explore Mexico city, Mexico

What to see in Mexico city, Mexico

Downtown Mexico City has been an urban area since the pre-Columbian 12th century, and the city is filled with historical buildings and landmarks from every epoch since then. It is also known as the City of Palaces, because of the large number of stately buildings, especially in the Centro. In addition, Mexico is the city with the largest number of museums in the world (without taking into account art galleries), with New York #2, London #3 and Toronto #4.

Landmarks

Plaza de la Constitución, commonly known as Zócalo in the Centro Historico (Historic Downtown) is one of the largest squares in the world, surrounded by historic buildings, including the City Hall and the Cathedral.

La Catedral the biggest in the Americas. Containing many altars, its principle altar is made from solid gold.

Angel de la Independencia or simply known as “El Angel” is a monument in Reforma Avenue and Florencia Street, near Zona Rosa. This monument celebrates Mexico‘s independence in 1810.

Basílica de Guadalupe, Catholicism’s holiest place in the Americas, and the destination of pilgrims from all over the world, especially during the yearly celebration on the 12th of December. Located at La Villa de Guadalupe, it is the shrine that guards the poncho of Juan Diego that contains the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and is in the northernmost part of the city.

Ciudad Universitaria— the main campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Located on Insurgentes Sur Avenue, it is one of the world’s largest universities, with more than 270,000 students every semester. In 2007 it was declared a UNESCO world heritage place.

Coyoacán— historic Colonial Arts district which was home to Frida Kahlo, Leon Trotsky, and Diego Rivera, amongst others.

Plaza Garibaldi-Mariachi— The Square is surrounded by cafés and restaurants much favored by tourists and in these and in the square itself groups of musicians play folk music. Most of these groups are “mariachis” from Jalisco, dressed in Charro costume and playing trumpets, violins, guitars and the guitarrón or bass guitar. Payment is expected for each song, but it is also possible to arrange for a longer performances. People set up lemonade stand style bars in the evening to sell you cheap cocktails while you listen. A visit to Mexico is not complete until you experience the fantastic Mariachi Bands, but the neighborhood is a bit sketchy.

Ciudadela crafts market— The Ciudadela is a Mexican crafts market where cultural groups from around Mexico distribute their crafts to other parts of the country and the world.

Alameda and Paseo de la Reforma— Paseo de la Reforma (“Reform Avenue”) is a 12 km long grand avenue and park in Mexico City. The name commemorates the liberal reforms of Mexican President Benito Juarez.

Cineteca Nacional (National Film Archive )— It was the first to screen art films, and is known for its forums, retrospectives and homages. It has four screening rooms, a video and a film library, as well as a cafeteria.

Torre Latinoamericana for stunning views of the city. Its central location, height (183 m; 45 stories), and history make it one of Mexico City’s most important landmarks.

Torre Mayor— It’s the new and highest tower in town, and second highest skyscraper in Latin America (highest is Chile’s Gran Torre Santiago), and good for more impressive views of the city.

Mexico City US National Cemetery – 31 Virginia Fabregas, Colonia San Rafael. Open on weekdays except for December 25 and January 1; 9AM to 5PM. The cemetery is the final resting place for 750 unknown American soldiers lost during the Mexican-American War between 1846 and 1848. Another 813 Americans are also interred here. Free.

Parks

Mexico City is full of various plazas and parks scattered through every neighborhood, but the following are some of the biggest, prettiest, most interesting, or best-known.

Chapultepec Park and Zoo Paseo de la Reforma. Is a large park of 6 km² in the middle of the city which hosts many attractions, including the city zoo and several museums such as the Modern Art Museum, the Museum of Anthropology, the Children’s Museum (Museo del Papalote), the Technology Museum, the Natural History Museum and the National Museum also known as Castillo de Chapultepec, the former residence of the Austrian Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg. Nearby Metro station: “Auditorio” .

Xochimilco, a vast system of waterways and flower gardens dating back to Aztec times in the south of the city where tourists can enjoy a trip in the “trajineras” (vividly-colored boats). Trajineras pass each other carrying Mariachi or marimba bands, and floating bars and taquerias. Xochimilco is the last remnant of how Mexico City looked when the Spanish arrived to Mexico City in 1521 and it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1987.

Plaza Garibaldi-Mariachi, in Mexico City is surrounded by bars and restaurants that cater to Mariachi Band enthusiasts. It is where bands come to do public auditions outside, on weekend evenings, simply play for pleasure, or for whoever may pay them. A visit to Mexico is not complete until you experience the fantastic Mariachi Bands. You can also find a great “pulqueria” here (a bar that sells pulque, an interesting fermented maguey cactus drink).

