Templo de San
Francisco de Asis (open daily 7AM-2PM and 4-7PM), old Franciscan
monastery, was built in 1524 by Cortés.
Remodeled several times, the church is one of the most beautiful
realizations of the Churrigueresque art, especially the façade
and the high altar. By the side, the church San Felipe de Jesus
built at the thirteen century, is dedicated to Felipe de las Casas
Martinez (1572-1597), the first Mexican Saint. The inside walls
are covered with huge pictures of Saints.
the corner of Madero street and calle 5 de Mayo, the Casa
de los Azulejos, old palace of the viceroy, is a beautiful
example of civil architecture, with the façade covered with
blue and white tiles in style of Puebla.
This remarkable construction of 1596 houses today the restaurant
and store Sanborns, maybe one of the most famous in the city. The
stairs are adorned with frescos from José Clémente
Orozco, especially the Omnisciencia fresco dating from 1925. Look
at the beautiful fountain also.
front, stands the 47 floor Torre Latinoamericana (Latin America Tower), built in 1956. An observatory at the 42nd
floor allows, weather permitting, enjoying a panoramic view of the
city and the snowcap summits of the volcanoes Popocatépetl
and Iztaccihuatl. A bar and restaurant have been fit out at an inferior
floor. The tower lies on a unattached pedestal, in order to prevent
it to sink like the Palace of Fine Arts and which already allows
it to undergo without any damage one of the frequent earthquakes
that affect Mexico City (open daily from 9AM to
10PM, $50, child $40).
By the Tower, Madero Street is called Juárez
Avenue. This Avenue is, in fact, a section of the huge Boulevard,
which, under other names, joins the Zócalo to Chapultepec
Park : The Madero section reflects the splendor of the viceroys
time, the Paseo de la Reforma represents the addition of the nineteenth
century, the Avenida Juárez the addition of the modern times,
meaning Juárez is the American influence, Reforma remains
Paris and Madero, Madrid.
the end of the Alameda Park (corner Juárez and Lazaro Cardenas),
stands the Palace of Fine Arts, the "Palacio Nacional
de Bellas Artes" (it is possible to visit besides
the spectacles; open 10AM-6PM, Tue-Sun, tours at 12:noon on weekends
- the murals of Tamayo in 1st floor are free; the other floors are
charged). Started in 1904 by the Italian architect Adamo Boari,
ordered by President Porfirio
Diaz, the palace was built with white marble and adorned in
a deco style, with a lot of flowers and bronze sculptures. Completed
in 1934 by Mexican Federico Mariscal, the inside has an Aztec style.
The palace is a strange mix of Maya, Mixtec and classical architecture,
which sinks in the sedimentary depths of the old lagoon of Mexico
City. This is a beautiful building although a little bit austere.
The whole neighbor suffered a lot during the September 1985 earthquake.
This huge building « art deco » houses one opera and
two museums (el museo nacional de arquitectura at the 4th
floor and el museo del palacio de Bellas Artes at 1st,
2nd and 3rd floor) where you could admire the paintings of Diego
Rivera and his two famous contemporaries, José Clemente Orozco
and David Alfarao Siquieros, as well as many others. The frescos
from Rufino Tamayo are full of cosmic poesy; the ones from Clémente
Orozco radiate a feeling of violence. David Siqueiros created three
works in which the perspective changes while you move around the
painting. The Diego Rivera fresco dates from 1934; it replaces the
one created by the artist for the seat of Radio City, in New York.
This one was destroyed because the backer, John D. Rockefeller,
didn’t like the Marxist inspiration. The theater curtain is
made of tinted glass crystals by American Tiffany from a cartoon
of Murillo; it represents the Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl.
You can write to the Palace of Fine Arts : firstname.lastname@example.org or call : 55 29 93 20 to 22.
The Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts has been honored in 2008 Diego
Rivera with a nice exposition.
clever light device gives the feeling of sunrise over the two volcanoes.
Symphonic orchestras are produced in season but it is above all
the Folkloric Ballet (Ballet Folklórico),
outstanding for the interpretations of the dances, that reflect
the traditional culture of Mexico, which attracts more tourists.
(Representations, Wednesday 8:30PM and Sunday 9:30AM and 8:30PM, tickets
prices between $350 and $800).
Consult their site www.balletamalia.com or write to email@example.com.
The concert rooms are considered like the most beautiful in the
world. Extra representation on saturday evening at 7PM for summertime. For tickets sale, open from monday to saturday, 11AM-7PM and
sunday from 08:30AM to 8PM.
the Palace of Fine Arts, go to Alameda Park, created in early twelfth
century and expanded in 1900. In this park, you could see the huge
monument in honor of President Benito
Juárez, Zapotec descendant, considered as the greatest
President of Mexico by numerous historians. This liberal, in power
at the time of the American civil war, succeeded to beat Emperor
Maximilian, put on the throne by the conservative with the help
of Napoleon III.
monument was inaugurated in September 1910, for the centennial of
Alameda Park is one of the oldest places in Mexico City. In the
Aztec time, The Indian merchants sold potteries and weaving there.
