Around Mexico City

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  • 1. Teotihuacán

    Just 50 km (31 miles) from the center of Mexico City, Teotihuacán is one of the most significant and haunting archaeological sites in the world....

    Just 50 km (31 miles) from the center of Mexico City, Teotihuacán is one of the most significant and haunting archaeological sites in the world. Imagine yourself walking down a pathway called Calzada de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead). Surrounding you are some of Earth's most mysterious ancient structures, among them the Palace of the Jaguars, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Temple of the Plumed Serpent. From the top of the awe-inspiring Pyramid of the Sun—at about 210 feet, the third-tallest pyramid in the world—you begin to appreciate your 248-stair climb as you survey a city that long ago was the seat of a powerful empire. This is Teotihuacán, meaning "place where men become gods." You can easily spend several hours here seeing all of the key sites. At its zenith, around AD 600, Teotihuacán (teh-oh-tee-wa-can) was one of the world's largest cities and the center of an empire that inhabited much of central Mexico. Archaeologists believe that Teotihuacán was once home to some 100,000 people. The questions of just who built this city, at whose hands it fell, and even its original name, remain a mystery, eluding archaeologists and fueling imaginations the world over. Excavations here first began as part of the dictator Porfirio Díaz's efforts to prepare for the centennial celebration of Mexican independence. Between 1905 and 1910, he sent his official archaeologist, Leopoldo Batres, to work principally on the Pyramid of the Sun. Later studies of these excavations have shown that several elements of this pyramid were destroyed in the excavation and others were falsely presented as being part of the original pyramid. In 2010, archaeologists took part in another commemorative excavation, this time to celebrate 100 years of archaeological work at Teotihuacán. They discovered a tunnel, about 40 feet down, that passes below the Templo de Quetzalcóatl and is thought to have been intentionally closed off between AD 200 and AD 250. The tunnel leads to chambers into which thousands of objects were thrown, perhaps as a kind of offering. Archaeologists hypothesized that, after a couple of months of digging, they might find the remains of some of the city's earliest rulers. Although rulers were often deified at other sites, no tombs, or even depictions of rulers, have ever been found at Teotihuacán. The Ciudadela is a massive citadel ringed by more than a dozen temples, with the Templo de Quetzalcóatl (Temple of the Plumed Serpent) as the centerpiece. Here you'll find incredibly detailed carvings of the benevolent deity Quetzalcóatl, a serpent with its head ringed by feathers, jutting out of the facade. One of the most impressive sights in Teotihuacán is the 4-km-long (2½-mile-long) Calzada de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead), which once held great ceremonial importance. The Aztecs gave it this name because they mistook the temples lining either side for tombs. It leads all the way to the 126-foot-high Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon), which dominates the northern end of the city. Atop this structure, you can scan the entire ancient city. Some of the most exciting recent discoveries, including a royal tomb, have been unearthed here. In late 2002 a discovery of jade objects gave important evidence of a link between the Teotihuacán rulers and the Maya. On the west side of the spacious plaza facing the Pyramid of the Moon is the Palacio del Quetzalpápalotl (Palace of the Plumed Butterfly); its expertly reconstructed terrace has columns etched with images of various winged creatures. Nearby is the Palacio de los Jaguares (Palace of the Jaguars), a residence for priests. Spectacular bird and jaguar murals wind through its underground chambers. The awe-inspiring Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun), the first monumental structure constructed here, stands in the center of the city. With a base nearly as broad as that of the pyramid of Cheops in Egypt, it is one of the largest pyramids ever built. Its size takes your breath away, often quite literally, during the climb up 248 steps on its west face. Deep within the pyramid, archaeologists have discovered a natural clover-shape cave that they speculate may have been the basis for the city's religion and perhaps the reason the city was built in the first place. The best artifacts uncovered at Teotihuacán are on display at the exceptional Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City. Still, the Museo de la Sitio, adjacent to the Pirámide del Sol, contains a number of noteworthy pieces, such as the stone sculpture of the saucer-eyed Tlaloc, some black-and-green obsidian arrowheads, and the skeletons of human sacrifices arranged as they were when first discovered. More than 4,000 one-story adobe and stone dwellings surround the Calzada de los Muertos; these were occupied by artisans, warriors, and tradesmen. The best example, a short walk east of the Pirámide del Sol, is called Tepantitla. Here you'll see murals depicting a watery realm ruled by the rain god Tláloc. Restored in 2002, its reds, greens, and yellows are nearly as vivid as when they were painted more than 1,500 years ago. There are five entrances to Teotihuacán, each near one of the major attractions. Around these entrances there are food and craft vendors as well as several restaurants. Among these, the most famous and interesting is La Gruta (www.lagruta.mx), which is near Pirámide del Sol and just a short walk east of Museo de Sitio Teotihuacán. The restaurant, which dates to 1906 and is set within an immense cave with dramatic rock ceilings, serves traditional Mexican food. There are several ways to approach a visit to Teotihuacán. A number of companies give guided tours that include transportation. As good English-language guidebooks are sold at the site, it's actually quite easy to explore and learn about Teotihuacán on your own—don't feel a guided tour is a necessity. Another good option is either renting a car for the day and making the one-hour drive yourself (there's ample, reasonably priced parking on-site) or taking an Uber here and back (which will cost something in the neighborhood of MX$800 to MX$1,200 each way). There's also frequent bus service to Teotihuacán from Terminal del Norte bus station and from outside the Portrero (line 3) metro station; the trip takes about an hour and one-way fare is around MX$55.

