Historic Downtown Mexico City

Tenochtitlan, Capital of the Aztec Empire

Mexico city was founded around the year 1325, almost 200 years before the Spanish conquest of Mexico. It was founded on an island of Lake Texcoco, where a group of people called the Mexica (also known as the Aztecs) found an eagle perched on a cactus eating a snake. From them comes the name Mexico and the emblem on the Mexican flag. This city on a lake, then known as Tenochtitlan, quickly grew into the sprawling dominant capital that the Spanish found when they came to conquer and later colonize Mexico. The Spanish did not hesitate to destroy the major buildings of the Tenochtitlan and literally build on top of them. The expansion of Mexico city since then has led to the virtual disappearance of Lake Texcoco, but the ruins of the Aztec capital still lie buried beneath it. It is a fantastic place to see.

Zocalo

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At the center of historic downtown Mexico City is a large square known as Zocalo. It accomodates many celebrations and activities throughout the year. On the North side of Zocalo is the Cathedral of Mexico City. It was built by the Spanish and consecrated in 1656. Visitors are welcome to enter and witness the intricate interior design and beauty. Tours of parts of the cathedral are given on most days of the week.

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Adjacent to the cathedral are the uncovered remnants of the Templo Mayor, which was the largest pyramid in Tenochtitlan. For the price of a ticket, the ruins can be viewed outside along with admittance to the Templo Mayor museum.

Walking around downtown

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A short 10-15 minute walk from Zocalo is the Torre Latinoamericana, a skyscaper built in the 50’s that has survived 3 major earthquakes. It was the tallest building in Latin America for decades after its construction, and a trip to the observation deck offers a spectacular view of the city even on a smoggy day.

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Next to the Latinoamericana tower is Bellas Artes, a cultural center that has housed exhibitions of music, theatre, paintings, sculptures, and more. It is a beautiful building and it’s worth taking a peek inside even if you don’t go to an exhibition or show.

Shopping and Food

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All around and in between the places mentioned here so far are a plethora of shops and restaurants that line the streets in the historic district. The bottom floors of many of the old buildings are devoted to anything from jewelers to tortilla shops. Hours could be spent walking up and down these streets, seeing everything they have to offer.

The food to be eaten here is exceptional in taste and variety. Most foods won’t come spicy on their own, but plenty can be added if desired. There are a number of baked goods and deserts as well that are worth trying. One thing nobody should leave without is trying some famous mexican street tacos.

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