Discover Historic Center of Mexico City

The Historic Center of Mexico City is immense and one of the most emblematic of all Latin America. In an area of almost 10 square kilometers, in it 668 blocks are gathered around 1,500 buildings, many of them listed as historical or artistic. It is a continuous coming and going of people, curiously a lot of youth, and where it becomes impossible to abstract from the architecture. All of it is an excellent summary of the history, where the pre-Hispanic and colonial times, as well as the independent and modern ones, perfectly mix together. The name that has been given to Mexico City, and which is none other than "City of the Palaces", is not fortuitous. The streets of the Historic Center are formed by colonial buildings that have made it worthy of this nickname.

In the Plaza de Santo Domingo, in the historic center of Mexico City, is the old Customs House. Any settler had to pass there before entering and leaving the Viceroyalty of the old New Spain, to declare their property at the time.

This is the reason why, right in front of the arcades, they opened many offices of notaries who were dedicated to managing the paperwork that the bureaucracy demanded, a tradition that on the other hand is maintained until today in all the Spanish-speaking countries.

But with the independence of Mexico this business declined, so the scribes had to become letter writers for men who, for the most part without knowing how to write, wanted to impress women with their prose.

Already in the twentieth century and, and even now, these businesses have become famous because, they say, here it is possible to get any kind of document, legal or illegal, that one needs. In fact, it seems that in these businesses Fidel Castro obtained the passports that allowed him to travel through America during his exile.

And in this same square is the old tribunal of the Inquisition, which, however, seems to have been less strict in the Americas than in the Iberian Peninsula. Only three died directly by the Inquisition, partly explained because it was not applied to the Indians but only to the Spaniards.

History on each corner

Many stories for a single place, of the many that make up the historic center of Mexico City. And it is that in what was the economic, cultural and political capital of the Spanish empire, each corner has witnessed an important historical event.

Another one of the thousands of stories that the Mexico City treasures takes place in the Palacio del Monte de Piedad, to which Gabriel García Márquez had to go to pawn a blender and with the money he was able to send his manuscripts of "One Hundred Years of Solitude". The palace is located in the Zócalo, which is called the Plaza de Armas or Plaza Mayor in the rest of the Hispanic capitals of the world.

But in Mexico, it's called Zócalo. Why? When Porfirio Diaz, the Mexican dictator who was also the president who was the strongest in power, for 32 years, in the country, wanted to celebrate 100 years of Mexican independence, he had a monument built in the center of the square. But the Mexican Revolution broke out and only the base of the monument, that is the socle, was built. And since then it is not the main square, but the Zócalo.

In this square of 46.8000 square meters, the second largest in the world is where the Zapatistas entered peacefully on March 11, 2001. 500 years ago, in 1519, when in its place rose the greater temple than the Aztecs, the one that arrived was Hernán Cortés.

Stories, anecdotes and historical facts are superimposed on one another in the old part of Mexico City like almost no other city in the world. In this area, you can visit dozens of museums or enjoy the famous Mexican cuisine in all its variants, from street tacos to delicacies in restaurants like La Casa de los Azulejos, a jewel of colonial construction or in some of the tourist terraces with views Cathedral.

Mexico City Historic Center things to see

To go through its streets is to go through the history of Mexico, but also of Spain or the Americas, and therefore a must for anyone visiting this country. Tip: Visit Mexico City with a guided tour on the first day to be able to dive into the idiosyncrasies of this country. But for those who decide to visit on their own, there are some points that should not be missed. Without a doubt, the Cathedral is one of them. Admission is free.

Mexico City ~ Cathedral

Next to it is the Templo Mayor, built in 1325 by the Aztecs, and that until the middle of the 20th century was buried under the colonial city. Today you can visit next to the museum dedicated to the pre-Hispanic cultures built next to it.

The National Palace, where the President of Mexico returns to live since December 2018, as the viceroys did at the time of the Spanish colony, can be visited. Inside you can see the murals of Diego Rivera (now known as Frida Kahlo's husband), perhaps the greatest exponent of Mexican muralism. His paintings tell the story from the origin of the Aztecs to independence, and not only is it a jewel for the artistic aspects, but for condensing into a mural 400 years of the country's history. It reflects hundreds of historical characters all recognizable, with name and surname, the history of the country.

Other visits for those interested in mural art and the history of Mexico (really recommended) are the National Preparatory, where there are works by Orozco and Siqueiros, the other two components of the most holy trinity of Mexican muralism, the Ministry of Public Education (Ministry of Education) that can be visited on weekdays, the Palace of Fine Arts or the Diego Rivera Museum, located in the Alameda on the outskirts of the historic center, where the famous mural "Una Tarde en la Alameda" is, which was saved miraculously from the 1986 earthquake that devastated the city. In the same Alameda, every Wednesday and Sunday the Palace of Fine Arts offers the show "Traditional Ballet of Mexico", a summary of great quality. This museum of the history of Mexico and the colonial Spain that is the Historical Center of Mexico City, written in capital letters because it is a city within the city, is more alive than ever.

Still open for eating and drinking is Café Tacuba, a meeting place for former politicians, intellectuals and writers. A highly recommended place. Or the Garibaldi square, where the mariachis continue to play songs to those who drink beer or tequila in their bars as it has been done for decades. Recently, a Tequila Museum was opened in the same square, more modern and focused on tourists.

In the limits of the Historic Center rises the Latin American Tower, the first skyscraper built in Latin America, and whose observatory in the upper square is possible to climb. The views of this infinite city leave you breathless. The Palacio de Correos, which is really a palace, cannot be missed either, nor of course the Banamex Cultural Center, located in the old Iturbide Palace, on Madero Street, which always houses interesting exhibitions of Mexican art from all times and free entry. 

Latin American Tower (Torre LatinoAmericana) 23

A free app to not miss any history that is hidden in each stone of the CDMX is the official Monuments CDMX of the Secretariat of Education. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.virtualware.mcdmx&hl=en_419

The Historic Center was a degraded place until the beginning of the 21st century. But it has recovered its commercial, gastronomic and cultural importance, and also security. The problem, now, is the saturation of people, especially on weekends. That is why it is recommended to get up early to visit the sites without feeling the demographic pressure of this city of 20 million inhabitants. At night, security is lower. It is also important to ask not to leave the tourist area, since there may be places that are not so safe, attached to the area that can be visited.

The Casa de los Azulejos (Calle Morelos), La Casa de la Sirena (Zócalo), the Tacuba Café (Calle Tacuba) or the terrace of the Gran Hotel Mexico are good places to eat because they are historical places or with interesting sights.

Official website of museums in Mexico City: https://www.cultura.gob.mx/turismocultural/destino_mes/cd_mexico/museos.html and https://www.cartelera.cdmx.gob.mx

According to https://trabber.mx, the average price of hotels in the city is around 50 dollars per night in a double room and one 90 dollars for 4 stars. But there are offers of 15 dollars a night.

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