Prominent Places and Buildings
The National Palace and the Cathedral are the outstanding buildings facing the Zócalo. The National Palace, built on the site of Montezuma's palace, was the home of Spanish viceroys for almost 300 years and of Mexican presidents from 1824 to 1884. It now houses presidential and other government offices and contains Mexico's Liberty Bell, the Benito Juárez Museum, and the National Archives. The Cathedral, begun in 1573 and completed in 1813, combines many architectural styles and is one of the oldest and largest churches in the Western Hemisphere. Also on or near the Zócalo are the Supreme Court; the City Hall; the ruins of the Great Temple, an Aztec structure; and an unusual institution, the National Pawnshop (a pawnshop operated by the government).
Chapultepec Park is one of the prime attractions of Mexico City. It covers more than three square miles (8 km 2)and has widely varying recreational and cultural facilities, including a large zoo, landscaped gardens, woodlands, lakes, fountains, monuments, and several museums. Especially notable are Chapultepec Castle and the National Museum of Anthropology, noted for its exhibits of pre-Columbian artifacts.
Across from the Alameda stands the Palace of Fine Arts, which houses an art museum, the National Theater, the Mexican Symphony Orchestra, and the National Folklore Ballet. Nearby is the 44-story Latin American Tower, tallest building in Mexico City. Several blocks northward is the Plaza of the Three Cultures, honoring Mexico's cultural influences, past and present. It combines Aztec ruins, an early Spanish church, and a large housing project of modern Mexican design.
The National Autonomous University of Mexico, located in the southern part of the city, is the largest university in Mexico and the oldest on the continent (1551). Many of its buildings combine modern architecture with exterior murals by prominent Mexican artists. Also on the campus are the 125,000-seat Olympic Stadium and the Cultural Center, which has an art gallery, library, sculpture garden, and concert hall. Nearby is the suburb of Churubusco, site of the National Center of the Arts, which includes schools for the fine arts, music, film, drama, and dance. There are two bullfight rings in Mexico City, one of which, the Plaza Mexico, is the largest in the world. Soccer, the city's most popular sport, is played in Aztec Stadium. At Xochimilco are the famed floating gardens, a complex of island gardens and canals dating from Aztec times.
At Villa de Guadalupe, in the northeastern part of the city, is the most venerated church in all of Mexico, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was built where, according to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared before an Indian man in 1531. Beyond the city's northeastern limits are the massive Indian pyramids of Teotihuacán.