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Mexico City Zócalo

Photo: Omar

Colonial cities in Mexico were laid out in a grid fashion with a plaza at the center.

The word ‘zócalo’ means ‘pedestal’ and usage dates back to a planned monument that was never completed beyond the pedestal. Nevertheless, the word was used not only to describe Mexico City’s plaza but most plazas throughout the country.

In Mexico City, the Zócalo is the place to go to visit the Templo Mayor, National Palace and National Cathedral and is the heart of the Centro Historico, Mexico City and the nation itself

The Zócalo is bounded on the north by Cinco de Mayo, on the east by Pino Suárez, on the south by 16 de Septiembre and on the West by Monte de Piedad. If you arrive by metro, your first view will be dramatic as you ascend into the public plaza.

While the center of town is becoming greener, there’s not much shade, so bring a hat and some water. If you need to escape the sun, duck into a museum or stand in the spindle of shade created by the flagpole.

National Cathedral
North side of the Zócalo

Cortés used much of the stones from the Aztec capital to construct the church. That church was torn down in 1573 and construction of the Cathedral began in 1573 and was completed in 1667. There are 5 naves and 14 chapels.

National Palace
East side of the Zócalo

The building boasts the murals of Diego Rivera. Inside the palace is a neglected garden and the museum dedicated to Benito Juárez. You will need a photo ID to enter.

Palacio Nacional

Templo Mayor
Northeast corner of the Zócalo

The Templo Mayor is located at the heart of the Aztec empire. Visitors have access to the archaeological site and world-class museum.

City Hall
South side of the Zócalo

Merchants’ Arcade
West side of the Zócalo

Merchants on the west side sell gold jewelry. There are numerous cafés and even a traditional hat shop.

A few words about the Centro
The area was damaged by the 1985 earthquake. That said, the entire centro has received a face-lift the past five years. Buildings have been scrubbed with high-pressure water jets and repainted in pastels. Many of the pedestrian streets have new stone pavement and the sidewalks have been reconstructed. It’s all part of a major renovation.

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