The old city center or Centro Histórico of Mexico City, around the Plaza de la Constitución, is an area clearly different from the rest of the city. Its colonial and European architecture and narrow cobblestone streets set it apart from the rest of Mexico City. It has an enormous number of stores, street vendors, and especially crowds. Without a doubt, this area is one of the most popular areas in Mexico City.
The Centro Histórico, the original foundation of Mexico City, was built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec empire capital established around 1325 and destroyed by the Spanish in 1521. It contains a lot of old buildings that date back to the 16th century. Due to its importance, it was included in UNESCO's list of world heritage places in 1987.
Every Sunday Avenida Reforma is closed to motor vehicles due to "bike" day (confined streets for bicycle use only). It is strongly advised to avoid driving that brings you close to Avenida Reforma. If you are staying at any of the hotels in this area and have a flight scheduled on Sunday, it is advised to allow enough time to get out of the area if you're using a taxi. An alternative to get in and out of the area is the Metro (Subway).
Other areas of the city are also experiencing closings for bicycle use only.
This is probably the best way to reach the Centro Histórico, however, all the stations in the area are consistently crowded, so be prepared and alert for pickpockets.
There are various Metro lines that connect the Centro Histórico with the rest of the city.
- Line 1 (pink): 1 Pino Suarez, 2 Isabel La Católica and 3 Salto del Agua stations.
- Line 2 (blue): Pino Suarez, 4 Zocalo (your best choice for direct access), 5 Allende, 6 Bellas Artes, 7 Hidalgo and 8 Revolucion stations.
- Line 3 (light green): Hidalgo, 9 Juárez and 10 Balderas stations.
- Line 8 (dark green): 11 Garibaldi, Bellas Artes, 12 San Juan de Letrán and Salto del Agua stations.
The hop-in hop-off double-decker bus makes a stop just north of the Zócalo in Monte de Piedad street in the west side of the cathedral. The one-day pass costs M$140 (M$160 for English version of the excursion – do not forget to ask for your headphone!)
Line 4 (orange) of the Metrobús system has two branches that ride through the Centro Histórico. Both branches run from the 13 (Buenavista train station) to the 14 Estación San Lázaro (San Lazáro station) adjacent to the East Bus Terminal (TAPO). In both branches there are a few specially-marked buses that continue beyond San Lazáro to Mexico City's airport, serving both terminals. Buses going to or coming from the airport charge M$30 instead of the regular Metrobús fare (M$6), and you must have a travel card which can be purchased in 7-Elevens and in machines if you can find them (the one at the airport are near the exits).
By trolley bus
The Trolley Bus rides along Eje Central Avenue. Ask the driver to drop you off at Madero street.
This is the least recommended way to get around Centro Histórico since the streets are always jammed with hundreds of cars especially during weekdays. Most streets are one-way only and many are closed to car traffic. If you dare to enter the area by car, you can do so from the west through Reforma and turning right at Avenida Juárez, or if you're coming from the south, you can reach through Calzada de Tlalpan which later becomes Avenida 20 de Noviembre.
There are several parking lots in the area (valet service) that charge M$14 an hour. A non-valet but expensive 1 parking lot is available at Bellas Artes.
The best way to get around the Centro Histórico is definitely by foot. All tourist attractions are within walking distance. Because of traffic and the distance between metro stops, walking is generally the fastest way to explore the area.
By tourist trolley
This trolley (in Spanish Tranvia Turístico) departs from Avenida Juarez 66, between the Alameda and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The ride lasts 45 minutes around many interesting spots in the area. Operating hours daily 10:00-17:00.
There are a few pedicabs that can carry you within the Centro Histórico.
- 1 Plaza de la Constitución (El Zócalo). Measuring 240m long on either side, the Zócalo is one of the largest squares in the world. It is flanked by the Metropolitan Cathedral and Sagrario to the north, and the National Palace to the east, as well as a number of other historic buildings. A huge Mexican flag occupies the center, which is ceremoniously lowered and re-raised each day at 18:00. A wide variety of events may be hosted here, including concerts, demonstrations or other more typical social gatherings. On New Year's Day, practitioners of Mexico's indigenous religions gather to bless believers for the coming year; Mexican independence is celebrated in the plaza on 15 and 16 September.
- 2 [formerly dead link] Templo Mayor, C/ Seminario 8 (north-east corner of the Zócalo), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. The site of the main Aztec temple of Tenochtitlan, it was destroyed by Spanish conquistadors in 1521, who then promptly erected the Cathedral roughly over it – but not quite. Centuries later, nearly completely forgotten, its actual location was discovered by accident in 1978 when electrical workers found a piece of a large stone disc depicting the goddess Coyolxauhqui. This sets off a few furious years of archaeological digging, resulting in a rather surprising (and extremely significant) discovery that nested underneath the original Aztec temple was six distinct smaller, older temples. You can see each layer walking through the dig site. M$59, free for children under 12 and students with valid ID.
