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Hub of the city
Many cities in Mexico have their own "El Zocalo" - the main plaza -but none of them come close to the one in Mexico City in scale or grandeur and historical importance. The square is rightly known as the Plaza de la Constitucion but nobody calls it that - instead it is known by the Aztec word 'zocalo' -which is only fitting as this was the very heart of the Aztec city the Spanish found here when they arrived in 1519. Within just a few short years the great buildings, temples and palaces they found here were in ruins, their stones used to pave the square and build the churches and government offices of the conquerors.
Today the grand edifices of that conquest serve an independent nation - the Catedral Metropolitana and the Palacio Nacional both facing the square where a huge flag of the Republic is raised and lowered with pomp (and difficulty on a windy day) each day. Years of excavation after an accidental discovery have revealed the Aztec's Templo Mayor and the forecourt of the temple complex sounds again with Aztec drums as dancers in the feathered head-dresses of their ancestors dance for the tourists.
The Palacio Nacional, dates from the late 17th century, but it is the 20th century murals depicting 400 years of Mexican history, the masterwork of Mexico's most famous artist, Diego Rivera, that people come to see here. The palace is huge and whilst much of it is reserved for official use it does house a small museum dedicated to Benito Juarez and the Mexican Congress.
The Catedral Metropolitana was dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin when building commenced in 1573; this is the oldest cathedral in all the Americas. Built on the soft clay of the drained lake that once filled much of the valley here, continued draining the city's water needs has caused major problems with subsidence - an ongoing and expensive concern for this historic building. The interior has some particularly beautiful decoration, side chapels and altarpieces.
- Historical Travel
Zocalo is one fo the most important places of the city.
You will be able to see the cathedral (wich its amazing), National Palace - where you can enjoy, inside of a fantastic murals, Templo Mayor (some ruins in the city) and some other old buildings.
Also you can enjoy a nice lunch or dinner or a drink at the top of any of the hotels around the Zocalo, all of them have a the top floor a restaurant where you can enojoy a nice view and just relax a bit.
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
The third largest public square in the world (Behind Tiannamen and Red Square), the zocalo is adorned with an enormous Mexican Flag..think back to the opening scene of the movie Traffic,,,
Lots of activity here and a great meeting point..
"Meet me at the flag..."
The Zocalo is one of the world's largest public squares. I stayed just a couple blocks from here, so I was in the area a lot. The central space is just a big cemented square and it's a bit hard to get to because of the traffic zipping by (use the subway for the safest access). However, the buildings around the square, the history of it and the energy that emanates from it, make it a great place to visit. During the day, the Zocalo is teeming with tourists and the presence of the Palacio Nacional marks it as the heart of Mexico City's political life. You'll also find the city's main cathedral and the ruins of the Templo Mayor here. You might think of this as the center of town as I did, but it's not necessarily the truth. At night, this area is actually fairly quiet, so I don't necessarily recommend booking your accommodations here, although it was perfectly fine for me.
Nacional Monte de Piedad
The Nacional Monte de Piedad is a not-for-profit- institution and pawnshop whose main office is located on the northwest corner of the Zocalo on the corner of Monte de Piedad and 5 de Mayo streets.
It was established between 1774 and 1777 by Pedro Romero de Terreros as part of a movement to provide interest-free or low-interest loans to the poor. It was recognized as a national charity in 1927 by the Mexican government.
- Historical Travel
This was the first church built in New Spain, The material was taken directly from the fallen Aztec capital. Now it is the centerpiece of the Zocalo in Mexico City. The Catedral is massive and best of all free to enter. It is possible to climb the bell tower to get a great view of the Zocalo for a small fee.
Family groups dancing at the sound of a flute... From the oldest to the youngest, everyone dressed in a prehispanic costume... You´ll find them in almost every touristic spot, and well... They will ask you for money... But the dance and the music are nice and the experience is better...
- Family Travel
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Panoramic dining in downtown
There are a couple of places in the surroundings of the Zocalo where you can eat and have a wonderful view of the entire Zocalo-Cathedral-Palacio Nacional area at the same time. The one I visited is called the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México (lobby & stained glass ceiling/dome on pictures no. 2 & 3), which is a big nice hotel -luxurious, I would say- that has a restaurant called "El Mirador" which has a few balconies overlooking the Zocalo and its surrounding buildings from the 4th floor. The view is MAGNIFICENT, although there are very few & small tables with a view -- most of them are inside and you can see nothing from there. But if you go and have breakfast or lunch during week days there will be no people (or almost) and you will be able to eat and have a gorgeous view of the very heart of our city. They have buffet-style breakfasts & lunches, the first being $89 (Mexican pesos - around 8 USD) and the latter $99, plus beverages, which are not included (*prices from 2005 +/-). The food quality is good and the variety is ok as well.
They also have a bar if you go up a few more stairs from the restaurant and this one IS located on a terrace, so you have better possibilities of having a nice view. They have a rather limited offer of entrees and main courses, as it's mainly a place to drink and not to have a full meal. The chilorio tacos are pretty good, and the Mexican entree has tiny quesadillas and sopes -- EXTREMELY small for our taste, so I don't recommend this particular dish. The prices are not as high as one would expect at a 5 star hotel restaurant/bar and the quality is quite decent.