    Carretera Federal 132 (follow signs), México, 55850, Mexico
    594-956–0276

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$70
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  • 2. Barrio del Artista

    Centro

    Watch painters and sculptors at work in the galleries in this neighborhood, amid bronze monuments to poblano authors and poets. Farther down Calle 8 Norte,...

    Watch painters and sculptors at work in the galleries in this neighborhood, amid bronze monuments to poblano authors and poets. Farther down Calle 8 Norte, you can buy Talavera pottery and other local crafts from the dozens of small stores and street vendors. There are occasional weekend concerts and open-air theater performances.

    Calle 8 Norte 410, Puebla, Puebla, 72000, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 10–6
  • 3. Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Ocotlán

    On a hill about 1 km (½ mile) northwest of the center of Tlaxcala stands the ornate Basilica de Ocotlán. You can see its churrigueresque...

    On a hill about 1 km (½ mile) northwest of the center of Tlaxcala stands the ornate Basilica de Ocotlán. You can see its churrigueresque facade, topped with twin towers adorned with the apostles, from just about everywhere in the city. The church is most notable as a pilgrimage site. In 1541 the Virgin Mary appeared to a poor peasant, telling him to cure an epidemic with water from a stream that had suddenly appeared. Franciscan monks, eager to find the source of the miracle, ventured into the forest. There they discovered raging flames that didn't harm one particular pine (ocotlán). When they split the tree open, they discovered the wooden image of the Virgen de Ocotlán, which they installed in a gilded altar. Many miracles have been attributed to the statue, which wears the braids popular for indigenous women at the time. Behind the altar is the brilliantly painted Camarín de la Virgen (Dressing Room of the Virgin) that tells the story. At the base of the hill is the appealing Capilla del Pocito de Agua Santa, an octagonal chapel decorated with images of the Virgen de Ocotlán. The faithful come to draw holy water from its seven fountains.

    Calle Hidalgo 1, Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala, 90100, Mexico
    246-462–1073

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 7 am–8 pm
  • 4. Cacaxtla

    Tlaxcala's most famous site isn't in the town at all. At the nearby archaeological site of Cacaxtla you'll see some of Mexico's most vividly colored...

    Tlaxcala's most famous site isn't in the town at all. At the nearby archaeological site of Cacaxtla you'll see some of Mexico's most vividly colored murals. Accidentally discovered in 1975, the main temple at Cacaxtla contains breathtaking scenes of a surprisingly vicious battle between two bands of warriors. The nearly life-size figures wearing jaguar skins clearly have the upper hand against their foes in lofty feathered headdresses. The site, dating from AD 650 to AD 900, is thought to be the work of the Olmeca-Xicalanca people. Other paintings adorn smaller structures. The newly restored Templo Rojo, or Red Temple, is decorated with stalks of corn with cartoonlike human faces. Perhaps the most delightful is in the Templo de Venus, or Temple of Venus, where two figures are dancing in the moonlight, their bodies a striking blue. On a hill about 1½ km (1 mile) north of Cacaxtla is the site of Xochitécatl, with four Classic Period pyramids. You can see both sites with the same admission ticket. Head south from Mexico City toward Puebla on Carretera Federal 119. Veer off to the right toward the town of Nativitas. Both sites are near the village of San Miguel del Milagro.

    Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala, 90710, Mexico
    246-416–0477

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$55, Daily 9–5:30
  • 5. Calle de los Dulces

    Centro

    Puebla is famous for all kinds of homemade goodies. Calle de Santa Clara, also known as Sweets Street, is lined with shops selling a wide...

    Puebla is famous for all kinds of homemade goodies. Calle de Santa Clara, also known as Sweets Street, is lined with shops selling a wide variety of sugary treats in the shape of sacred hearts, guitars, and sombreros. Don't miss the cookies—they're even more delicious than they look.

    Av. 6 Oriente, between Av. 5 de Mayo and Calle 4 Norte, Puebla, Puebla, 72000, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 9–8
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  • 6. Callejón de los Sapos

    Centro

    "Alley of the Toads" cuts diagonally behind the cathedral. The attached square has a bustling weekend antiques market with all sorts of Mexican art, from...

    "Alley of the Toads" cuts diagonally behind the cathedral. The attached square has a bustling weekend antiques market with all sorts of Mexican art, from elaborately carved doors to small paintings on pieces of tin offering thanks to a saint for favors. There are also cafés filled with young people listening to live music on weekend nights.

    Calle 6 Sur from Av. 5 to 7 Oriente, Puebla, Puebla, 72000, Mexico
  • 7. Casa de la Cultura

    What was originally a coffee processing plant now houses a public library, the town archives, and a somewhat haphazard ethnographic museum, which often displays works...

    What was originally a coffee processing plant now houses a public library, the town archives, and a somewhat haphazard ethnographic museum, which often displays works by local artists. Opposite the building across Avenida Miguel Alvarado is Cuetzalan's daily crafts market, open from noon to 5.

    Av. Miguel Alvarado 18, Cuetzalan, Puebla, 73560, Mexico
    233-331–1201

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Daily 10–6
  • 8. Catedral

    Centro

    Construction on the cathedral began between 1536 and 1539. Work was completed by Puebla's most famous son, Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, who donated...

    Construction on the cathedral began between 1536 and 1539. Work was completed by Puebla's most famous son, Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, who donated his personal fortune to build its famous tower, the second largest in the country. The altar was constructed between 1797 and 1818. Manuel Tolsá, Mexico's most illustrious colonial architect, adorned it with onyx, marble, and gold.

    16 de Septiembre from 3 to 5 Oriente, Puebla, Puebla, 72000, Mexico
    222-232–2316

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Weekdays 10–11:30 and 1–5:30, Sat. 10–11 and 2–5, Sun. 3–5:30
  • 9. Catedral de Cuernavaca

    Cortés ordered the construction of this cathedral, also known as Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, with work beginning in 1525. Like his palace,...

    Cortés ordered the construction of this cathedral, also known as Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, with work beginning in 1525. Like his palace, the cathedral doubled as a fortress. Cannons mounted above the flying buttresses helped bolster the city's defenses. The facade may give you a sense of foreboding, especially when you catch sight of the skull and crossbones over the door. The interior is much less ominous, though, thanks to the murals uncovered during renovations.

    Hidalgo and Av. Morelos, Cuernavaca, Morelos, 62000, Mexico
    777-312–1290

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Daily 8–2 and 4–9
  • 10. Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

    This cathedral is atop a hill one block south of Plaza Xicohténcatl. Its most unusual feature is its Moorish-style wood ceiling beams, carved and gilded...

    This cathedral is atop a hill one block south of Plaza Xicohténcatl. Its most unusual feature is its Moorish-style wood ceiling beams, carved and gilded with gold studs. There are only a few churches of this kind in Mexico, as Mudejar flourishes were popular here only during the really early years after the Spanish conquest. The austere monastery is home to the Museo Regional de Tlaxcala, which displays 16th- to 18th-century religious paintings as well as a small collection of pre-Columbian pieces. A beautiful outdoor chapel near the monastery has notable Moorish and Gothic traces.

    Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala, 90500, Mexico
    246-462–0262-museum

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Church: free; museum MX$48, Church: daily 7–6; museum: Tues.–Sun. 10–5
  • 11. Centro Cultural Santa Rosa

    Centro

    The former convent houses a museum of crafts from the state's seven regions. The museum also contains the intricately tiled kitchen where Puebla's renowned mole...

    The former convent houses a museum of crafts from the state's seven regions. The museum also contains the intricately tiled kitchen where Puebla's renowned mole poblano sauce is believed to have been invented by the nuns, as a surprise for their demanding bishop.

    3 Norte 1203, Puebla, Puebla, 72000, Mexico
    222-232–7792

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $30 pesos, Tues.–Sun. 10–5
  • 12. El Santuario de Guadalupe

    This church shows a Gothic strain in its needle-slim tower and the pointed arch of the main door. Its common name, La Iglesia de los...

    This church shows a Gothic strain in its needle-slim tower and the pointed arch of the main door. Its common name, La Iglesia de los Jarritos (Church of the Little Pitchers) refers to its landmark spire, prettily adorned by 80 clay vessels. There is a cemetery in front of the church that is often full of vibrantly colored flowers.

    Cuetzalan, Puebla, 73560, Mexico
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 9–6
  • 13. Ex-Convento de San Gabriel

    This impressive, huge, former convent includes a trio of churches. The most unusual is the Moorish-style Capilla Real, with 49 domes. Construction began in the...

    This impressive, huge, former convent includes a trio of churches. The most unusual is the Moorish-style Capilla Real, with 49 domes. Construction began in the 1540s, and the building was originally open on one side to facilitate the conversion of huge masses of people. A handful of Franciscan monks still live in one part of the premises, so be respectful of their privacy. La Biblioteca Franciscana (open weekdays 9 to 5) is a fascinating on-premises library of over 24,000 volumes from the 16th through 19th centuries, with occasional exhibitions.

    2 Norte s/n, Cholula, Puebla, 72760, Mexico
    222-261–395-library phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 7–7
  • 14. Gran Pirámide

    Gran Pirámide was the hub of Olmec, Toltec, and Aztec religious centers and is, by volume, the largest pyramid in the world. It consists of...

    Gran Pirámide was the hub of Olmec, Toltec, and Aztec religious centers and is, by volume, the largest pyramid in the world. It consists of seven superimposed structures connected by tunnels and stairways. Ignacio Márquina, the architect in charge of the initial explorations in 1931, decided to excavate two tunnels partly to prove that el cerrito (the little hill), as many still call it, was an archaeological trove. When seeing the Zona Arqueológica, you'll walk through these tunnels to a vast 43-acre temple complex that was dedicated to the god Quetzalcóatl. On top of the pyramid stands the Spanish chapel Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Our Lady of the Remedies). Almost brought down by a quake in 1999, it has been wonderfully restored. From the top of the pyramid you'll have a clear view of other nearby churches, color-coded by period: oxidized red was used in the 16th century, yellow in the 17th and 18th centuries, and pastel colors in the 19th century. You can obtain an English-language guide for about $15.

    Calz. San Andrés at Calle 2 Norte, Cholula, Puebla, 72600, Mexico
    222-247–9081

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$48, Daily 9–5:30
  • 15. Iglesia de Santa María Tonantzintla

    The exterior of this 16th-century church might be simple, but inside waits an explosion of color and swirling shapes. To facilitate the conversion of the...

    The exterior of this 16th-century church might be simple, but inside waits an explosion of color and swirling shapes. To facilitate the conversion of the native population, Franciscan monks incorporated elements recalling the local cult of the goddess Tonantzin in the ornamentation of the chapel. The result is a jewel of the style known as churrigueresque. The polychrome wood-and-stucco carvings—inset columns, altarpieces, and the main archway—were completed in the late 17th century. The carvings, set off by ornate gold-leaf figures of plant forms, angels, and saints, were made by local craftspeople. Flash photography is not allowed.

    Av. Reforma, Cholula, Puebla, 72600, Mexico
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 9–6
  • 16. Jardín Borda

    The Borda Gardens, among the most popular sights in Cuernavaca, were designed in the late 18th century for Don Manuel de la Borda, son of...

