Not only was I on a time constraint in Mexico City (just a little over 48 hours in Mexico City), I was on a budget. Guided walking tours are great if you’re able to join – but if you’re looking to save a little extra money or simply want to roam around on your own pace, continue reading and don’t forget to download my free printable below.
As you will learn throughout my blog, I love history and all things old. Buildings that date back to the 19th, 18th century and beyond. And especially ancient civilizations. The Zócalo and surrounding area is made up of all this and more (that more being good food and good shopping). A walking tour of Mexico City’s historic center should most definitely be on your list whether in a group or on your own. I did this first thing on the day I arrived. Sadly it was raining the first half of that day but I explored anyway with umbrella in hand. Prior to my trip, I remember the first time I saw the beauty of the Zocalo (main square and this is the largest in Latin America). I had just finished binge watching Sense8 on Netflix maybe a week before booking my trip to D.F. This one scene in particular I loved and I needed to have the same experience where two characters were having lunch at a rooftop restaurant over looking the Metropolitan Cathedral. So beautiful! I never found the terrace view but I have a suspicion it’s the restaurant located across the street at the top of the Best Western? Sí o no? I’ll have to find out on a future trip. Anyways I was so excited to see it in person!
The history here is incredible. Basically, the whole Centro Historico was built on top of the once Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan! I get excited just typing about it because I love ancient history and civilizations that much. Then, you know, Hernan Cortez invaded and destroyed the city. Even after, the city standing today was rebuilt on top of existing Aztec temples. For example, the National Palace was built on the Moctezuma II’s former palace.
If you’re planning a future trip to Mexico City, consider this step-by-step guide of what to see around the historic center. I was traveling alone and didn’t want to cause any attention to myself since I wasn’t sure what to expect from Mexico City. I wore “work out” type clothes and barely any makeup. Also didn’t want to take my phone out too much because I didn’t want to look lost. All my pictures from Mexico were taken on my iPhone because I felt uncomfortable with the thought of traveling with a huge camera and big bag. What I did was write down all my Spanish phrases and directions into a little notebook I could take out and read without being to obvious. I recommend taking the Turibus to the Zocalo which guarantees a ride back on the same ticket (and more sightseeing). Or a taxi/Uber/metro, whatever you prefer. If you are taking the metro, get off at the Zocalo stop. Regardless of your mode of transportation, you will start at
Plaza de la Constitucion
Also known as the Zocalo is the main square. It’s huge! When I was visiting they were still in the process of taking down Christmas decorations. The tour starts here. If you got off the Turibus go around the side of the cathedral to the huge plaza. Facing the church (we will go in soon), turn east and you will see the
Plaza de la Constitución S/N, Centro Histórico, Cuauhtémoc, 06066 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Palacio Nacional is still used today as a government building. Admission is free with photo I.D. Inside you can view murals by Diego Rivera! It is open 9AM – 5PM except Mondays. Once you’re ready to move on, exit the building and turn right. Walk all the way toward the end passing the cathedral which should be on the left side. You will cross a large area with sculptures and see a dead end on the right hand corner which takes you to
Templo Mayor Museum
Seminario 8, Centro Histórico, Cuauhtemoc, 06060 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Museo de Templo Mayor was once on the main Aztec temples of Tenochtitlan. It wasn’t until the late 70’s when a group of electric company workers accidentally discovered the site of the temple. It wasn’t till they found a pre-Hispanic monolith that they began excavating the site. Open 9AM-5PM except Mondays (like most museums and attractions). Admission is $64 MXN or FREE on Sundays.
From here we can finally enter
Plaza de la Constitución S/N, Centro Histórico, Cuauhtemoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Catedral Metropolotana is the largest cathedral in North America. Peek inside for a look at the mixed Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-classical architecture whether you’re religious or not. There was a mass going on at the time and prayers held in quiet corners. I loved this stop, but I couldn’t get a good picture. It was raining hard and I couldn’t point up to get the entire Cathedral. Like I mentioned above, thee largest cathedral in North America.
Now exit the building and turn right. Make another right past the Turibus station. Make a left on Calle de Tacuba. On the way if you have time or love art, enter the
National Museum of Art
Tacuba 8, Cuauhtemoc, Centro Histórico, 06010 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Museo Nacional de Arte. Open everyday except Mondays from 10AM-530PM. Admission is $50 MXN. Or you can simply move along after admiring Manuel Tolsa’s sculpture right outside the museums’ plaza. Now cross the street to the
Tacuba 1, Cuauhtemoc, Centro Histórico, 06000 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Palacio Postal with some of the most beautiful architecture inside. It is still an active post office open daily. It was designed by an Italian architect who also designed the Palacio de Bellas Artes. On the first floor you can find a Postal museum. On the 4th floor, a Naval History museum. Admission is free.
Once you exit the Postal Palace, make a right and walk down a small pedestrian street Condesa for 2 minutes before you lay eyes on the building below
House of Tiles
Av Francisco I. Madero 4, Centro, 06500 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Casa de los Azulejos; you can recognize the building by its blue and white tiles on the outside. The street featured above is Condesa if you need a visual reference like I often do. This was my favorite stop of them all. The inside is gorgeous. Admission is free unless you’re hungry or you want to go shopping because this once private palace is now home to a Sanborns. The items sold here are similar to what you would find in a Walgreens or CVS. The food often compared to a fast food chain (according to yelp). Open 7AM-1AM daily. Regardless if you decide to sit down and eat or not the ambiance can’t be beat. I spent a lot of time admiring the interiors and people watching from the 2nd story. To top it all off the pianist was playing some of my favorite Frank Sinatra songs like “Strangers in the Night”. SO beautiful. I read there is a bar in this building as well so…you might just end up at this stop for a while.
Exit this building on the opposite side you came out of (or find your way back to the pedestrian street Condesa) and walk across Av Francisco I. Madero towards Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas. At the corner you will find the towering building of
Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 2, Centro Historico, 06000 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
This building has so much to offer. Open daily from 9AM-10PM. The 44th floor is the observatory where you can take in the entire view of Mexico City. Admission is $80 MXN or you can see a similar view a couple of floors down at the restaurant/bar for free. Cafe de la Gran Ciudad recently moved into this building which has a great view of
Palace of Fine Arts
Av. Juárez, Centro Histórico, 06050 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
Palacio de Bellas Artes which sounds even prettier. Located across the street. After viewing it from the TorreLatino building I doubt you’ll miss it anyway. You can reserve a show before hand to watch in the theater or browse the museum for a fee. Admission is $60 MXN or join a free guided visit at 1pm*. I didn’t enter but instead got an AMAZING view across the street in the Sears building. On the 8th floor you can step out onto a terrace to see this view (featured picture) and take lots of pictures. * Not sure if these guided visits are still offered.
BONUS: Alameda Central
Next to Palacio de Bellas Artes is this big, very lush park with statues and water fountains. This is the oldest park in the city and a great place to sit down and enjoy a quick meal or coffee picked up along the way.
You can find all this + a couple eating options along the way in my free printable. From a sit down meal to something on the go. If you’re planning a future trip to Mexico City go ahead and download the .PDF below and print later. Three pages include the walking tour above, instructions, a map and places to eat. Click Here if image not working.
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What do you think? Are you ready to explore Mexico City’s historical center after reading this guide? I would love to hear what you think in the comments below! Or simply “Like” the post .