The first stones of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City were put into place in 1573, taken from the rocks of a nearby Aztec temple, which Hernán Cortés and his gang of conquistadores destroyed after the Spanish invasion and occupation of Mexico 50 years earlier. The cathedral, assembled in parts over the centuries, now towers above what was one of the most sacred spots in the Aztec empire.

That’s the part of the story the guide might not tell you, but it’s an important fact to keep in mind if you decide to take the tour to the top of the Cathedral, which dominates the modern-day location of the zócalo, Mexico City’s main plaza.

Tours are given 7 days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting. Purchase a ticket just inside the main entrance of the cathedral. You’ll learn about the history of the cathedral and get to hear the bells ring up close. For more information, visit their website.

Updated Oct. 20, 2017: Tours are not being given at this time due to last month’s major earthquake in Mexico City, which damaged the belltowers.

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Tour to the top of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City.
The tour to the top of the Metropolitan Cathedral takes you above the building’s central nave.

360-degree view of inside Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

A woman walks up the staircase to get to the roof the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City.
Climbing up the metal spiral staircase to get to the final roof section of the cathedral.
Steps and staircase leading to the roof of the Metropolitan Cathedral.
The steps are small, though the staircase is sturdy with a guardrail. But if you have a fear of heights, walking on top of the Metropolitan Cathedral is probably not for you.
People on the vaults of Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral.
People exit from the stairs onto a path that takes you over the vaults of the cathedral.
People on top of the nave of the cathedral in Mexico City.
The short climb leads visitors to the top of the cathedral’s nave.
Tour on the roof the of Metropolitan Cathedral.
On top of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City.
Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City
View of Mexico City's Zócalo from the roof of the cathedral.
The rooftop view provides a unique perspective on the Zócalo, which prior to the Spanish conquest used to be the Aztec ceremonial grounds for Tenochtitlan.
The zócalo plaza in Mexico City.
This is the view of the Zócalo from the Zócalo Central Hotel. If you don’t want to make the trek up to the top of the cathedral, you can get something to eat or drink here and still get a birds-eye view of the plaza.
The flying buttresses on top of the Metropolitan Cathedral.
The tour includes a visit to one of the bell towers.
One of the 25 bells installed at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City
Inside the belltower at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City
A guide explains how the bell ringing system works at the cathedral.
Descending the stairs back to the bottom of the cathedral.
People exit out the staircase that leads to the top of the Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral.
Outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City.
A gold-plated facade inside the cathedral.
Locks inside the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City.