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Zócalo: the heart of Mexico City

The Zócalo: once the centre of Aztec society, now the heart of Mexico City. The enormous square is where residents of this metropolis gather for cultural activities, celebrations and demonstrations. In the evening the square is a lovely place for a stroll or to enjoy a typical Mexican burrito for the cost of less than 1 euro.

The official name of the square is actually Plaza de la Constitución. Its nickname Zócalo, which means 'pedestal' or 'base', emerged in the 19th century. The original plan to build a huge independence monument on the square had faltered, and the pedestal, which had already been built, was left standing by lonely and forlorn. Measuring 57,600 square metres, the Zócalo is one of the world's largest squares.

The Zócalo
The Zócalo

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Aztec centre

The Zócalo is the ideal starting point for a day of sightseeing in Mexico City. The square is surrounded by various attractions, such as the Catedral Metropolitana and the Palacio Nacional, the presidential palace that is well worth a visit. The current palace stands in the exact spot where the palace of Aztec ruler Moctecuhzoma II stood in the 16th century. Many of the stones from the Aztec palace have been used in the construction of the Palacio Nacional. Most visitors come here to see the huge and impressive murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. He painted these images between 1929 and 1935. The murals depict Mexican history from the arrival of Aztec god Quetzalcoatl to the period after the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Palacio Nacional
Lowering of La Bandera

Spectacular flag ceremony

The raising and lowering of La Bandera, the huge Mexican flag that flies all day in the centre of the Zócalo, is quite the event. Every day at 8:00 am soldiers hoist the flag and at sunset they lower it again. The ceremony is a quite the show with drummers, trumpets and marching soldiers. The best view of the ceremony is from the roof of the Catedral Metropolitana.

Dancers and pelonas

Aside from all the attractions, the Zócalo is also a fun and lively square. Aztec dancers often perform here. Donning colourful feather headdresses, they perform an authentic dance from the Aztec period (approx. 1200 to 1530). The square is also surrounded by countless dining options serving tacos, tortillas or pelonas - a crispy fried sandwich with meat, beans and salsa.

Aztec dancers on the Zócalo

Photo credits

  • Lowering of La Bandera: PSHAW-PHOTO, Shutterstock
  • Aztec dancers on the Zócalo: ChameleonsEye, Shutterstock