Having one of the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world is a privilege not many countries can boast. Beginning more than 2,000 years ago, Mexico's architectural heritage is a melting pot, mixing Pre-Hispanic influences, colonial style –with its own blend of Moorish, Jewish and Castilian traits–, 19th century architectural trends such as Neoclassicism, Art-Deco and Art Nouveau, and Avant-garde designs from the brilliant Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon, Pedro Ramirez Vazquez and Luis Barragan.
If you’re a first-time visitor, the city of Guanajuato is a must. This former mining town's distinctive winding narrow streets will lead you to the Templo de la Valenciana, a Churrigueresco (or hyper-baroque) 18th century treasure, the Neoclassical Teatro Juarez and the magnificent main university building. Southern Mexico was evangelized by Dominicans, and their architectural legacy lives on. The pale stone temple of Santo Domingo, with its gold-plated chapel, invites you to discover detail in every corner (but beware: acceptance of that challenge will mean staying there the whole day!). Just a few steps from the temple, the Centro Cultural Santo Domingo, a former convent and now one of the biggest cultural centers in Mexico, houses the largest collection of Pre-Hispanic and colonial art, plus a permanent exhibition of local history. Even to this day, something of the monks' tranquillity remains distilled in the building’s walls.
Nonetheless, the main economic and political life of the country has always taken place in Mexico City, and its architecture reflects that status. The Venetian-style Palacio de Correos (Postal Palace, and the city's central post office), the eclectic Fine Arts Palace (Palacio de Bellas Artes) and the iconic 20th century Torre Latinoamericana –first Mexican skyscraper– are just a few steps away from each other.
Instead of going for the obvious architectural choices, though, why not step off the beaten track in search of rarer hidden gems? Visit the bohemian cultural center, Casa Lamm, or the Casa del Poeta, where Romantic poet Jose Ramon Lopez Velarde settled during his adult life, while taking in the sights and sounds of the city's elegant 19th century districts, Roma and Condesa.