dusk near Cuernavaca

dusk near Cuernavaca

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Walking Tour of Mexico City

For any readers who are planning a first time visit to Mexico City, I present to you here a walking tour that takes in many of the major sights.  The photos are from my wanderings around the city on my most recent trip.  I have written about most of these places in previous posts, but perhaps this will put those sights into a logical order.  

The route is 1.5 miles long and takes about 30 minutes to walk, but if you visit all the places of interest along the way it would comprise a full day (or more) of sightseeing.  Although the street changes names several times, it is a straight line heading from west to east, and it would be impossible for you to get lost.

(image from the web)
If you are staying in the Condesa, Roma, or Zona Rosa neighborhoods, take the Metrobus north along Insurgentes Avenue (take any "Buenavista" or "Indios Verdes" bus).  Get off at the "Plaza de la República" station.  As you leave the station, turn to your right to cross the avenue.  Immediately at the next corner turn right, and you will be face to face with the first point of interest along the route... the Monument to the Revolution.
This massive structure was originally planned as a legislative palace by dictator Porfirio Diaz.  Work had begun on the central dome of the palace, but construction was halted with the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.   Years later, the uncompleted project was turned into a monument honoring the revolution that toppled Díaz.
If you are a history buff, the Museum of the Revolution located beneath the monument might be of interest to you.  Or you can take the elevator into the dome for excellent views of the city. 
The monument reflected in a nearby office building
Leaving the monument behind you, continue down Avenida de la República, lined with palm trees and Mexican flags.


You will soon come to this art deco building which stands at a major intersection.  It is the National Lottery Building.

Next to the Lottery building and in front of a modern office tower is a large abstract sculpture which is called "El Caballito" (The Little Horse).  Actually it should be called "El Caballito 2", because at this intersection once stood a 19th century, neo-classical equestrian statue.  (In an earlier post about the sculptor Manuel Tolsá, I described the strange history of the original "Caballito".)

You are now going to cautiously cross the intersection with the wide boulevard known as "El Paseo de la Reforma".   It is one of the city's most important thoroughfares, and deserves a walking tour of its own.

After crossing the intersection, the street is now known as Juarez Avenue.  This area was badly hit by the disastrous earthquake of 1985.  It is only recently that the avenue has revived with the construction of new buildings such as the high-rise Hilton Hotel.

Beyond the Hilton is a complex of new government office buildings and the Museum of Memory and Tolerance.  The museum is dedicated to the Holocaust and other 20th century genocides.  A visit to this excellent museum is a sobering experience, although the first time visitor may wish to continue on down Juárez Avenue.

Right across the street is the Monument to Benito Juárez, the nation's most beloved President.

The monument stands at the edge of the Alameda Central, a park which dates back to colonial times.  The Alameda was recently refurbished, and is a pleasant place to stroll.

Tucked away at the western end of the Alameda and easily missed is a small museum which is well worth visiting, especially if you are interested in the Mexican mural painters of the 20th century.  Called the "Museo Mural Diego Rivera", it contains a large and important mural painting by Diego Rivera which survived the earthquake of 1985.  It was removed from the a hotel across the street which was severely damaged and later demolished.

At the opposite end of the Alameda Park is one of the city's most important landmarks... the Palace of Fine Arts.  This structure is built of Italian marble, and is the main venue for classical concerts, operas and ballet.  On Wednesdays and Sundays, the world-famous Ballet Folklórico performs in the main theater.  Go inside to admire the lavish art deco interior and to see the collection of mural paintings by some of Mexico's most famous artists.

Catty-corner from the Palace of Fine Arts is the Latin American Tower.  This fifty year old skyscraper was for many years the city's tallest building.  It is considered an engineering triumph because it has gone through several major earthquakes unscathed.  Although the building is showing its age (there are plans to refurbish the exterior), it remains a Mexico City icon.   Take the elevator up to the observation deck for spectacular views of the city.

As you pass the Latin American Tower, the street becomes narrower and changes names again.  It is now Madero Street, and some years ago it was converted into a pedestrian walkway.  We have entered the heart of the city's historic center, and many colonial palaces and churches remain along Madero Street.


Only a few steps away from the Latin American Tower is the historic House of Tiles.  The exterior of this colonial mansion is profusely decorated with ceramic tiles.  Today it is the flagship of the Sanborn's restaurant chain.  In this city which is a center for superb cuisine, Sanborn's is hardly one of the culinary highlights.  However, walk in and see the dining room which is located in the beautiful courtyard of the mansion.

Across the street from the House of Tiles is the Church of San Francisco, all that remains of the colonial Franciscan monastery.  The ornate interior is worth a visit.

Continuing down Madero Street, you come to the Palace of Iturbide.  This former residence of Spanish nobles and later the home of Mexico's first emperor is today owned by Banamex (the Bank of Mexico).  Frequently there are free art exhibits in the courtyard of the palace.  There have been some excellent shows here, so check it out if there is an exhibition.

Madero Street empties in Mexico City's vast main plaza, the "Zocálo", which is exceeded in size only by Moscow's Red Square.

On the north side of the "Zócalo" is the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the Americas.  Constructed over a span of centuries, it is perhaps not the most architecturally harmonious church in Mexico, but both the exterior and the interior are most definitely impressive. 

On the "Zócalo's" east side is the enormous National Palace... once the home of Spanish viceroys and now the headquarters of the executive branch of government.  Go around to the side to enter, and see what are arguably Diego Rivera's most famous murals... a series of paintings depicting the history of Mexico.


This concludes the walking tour.  But beyond the "Zócalo" there are more sights to see.  You could spend another day visiting the archaeological excavations of the Aztec temple just beyond the Cathedral, and the excellent museum next to those ruins, and go a few blocks see more mural paintings at the former seminary of San Idelfonso and the Secretariat of  Education, and visit more colonial gems such as the Church of Santo Domngo.  The list goes on and on.  Mexico City is certainly one of the great cities of the world.


  1. You know, I've never thought about this Monumento a la Revolución to the Zócalo down Juarez and then Madero as a good walking tour, but you're onto something! Straight shot and it captures a lot.


    Kim G
    CDMX, México
    Where we've been to all of those places many times, but not the way you describe.

    1. Thanks, Kim. On my latest trip I didn't feel like taking the Metro downtown, and I thought I would just take the Metrobus to Plaza de la República and walk from there.

  2. This is a great walk. I love the new-and-improved Alameda Central, and the numerous museums in its vicinity.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Scott. This post was probably like a trip through memory lane for you.