- 3 Museo del Templo Mayor. This excellent four-story museum was designed by Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, and built in 1987 to showcase the many artifacts found on the site. Highlights include the Coyolxauhqui disc as well as the many thousands of offerings found during the still-ongoing excavation.
- 4 Palacio Nacional (National Palace), Plaza de la Constitución s/n (east side of the Zócalo). Daily 09:00-17:00. The palace in its current form began construction in 1693 and served as the Palace of the Viceroy of New Spain until the Mexican War of Independence, when it became the executive seat of the President (though today it is no longer his official residence). The walls inside the palace display murals by Diego Rivera depicting the history of Mexico from the pre-Columbian age to the Mexican Revolution. You can also visit the Recinto Legislativo, a replica of the first Mexican Congress, and tour the home of Benito Juárez. Tours in English are free; ask for one at the information desk. Free admission with photo ID (national driver's license is acceptable).
- 5 Palacio de Iturbide (Palacio de Cultura Banamex / Palace of Iturbide), Francisco I Madero 17, ☏ . Daily 10:00-19:00. One of the oldest buildings in town, built in the late 16th century, it was first home to the local nobility and later the residence of Mexican Emperor Agustin de Iturbide. The building is owned today by the Cultural Trust of Banco Nacional de Mexico, the Mexican branch of Citibank. Free.
- 6 Plaza de la Fundación (Plaza de Tenochtitlán) (Pino Suarez and Venustiano Carranza). This place is allegedly where the Aztecs found the eagle eating a snake on top of a cactus (nopal), the divine sign of the gods to settle down and establish the city of Tenochtitlán. It features a sculpture by Juan Olaguibel made in 1970.
- 7 Nacional Monte de Piedad, Monte de Piedad and Cinco de Mayo. M-F 08:30-18:00, Sa 08:30-15:30. This building, which was completed in 1758, was built on the grounds of the house of Aztec emperor Moctezuma and later the residence of the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés. The building was acquired in 1838 by the Nacional Monte de Piedad, a pawn shop established in 1775 that still operates today.
- 8 Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América (House of the First Print Shop in the Americas), Lic Francisco Primo de Verdad 10, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 10:00-17:00, Sa 10:00-15:00. This building, which dates from 1524, housed the first printing press in the New World, which operated from 1539 until 1560. After this time the building was used for a number of purposes until it was restored by the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) in 1989; it now houses a museum displaying some of the first books printed in Mexico. Free.
- 9 Catedral Metropolitana de México (Metropolitan Cathedral) (north side of the Zócalo). Daily 07:00-19:00. The largest cathedral in the American continent. Designed by Claudio de Arcinieaga, construction started in 1573 and lasted for more than 300 years. Be sure to check out the side chapels where parishioners leave offerings for the various saints. For a bird's-eye view of the plaza, you can take a 40-minute tour (Spanish language only) of the upper levels and bell towers of the cathedral (M$12). Free.
- 11 Templo de San Francisco, Francisco I Madero 7. This church was started in the 16th century and completed in the 19th century; it was built in the grounds of the zoo of Aztec Emperor Moctezuma.
- 12 Templo Expiatorio Nacional de San Felipe de Jesús, Francisco I Madero 9. Built in 1897 on the site of the former Vasque Church of Aranzazu.
- 13 Santa Teresa La Antigua (Iglesia de Santa Teresa), Licenciado Verdad 6. Built in 1678 and refurbished in 1845.
- 14 Templo de la Enseñanza (La Enseñanza Church), Donceles 104. M-Sa 08:00-20:00, Su 10:00-17:00. Tucked away on a side street, this very narrow gem of a church was built in the 1770s and is notable for being an outstanding example of Mexican Churrigueresque architecture. Even more remarkable than the façade, however, are the nine gilt retablos inside. Free.
- 15 Plaza de Santo Domingo (Between the streets of República de Cuba, Brasil and Belisario Dominguez). The second largest square in Centro Histórico after the Zócalo. It is surrounded by various important buildings such as the Palacio de la Inquisición, Santo Domingo convent and the old Customs House.
- 16 Museo de la Medicina Mexicana (Antiguo Palacio de la Inquisición / Palace of the Inquisition), República de Brasil 33, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 09:00-13:00. This museum managed by the Medicine Faculty of the National University now shows the history of health care in Mexico since the 19th century. Features a great replica of an old pharmacy. It is housed in the Inquisition Palace, built between 1732 and 1737, which was the head office of the Holy Inquisition, the religious authority famous for torturing heretic people. Free (photo ID required).
