On the north side of the Zocalo,
Centro Historico, Mexico
Daily 8 am-8 pm. Free.
This is the largest cathedral in Latin America, begun in 1567 and constructed over a period of 250 years. Built in a fanciful baroque style known as churrigueresque, it's filled with exquisite details and has many small, lavishly embellished chapels. It also boasts one of the largest organs in the world: concerts are given on special occasions. Restoration work is continually under way inside. The cathedral is sinking into the swampy soil beneath it and lists to one side, which is clearly visible from the outside.
El Monumento de la Independencia
Paseo de la Reforma (at the intersection with Avenida Florencia and Avenida Rio Tiber
near La Zona Rosa
The Angel of Independence monument, a gilded statue of a winged Victory atop a 150-foot column, is one of the most beloved and most often photographed landmarks in the city.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Avenida Hidalgo 1 (at the eastern end of Alameda Central, Bellas Artes metro station),
Centro Historico, Mexico City.
Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-5:30
pm.. Free on Sunday.
The gracious Palace of Fine Arts is a must-see whether you attend a performance, visit an art exhibition or simply take in the spectacular architecture. The art-deco building (with pre-Hispanic reliefs) was designed by renowned Italian architect Adamo Boari at the beginning of the 20th century. The interior is decorated with murals by Rivera, Tamayo, Siqueiros and Orozco, and the concert hall has a stand-out beaded-glass stage curtain by Tiffany that depicts the Valley of Mexico.
Palacio de Iturbide
Calle de Madero 17
Centro Historico, Mexico City.
Monday-Friday 9 am-5 pm.
This 18th-century mansion, which boasts a baroque Italianate facade, sweeping columns and delicate ornamentation, was once the residence of the Spanish vice-regents and later of Agustin Iturbide, the general who drove them out of Mexico. Now meticulously restored, it houses a cultural center that sponsors art exhibitions and educational events
Avenida Pino Suarez (facing the Zocalo)
Centro Historico, Mexico City
Daily 9 am-5 pm. Free
The National Palace, commissioned by Hernan Cortez, contains the federal treasury and the national archives. Until recently, it also housed the offices of the Mexican president. It contains some of Diego Rivera's best-known murals, colorful depictions of Mexico City's long history from before the Spanish conquest to the 20th century. Go to the main portal and show a form of picture ID to the guards.
Paseo de la Reforma
Emperor Maximilian wanted a direct path between the Historic Center and his palace in Chapultepec Park, so he laid out this famous boulevard to resemble Paris' Champs Elysees. Today, office buildings and hotels rise above the tree-lined promenades and glorietas (traffic circles). It is a place to stroll and look at the many monuments, fountains and statues of Mexican heroes. Construction up and down the avenue is part of the city's renovation plan.
Lazaro Cardenas 2 at Madero, Bellas Artes metro station
Centro Historico, Mexico
Daily 8 am-11 pm.
When this Empire State Building look-alike was built in the 1960s, it was the tallest building in Latin America. Its 43 stories tower above the Historic Center. The restaurant and observation deck on the top afford a good view of the city on a clear day.
The plaza is flanked by Avenida Pino Suarez, Avenida 20 de Noviembre, Avenida 16 de Septiembre and Avenida Madero. Centro Historico.
The Plaza de la Constitucion, commonly referred to as the Zocalo, is the second-largest plaza in the world and is surpassed only by Red Square in Moscow. It's also the heart of the Centro Historico and of the entire city, as well as the main venue for national celebrations. On most days you can see dancers performing and vendors peddling their wares.
Calle del Museo 150, Coyoacan, Mexico City.
Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-6 pm.
A permanent display of Diego Rivera's huge collection of pre-Hispanic pieces. The impressive building is made entirely of volcanic rock and was designed by Rivera himself. It's in the shape of a pyramid, a tribute to Maya and Aztec cultures.
Museo de Arte Moderno
In Chapultepec Park, at the corner of Reforma and Gandhi (Chapultepec metro), Mexico City.
Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-5:30 pm. free on Sunday.
This modern-art museum has permanent exhibitions of Mexican contemporary art by Rivera, Siqueiros, O'Gorman and Cuevas, to name a few. It also hosts temporary exhibits from around the world. A pleasant sculpture garden surrounds the museum.
Museo de Franz Mayer
Ave. Hidalgo 45 (behind Alameda Central, near the Bellas Artes metro station), Col. Guerrero, Mexico City.
Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm
(Wednesday till 7 pm). Free on Tuesday.
This 16th-century hospital has been beautifully restored and contains an extraordinary collection of religious art in gold and silver, as well as rare books and European antiques, which belonged to German collector Franz Mayer.
Museo del Templo Mayor
Seminario 8 (Zocalo metro station), Centro Historico, Mexico City.
Phone 5542-4784 to reserve an English-speaking guide.
Tuesday-Sunday 9 am-5 pm.
Free on Sunday for Mexican citizens.
In 1978, workmen laying a telephone cable discovered the ruins of the ancient Aztec capital. Walls of temples and giant sculptures of warriors, the goddess of the moon and the god of war, along with thousands of other artifacts, suddenly came to light. The Museo de Templo Mayor, which houses all these treasures, was built on the site. You can view the excavation from the street level or, as part of your paid museum admission, English-speaking guides are available at no charge.
Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino
Ave. Mexico 5843.
Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-6 pm. adults, free on Tuesday.
Col. La Noria (in the far
south of the city, about 12 miles from the Zocalo), Xochimilco, Mexico City.
Housed in a renovated 16th-century hacienda, it contains some of the best-known works of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, as well as pre-Hispanic artifacts.
Museo Frida Kahlo
Londres 247, Coyoacan, Mexico City.
Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-6 pm.
The artist's home in the years 1929-1954. She lived there at times with her husband, Diego Rivera. On display are some of Kahlo's paintings, costumes and furniture.
Museo Jose Luis Cuevas
Academia 13, Centro Historico, Mexico City.
Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-5:30 pm.
free on Sunday for Mexican
Housed in a former convent, it has a permanent exhibition of erotic watercolors by iconoclastic painter and writer Jose Luis Cuevas as well as temporary exhibitions of contemporary art from around the world.
Museo Nacional de Antropologia
In Chapultepec Park at the corner of Reforma and Gandhi (Chapultepec metro station), Mexico City.
Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-7 pm.
If you have time to see only one museum in Mexico City, this world-renowned anthropology museum is the one to choose. The most fascinating exhibits include the Aztec calendar stone, giant stone Olmec heads from the jungles of Tabasco, treasures recovered from a sacred Maya well, a replica of a Maya ruler's tomb from Palenque and ethnological displays of rural Mexican life as it is still lived today. It also has a very good model of the location and layout of Tenochtitlan, which puts present-day Mexico City in perspective.
Museo Nacional de Arte
Tacuba 8 (Allende metro station), Centro Historico, Mexico City.
Tuesday-Sunday 10:30 am-5:30
pm. free on Sunday.
Temporary exhibitions in addition to its permanent, exhaustive collection of Mexican art. Another reason to visit is to explore the ornate building, constructed at the turn of the 20th century in the style of an Italian Renaissance palace.
Museo Nacional de Historia
In Chapultepec Park on the corner of Avenida Gandhi, with an entrance on Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City.
Tuesday-Sunday 9 am-4:15 pm.
The National History Museum is housed on the grounds of Chapultepec Castle. Also known as the Caracol (snail) for its winding layout. It is filled with hundreds of paintings, murals, ceramics, furniture and carriages depicting the history of Mexico from the time of the Aztecs to the modern day, with an emphasis on the colonial era and military history. Arrange for a guided tour of the castle: The rooms and exhibits are more interesting when viewed with some historical explanation.
Museo Nacional de las Culturas Populares
Ave. Hidalgo 289, Coyoacan, Mexico City.
