During Mexico’s 300 years as a Spanish colony, we were heavily influenced by many of their customs and traditions—most relevantly, we acquired their language and religion. During those years and from then on, Catholic churches became ubiquitous all over the country, often located in every city and town’s main square and functioning as a place of social importance as well as religious. And of course, Mexico City is no exception. There are dozens of churches of all sizes and styles all over town, but the ones chosen for this list have the biggest visual impact and historic importance (and they’re also located in bustling areas you’ll probably visit at some point). Perhaps the one that is furthest away from the city’s main neighborhoods is Basílica of Guadalupe, but it’s worth the trek if you want to see the hundreds of pilgrims that come in everyday from all over the country to pay a visit to la virgen morena.
It took nearly 300 years to build this cathedral, the largest Latin America, and the styles of those periods between the 16th and 19th century—Renaissance, baroque and neoclassical—are all present in the architecture. After marveling at its façade and bell towers, which were completed by architect Manuel Tolsá, step inside and discover each of its 14 chapels, and the two massive 18th century organs.
Basílica de Guadalupe
Technically, there are two basilicas in Plaza de las Américas: the first one, built between the 16th and 18th centuries near Tepeyac Hill, where a young indigenous man named Juan Diego saw the Virgin Mary, and the second one, built in the 1970s. With a modern circular structure so that the image of the Virgin can be seen from any point, the new basilica can seat 50,000 people and is one of the most visited religious sites in the world.
Templo de San Hipólito
Built on the site of La Noche Triste (a battle in which the Spanish colonizers suffered their biggest defeat from the aztecs), this church was meant to honor the fallen during that night. Check out its baroque-neoclassical details, such as columns and reliefs, and try to avoid it on the 28th of each month—it’s the feast of St. Jude and it gets incredibly crowded.
Iglesia de San Jacinto
With its tranquil tree-lined garden, this lovely, peach-colored church sits in the heart of San Angel and was built by Dominican priests in the 16th and 17th centuries. Check out the stone cross in the garden, which mixes catholic and pagan elements, and then step inside for a look at its impressive retablo, made in ornate churrigueresco style.
Iglesia de San Juan Bautista
When visiting the charming Coyoacán neighborhood, this church is a must-see. It was one of the first temples built after the Spanish arrived, but its interior has had significant changes after a renovation in the early 20th century, especially the altars. Look up: the frescoes and ornaments on the ceiling are gorgeous.