- 17 Plaza Manuel Gamio (Seminario between Moneda and Guatemala streets). Features an open-air diorama of the old Tenochtitlán.
- 18 Plaza Manuel Tolsá, Tacuba 8. In this beautiful square you can find the Palacio de Minería, the National Art Museum and the statue of Spanish king Charles IV also known as El Caballito (the little horse).
- 19 Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL / National Art Museum), Tacuba 8, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-17:30. Housed in the former Palace of Telecommunications, this beautiful Porfirian-style building was built in 1904 by architect Silvio Contri. The museum presents a permanent collection of early Mexican paintings as well as other temporary exhibits. M$38 (adults), free (concessions); free admission on Sundays.
- 20 Palacio de Minería (Palace of Mining), Tacuba 5, ☏ . Guided tours on Sa Su 11:00 and13:00. Formerly the Mining College, this building dated from 1792 features an old library and a chapel. It serves as venue for the yearly Mexico City Book Fair. M$30.
- 21 Plaza de las Tres Culturas, Lázaro Cárdenas Eje (between cross streets Av Ricardo Flores Magón and Manuel González Eje; from the Metro, exit from Garibaldi station (line 8) and walk north on Lázaro Cárdenas, or from Tlatelolco station (line 3) and walk east on Manuel González). So called because in one city square you can see three different time periods of Mexico City's development mixed together: the pre-hispanic Aztec temple grounds of Tlatelolco, the 16th-century Spanish Church of Santiago, and a modern 20th-century skyscraper, now home of the University Cultural Center Tlatelolco (CCUT) for UNAM.
- 22 Zona Arquelógica Tlatelolco (Tlatelolco Archaeological Site) (entrance is on Lázaro Cárdenas). Daily English language tours at 13:00. The temple, like Tenochtitlan's Templo Mayor, was built in several layers and is now the site of continuing archaeological exploration; it occupies the largest amount of area, on the north and west side of the plaza. If you're not around for the tour, you can guide yourself along the path (complete with English plaques) that takes you through the ruins, which deposits you in front of the Church of Santiago, on the east side of the plaza. Free.
- 23 Templo de Santiago (Church of Santiago). The colonial church, built by Spaniards immediately after destroying the temple in their conquest of Aztec lands, was constructed using stones "borrowed" from the temple itself. Despite its weathered appearance, the interior is well-maintained and should still hold regular Mass, although doors may not always be open to the public.
- 24 Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco, Ricardo Flores Magón 1, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. To the south, you'll see the modern-day tower and its adjacent buildings, which were built for the Secretary of External Relations (SRE), now headquartered across the street (though they still have offices in the church's adjoining cloister). UNAM runs the building as a conference hall and cultural center, and has a few exhibits open to the public: Memorial 68 (see Museums, below) and the Blaisten Collection, showcasing modern art.
Mexico City prides itself in having the largest number of museums in the world, and most of these museums are in Centro Historico. Highly recommended are the Museo Nacional de Arte, Museo del Templo Mayor and Museo Franz Mayer. Remember most museums are closed on Mondays.
- 25 [dead link] Museo Franz Mayer (Franz Mayer Museum), Hidalgo 45, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 10:00-19:00. Housed in a 18th century building, houses the largest and finest collection of decorative arts in Mexico. The collection, including objects from Mexico, Europe and Asia ranging from the 16th to the 19th century was a donation of German-Mexican philantropist Franz Mayer. M$45 (adults), M$25 (students/teachers), free (seniors/children under 12/museum members).
- 26 Museo José Luis Cuevas (Museo JLC / José Luis Cuevas Museum), Academía 13, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. Housed in the former convent of Santa Ines built in 1600. The museum's collection features works by Mexican artist Jose Luis Cuevas and also presents some works from Picasso and Rembrandt. M$20 (adults), M$10 (students/teachers).
- 27 Academía de San Carlos (Museo Nacional de San Carlos / Academy of San Carlos), Academía 22, ☏ . Housed in a building dated 1785 that was conceived as the Royal Academy of Beaux Arts. It is administered by the National University and features permanent and temporary painting collections.
- 28 Museo Mural Diego Rivera, Puente de Alvarado 50, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. This museum was built to house Diego Rivera's famous mural Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central ('Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central'), which the painter created for the Hotel del Prado in 1947-1948. The hotel was destroyed in the earthquake of 1985, but the mural survived and was moved to this location. The museum also hosts permanent and temporary exhibits. M$35 (adults), free (students/teachers), photo permit M$5.
- 29 Museo Nacional de la Estampa (MUNAE / Museum of Graphic Arts), Avda Hidalgo 39 (Plaza de la Santa Veracruz), ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. Features a collection of old engravings and other graphic arts. M$45 (adults), free (students/teachers/INAPAM members); free admission on Sundays.
