The Historic Center is the heart of Mexico City, the starting point for anyone who wants to discover this destination — and a place that never stops surprising us, no matter how many times we have been here. In this area of the Mexican capital there are hundreds of things to do, but definitively there are some experiences that no one should miss.
1. Grab a drink in a cantina that’s been open for over 100 years.
A concept similar to a “cantina” began to appear in Mexico some years after the Independence, but it was during the Porfiriato —the period when Porfirio Díaz was president— when they consolidated as we know them today. During the first years of the 20th century there were more than a thousand cantinas in the city. Today only a few of them survive, and some of the oldest and most traditional are located in the Historic Center.
El Gallo de Oro: Venustiano Carranza and Bolívar.
La Ópera: 5 de mayo and Filomeno Mata.
La Peninsular: Corregidora and Alhóndiga.
2.Walk along Madero Street
This pedestrian street connects the Palace of Fine Arts with the Zócalo, and it’s full of religious temples, cultural sites (like Palacio de Iturbide, Museo del Estanquillo and Museo Mexicano del Diseño), palaces, restaurants, bars and fashion stores. The famous Casa de los Azulejos, which houses a Sanborns (a chain of restaurants with shops), is also located on this street. It’s worth admiring its façade as well as the mural from José Clemente Orozco in the staircase of the restaurant.
3. Have a beer or a mezcal in Regina Street
Regina was recovered and remodeled to become an enjoyable pedestrian street with restaurants and mezcalerías (mezcal bars). It’s quieter than Madero street, so it’s nice just to go and enjoy the afternoon with a beer or mezcal in hand. If you are walking around downtown, it’s an excellent spot to relax.
4. Eat in a terrace with a great view
At street level, the Historic Center can be very chaotic, but the atmosphere changes completely if you look down on it from the heights. To do this, there is nothing better than to eat and have drinks in a terrace with a good view of the heart of the city.
Some of the most popular terraces are in the surroundings of the Zócalo (like the one in Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de México or the one in Balcón del Zócalo restaurant), but, for a change, I recommend La Azotea, a resto bar with a cool vibe and an incredible 360° view, mainly of the Alameda Central. This terrace is located at the top of Chaya, a bed & breakfast in Barrio Alameda mall.
La Azotea: inside Barrio Alameda. Dr. Mora #9, Centro.
5. Admire murals inside a magnificent palace
At Palacio Nacional you will find murals by Diego Rivera, while at Palacio Bellas Artes you can find other murals by him and six other Mexican artists: Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, Jorge González Camarena, Manuel Rodríguez Lozano and Roberto Montenegro.
6. Visit one or more of Mexico City’s incredible museums
In the Historic Center you can find incredible museums of Mexican, contemporary and international art, such as the Museo Nacional De Arte (MUNAL) and the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso. There are also more options like the Laboratorio Arte Alameda, dedicated to the relationship between art and technology.
7. Take a look through the archaeological windows
Mexico City was built by the Spaniards over the Great Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire. That is why on different excavations some archaeological gems and ruins of pre-Hispanic buildings have been found.
Nowadays you can take a look through over 170 archaeological windows in the Historic Center that will give you a glimpse of the past. These windows are scattered all over the area, so if you see one, run and look through it. If you’re around the Cathedral, you will find a couple there, and also inside the Palacio del Arzobispado in Moneda street.
8. Have a hot chocolate at El Moro
This is the most famous place to eat churros and drink hot chocolate in all the city. Although now it has several locations, the original and traditional one — which has been open since 1935 — is in the Historic Center.
Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas #42, Centro.
9. Eat something exotic in Mercado de San Juan
The Mercado de San Juan 78 Arcos De Belén is famous for its gourmet products like fine cheeses, deli meats and wines, but also for offering exotic dishes made with wild boar, lion and even kangaroo meat. Options with insects can also be found here, so would you dare to try a snack with scorpions, worms or grasshoppers?
Ernesto Pugibet #21, Centro.
10. Have a dance in La Ciudadela
If Mexicans like anything, they are dancing and having fun, and this is exactly what happens every Saturday in La Ciudadela. From 11am this public square becomes a great hall where dance lovers, beginners, tourists and people who just pass by, move their feet to the rhythm of danzón, son Cubano, salsa and rock. If you don’t know how to dance this is an excellent place to learn!
Calle Balderas (a few steps from Metro Balderas), Centro.