Recognised as an official ‘Memory of the World’ by UNESCO, Biblioteca Palafoxiana was the first public library in the Americas when it was founded by Bishop Juan de Palafox in 1646. It’s now home to more than 45,000 volumes, but chances are you’ll be too busy gazing at the towering Baroque bookcases and dramatic arch-vaulted ceiling to think about reading anything.
Talking of Baroque, the recently opened Museo Internacional del Barroco is a celebration of this influential artistic period – despite being set in ultra-modern surrounds. Designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, its sweeping white interiors and minimalist aesthetic are the perfect backdrop to the lavish excesses of 17th- and 18th-century paintings, altarpieces and costumes that lie within.
A walk around the city’s palm-tree studded main square – the Zócalo – reveals even more awe-inspiring architecture, from the grand Palacio Municipal and the glittering gold interiors of the Rosary Chapel to Casa del Alfeñique. Resembling a gingerbread house, thanks to its red tiles and white window frames, this museum dedicated to local traditions is named after the traditional Mexican sweet that’s made from sugar paste.