The Spanish Church set up the pyres of inquisition. Nowadays, the
Sunday crowd strolls under the big trees, nibbling boiled ears of
corn and listening to rock bands or muses lying on the yellowed
grass of the most polluted city in the world.
During the last century, Alameda Park was a place
to stroll for the bourgeoisie : a promenade for women in crinolines
and hidalgos with beavers. Today, the exponential development of
Mexico City reduced this green place to a humble promenade. On the
opposite side of Juárez Avenue, west of the monument, there
is a Tourist Office. Stroll on Juárez and Balderas avenues
; you can do your shopping in the Fonart boutique and the market
the calle Dr Mora at the western end of Alameda to go to the Museo
Mural Diego Rivera (open 10AM-6PM Tue-Sun, $15, free on
sunday); you will see the famous colorful fresco of Rivera : « Sueno de una tarde de domingo en la Alameda »- Dream
of a Sunday afternoon in the Almeda. This huge painting of 15 m
(49 feet) long by 4 m (13 feet) high, made in 1947, displays the
painter at different ages, surrounded by friends and family –
among them his wife Frida Kahlo -, as well as satirical portraits
of the great men of the Mexican history since the Conquest. The
décor represents Alameda Park in early twentieth century.
First, this fresco was in the hotel Prado, but was moved here after
the destruction of the hotel by the seism of 1985. Sound and light
: tue-fri 11AM and 4PM, saturday and sunday : 11AM,1PM,4PM and 5PM
back towards the eastern part of the Alameda Park and keep going
to the plaza de la Santa Veracruz, called after the church located
on this place. The Museo Nacional de la Estampa,
av.Hidalgo 39, (open 10AM-6PM Tue-Sun, $15) that occupies the old
hospital, displays collections of old lithographs and etching, as
well as exhibits of embossments.
small colonial churches, San Juan de Dios and Santa Veracruz, are
located face to face, on the plaza de la Santa Veracruz, neighbor
place of Alameda, refreshed by a nice fountain.
these two churches, there is the Museo Franz Mayer,
av. Hidalgo 45, (open 10AM-5PM, Tue-Fri & 11AM-6PM, Sat-Sun - MXN$45); it offers an
important ensemble of ceramics, tapestries, silver works and paintings.
Set up in a very nice house, this collection was gathered by a German
financier who became Mexican at the end of his life.
The museum has colonial style rooms, a wonderful inside patio and
library specialized in decorative arts. Don’t miss the room
of plateria (silversmith’s trade), the room of the fabrics
and the room of the talaveras de Puebla.
Site of the museum : www.franzmayer.org.mx.
On the left of the main entrance, you will see a wonderful colonial
garden that deserves a stop. And you can have a nice lunch in a
unique setting at the Cafeteria del Claustro.
Over the turnaround made by Hidalgo Avenue and the Paseo de la
Reforma, the Iglesia San Hipolito (church) was built to commemorate
the escape of the Spaniards during the Noche Triste (Sad
the Zócalo, you could also take the calle 5 de Mayo towards
Alameda Park. It is a nice trade street that still got the splendor
of the last century, with particular hotels, bookstores, department
stores and sweet shops. It leads to the Palace of Fine Arts.
front of the Palace of Fine Arts, on the other side of the Eje Central
Lazaro Cardenas (corner Tacuba and Lázaro Cárdenas),stands
the Palacio de Correos (Palace of the Post Office)–open
7AM-8PM Mon–Sat- (show your ID), with a Renaissance style
façade made of pink and yellow stones. It was built also
by Italian Boari in early twentieth century (1908). It is possible
and interesting, for the amateurs of old books and the philatelists,
to visit the library of the Post Office on the fourth floor. Don’t
miss the stairs and the tables made of marble of the old Post Office.
Calle Tacuba, you’ll see the equestrian statue of Charles
the Fourth of Spain, realized by the Spanish architect and sculptor
Manuel Tolsa. It is a 4.75 m (15.5 feet) high monument ironically
called El Caballito (« the small horse
») by the Mexican.
This « Caballito » galloped through the whole city :
after being raised in 1803 on the Zócalo, it went to the
garden of the University before being transferred to the crossing
of the Paseo de la Reforma and the avenue Juárez. The traffic
becoming more intense, it had to leave. Nice buildings surround
it, like the Palacio de Minería (open 9AM-5PM Mon-Fri, closed
during the school vacations); it is located Calle Tacuba 5; it has
a neo-classic style and was drawn by Manuel Tolsa. Four meteorites
adorn the entrance of the edifice. It is the seat of the International
Fair hold in February or March, every year. Between the Post Office
and the Zócalo, you can stop at the Café de Tacuba.
The food is good, the walls are covered with azulejos and you can
listen to Mariachis.
The Museo Nacional de Arte (open 10:00AM-5:30PM
Tue-Sun, free on Sunday, MXN$37 other days, located calle Tacuba
8) shows some of the best works of Mexican artists from every time.
