Centro Historico, or simply ‘Centro’, is the historic centre of Mexico City and an area of cultural importance. Many of the 9,000 buildings here were built in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the district features magnificent architecture dating from this era following Spanish invasion. Centro Historico is a World Heritage Site and a must-visit for anyone travelling to Mexico City.
The neighbourhood surrounds the Zocalo, the main plaza of the city and a giant expanse between regal colonial buildings. The square is one of the largest in the world, and is an impressive sight filled to its maximum capacity of over 100,000 people.
The buildings surrounding the plaza are some of the most significant in Mexico City. The Metropolitan Cathedral borders the Zocalo to the north, the oldest and largest Roman Catholic cathedral in the Americas; the National Palace is to the east, stretching across one whole side of the square with an extensive colonial façade; and the magnificent Federal District buildings grace the south. A giant Mexican flag flying in the centre of the Zocalo is ceremoniously raised and lowered every day – this is a great event to stick around and watch.
The site of the Zocalo has been a distinct gathering place for people right back through the centuries to Aztec times. This shows it is possible to see glimpses of the ancient city of Tenochtitlan through the layout of Centro Historico today. For more information on the birth and development of Mexico City, see the History and Culture page.
Events and Attractions
Centro Historico is often the host of national and international events held in the city - one being the Festival de México. This annual celebration of all forms of art is located in venues all over the Centro district, with live performances and shows featuring artists from around the world.
This central area of Mexico City also houses a selection of ancient and quirky attractions, such as the Nacional Monte de Piedad – an extremely large pawn shop dating from 1775. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience something that differs from the average Mexican shop, and makes for an interesting hour or so of browsing.
Centro is also the district that boasts the Templo Mayor archeological site and museum, a must-visit for anyone interested in the ancient Aztec culture. Centro Historico is simply a treasure trove of architectural wonders, museums and sites of enormous historic significance. Reach this district of Mexico City on the metro, by alighting at Zocalo station.