Top 10 Mexico City Sights

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    What not to miss in Mexico's capital city

    Madero Street in Mexico City
    ••• So much to see and do in Mexico City!. © Suzanner Barbezat

    Although Mexico City is renowned for its massive size and excessive pollution, crime and traffic, travelers who venture to the capital of Mexico will be rewarded with some impressive sights and sounds. As one of the largest cities in the world, there is an abundance of museums, archaeological sites, historical buildings and bustling markets to occupy a visitor for months on end. The choices can be overwhelming! To make the best use of your time, here are my top ten Mexico City sights to include in your visit.

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    #1. Plaza de la Constitución

    Mexico City Zocalo
    ••• Mexico City's main square is known as "el Zócalo". Photo by Antony Stanley

    This is Mexico City's main square, located in the historic center. Its official name is Plaza de la Constitución, but it is usually referred to as el Zócalo. At 830 x 500 feet, it's one of the largest public squares in the world. The great expanse of paved space is decorated with a single huge Mexican flag in the center. This is the heart of the city, the site of events, festivals and protests, and a good place to start your explorations.

     

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    #2. Catedral Metropolitana

    Mexico City Catedral Metropolitana
    ••• Mexico City's Cathedral. © Suzanne Barbezat

    The enormous cathedral on the North side of the Zocalo was built over a period of 250 years and has a mixture of architectural styles. Like many buildings in Mexico City’s historical center, it is slowly sinking into the ground. An extensive engineering project was undertaken in the 1990s to rescue the building, not to stop the sinking, but to ensure that the cathedral would sink uniformly. Take a tour to the bell tower (offered several times each day) to enjoy the view of the plaza and rooftops from above.

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    #3. Palacio Nacional

    Palacio Nacional
    ••• Mexico's National Palace. © Suzanne Barbezat

    The government building takes up the East side of the Zocalo and houses the federal treasury and national archives. The main attraction here is Diego Rivera's murals depicting thousands of years of Mexican history. 

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    #4. Templo Mayor

    Templo Mayor
    ••• The Great Temple of the Aztecs. © Suzanne Barbezat

    In 1978, electric company workers digging beside the cathedral unearthed a large round stone depicting the Aztec moon goddess Coyolxauqui, which spurred the excavation of this, the main Aztec temple, dedicated to Tlaloc, the god of rain and Huitzilopochtli, the god of war. In the museum you can see the stone sculpture which instigated the archaeological project, as well as an interesting scale model of the city in ancient times and many artifacts found on the site.

    Templo Mayor Visitor's Guide

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    #5. Palacio de Bellas Artes

    Palacio de Bellas Artes
    ••• Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City. © Suzanne Barbezat

    Mexico City's grandiose Fine Arts Theater was planned to commemorate the centenary of Mexican independence in 1910 but was not completed until 1934. It contains murals by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo

     

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    #6. Museo Nacional de Antropologia

    National Museum of Anthropology
    ••• Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology. © Suzanne Barbezat

    Located in Chapultepec Park, the National Anthropology Museum contains the most impressive collection of Mesoamerican artifacts in the world. There is a hall dedicated to each of the cultural regions of Mesoamerica and the upstairs rooms have ethnological exhibits. You could spend a full day, but dedicate at least a few hours, and don’t miss the Aztec exhibit with the famous Sun Stone or “Aztec Calendar.” 

    Visitor's guide to the National Anthropology Museum

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    #7. Museo Frida Kahlo

    Frida Kahlo House
    ••• "La Casa Azul" was Frida Kahlo's home. © Suzanne Barbezat

    The Casa Azul or Blue House in Coyoacán was the family home of the famous artist and wife of painter Diego Rivera. They lived here during the last 14 years of her life. Their home, decorated with Mexican arts and crafts, allows visitors a glimpse into the private life of these eccentric artists.

     

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    #8. Xochimilco

    Xochimilco
    ••• The "Floating Gardens" of Xochimilco. Getty Images

    The chinampas, or “floating gardens” of the Aztecs were an ingenious agricultural technique to create arable land on the lake. Now you can ride brightly colored boats along the canals and buy from vendors on barges or hire a mariachi band to serenade you.

    Xochimilco Visitor's Guide

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    #9. Teotihuacan

    Teotihuacan
    ••• © Suzanne Barbezat

    About 25 miles outside of Mexico City, this archaeological site is worth a day trip. The "city of the gods" was a huge urban center with a population of about 200,000, occupied from 200 BC to 800 AD. At its peak, it was one of the largest cities in the world, and its influence was felt all over Mesoamerica. See the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, walk along the Avenue of the Dead, climb the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon.

    Take a virtual tour of Teotihuacan

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    # 10. Basilica de Guadalupe

    Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City
    ••• The Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Moment Mobile / Getty Images

    The hill where the virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego is now one of the most visited religious sites in the world. Guadalupe is the patroness of Mexico and a very important national symbol. In the basilica, you can see the original mantle of Juan Diego with her miraculous image on it. 

    Visitor's Guide to the Basilica de Guadalupe

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    Bonus: #11. Chapultepec Park

    Chapultepec Park
    ••• Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. © Suzanne Barbezat

    It's hard to narrow down the choices in such a large city that has so much to offer, but these are the most iconic attractions that a first-time visitor should see. If you've visited the other sites on this list and you still have some time, I suggest you take a day to explore Chapultepec Park. You can tour the National History Museum that's located in the Chapultepec Castle, hire a pedal boat for a spin around the artificial lake, or visit the zoo.

    Visitor's Guide to Chapultepec Park