The Zocalo is the epicenter of Mexico’s capital city. The massive square can hold more than 100,000 people, making it one of the largest of its kind in the world. Officially named Plaza de la Constitucion, the Zocalo was once the heart of Tenochtitlan, an ancient Aztec city. You can see the square’s history in the wide variety of architecture, which ranges from pre-Hispanic ruins to palatial structures and modern buildings. Make sure to step into the Zocalo Metro Station, where you can see models of how the square has changed over time.
On the eastern side of the square is the National Palace. This site has served as a home for Mexico’s rulers since the Aztec era, and the building that stands today uses some of the materials from Moctezuma II’s original palace. Visitors can explore some of the National Palace’s rooms, which have been converted into a museum. Be sure to keep your eyes open for artist Diego Rivera’s frescos in the courtyard. The building is also home to the Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, one of Mexico’s grandest libraries, a botanical garden and the president’s private quarters.
The square is a hub for political and cultural events. Centuries ago, the Zocalo was where bull fights were held, and today, it hosts festivals, concerts and outdoor markets. The Independence Parade, held annually in September, features a military procession that goes through Mexico City before ending here. Every morning, military personnel raise a massive Mexican flag that has become symbolic of the historic district. Stop by the square at 6 o’clock, when they ceremoniously lower the flag for the day.
Luxury hotels and fine restaurants flank the Portal de Mercaderes, where you can savor fine dining and quaint shops. Enjoy an aerial view of the Zocalo from the rooftop of the Majestic Hotel or take an afternoon drink at the beautifully preserved Gran Hotel.
The Zocalo is a perfect home base while visiting Mexico City, as it provides historic sightseeing and is easily accessible to the city’s other destinations.