Mexico’s colonial history is best represented in one immense and ornate building: The Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. It was the first cathedral to be built in the Americas by the conquering Spaniards who wanted to show their domination and that of their culture and beliefs over those of the indigenous Aztec people. And they did so by building this large religious complex near Templo Mayor, the main temple where the Aztecs used to worshipped their gods. Today, the largest and oldest cathedral in Latin America remains a symbol of religious and colonial power, but it is also an impressive piece of architecture — and it is very much worth visiting.
- Where is the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City?
- How do I get to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral?
- When was the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral built?
- Why is the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral so famous?
- When is mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City?
- Is there an entrance fee to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral?
- Is there a dress code to enter the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City?
- Can you go inside the bell towers of the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral?
- The best hotels near the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City?
Where is the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City?
The Metropolitan Cathedral is located in Mexico City’s Historic Center (Centro Historico), a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cathedral is a 10-minute walk from the Palacio de Bellas Artes (the city’s most prominent performance space), and a 20-minute walk from the Diego Rivera Mural Museum (one of Mexico’s most celebrated artists).
There are several significant museums around the cathedral, including the Templo Mayor Museum which is dedicated to the Aztecs, and the Museum of the City of Mexico, among others.
How do I get to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral?
Hop into the line two train of the STC metro and stop at the Zócalo/tenochtitlan, the closest metro station to the cathedral. From there it’s a three-minute walk. The Line two of the STC metro is colored blue on the Mexico City metro map.
When was the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral built?
Construction on the Metropolitan Cathedral started in 1573 with Spanish architect Claudio de Arciniega. It was completed in 1813, 240 years later, by Manuel Tolsá. The first stone is said to have been laid by Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador responsible for the fall of the Aztec Empire, who commissioned the cathedral.
The Metropolitan Cathedral was built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, next to Templo Mayor, the main temple of the Aztec people, and on top of a small Aztec temple dedicated to Xitle or Quetzalcoatl. Materials from the Aztec structures that stood there have been used for the construction of the cathedral.
Why is the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral so famous?
The Metropolitan Cathedral is famous for many reasons:
- It was the first cathedral to be built in the Americas.
- Today, it is the largest and oldest cathedral in Latin America.
- It was built as a symbol of colonial and religious power on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire which fell at the hand of the Spanish conquistadors.
- Since its construction, the cathedral has been sinking in the weak, spongy soil below. A $33-million project to rescue the building from collapse was completed with success in the early 21st century.
- While the size and the grand architecture of the cathedral (a mix of three styles: Neoclassical, Renaissance, and baroque) is the first thing that catches the eyes of visitors, inside is just as impressive. The interior of the cathedral, with its 16 chapels, is highly decorated with opulent sculptures, paintings, furniture, altars, organs, and more.
When is mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City?
Mass is held several times daily, every few hours, starting at 9:30 AM during the week and 8:00 AM on Sundays.
Is there an entrance fee to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral?
Entering the cathedral is free, but you will need to pay a small fee if you want to tour the bell towers and make a donation to see the stunning Sacristía Mayor and the crypt, all of which are well worth the money.
Is there a dress code to enter the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City?
There is no specific dress code to enter the cathedral, but much like in other religious buildings around the world (the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul, the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, or St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City), it is recommended to wear modest clothing. Cover your legs above the knees and your shoulders (no short shorts, no tank tops, etc.) and remove your hat.
Can you go inside the bell towers of the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral?
The Metropolitan Cathedral has two 213-foot-tall bell towers housing a total of 25 bells. You can take a tour of both bell towers for a small fee. Tours depart every 40-50 minutes. Maintenance to the cathedral is ongoing and access to the bell towers may be restricted if repairs are being done.
The best hotels near the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City?
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Gran Hotel Ciudad De Mexico
Famous throughout the world for its Art Nouveau building and glorious 1908 Tiffany stained-glass, the Gran Hotel Ciudad De Mexico is also celebrated for its stand-out location: It is on Zócalo, the main square in Mexico City where the cathedral stands. Being a four-star property, this historic hotel offers elegantly decorated rooms and suites, some of which come with incredible views on the Historic Center. If you don’t manage to score a room with a view, try out the rooftop terrace restaurant to get an eyeful of CDMX’s legendary beauty. There’s no pool on site, but there is a gym for the guests who feel inclined to work out during their stay.
While located in Mexico City’s Historic Center, just behind the cathedral, Círculo Mexicano is a stylish contemporary boutique hotel. Located on the second and third floors of a converted 19th-century residential building, this hotel embraces modern minimalism to create a beautiful and serene property. There are only twenty-five rooms and suites, all of which feature Mexican handcrafted textiles, organic bathroom amenities, wireless speakers, rain showers, and free WiFi. Eighteen of the twenty-five rooms and suites have their own patio, and the rest have a balcony with views of the Metropolitan Cathedral. There’s a rooftop terrace with a pool and the celebrated Comedor Mexicano restaurant.
Design Hotel MUMEDI
Located a three-minute walk from the cathedral and a five-minute walk to the subway station, the Design Hotel MUMEDI is a small boutique hotel that features modern decor and art in all its spacious rooms and suites. Free breakfast is offered daily and there is a Mexican restaurant on site for high tea and brunch. All the rooms have a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a mini-fridge-bar, and a bathroom fitted with a walk-in shower and a separate toilet. Spa treatments are available for guests.