Things to see in Mexico City

Tourist information

Oficina de Turismo de la Ciudad de México
Londres 54, corner of Amberes, La Zona Rosa
Tel: (55) 5208 1030 or 1 800 008 9090.
www.mexicocity.gob.mx
Opening hours: Daily 0900-1800.

SECTUR (National Tourism Ministry)
Avenida Presidente Masaryrk 172, corner of Hegel, in Polanco
Tel: (55) 3002 6300 or 1 800 903 9200.
www.sectur.gob.mx
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1800, Sat 1000-1500.

Alameda Central

Originally an Aztec marketplace, the Alameda Central has a dark past as the former site of executions during the Spanish Inquisition. Today, this pleasant green space is Mexico City's largest central park and a popular gathering point for office workers, food vendors, shoppers and hawkers plying their wares to passersby. Crowds swell each Sunday when families descend in droves for picnics and open-air concerts. Nearby, a huge mural painted in 1947 depicts the park in summer at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, where the artist's Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park) takes pride of place.

Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Between Avenida Juárez and Avenida Hidalgo, Mexico City, Mexico
Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park)

Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City's largest park (open Tues-Sun 0500-1700), is encircled by a huge centuries-old forest and contains lakes, the presidential residences, several of the city's finest museums, an amusement park and a zoo. Legend has it the wood served as a refuge for Toltec and Aztec kings during times of trouble. Today the park attracts thousands of visitors especially on Sundays when families come to relax and picnic. Attractions are split into a trio of distinct areas with the primera sección (first section), on Paseo de la Reforma; the segunda sección (second section) occupied by La Feria (Amusement Park), and the tercera sección (third section) by Atlantis, a marine park with dolphin and seal shows and an aquarium.

Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Paseo de la Reforma, Chapultepec, Mexico City, Mexico
Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle)

On Chapultepec Hill (meaning 'Hill of Grasshoppers' in the Aztec language Nahuatl ), the Castillo de Chapultepec was built in 1785 for the Spanish viceroys and used as a residence for Mexico's presidents until 1940. As the home of the Museo Nacional de Historia (National History Museum), it contains hundreds of paintings, murals, ceramics, furniture and carriages depicting Mexican history from the Aztec era to the modern day. Rooms once used by Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlotta have been beautifully preserved with the castle's balconies affording fine views over the Valley of Mexico. A road-train climbs the hill from inside the entrance to the park.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 0900-1700.
Admission Fees: Yes (except for Sundays).
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City, Mexico
Telephone: (55) 5553 6224.
Centro Histórico (Historic Centre) and Zócalo

Second in size only to Moscow's Red Square, the Zócalo - officially known as the Plaza de la Constitución - is Mexico's political, religious and geographical core. Eerily quiet after dark, it is animated, crowded and alive during daylight hours as the venue for official ceremonies, city celebrations, demonstrations, rallies, impromptu performances and artisans plying their wares. Twice-daily, a ceremonial flag raising and lowering (at 0600 and 1800) are staged with clock-setting punctuality. On the north side of the Zócalo is the Catedral Metropolitana. Built in 1573, consecrated in 1667, and completed in 1813 in a baroque style known as churrigueresque , it is the largest and oldest cathedral in Latin America. Next to the cathedral, the ruins of the Templo Mayor of Aztec Tenochtitlán gather crowds of onlookers on a daily basis. On the east side of the Zócalo is the Palacio Nacional, built on the site of an Aztec palace, while a few blocks west is the early 20th-century Museo Nacional de Arte, a fine Italian Renaissance style palace which houses an exhaustive collection of Mexican art from every school and style.