The other hotel-restaurant overlooking this same area is called the Majestic and it's almost next door. I don't know how good this one is, though, but I know people who have been there and claim it is nice as well.
Now, why the hell am I posting restaurant recommendations on the "Must See Activities" section?? Because I think it's worth the visit not because of the quality of the restaurant itself, but because of the view you will have from there and which you won't get from anywhere else. Dining while having this panorama before your eyes is quite an experience itself, and I think you must try to have it! :) Bon Appetit!!
- Luxury Travel
Another of the murals by Rivera in the National Palace. Sometimes his politics and his love interests overshadow the fact that he painted remarkably beautiful murals.
See the web site below for an extensive account of his art, his politics, and his wives.
- Arts and Culture
The historic center of Mexico City is also known as the "Centro Histórico." This is where the Spaniards began to build what is now modern Mexico City in the 16th century on the ruins of the conquered Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire. As the center of the ancient Aztec Empire and the seat of power for the Spanish colony of New Spain, the Centro Historico contains most of the city's historic sites from both eras as well as a large number of museums. This has made it a World Heritage Site.
This neighborhood is focused on the Zócalo or main plaza in Mexico City and extends in all directions for a number of blocks with its farthest extent being west to the Alameda Central.
You can watch my 4 min 25 sec HD Video Mexico City around by bus part 3 out of my Youtube channel.
- Historical Travel
Zócalo is the city center of Mexico City, full of dancers, people and vendors. It is also known as the Plaza de la Constitución;
Walk along its streets and ride the Trolley bus that departs next to Bellas Artes.
Recently it has been used by many artists to host their concerts, such as Cafe Tacuba, Maná, Alejandro Sanz, Shakira and so on.
While there, visit the Templo Mayor, Palacio Nacional or the Cathedral which offers a tour to its belfry and have a great view of downtown.
We have been told that the Zocalo is the largest plaza in Latin America. It was very pleasant to know that it is the second largest in the world after Moscow's Red Square. It can hold up to nearly 100,000 people.
The plaza used to be known simply as the "Main Square" or "Arms Square," and today its formal name is Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square).
It has been a gathering place for Mexicans since Aztec times, having been the site of Mexica ceremonies, the swearing in of viceroys, royal proclamations and military parades.
- Historical Travel
Plaza de la Constitución o Zócalo
One place I used to visit regularly during my stay in Mexico was the Zócalo. I used to stroll around there through daytimes or sit besides the cathedral to watch people, to breath freshly polluted air, and to feel free on such a huge square in such a big city. By the way, it's the Americas' oldest and biggest central square with an area of 220 x 240 m.
The most impressing thing there is the gigantic Mexican flag you can see in its middle. Its official name is Plaza de la Constitución.
The place is surrounded by the most important buildings: the Cathedral, Palacio Nacional, Monte de Piedad, the two buildings of the Federal District Government and Portal de Mercaderes.
Its name and appearance have changed several times: from Plaza Mayor to Plaza de Armas, following the Spanish custom. Its current name is taken from Cadiz' constitution of 1812.
The square is widely known as Zócalo because, in the 1840s, President Antonio López de Santa Anna proposed building a column here to commemorate the Independence; such project did not go beyond the construction of the monument's plinth (zócalo), which, however, remained there long enough to become a popular point of reference.
It is used as stage for huge parades to commemorate main civic holidays or public demonstrations, political acts and a great place to start excursions through the historic center. A walk in any direction from the Zócalo can take visitors back in time.
Downtown -- Palacio Nacional
There are so many places to visit in Mexico City, and I'll try to speak about them separately so you can appreciate some of the pictures I got.
First there's downtown, with its main square called the Zocalo which has a huge flag standing in the middle (as you already saw in the main page), and one of the main buildings you'll find around it (both for its beauty and its importance in the Mexican political life) is the Government Palace, as well as lots of other old and nice colonial buildings. In the Government Palace you can see many great murals depicting the history of Mexico.
There are many museums in this area and even an underground archaeological zone you must visit: the Templo Mayor ruins, which are just next to the Government Palace.
This picture is one of the pics I made myself! The view from the top of the Cathedral is quite good as you may see!
- Museum Visits
See Free Murals (at the Zocalo)
For travelers on a budget, nothing beats a free tourist attraction! Located right on the Zocalo, Mexico City's Palacio Nacional is home to a series of murals by Diego Rivera that were painted between 1929 and 1951. In the main staircase there is a triptych called Mexico a Traves de los Siglos (Mexico Through the Ages) that crams pretty much the entire history of Mexico into one huge mural spanning three walls. There are also a series of murals showcasing all of the products that Mexico exports around the world, such as chocolate, beans, tomatoes and tobacco. The murals are beautiful, but it can almost be too much to take in at once. Good thing you can visit again and again, for free! Hours are 9 am to 5 pm daily, but we found the palacio closed when there was a large civic demonstration happening outside. Take all the photos you want, but don't use a flash.
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