The Zócalo

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Constitution square, Mexico City’s central plaza

Plaza and the central cathedral, located north of it

The Zocalo (pronounced sokalo/सोकालो), located in the heart of Mexico city, is one of the largest city squares in the world. Prior to the conquest of Mexico, the area that the Zócalo occupies was open space, in the center of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. After the destruction of Tenochtitlan, Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, razed the Aztec temples and palaces, and used the building materials to construct a grand Church (which later became the Cathedral), a palace and other buildings.

This decorative building is on the west side of Zócalo, the plaza in the heart of Mexico City

After I landed in Mexico city, I went to my couchsurfer host’s place, dropped my bags and went straight to the Zocalo. I had seen pictures of the gigantic plaza and the massive flag that flew proudly at its center. I wanted to checkout the flag lowering ceremony which I thought would be grand considering the proportions of the plaza, the space and the flag. Unfortunately when I reached there, there was neither a flag nor a ceremony. Sometimes I do too much research, leading to disappointments like this. 🙁

The Metropolitan Cathedral

The central cathedral looked very beautiful at sunset

The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City (Spanish: Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María), which I never got to see from the inside due to timing issue, is the largest and the oldest cathedral in the Americas. It is situated atop the former Aztec sacred district near the Templo Mayor on the northern side of the Plaza de la Constitución (Zocalo). The cathedral’s exterior is very beautiful and it’s size is aptly proportional to the enormous plaza to its southern side.

Bell tower of the Metropolitan Cathedral. You can take a free tour and check the belfries from inside.

The Zócalo is the center of Mexico and Mexico city. I’ve heard that this is a very popular place for both, protests and celebrations. On some occasions there are Hare Krishnas distributing free food to the poor, while at other occasions, as I witnessed, an impromptu group of Aztec dancers wearing feathered headdresses and decorative anklets gathered, dancing to drums and music.

Another view of the cathedral from the north-east side during sunrise

The plaza gets quite busy during the day. Besides young couples engaged in passionate kissing, there are large families having picnics, kids running around (even playing football), hawkers selling balloons, trinkets and music, and vivid life in general.

Mexico city’s Zocalo, served by metro station Zocalo, is an excellent place to start touring the city from. It gives an excellent perspective of the history and the significance of the place, and also a superficial insight of the common man’s life. From here, it is pretty straightforward to checkout other places of attraction (such as Chapultepec park, Castillo de Chapultepec, Native Mexican dancers, etc.) and neighbourhoods. My next stop: Coyoacan.

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery