Mexico City/Centro

The Cathedral

The old city center or Centro Historico of Mexico City, centered around the Plaza de la Constitucion, 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 amount of stores, street vendors, and especially crowds. Without a doubt, this area is one of the most popular areas in Mexico City.


The Centro Historico, 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 large amount 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.

Get in

Bike Day

Every Sunday Ave. 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 Ave. 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.

Government web page that advises on routes that will be closed to vehicular traffic:

By metro

This is probably the best way to reach the Centro Historico, 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 Historico with the rest of the city.

By Turibus

The hop-in hop-off double-decker bus makes a stop just north of the Zocalo in Monte de Piedad street in the west side of the cathedral. The one-day pass costs $140 MXN ($160 MXN for English version of the excursion – do not forget to ask for your headphone!).

By Metrobús

Line 4 (orange) of the Metrobús system has two branches that ride through the Centro Histórico. Both branches run from the Buenavista train station to the San Lazaro station adjacent to the East bus terminal (TAPO). In both branches there are a few speciallly marked buses that will continue beyond San Lazaro to Mexico City's airport, serving both terminals. Buses going to or coming from the airport charge $30 MXN instead of the regular Metrobús fare (6 pesos).

By trolley bus

The Trolley Bus rides along Eje Central Avenue. Ask the driver to drop you off at Madero street.

By car

This is the least recommended way to get around Centro Historico 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 Juarez, or if you're coming from the south, you can reach through Calzada de Tlalpan which later becomes 20 de Noviembre Avenue.

There are several parking lots in the area (valet service) that charge $14 MXN an hour. A non-valet but expensive parking lot is available at Bellas Artes.

Get around

On foot

The best way to get around the Centro Historico is definitely by foot. All tourist attractions are within walking distance.

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.

By pedicab

There are a few pedicabs that can carry you within the Centro Histórico.


Historic sites

Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo)
Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan
Diego Rivera murals at the Palacio Nacional
Palacio de Iturbide

Religious buildings


Plaza de Santo Domingo
Plaza Manuel Tolsá
Zona Arquelógica Tlatelolco


Apothecary display at Museo Franz Mayer
Museo de la Ciudad de México

Mexico City prides itself in having the largest number of museums in the world, and most of these museums are located 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.

Art museums

History museums

Garment museums

Other museums

Other attractions

Palacio de Bellas Artes
Palacio Postal
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. Free (lobby), $50 MXN for mezzanine with murals and galleries; free admission on Sundays.

Other interesting adjacent neighborhoods


Until the 1950s, the Centro Historico 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 Historico is a real back-in-time experience as many of the spaces where the stores are located are truly historical.


La Merced
Santa Muerte items for sale at Mercado de Sonora

Specialized streets

Department stores

The original Sanborns store, in the historic Casa de los Azulejos


Cakes on display at Pasteleria Ideal

La Lagunilla

Near Centro Historico, around 5 km lie a huge street market:

Shopping malls

There are a few shopping malls in and around the Centro Histórico:


Café de Tacuba
Chiles en nogada, one of the signature dishes of Hostería de Santo Domingo


Centro Historico 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.


Stay safe

Overall, walking in the Centro Historico is safe. The best recommendation is to avoid those streets with an excessive amount of street vendors. Use your common sense.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 19, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.