Parque Mexico and Parque España are two adjacent parks in the Colonia Condesa, which used to be part of a race track. Now they are popular for an evening stroll, and sometimes house outdoor exhibitions or concerts, and are surrounded by cool cafes and bars.

Viveros de Coyoacán are a large expanse of greenery and trails that used to be divided into privately owned gardens and farm plots, but is now a public park popular with people joggers and amblers alike.

Museums

Mexico is the city with the largest number of museums in the world, to name some of the most popular:

National Museum of Anthropology Chapultepec. One of the best museums worldwide over, it was built in late 1960’s and designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. Notice the huge, impressive fountain in the courtyard. It gathers the best collection of sculptures, jewels and handcrafts from ancient Mexican cultures, and could take many hours to see everything. They also have interesting international special exhibits. The ticket cashier accepts cash only, and to pay by credit card there is an automated machine when you enter on your left (separate from the cashiers). There are also English tours in the morning, and you can ask the information desk on the schedule.

Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco has examples of modern, colonial, and pre-Columbian architecture, all around one square.

Museum of Modern Art Chapultepec. Here you will find paintings from Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, as well as a sculpture garden.

Dolores Olmedo Museum Xochimilco. An art philanthropist left her former home, the grand Hacienda La Noria, as a museum featuring the works of her friend Diego Rivera. At least 137 of his works are displayed here, as well as 25 paintings of Frida Kahlo. The premises also feature beautiful gardens full of peacocks and a weird species of Aztec dog.

Fine Arts Palace Museum (Palacio de Bellas Artes) Centro. A concert hall and an arts center, it houses some of Mexico’s finest murals and the Art Deco interior is worth seeing alone.

Rufino Tamayo Museum Chapultepec. Contains the works of Mexican painter, Rufino Tamayo.

José Luis Cuevas Museum Centro. Opened in 1992 and is filled with about 1,000 paintings, drawings, and sculptures from notorious artist, Jose Cuevas.

National History Museum in Chapultepec’s Castle Chapultepec. The Museum’s nineteen rooms contain, in addition to a collection of pre-Columbian material and reproductions of old manuscripts, a vast range of exhibits illustrating the history of Mexico since the Spanish conquest.

Museo Soumaya Polanco. A museum containing the art collection of Carlos Slim, the most renowned Mexican businessman and the richest man in the world. It has a sizeable collection of paintings by Renoir, Monet, Dali and many others. The museum has an impressive architecture worth visiting.

Papalote, children’s Museum Chapultepec. If you’ve got kids, they’ll love it! Bright, colorful, and filled with educational experiences for children of all ages.

Universum (National University’s Museum) Coyoacán. A science museum maintained by UNAM, the largest university in Latin America. Take some time to wander around the Campus.

Casa Mural Diego Rivera Centro. Contains murals of acclaimed artist, Diego Rivera.

National Palace (Zocalo) Centro. You can see some impressive Diego Rivera frescoes. You’ll need to carry some sort of ID in order to enter the building.

San Idelfonso Museum Centro. There are some of Orozco’s best frescoes. The temporary exhibitions are usually very good.

Franz Meyer Museum Centro. Display the collections of Franz Mayer, it holds Mexico’s largest decorative art collection and also hosts temporary exhibits in the fields of design and photography.

Mexico City’s Museum Centro. Great place to learn about Mexico City‘s eclectic history.

Templo Mayor Museum (Zocalo) Centro. Contains the ruins and last remnants of the Aztec empire. attached to the huge archeological site where the foundations of the temple were accidentally found in the 1970s.

San Carlos Museum Centro. The San Carlos Museum holds some of Mexico’s best paintings and exhibit 15th and 16th century paintings.

National Art Museum Centro. The National Art Museum, houses a rich collection of Mexican art ranging from the 16th to the first half of the 20th centuries.

National History Museum Chapultepec. Displays a vast range of exhibits illustrating the history of Mexico since the Spanish conquest.

Frida Kahlo Museum, Coyoacán Also called Casa Azul, it is the former house of the painter since she was born to her death, and full of some of her works, and many of her personal artifacts.

Anahuacalli Museum, Coyoacán An impressive modern representation of Mayan architecture, it houses Diego Rivera’s collection of Aztec and other precolumbian cultures’ sculptures.

Leon Trotsky Museum Coyoacán This was the house where Trotsky lived in exile during the last 1.5 years of his life, and was murdered by one of Stalin’s agents. Guided tours are provided by members of the Workers/ Revolutionary Party.