- 30 Museo de la Ciudad de México (Museum of the City of Mexico), José María Pino Suárez 30, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Sa 10:00-18:00. This museum presents the history of the city in an 18th century mansion; the building itself is possibly more interesting than the contents. It is believed that a conquistador's house was previously on the site, as evidenced by the southwest cornerstone of an Aztec serpent head likely taken from the Templo Mayor. M$29 (adults), M$14.50 (students/teachers/INAPAM members); free on W.
- 31 [dead link] Memorial del 68, Avda Ricardo Flores Magón 1 (cross street Lázaro Cárdenas Eje; from the metro, exit from Garibaldi station (line 8) and walk north on Lázaro Cárdenas, or from Tlatelolco station (line 3) and walk east on Manuel González). Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. In UNAM's University Cultural Center Tlatelolco (CCUT) at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas (see Landmarks, above), Memorial 68 is a well-put together museum chronicling the events surrounding the police massacre of student protesters at Tlatelolco in 1968, around the time of the Summer Olympics, which were hosted in Mexico City that year. It's definitely worth a look, but all explanatory text and video interviews are in Spanish only, so brush up your vocabulary or bring a translator. M$30 (adults), M$15 (students), free (children under 6); free admission on Su.
- 32 Museo Memoria y Tolerancia (Museum of Memory and Tolerance), Plaza Juárez, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-F 09:00-18:00, Sa Su 10:00-19:00; last tickets sold ½ hr before closing. Opened in 2010, this museum is dedicated to the remembrance of genocides and crimes against humanity committed around the globe, with the goal of promoting peace and tolerance. Separate sections of the museum are devoted to the Holocaust, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge, Darfur, Armenia, and Guatemala. M$75 (adults), M$60 (students/teachers/seniors); temporary exhibits: M$30 (adults), M$15 (concessions).
- 33 Museo de la Indumentaria Mexicana, Izazaga and 5 de Febrero (In Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana). Collection of traditional Mexican clothing.
- 34 Museo del Calzado El Borceguí (El Borceguí Shoe Museum), C/ Bolivar 27, 1st Floor. M-F 10:00-14:00 15:00-18:00, Sa 10:00-18:00. Private collection of old shoes from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The museum belongs to the shoe store El Borcegui, established in 1865 and still selling shoes today. Free.
- 35 Museo Nacional de las Culturas (National Museum of Cultures), C/ Moneda 13, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00. Housed in the former Mint building built in 1734. The museum is dedicated to anthropology of the world. Free.
- 36 Centro Cultural de España en México (CCEMx / Cultural Center of Spain in Mexico), República de Guatemala 18, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-F 11:00-21:00, Sa 10:00-21:00, Su 10:00-16:00. This is the official cultural center from the Spanish Embassy and features temporary exhibits. Free.
- 37 Museo de San Ildefonso (Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso / San Ildefonso College), Justo Sierra 16, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu 10:00-20:00, W-Su 10:00-18:00. Managed by the National University, this museum features great permanent and temporary exhibits. M$50 (adults), M$25 (students/teachers), free (children under 12); free admission on Tu.
- 38 Museo del Estanquillo (Museum of the Little Shop), Isabel La Católica 26, ☏ . W-M 10:00-18:00. One of the newest museums in the city, this contains the personal collection of paintings, photography, and books of the Mexican journalist and writer Carlos Monsivais.
- 39 Museo de la Caricatura (Caricature Museum), C/ Donceles 99, ☏ . Daily 10:00-18:00. Depicting the history of Mexican cartoons (political and amusing cartoons). M$20 (adults), M$10 (students/teachers).
- 40 Museo de la Luz (Museum of Light), El Carmen 31 (corner with San Ildefonso), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 09:00-17:00, Sa Su and holidays 10:00-17:00. Managed by the National University, this museum is mostly for students on everything to do with light (photography, electricity, vision, etc). M$35 (adults), M$25 (concessions), free (children under 2).
- 41 Museo de la Charrería (Ex Templo de Nuestra Señora de Montserrat), José María Izazaga 89 (near Isabel La Católica), ☏ . This museum features everything about the Mexican Cowboy, known as Charro.
- 42 Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), Avenida Juárez and Eje Central, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 10:00-18:00; last admission ½ hr before closing. Designed by Italian architect Adamo Boari. Construction started in 1905, however due to the Revolution War, it was not completed until 1934. The building is so heavy that it has sunk 4½m into the former lakebed. It is considered to be one of the best examples of Mexican Art Deco architecture; architectural and interior features include its copper cupolas and a Tiffany stained-glass stage curtain designed by Mexican painter Gerardo Murillo. Free (lobby), M$60 for mezzanine with murals and galleries; $M30 photography permit; free admission on Sundays.
