El Zócalo, or Plaza de la Constitución, is the main square of the gigantic metropolis that is Mexico City, or “DF” as locals call it. It is located in the very heart of the historic center of the city and it is the perfect starting point to exploring the rest of the area.
The main attraction in Zócalo is the main cathedral, Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos, but often simply called “Catedral del Zócalo”, the largest cathedral in the American continent built in a Gothic-style. Parallel to the cathedral are the Federal District buildings, two buildings which are the government offices. To the east is the National Palace, the seat of the federal executive and built using many Aztec materials which were originally used by Moctezuma II to build his own “seat” in the same place where the new building stands today. And finally, to the west is Portal de La Merced, a set of buildings with archways where many stores are located. To the northeast is Templo Mayor, an Aztec archaeological site.
Every year on September 15th at night around 11pm, the president comes out of the balcony of the main cathedral to deliver the Grito de Dolores “¡Viva México!” to commemorate the date where Mexico’s war for independence from the Spanish began.
The square is the host to many events. Daily, Aztec dancers perform randomly in the center of the plaza wearing authentic headdresses. An annual event, Festival de México is also held here with the purpose of showcasing art. The Alebrije Parade is held here as well, a favourite among locals where gigantic alebrijes, which are typical folk art in the shape of imaginary animals from Oaxaca, are showcased along with music.
As many important sites around the world, El Zócalo has been the host to many international concerts including Shakira’s and more recently, Paul McCartney performed there for free as well as Justin Bieber.
El Zócalo is also the place where many protests are held and sometimes, protesters camp there and display banners which might ruin the wonderful sight that Zócalo is. However, do not let this stop you from coming as you will still enjoy your time here!