It conserves an unbelievable collection of Mexican works from the
sixteen to the twentieth century : paintings, sculptures, gravures,
pictures and furniture. The wrought iron and brass stair, the baroque
lamps and the painted ceilings are from Inspiration new art. It
is one of the most important cultural centers in Latin America,
because of the collection but also because of the infrastructure
and the services : . Merged with Pinacoteca Virreinal de San Diego which was located Hidalgo avenue close by Alameda since 2011.
Street Donceles, which goes from West to East from the North of
the national Museum of Arts and the Temple Mayor, is specialized
in bookstores selling used books; there are also numerous religious
stores and herbalist’s shops.
north, you will reach Plaza Garibaldi. It is the
required place for some Mexican folk.
On weekends, the capitalinos, inhabitants of Mexico
City, which want to celebrate a wedding, a birth or engagement,
go to Plaza Garibaldi. It is full of groups of mariachis dressed
with charros suits. In every restaurant, inn or small shop of the
little place and surroundings, the mariachis give serenades and
play for few pesos the music you have chosen.
In every alley of this neighbor, you can push the door of the pulquerias
(bars where you drink the pulque, a low-alcohol brew made from the
sap of agave). On the day of Sainte Cecile day, Patron Saint of
musicians, the place is especially busy (November, 22). And, it
is always busy on weekends.
You can also go to the market of the Merced, watch a corrida or
a soccer game in the biggest stadium in the world. Mexico City is a city that you should discover through chances walking.
Discover the Tepito neighbor, whose inhabitants are organized in
a unique way like an independent and libertarian city in the heart
of the city. Mexico City is also thousands of markets,
places, avenues and alleys where you can adventure yourself; you
will love or hate Mexico City : there is no half-measure.
See the special chapter about
the markets of Mexico City
other day, you can keep going visiting the old city reaching Plaza
Santo Domingo through the Street of the Republic of Venezuela.
It was the nerve center of the life of New Spain. It is located
at the heart of the neighborhood of the University where the old
medicine school became the National Museum of Medicine (open 9AM-6PM Tue-Sun, free entrance, closed during school breaks).
Every street is charged with History since the houses surrounding
the place hosted Cortés’
mistress as well as the terrible magistrates of Inquisition.
The Palacio de la Inquisición, built
in the eighteenth century, was the seat of Inquisition in Mexico City (open daily 9AM-6PM, except sat and sun until 2PM, free entrance).
It is also the place the Dominicans chose to build in 1539 the first
monastery, replaced in the eighteen century by the baroque church
of Santo Domingo (open daily 7AM-2PM and 4PM-8PM). Now,
the only part remaining from the first building is the little chapel
Señor de la Expiación with a famous rococo altar.
looks like life didn’t change here. There are always scribes
facing the fountain of the arcades, under the Portal de
Los Evangelistas. There are not squatting scribes anymore
but public writers ready to have their old writing machine clack
for low fees. The tradition is still alive; customers are still
here to see the writers (evangelists) but with the advancements
of the telephone, fax, photocopy and Internet access, their activities
are reduced. There are although the providence of all the citizens
hounded by the bureaucratic paperwork ($10 by sheet) because they
help them to fill declarations, files of thesis, and cards for invitations
or thanks for wedding, baptism, birthdays or death. They are still
about thirty public writers. They are called evangelists because
the evangelists knew everything about Jesus’ life, like the
public writers who, once, knew everything about their customers
after having written so many love letters. Nowadays, the presence
of these public writers attests of the illiteracy rate in Mexico.
can visit the patios covered with numerous frescos of Diego Rivera
on the walls of the Secretaria de Education Publica (open 9AM-6PM Mon-Fri, free entrance) on the place San Ildefonso
: they are 245, dating from 1923-1928 and are among the most beautiful
works of the artist. You can also admire a work of Siqueiros on
the stair well on the side of the street of Republic of Brazil (Republica
of Templo Mayor, the Colegio de San Ildefonso (open
10AM-6PM, Wed-Sun, MXN$45 - free on Tuesday - open 10AM-8PM)
is an old seminary of Jesuits, renovated in early eighteen century
but with the original baroque and neo-classic façade. This
college played an important role in Mexican culture. Today, it houses
the Normal School and is adorned with murals of José Clémente
Orozco, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Fernando Leal and
Jean Charlot. Here is a very complete story about the Mexican mural
movement. This museum owns the National University and organizes
many cultural manifestations as well as temporary or permanent exhibits.
You could visit and pay part of the museum :
of this college, you can visit the Templo de la Enseñanza built in late eighteenth century and declared national monument
in 1931 (in fact, it is a church called Nuestra Senora del Pilar
on street Donceles, 102, open from 8:30AM to 8PM).
the calle Academia # 13, the Museo José Luis Cuevas (open 10AM-6PM, Tue-Sun, $20, free on sunday), founded by one of
the best modern artists of Mexico, displays a collection of Modern
Art with more than 30 works of Picasso. In the courtyard, the Giganta,
bronze of 8 m ( 26 feet) high, is a work of Cuevas. The museum displays
also its own collection of contemporary paintings :
You can attend shows (music, dances, theater plays) inside on Sundays.
To be seen also in Venezuela street, close to Del
Carmen Street, the Teatro del pueblo, a library with a nice architecture
City map :
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