- The main attraction for visitors is the building's collection of large murals on the 2nd and 3rd floors, by David Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, and Juan O'Gorman. Of these, highlights include Siqueiros' masterpiece Nueva democracia and Rivera's El hombre contralor del Universo, a reproduction of the original commissioned and destroyed by Nelson Rockefeller in New York.
- 43 Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education), Republica de Argentina 28, ☏ . M-F 09:00-17:00. This former convent, built in 1729 and now housing the Education Secretariat, should not be missed by Diego Rivera fans. The building has 124 mural panels extending over two city blocks and filling three levels, with the most elaborate panels on the ground floor. There is also a David Alfaro Siqueiros mural in the main stairwell. Photography permitted, no flash. Free.
- 44 [dead link] Palacio Postal (Palacio de Correos / Correos Mayor), Tacuba 1 (corner of Eje Central and Tacuba.). M-F 08:00-21:00, Sa 08:00-18:00. One of the most beautiful buildings in the country and considered a National Heritage Building. Built in 1906, this European style building houses the main post office. Most of the materials used to build it were brought from Italy. Free.
- 45 Museo Postal, Tacuba 1 (Palacio Postal), ☏ . Daily 10:00-18:00. Housed in the Postal Palace, features old postal stationery and mail boxes.
- 46 Torre Latinoamerica (Latinoamericana Tower), Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 2 (corner of Francisco I Madero St). Daily 09:00-22:00. Construction started in 1948 and was completed in 1956. This was Mexico's first skyscraper, boasting 44 floors and 182 meters. There is an observatory in the 42nd floor. M$120 (observatory).
- 47 Banco de México (Bank of Mexico), Cinco de Mayo and Avda Eje Central. Office of the Mexican Central Bank, built in 1925.
- 48 Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación (Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation) (Pino Suarez and Corregidora). This building was completed in 1945 and was designed by architect Antonio Muñoz Garcia.
- 49 [dead link] Centro de la Imagen, Plaza de la Ciudadela 2 (entrance on Calle Balderas), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 10:00-18:00. This is one of Mexico City's premier exhibition spaces for photography, with rotating exhibits of work by Mexican and international photographers. The center also has a small bookstore. Free.
- 50 Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada (Library of Miguel Lerdo de Tejada), República de El Salvador 49, ☏ . M-F 09:00-17:30. This Baroque building was built as a church, but in the 1960s was repurposed to house a library. For visitors the primary interest is a series of enormous murals painted by the Russian emigré painter Vladimir Kibalchich Russakov (known in Mexico simply as Vlady). The murals in the main room are titled La Revolución y los Elementos (or 'Revolution and the Elements'). They required eight years to complete and are considered to be among the artist's most well-known works. Free.
- 51 Biblioteca de México José Vasconcelos, Plaza de la Ciudadela No 4, ☏ . Daily 08:30-19:30. Located in a former tobacco factory, it is one of the largest libraries in the city. It contains several beautiful courtyards and smaller libraries decorated according to the character of different Mexican authors who donated their book collections to the library. Free.
- 52 Biblioteca Vasconcelos, Eje 1 norte Mosqueta s/n (corner of Aldama), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 08:30-19:30. Next to Buenavista train station, it is the largest library in Mexico and functions as a central library for other libraries in the country. It is housed in an impressive modern building filled with artworks and book shelves that hang from the ceiling. The ground floor houses free temporary exhibits and the grounds include a botanical garden with native plants. Free.
Other interesting adjacent neighborhoods
- 53 Colonia San Rafael. Colonia San Rafael is just 1 km west of the historic city center. It was established in the late 19th century as one of the first formal neighborhoods outside of the city center and initially catered to the wealthy of the Porfirio Díaz era. These early residents built large mansions, many with French influence, and many still remain. This neighbourhood has now a large number of movie theatres and Museums (El eco, El Chopo, El Museo Nacional San Carlos) and galleries Yautepec, La 77, @ El patio 77 B&B, Hilario Galguera.
- 54 Colonia Santa María la Ribera. A colonia in the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City, 2 km west of the historic center. This area was designated as a "Barrio Mágico" by the city in 2011 and it was created in the late 19th century. The colonia reached its height between 1910 and 1930. In the 1930s, the middle class moved in and a new era of construction began. Today, the colonia is a mix of old mansions and homes (with over 1,000 categorized has having architectural or historic value), small shops and businesses, tenements and abandoned buildings. The colonia has one major park Alameda and museums (Museo de Antropologia, Museo de Geologia de la UNAM as well as reopened Chopo museum housed in a cathedral like building, it is undergoing a dramatic modernist makeover by Enrique Norten, the star architect who lives in Mexico City and New York.
Until the 1950s the Centro Histórico was the main shopping district of the city. Many of the prestigious department stores of the country such as Liverpool and El Palacio de Hierro opened their first stores here. Today, the area is still one of the busiest shopping areas of the city. The area has several streets dedicated to a particular kind of shopping, something inherited from the Spanish. Shopping in the Centro is a real back-in-time experience as many of the spaces where the stores are located are truly historic.
- 1 Mercado de la Merced (La Merced Market), bounded by Santa Escuela, General Anaya, Rosario, and Cerrado del Rosario (metro La Merced). Daily 06:00-18:00. One of the largest and most famous markets in Mexico, La Merced was built in 1890 and covers several blocks. Mainly sells food and household items; if you're looking to cook for yourself or just want to wander aisles of stalls selling cheap limes or huitlacoche, this is the place to go. Foreigners will stick out a bit, but not excessively
- 2 Mercado de Sonora (Witches' Market), Av Fray Servando Teresa de Mier (corner of Calz de la Viga). Daily 08:00-17:00. One of the more interesting markets, this specializes in traditional medicines, as well as paraphernalia for Santa Muerte and voodoo. Endangered animals are also sold here, and the market is regularly raided by the police. The area is not as safe as the higher-class neighborhoods to the west; exercise caution.
- 3 Mercado de San Juan. Daily. Specializing in gourmet foods, this market is frequented by many of Mexico City's top chefs. On offer are many foods imported from Europe and elsewhere, including such specialties as European cheeses, Spanish and Italian sausage, and pre-Hispanic foods.
- 4 [dead link] Mercado de Artesanías de San Juan (San Juan Arts and Crafts Market), Ayuntamiento s/n, ☏ . Daily 10:00-16:00. Vendors here sell a full range of Mexican handicrafts from across the country, including pottery, textiles, carving, leatherwork, and jewelry.
- 5 Mercado de la Ciudadela (Ciudadela Market), C Balderas 97, ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-19:00, Su 09:00-18:00. Tourist-oriented handicrafts market, cleaner, emptier, and more expensive than the other markets in the city, with crafts from all over Mexico.
- 6 Mercado Lagunilla (La Lagunilla), Prolongación Paseo de la Reforma and Francisco Bocanegra (just past Eje 1 Norte). Su 10:00-16:00. This huge street market features antiques and other new goods such as clothing, crafts, food, jewelry and toys. It is considered safe to stroll in this street market, but try to remain in the streets near Francisco Bocanegra and Comonfor, because beyond that the market eventually blends into Tepito, another market which is a lot less safe.
- Avenida de República de Salvador. The first half of the street (from Avenida Eje Central Avenue to Avenida Isabel la Católica) specializes in all sorts of electronics. From spare and parts (speakers, wiring, transistors) to complete home theater systems, audio mixers and lighting for dance clubs. The other half of the street (from Isabel la Católica) specializes in stationery and paper.
- Avenida Eje Central. You will notice that this street is full of street vendors. Be careful, the area is extremely crowded making it a paradise for pickpockets. Between the streets of República del Salvador and República de Uruguay, there is a shopping center known as 7 Plaza de la Tecnología as well as the 8 Plaza de Computación. Both are enormous indoor markets of little stalls hawking computer parts and electronics.
- Calle del Artículo 123. Specializes in appliances, from spare and parts to industrial vacuums and blenders.
- Calle Victoria. Specializes in lighting, from wiring and electric outlets to chandeliers and lamps.
- Calle de Donceles. Specializes in photography.
- Calle de República de Cuba. Specializes in printing (books, posters, thesis). In this street there are a few libraries selling very old books (18th and 19th centuries).
- 9 Barrio Chino, Calle Dolores. This street has become a pedestrian-only street full of Chinese restaurants and stores.
- 10 El Palacio de Hierro, Avda 20 de Noviembre 3 (on the corner of Venustiano Carranza), ☏ , toll-free: . This department store was established in 1891. The name of this store, (The Iron Palace) was named like that after it was the first iron and steel building in the city.
- 11 Liverpool (originally El Puerto de Liverpool), Venustiano Carranza 92, ☏ . M-Sa 11:00-21:00, Su 11:00-20:30. This department store is housed in an Art-Deco building that was built in the late 1920s.
- 12 Sanborns (Casa de los Azulejos), Francisco I Madero 4, ☏ . Daily. This department store and restaurant is housed in the former residency of the Counts of the Valley of Orizaba, and is a must-see for any visitor to Mexico City. Revolutionist Emiliano Zapata had breakfast here during his entrance to Mexico City in September 1916. This was the first store of the Mexican Sanborns chain, founded by the Sanborn brothers, American immigrants in Mexico City and later sold to Walgreens in 1946 and then to Grupo Carso in 1985. There are more than 100 Sanborns stores in the country today.
