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Top 10 Mexico City Sights

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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 are 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.

See also: Free Things to Do in Mexico City

1. The Plaza de la Constitución, or Zocalo

Mexico City Zocalo
© Suzanne Barbezat
This is the main square of Mexico City’s historic center. 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.

2. Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral)

Catedral Metropolitana
© 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.

3. Palacio Nacional (National Palace)

Palacio Nacional
© 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.

4. Templo Mayor (Great Temple)

Templo Mayor
© 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.

5. Palacio de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Palace)

© Suzanne Barbezat
This grandiose 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.

6. Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Anthropology museum)

© Suzanne Barbezat
Located in Chapultepec Park, this 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.”

7. Xochimilco

Photo by Guillermo Aldana courtesy of the Mexican Tourism Board
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.

8. Museo Frida Kahlo

The Casa Azul or Blue House in Coyoacan 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.

Visit other sites related to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico City, take Frida and Diego Tour.

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 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.

10. Basilica de Guadalupe

Photo by Carlos Sanchez, courtesy of the Mexican Tourism Board

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 mantle of Juan Diego with her image.

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Next: Mexico City Walking Tour

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