Disabled Access: No
Unesco: Yes
Address: Plaza de la Constitución, Mexico City, Mexico
Coyoacán

Now absorbed by Mexico City, the suburb of Coyoacán was once a city in its own right. Today, it forms the oldest part of the capital as the place from which Cortés launched his attack on Tenochtitlán. Tranquil tree-lined avenues are trimmed with handsome colonial-era buildings and strings of craft stalls. Jugglers, street musicians and mime artists centre on the central squares of Plaza Hidalgo and Jardín del Centenario at weekends and lend a bohemian feel. Artist Frida Kahlo was born in Coyacán in 1907 and the Museo Casa de Frida Kahlo, Londres 247 (corner of Allende), occupies her family home. Kahlo and her husband, the revolutionary muralist Diego Rivera, lived here from 1929 and formed part of Mexico City's glamorous, leftist, 1930s intellectual set. Today the house is full of mementoes from this era with two rooms preserved as lived in and the rest crammed with paintings by both artists. A small collection of folk art - a passion of Kahlo's - includes a number of regional costumes worn by the artist who lived in the property until her death.

Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico
La Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

In the northern suburbs of Mexico City, the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, often known as La Villa de Guadalupe, is the holiest shrine in the country. It is built on the site where, in 1531, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared three times, in the guise of an Indian princess, to Indian Juan Diego, leaving her image miraculously emblazoned on his cloak. The original basilica was built in 1709. When a large crack appeared and it began to sink into the swampy subsoil, a new basilica was constructed in the same plaza and consecrated in 1976. Juan Diego's cloak has been preserved and hangs in the church, behind the main altar. Moving walkways allow visitors to get as close as possible. The original basilica is now a museum displaying many representations of the image on the cloak. Throughout the year, pilgrims come from all over Mexico to visit. However, for the Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Patron Saint's Day), on 12 December, millions throng to pray and give thanks to the dark-skinned virgin. Some worshippers hobble on their knees to the church, while others dance their prayers in traditional Indian costumes with feather head-dresses and skirts in a festive atmosphere.

Opening Times: Daily 0800-2300 (basilica); Tue-Sun 1000-1800 (museum).
Admission Fees: Yes (except for Sundays).
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Plaza de las Américas 1, La Villa De Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico
Telephone: (55) 5577 6022.
Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Anthropology Museum)

Arguably Mexico's City's finest museum, the Museo Nacional de Antropología is also one of the best of its kind in the world. Huge collections span vast themes in a giant building centred on an expansive patio. Though housed in an extension of Chapultepec Park, it can take days to fully explore. Each major culture that played a role in the evolution of a Mesoamerican civilisation is represented. Some of the most fascinating exhibits are the famous Aztec 'sun' (or 'calendar') stones, the giant stone Olmec heads from Tabasco and a replica of a Mayan tomb from Palenque. On the upper level, the rooms are dedicated to how modern Mexico's indigenous people live. Daily performances staged outside of the museum's main entrance are publicised by voladores (fliers) - most re-enact ancient ceremonies in colourful, traditional costumes and involve daring acrobatics using suspended 'flying'.

Opening Times: Tues-Sat 0900-1900, Sun 0900-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes (except for Sundays).
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Paseo de la Reforma (north of Bosque de Chapultepec), Mexico City, Mexico
Telephone: (55) 5553 6381.
Museo Soumaya

Museo Soumaya shifted to its new home Mexico City in early 2011, and showcases the private collection of the world’s richest man: multi-billionaire Carlos Slim.

Named after his dead wife, the striking, cloud-shaped gallery boasts more than 66,000 pieces, worth more than £435 million, including Rodin’s The Thinker and works by Renior, Van Gogh and Matisse. The jaw-dropping collection is the result of many years of passionate accumulation.

It also includes the world’s largest collection of pre-Hispanic and colonial coins, plus a vast collection of letters and historical documents. Visitors will be able to read Christopher Columbus’s letters, or study the writings of Hernán Cortés and the Catholic Kings of Spain.

Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts)

At the eastern end of the Alameda, the Palacio de Bellas Artes is housed in a sumptuous, white-marble concert hall of considerable grandeur. Containing a museum and theatre within its art deco interior, the building was built to mark the 1910 centennial celebration of Mexican independence. A fine collection of old and contemporary paintings, sculptures and handicrafts is housed on the second and third floors including powerful works by the great Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo. Operas and orchestral concerts are frequently performed in the theatre where a glass curtain boasts a Tiffany design.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 1000-1800 (museum).
Admission Fees: Yes (except for Sundays).
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Avenida Juárez, corner of Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas, Mexico City, Mexico
Telephone: (55) 5512 2593.
Palacio Nacional (Presidential Palace) and the Rivera murals

Housing the Federal Treasury, the National Archives and, until recent years, the offices of the President of Mexico, the Palacio Nacional occupies the whole eastern side of the Zócalo. Colourful murals by Diego Rivera adorn a lavish interior with the México a Través de los Siglos (Mexico Through the Centuries) a glorious highlight, depicting every major event and personality of Mexican history, from Cortés' conquest of the Aztecs to the Mexican Revolution.

Opening Times: Mon-Sat 1000-1700.
Admission Fees: No.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Plaza de la Constitución, Mexico City, Mexico
Telephone: (55) 9158 1259.
Paseo de la Reforma

Dubbed the Champs Elysées because of its Parisian-style architectural influences, the Paseo de la Reforma is Mexico City's main boulevard and most prestigious address. Running from Alameda to Chapultepec Park, it is lined with shops, offices, hotels, restaurants and some modern skyscrapers that are home to multinational corporations, financial institutions and foreign embassies. Monuments, fountains and statues of Mexican heroes also hem the route, built as a direct path for the Emperor Maximilian between the Centro Histórico and his palace in Chapultepec Park. Particularly worthy of note is El Monumento a los Heroes de la Independencia (Monument to Independence), or Angelito as it is affectionately known, a gilded statue of a winged Victory set atop a 46m-high (150ft) column. In 1956, the statue toppled to the ground in an earthquake, but was completely restored, much to the relief of the Mexican people. Displayed inside the monument is the skull of Hidalgo, the executed leader of a group of rebels who rose against the Spanish in October 1810 (open daily 0900-1700, free). To the south of the Paseo, bounded by Reforma, Sevilla, Avenida Chapultepec and Avenida Insurgentes Sur, is La Zona Rosa (Pink Zone), a busy shopping and entertainment district with many stores, restaurants and nightclubs.

Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City, Mexico
San Angel

This elegant, colonial neighbourhood is about 9km (6 miles) south of Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma and is best known for its weekly arts and crafts market and affluent residents. Key attractions include the Bazar Sábado (Saturday Bazaar), in Plaza San Jacinto, together with the avant-garde Museo Estudio Diego Rivera (Diego Rivera's Studio Museum), corner of Altavista, where Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo worked in the 1930s. Fine art can be found in abundance at El Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Carrillo Gil (Carillo Gil Contemporary Art Museum), Avenida Revolución 1608, with works by Mexican and international artists.

Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Templo Mayor (Main Temple)

The ruins of the Templo Mayor are one of the best attractions in Mexico City. Rediscovered in 1978 while telephone cables were being laid in the area, the temple was first constructed by the Aztecs in 1375. A new temple was built every 52 years - one on top of the other. Seven have been identified in the Zócalo. Museo del Templo Mayor, an excellent museum within the Templo Mayor site, displays various artefacts found in the main pyramid of Aztec Tenochtitlán.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 0900-1700.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Plaza de la Constitución, Mexico City, Mexico
Telephone: (55) 5542 4784.
Torre Latino (Latin Tower)

Opposite the Palacio de Bellas Artes is the Torre Latino, a landmark skyscraper built in the 1950s. After surviving an earthquake in 1957, it was awarded the American Association of Construction and Engineering Prize and inaugurated as a member of the World Federation of Great Towers. For resplendent views, head to the 44th-floor viewing platform at 2,422m (7,950ft) above sea level - on a clear day it affords unbeatable panoramas across Mexico City, the Valley of Mexico and the distant volcanoes beyond.

Opening Times: Daily 0900-2200.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas, corner of Avenida Madero, Mexico City, Mexico
Telephone: (55) 5518 7423.
Edited by Tina Banerjee
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