- 13 Sanborns (Casa Boker), Isabel la Católica 35 (corner of 16 de Septiembre), ☏ . Daily. This department store is housed in a building completed in 1900 named 'Casa Boker' after a warehouse store with that name that still occupies part of the building.
- 14 [dead link] El Nuevo Mundo, Venustiano Carranza 72 (corner of 5 de Febrero), ☏ . Still contains old fashioned practices such as old-style shopping processes. When decide to buying something, the salesman will prepare a small receipt, then you take it to the cashier to pay.
- 15 C&A, Venustiano Carranza 79 (corner of 5 de Febrero), ☏ . Daily 11:00-21:00. Netherlands-based department store fashion retailer.
- 16 Pastelería Ideal (La Ideal), República de Uruguay 74, ☏ . Daily 06:30-21:30. Established in 1927. This is a good place for traditional bread, pastries and desserts. Ask for Danes de Chocolate, the place's delicacy.
- 17 Pastelería Ideal (La Ideal), Av 16 de Septiembre 18, ☏ . Daily 06:30-21:30. Another branch of the famous bakery. On the 1st floor is an interesting exhibit of the types of cakes they can create on commission, many of them outrageously decadent.
There are a few shopping malls in and around the Centro Histórico.
- 18 , Avda Insurgentes (corner of Eje 1; metro Buenavista), ☏ . The largest shopping mall close to the centro. Includes a large supermarket.
- 19 Patio Juárez, Avda Juárez (just across from the Alameda Central Park). A small shopping mall.
- 1 Café de Tacuba, Calle de Tacuba 28, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 08:00-23:30. Housed in a former convent, this institution serves up tasty Mexican dishes all day for reasonable prices. It is very popular so arrive early. Menu is in English and Spanish. M$115-180 (mains).
- 2 Cafeteria El Cuadrilatero, Luis Moya 73, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 07:00-20:00. This torteria is owned by former luchador Super Astro, and serves not only tortas but also standard Mexican fare. Their enormous torta Super Gladiator is free if you can eat the whole thing in 15 minutes. M$50+.
- 3 La Opera Bar, Cinco de Mayo 10, ☏ . M-Sa 13:00-24:00, Su 13:00-18:00. This restaurant has been serving Mexican food since the early 1900s and retains the same furniture since then. When you get there, look up to the ceiling, as you will see the famous gun shot accidentally fired by Pancho Villa.
- 4 [dead link] Café el Popular, Cinco de Mayo 52, ☏ . Daily 24 hrs. A quintessential breakfast joint offering a range of tasty egg dishes for well under US$4 and surrealistically low chrome ceilings.
- 5 Dulcería de Celaya, Cinco de Mayo 39, ☏ . Daily 10:30-19:30. This confectionery shop sells old fashioned sweets. It was established in 1874 and still has its original cabinets from that age.
- Ostionería Las Palmas (in Centro). Fantastic ceviche, superior huachinango al ajillo; everything very fresh, very tasty and very inexpensive.
- 6 La Terraza, Francisco I Madero 73, ☏ . Daily 07:00-23:00. Restaurant on the roof of the Hotel Majestic overlooking the Zócalo, with stunning panoramic views of the city.
- 7 El Huequito, Av Bolivar 58 (corner of Republica del Salvador), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 08:00-23:00. This taco joint is good if you want to try tacos al pastor, as featured in Anthony Bourdain's Mexico show.
- 8 El Ehden, Venustiano Carranza 148, 2nd floor, ☏ . Daily 13:00-18:00. This restaurant is favored by the local Mexican-Lebanese community, many of whom still own the small businesses and textile shops in the immediate area. It serves a range of standard Lebanese dishes, including an excellent mezze.
- 9 El Mayor, Calle República de Argentina #15 (entrance via a lift by the gift shop on the ground floor), ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 09:00-18:30, Su 10:00-18:30. A newer rooftop establishment with great seating overlooking the Templo Mayor, this restaurant specializes in creative twists to traditional Mexican dishes. It's very popular for lunch, so it's best to arrive early. M$150+ mains.
- 10 Hostería de Santo Domingo, Belisario Domínguez 70-72, ☏ . M-F 09:00-22:30, Su 09:00-21:00. Housed in a former inn, this restaurant opened in 1860 and is the oldest restaurant in Mexico City. It serves classic traditional Mexican dishes in a lively atmosphere, and is very popular with residents. M$120+ mains.
The Centro Histórico is the best place to partake in traditional cantina fare, including drinks where light meals and appetizers, called botanas, are served alongside for free. There are cantinas everywhere in the neighborhood, all with interesting historical significance, live music, and interesting business types from the area. They are typically a male hangout, but women are accepted and safe, just be prepared to get some special attention if you show up. For nonalcoholic refreshments, juguerias selling twenty kinds of smoothies from M$25 are found on nearly every block during the day.
