Traveling to Spanish speaking countries is one of the best ways to learn the language and it is also a great motivation for people with adventurous spirits. In this article we will take a look at a few interesting places in Mexico City and we will review a few basic phrases in Spanish that may be useful when visiting these beautiful places.
So, what’s the deal with Mexico City?
We’re talking about one of the biggest cities on the planet. Is the largest city in the country and its most important cultural, educational, financial and political center. It is located at an altitude of 2240 meters (that is about 7351 feet) in the area known as the Valley of Mexico.
Mexico City’s metropolitan area (which includes a few small cities that are all next to each other) is estimated to have more than 21.5 million people, which makes it the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and the third largest in the world (also, it is the biggest Spanish-speaking city on the planet). Not a bad place to practice your Spanish basics, huh?
Now let’s take a look at a few interesting places to visit in Mexico City:
First – Centro Histórico (Historic Center):
The central zone of Mexico City known as Centro Histórico occupies 668 blocks and includes more than 9000 buildings. This area is where the Spaniards began to build Mexico City in the 16th century on the ruins of buildings that belonged to the Aztec empire and it is considered a World Heritage Site. Let’s review a few important places worth visiting around the historic center…
But first, here are a few phrases you may use during your visit to the Historic Center:
- Hola, necesito un poco de ayuda. ¿Tiene un minuto?
- Hi, I need a Little help. ¿Do you have a minute?
- Disculpe, ¿dónde está el Zócalo?
- Excuse me, where is the Zócalo?
- ¿Dónde puedo encontrar el Palacio de Bellas Artes?
- Where can I find the Palace of Fine Arts?
- Disculpe, ¿Dónde hay un baño público?
- Excuse me, where is a public bathroom?
- Disculpe, ¿dónde está un restaurante económico?
- Excuse me, where is an inexpensive restaurant?
Learn more here: Common Phrases in Spanish
Time to learn about the area…
Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Plaza):
This main plaza in the heart of the historic center of the city is also known as “El Zócalo”. It is the second-largest square in the world after the Red Square in Moscow and for centuries has been a gathering place for Mexicans; both for celebrations and protests (and a lot of huge concerts.
El Zócalo fits 100,000 people at the same time). If you want to get here using the “metro” (subway), take “Line 2” and stop at the station “Zócalo”.
Here is a beautiful panoramic view of “El Zócalo”:
…and this i show the “Zócalo” looks when you are walking by (feel free to click and drag to visit it virtually, thank you Google Maps!)…
La Catedral Metropolitana ( Metropolitan Cathedral):
This is considered to be the oldest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the Americas and it was built on top of a former Aztec sacred temple. The Cathedral was built in sections from 1573 to 1813 and it was inspired by Gothic cathedrals in Spain.
This is what the Cathedral looks like:
In this short video you can learn more about the history of this important building (and practice your Spanish at the same time) while taking a look inside of the temple.
In this short clip you can hear one of the cathedral´s beautiful 18th century pipe organ in action:
This is how it looks from the outside when you are walking by (click and drag to look around!):
Palacio Nacional (National Palace):
This is the seat where the Federal Executive resides (in other words, it is where the President´s office is located), right next to “El Zócalo” and it is home to some of the offices of the Federal Treasury and the National Archives.
But that all sounds boring, why is the “Palacio Nacional” worth a visit? Simple, the building is beautiful, very important in the history of Mexico, and it has lots of amazing murals painted by Diego Rivera himself, and yes; you can go inside to see them.
This is what the front of the Palacio Nacional looks like from the street…
This is how they look from inside (This short video explains a little about the mural. You can use it to practice your Spanish, learn about art, and discover some important events in the history of Mexico at the same time!):
This is how the “Palacio Nacional” looks from outside (click and drag, walk around, it’s fun!)
Second – Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts)
After looking around “El Zócalo” for a few hours, you can walk a few blocks to visit the beautiful Palacio de Bellas Artes (about 7 blocks west, that is, left from El Zócalo if you are facing the Cathedral). This beautiful architectural jewel (that includes Neoclassical, Art Noveau and Art Deco design elements) was completed in 1934 and it is considered the most important cultural center in Mexico.
This is what the Palacio de Bellas Artes looks like from the street…
Get an idea of what standing in front of the “Palacio de Bellas Artes” feels like with this short and authentic video:
This is what it looks like from the street (click and drag, look around!)
Third – Ciudad Universitaria (University City):
This is one of those interesting places that is often ignored by tourists. But it is a great adventure for those who enjoy walking around. If you want to get here using the “metro” (the subway), you can use “Line 3 (Green)” and stop at “Copilco” Station. Bring comfortable shoes, this campus is HUGE (seriously!).
The campus was completed in 1954 and to this day, it is the largest university in Latin America. The building of the “Biblioteca Central” is particularly interesting and it is worth contemplating. It is surrounded by a magnificent mural made using thousands of colored tiles that were brought from many different parts of the country because of the large amount and variety of colors required.
The north wall of the library represents the pre-Hispanic past of Mexican culture and contains a representation of what Mexico City originally looked like. The south wall represents the colonial past. The East wall deals with the contemporary world (as it was in the 1950s) and the west wall focuses on the University and modern-day Mexico. It certainly is a unique work of art that challenges the visitor´s mind with an elegant contrast between modern architecture and ancient art techniques.
This is one of the central library looks like (remember, it is not painted. It is made of thousands of individual tiles):
This is what the tiles looks like from a short distance…
This is what the library looks from inside…
This campus is an important place in Mexico’s modern history, many thought leaders went to school here and it has been the center of important scientific discoveries and protests (for example, the Inauguration ceremony of the Olympics back in 1968 happened here). It is a place definitely worth a visit.
Here are a few photos from around the Campus…
A few phrases you may use during your visit are:
- Disculpe, ¿dónde está la Biblioteca Central?
- Excuse me, where is the Central Library?
- Hola, ¿Dónde está la estación del metro más cercana?
- Hi, where is the nearest metro station?
- Disculpe, ¿dónde está la salida?
- Excuse me, where is the exit?
Learn more here: Common Phrases in Spanish
This video gives us a short tour through “Ciudad Universitaria”:
This short musical video showcases a few of the Works of art inside the premises (some are architectural jewels):
Do you have any questions about Spanish or any comments about Mexico City? Please share your thoughts in the comments section available at the end of this post.
If you liked this article please share it with your friends on Facebook and let them know a bit about this wonderful city. Who knows, you could all visit it together after learning some Spanish!