Tuesday-Thursday 10 am-6 pm, Friday-Sunday 10 am-8 pm. Free.
An excellent place to see native handicrafts from different areas of Mexico. It also gives you a deeper understanding of Mexican popular culture, with temporary exhibits about subjects such as the circus, wrestling and traditional nativity scenes.
Museo Rufino Tamayo
In Chapultepec Park, at the corner of Paseo de la Reforma and Gandhi (Chapultepec metro station), Mexico City.
Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-6 pm.
Hidden away in the heart of the Chapultepec forest, this museum can be difficult to find but is worth the time. Bright and spacious, it has a permanent exhibit of works by famed Oaxacan painter Rufino Tamayo. Temporary exhibits include both important international art and lesser-known works by Mexican artists. Most work leans toward the modernist and cutting-edge.
Papalote Museo del Nino
Constituyentes 268, in the second section of Chapultapec Park (Constituyentes metro station), Mexico City.
Monday-Friday 9 am-1 pm and
2-6 pm, with evening hours Thursday 7-11 pm; Saturday and Sunday 10 am-2 pm and
3-7 pm. IMAX and Domo Digital showings run regularly when the museum is open.
IMAX shows. On weekends, buy tickets early to avoid waiting in line.
Technology meets education in this futuristic park for children and their parents. There's an interactive science museum where children can play with and touch exhibits; an IMAX theater with a giant screen showing special documentaries; the Domo Digital, which takes visitors on a guided tour of the stars and planets; and the Autobus Fantastico, which takes children on a virtual trip through wildlife habitats around the world.
Basilica de la Virgen de Guadalupe
Plaza Hidalgo 1 (near the La Villa metro station), Col. Villa de Guadelupe, Mexico City. Phone 5577-6022
Visitors are welcome to
visit the church 6 am-8 pm. The basilica museum is open 9 am-6 pm. Entrance to
the basilica is free,
This shrine to Mexico's patron saint is one of the holiest places in the country. It's built on the site where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to peasant Juan Diego in 1531. Her image was miraculously imprinted on his homespun cloak, which hangs behind the altar of the church. The original church was built in 1709. When it began to sink into the swampy subsoil, a new basilica was constructed on the same plaza and was consecrated in 1976.
A lovely green oasis in the heart of the city. Its focal point is the marble monument honoring 19th-century Mexico President Benito Juarez. The Palacio de Bellas Artes, on Avenida Juarez, is next to the park. The Alameda is particularly festive during the Christmas season when it is filled with huge helium balloons, gift and food stands
Bosque de Chapultepec
The park is bounded by Avenida Paseo de Reforma and Avenida Constituyentes
Main entrances are across from metro stops Chapultepec and Auditorio.
Tuesday-Sunday 5 am-5 pm.
Chapultepec Park is a huge expanse of wooded areas, lakes with paddleboats, hiking trails, playgrounds, botanical gardens, amusement parks, a zoo and excellent museums. There are often toy-and-balloon vendors, dancers in ancient costumes and voladores (men "flying" in circles on ropes attached to the top of a tall pole). The park is divided into three sections. The first covers ground from the eastern edge of the park to Boulevard Mateos, the second extends west from there and the third comprises the westernmost section.
Desierto de los Leones
A small national park in the forested hills about 12 miles southwest of Mexico City
Take a city bus from Tacybaya station or a coach from the Observatorio bus station.
Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm.
The main attraction is a nicely restored 17th-century Carmelite monastery, which now houses a museum. Inside there's also an elegant cafe. There are several walking trails through the park, and you can rent horses, too.
Zoologico de Chapultepec
In Chapultepec Park, Mexico City
Tuesday-Sunday 9 am-4:30 pm. It's crowded on weekends. Free.
The Chapultepec Zoo has clean, attractive enclosures that reflect the natural habitats of the animals on display. The primate section is particularly impressive, and the well-designed layout makes for a pleasant afternoon walk. The zoo boasts the world's first panda born in captivity.