    The Borda Gardens, among the most popular sights in Cuernavaca, were designed in the late 18th century for Don Manuel de la Borda, son of Don José de la Borda, the wealthy miner who established the beautiful church of Santa Prisca in Taxco. The gardens were once so famous they attracted royalty. Maximilian and Carlotta visited frequently. Here the emperor reportedly dallied with the gardener's wife, called La India Bonita, who was immortalized in a famous portrait. Novelist Malcolm Lowry turned the formal gardens into a sinister symbol in his 1947 novel Under the Volcano. A pleasant café and a well-stocked bookstore sit just inside the gates.

    Av. Morelos 271, Cuernavaca, Morelos, 62000, Mexico
    777-318–1050

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$40; free Sun., Tues.–Sun. 10–5:30
  • 17. La Hacienda de Panoaya

    La Hacienda de Panoaya, also known as Parque de los Venados Acariciables (pettable deer), has plenty of animals for curious kids, with ostriches, emus, and...

    La Hacienda de Panoaya, also known as Parque de los Venados Acariciables (pettable deer), has plenty of animals for curious kids, with ostriches, emus, and llamas as well as deer (horseback rides are also a possibility). But the menagerie is only part of the game; there are also two museums, and activities like zip-lining, a maze, and water sports. The Museo Internacional de los Volcanes has some interesting information on volcanoes, but it's primarily a big thrill for kids, who love to scream at the recorded sound of an eruption. Meanwhile, the Museo Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz honors its namesake, a nun, scholar, and author who learned to read here and went on to produce some of the most significant poetry and prose of the 17th century. De la Cruz's intellectual accomplishments were truly exceptional in her time, as was her fervent defense of women's rights. The hacienda is a 15-minute walk out of town along the Boulevard Iztaccíhuatl.

    Amecameca, México, 56900, Mexico
    597-978–5050

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$40 (access to public/green areas); packages available for admission to additional attractions, Zoo daily 10–5; museums weekends 10–5
  • 18. Mercado de Artesanías El Parián

    Centro

    This market is the place for kitschy versions of such tourist souvenirs as toy guitars and colorful sombreros. Feel free to haggle. For better-quality goods,...

    This market is the place for kitschy versions of such tourist souvenirs as toy guitars and colorful sombreros. Feel free to haggle. For better-quality goods, La Casa del Artesano, alongside the market, is the state-sponsored shop for regional craftwork.

    Av. 2 Oriente and Calle 6 Norte, Puebla, Puebla, 72000, Mexico
    222-232–5484

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 10–8
  • 19. Museo Amparo

    Home to the private collection of pre-Columbian and colonial-era art of Mexican banker and philanthropist Manuel Espinoza Yglesias, Museo Amparo is one of the country's...

    Home to the private collection of pre-Columbian and colonial-era art of Mexican banker and philanthropist Manuel Espinoza Yglesias, Museo Amparo is one of the country's grandest museums. It exhibits unforgettable pieces from all over Mexico, including more than 2,000 pre-Hispanic artifacts. The collection includes colonial-era painting, sculpture, and decorative objects and a small modern art section notable for works by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Miguel Felguérez, and Vicente Rojo.

    Calle 2 Sur 708, Puebla, Puebla, 72000, Mexico
    222-229–3850

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$35; free Mon., Wed.–Fri., Sun., and Mon. 10–6, Sat. 10–9
  • 20. Museo de Arte Religioso de Santa Mónica

    This former convent (sometimes called Ex-Convento de Santa Mónica) opened in 1688 as a spiritual refuge for women whose husbands were away on business. Despite...

    This former convent (sometimes called Ex-Convento de Santa Mónica) opened in 1688 as a spiritual refuge for women whose husbands were away on business. Despite the Reform Laws of the 1850s, it continued to function until 1934. It is said that the women here invented the famous dish called chiles en nogada, a complicated recipe that incorporates the red, white, and green colors of the Mexican flag. Curiosities include the gruesome display of the preserved heart of the convent's founder and paintings in the Sala de los Terciopelos (Velvet Room), in which the feet and faces seem to change position as you view them from different angles.

    Av. 18 Poniente 103, Puebla, Puebla, 72000, Mexico
    222-232–0178

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$36; free Sun., Tues.–Sun. 10–5

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