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Historic Center of Mexico C.
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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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".
cathedral on sunset 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 Center.

     Right picture : cathedral on sunset

The Zócalo: it is an excellent starting point for visiting the city.

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 Zócalo and the cathedral

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.

Left picture : the Zócalo and the cathedral




Metropolitan cathedral

The 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 organ.

     Right picture : Metropolitan cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral during the day of the deadThe 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 donators.

Picture on the left : The Metropolitan Cathedral during the day of the dead


Sagrario churchAdjacent 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.



     Right picture : Sagrario church



templo mayorThe 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

      Left picture : Templo Mayor

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 in 1927.

inside the National Palace 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.

     Right picture : inside the National Palace

National Palace on sunset 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 every hour).

     Above picture : National Palace on sunset

Carrie explores the history of Mexico City's main square - The Zócalo.
Diego Rivera, from Indian lineage, had little sympathy for the Spaniards.
Cortés is 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.

fresco of Diego Rivera in the National Palace
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 ».

Left picture : fresco of Diego Rivera in the National Palace

Close 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 world.

One 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 Cortés.

National PalaceGoing 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).

     Right picture : National Palace

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.

gouvernemental building on the Zócalo placeOn 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.

On 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).

     Above picture : gouvernemental building on the Zócalo place

ceiling of "Monte de Piete"

Left picture : ceiling of "Monte de Piete"

The 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)

On 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.

A 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 to 6:30PM.

Between 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.

At 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.

Temple of Saint François d'Asis

     Right picture : Temple of Saint François d'Asis

In 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).


Palacio de bellas artes and latinoamericana Torre



Left picture : Palacio de bellas artes and latinoamericana Torre






casa de los azulejos

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.

At 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.

  Left picture : Casa de los azulejos

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 : diffusion@museobellasartes.artte.com 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.

Palace of Fine ArtsA 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 contacto@balletamalia.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.

     Right picture : Palace of Fine Arts

From 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.

Palacio de Bellas Artes and post-office on rightThe monument was inaugurated in September 1910, for the centennial of Independence.
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.

Left picture : Palacio de Bellas Artes and post-office on right




Folkloric Ballet Amalia Hernandez Folkloric Ballet Amalia Hernandez
Folkloric Ballet Amalia Hernandez Folkloric Ballet Amalia Hernandez

          Different pictures : Folkloric Ballet Amalia Hernandez

purification in the Zócalo at Easter 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 of Ciudadela.

Cross 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 ($15).

     Right picture : purification in the Zócalo at Easter

Go 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.

Santa Veracruz church


     Above picture : Santa Veracruz church

Two 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.

Museum Franz MayerBetween 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.

     Above picture : Museum Franz Mayer

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 night).

entrance of the Franz Mayer MuseumFrom 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.

     Right picture : entrance of the Franz Mayer Museum

In 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.

Following 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.
palacio de Correos

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.

Left picture : Palacio de Correos

The 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.

the mariachisGoing 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.

Left picture : the Mariachis

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

plaza santo domingoAn 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.

       Right picture : Plaza Santo Domingo

palacio de la inquisición



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.

Left picture : Palacio de la Inquisición


the scribers under the arcades of the"Portal de los evangelistas”
It 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.

     Right picture : the scribers under the arcades of the "Portal de los      evangelistas”

You 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 de Brasil).

North 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 :

West 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).

In 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 and murals.

City map :

Some Mexico City shots one of the
biggest cities in the World. Music
by Offer Nissim.
(Algunas tomas las ciudades más de la Ciudad de México, una de grandes del mundo. Música de Offer Nissim)



palace of government






   Above picture : palace of government

figure on the templo mayor






       Above picture : figure on the templo mayo

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