- 1 Salón Tenampa, Plaza Garibaldi 12 (in the corner of Plaza Garibaldi), ☏ . Su-Th 13:00-01:00, F Sa 13:00-02:00. The original and most famous Mexican cantina, traditional home to the bohemians and mariachis of the 40s and 50s. Huge selection of tequila and mezcal, light Mexican food, and mariachi bands.
- 1 El patio 77, García Icazbalceta, 77, Col San Rafael (3 blocks from metro station San Cosme, line #2 blue), ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. El patio 77 is the first eco-friendly B&B in Mexico City. This only 8 rooms' eco-friendly B&B is a huge French style mansion from the 19th century. US$70-105 + tax.
- 2 Casa de los Amigos, Ignacio Mariscal 132, Col Tabacalera (one block south of Metro station Revolución, line #2 blue), ☏ , , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Established in the 1950s by the Quaker community in Mexico City, the Casa continues to be actively involved in local activities with a stated mission of promoting peace and international understanding. They run an affordable guest house (with either private rooms or dorm beds) with a two-night minimum, and is popular with international students or volunteers on extended stays, though there are still many who are "just tourists." M$100/night for dorm bed, M$250/night for private room (shared bath), M$350 for private room/bath.
- 3 Hostel Mundo Joven Catedral, República de Guatemala 4 (north side of Catedral main square, metro Zócalo, line #2 blue), ☏ , toll-free: 01 800 823 2410, ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. A clean and safe hotel in a perfect location. Some rooms have partial views of the rear of the cathedral, but these are noisy due to the church bells. While rooms are quite simple, everything looks and feels fresh. Discount with a Hosteling International card. Dorm from M$182, private from 312.
- 4 Hotel Principal, Calle de Bolívar 29, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Clean, friendly, and well run hotel with a range of rooms. Most overlook a quiet inner courtyard. Doubles from a little over US$20.
- 5 Best Western Hotel Majestic, Av Madero 73, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The location is great, the rooms are clean and comfortable but the service is vaudevillian. The restaurant on the top floor has a superb view of the Cathedral and Presidential Palace but the food isn't worthy of the atmosphere. US$120 double.
- Hostel Moneda, Moneda 8 (One block away from the Zocalo.), ☏ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Cheap and lively hostel with a good bar on the top floor, free buffet breakfast and dinner and free internet access. It's a good place for backpackers looking to party and it has a small book exchange. Rooms are basic but clean with bathrooms accessible from the dorms. Staff is helpful and speak English. from M$160 (6-bed dorm for more than 4 nights).
- Hotel Tuxpan, Republica de Colombia (near the intersection with Republica de Brasil). A very good deal that is only a few blocks to the Zocalo. Clean with cable TV, nice restrooms, and mirrors on the ceiling. Only M$110 a night.
- Hotel Virreyes, Izazaga 8, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A former luxury hotel turned funky backpacker hostel, the Virreyes has spacious rooms, albeit with simple thrift furniture and a lobby that turns into a cinema, music spot and a place to hang. Former Virreyes occupants include Hollywood stars Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie and Mexican prizefighter Kid Azteca.
- Hotel de Cortes, Avda Hidalgo 85 (Col Guerrero), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 13:00. This charming and atmospheric inn has lodged travellers since its beginnings as a hostel for Augustinian missionaries. The former friars' quarters are comfortable, and continuing renovations and polishing are pleasing to those seeking a unique experience. Has an on-site restaurant, private parking, and free Wi-Fi. US$92+.
- Hotel Juarez, 1A Cjon De Cinco de Mayo 17. Just east of the intersection of 5 de Mayo and Isabel la Catolica, a well taken care of budget hotel. Large rooms, TV, phone (free local calls) and private bathroom, very central location. Rooms may not all have windows.
- Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de Mexico, Plaza de la Constitucion (Zocalo). Also known as "Centro Mercantil", this building built in 1899 was once a luxurious shopping center. It was converted into a hotel in 1966. The lobby of this place was featured in the film "Frida".
- Hostel Mexico City, República de Brasil #8 (northwest corner of Catedral Metropolitana, metro Allende or Zócalo, line #2 blue), ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Close to the Zócalo in the Historic Center. Breakfast included, Internet, laundry, lockers, tours and tourist information. Dorm from M$140, private from M$250.
Overall, walking in the Centro Historico is safe, although shops close down noticeably earlier than in most places, and the streets begin to become quiet by 21:00 most nights. The Centro becomes ritzier going west toward the Zona Rosa, and grittier going east toward the Merced and Sonora markets. A conservative suggestion would be to avoid the areas east of the Zócalo after dark.